If you are busy with work, without much time to soak a bunch of stuff and clean grinders, here’s an easy 4 step technique to make idli batter ready for fermentation in under 10 minutes.
Note, I did not say – most traditional recipe, fluffiest idli, etc…The internet is filled with ideas for those. But, if you are looking for the easiest way to make idli batter with least amount of effort, least amount of washing, you have come to the right place.
Steve Jobs has said, “People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.”
So, let us just focus on the shortest route to making idlis. (I bet this might be the only time in history Steve Jobs and Idlis are quoted together, lol!!)
4 easy steps to make fermented idli batter using a Blender and Smart Pot
- 3/4 cup Urad dal
- 2 cups Idli Rava
- 1/2 tsp Salt
Soak Urad Dal Overnight
Grind Urad dal in High speed blender and pour batter to instant pot. Whisk the batter vigorously with a hand whisk.
Add hot water and rinse out blender. Pour the hot water on to the idli rava
Add idli rava paste to the instant pot, mix well. Set to ferment in 'Yogurt' setting for 12 hours.
Ensure that the 'Steam Release Handle' is left open to Vent mode to ensure flow of air.
What is the minimum number of ingredients to make idli? – 3.
Urad dal, Idli Rava and Salt.
But, wait a minute, you wonder about other add-ons like fenugreek seeds, poha (flattened rice), cooked rice etc…Aren’t those necessary?
While all those ingredients add different functions like taste, complexity, softness to batter, they are not mandatory in a basic idli batter.
When Urad dal is soaked and ground, it has a unique ability to rapidly grow good bacteria (~290 species) and increase in volume. The rice along with the urad dal gives the batter a glutinous consistency and retain the gases evolved.
Thus, if you have urad dal, you have fermentation.
Idli Rava is basically parboiled rice that has already been coarsely ground for you.
When it comes to ease of making idlis:
Idli Rava > Parboiled Rice > Plain Rice
I used to think buying Idli Rava was an overkill. What’s the big deal? I could always buy parboiled rice and use that, right?
But considering that I do not have to soak, grind, do multiple blender runs, of Idli Rava, unlike the whole rice, it saves me quite a bit of time and effort. I found myself making more idlis. In this case, processed food = time-saver, so yay to Idli Rava!!
Step by Step Pictures
Let us look at the steps in details:
1. Soak Urad Dal Overnight
That’s it… You only need to soak Urad dal. No other multitude of vessels in your kitchen filled with water soaked stuff…Isn’t that liberating???
2. Grind Urad dal in High speed blender and add paste to instant pot
Wet Grinder or Mixie?? Why do some Indians swear by their stone grinder?
The reason Indians use wet grinder is to maximize surface area of dal without heating up the batter too much. If you heat the batter too much (>60C, 140F), then the temperature becomes too high for the microbes to survive. Another reason – the grinders grind the Urad dal so well, that there is more surface area in the batter for the microbes to grow.
But, if you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec, less than a minute of grinding is enough to get a smooth batter without over heating.
But what about the fluffiness, you ask? The Indian grinder whips air into the batter as it grinds. More air = better rise. To imitate this aspect, it is best to whip the urad dal batter with a whisk thoroughly and then proceed to the next step. (I don’t have a picture of this step, but I have repeatedly gotten the best results when I whip the batter vigorously with my hand whisk before setting it to ferment.)
3. Add hot water and rinse out blender. Pour the rinsed hot water on to the idli rava
Use hot water to clean the blender and pour it on the idli rava. The hot water technique accomplishes 3 things at the same time – 1. Clean out 80% of the blender and 2. Soften the idli rava 3) Raise the temperature of the idli rava.
Notice you are adding hot water to the carbs (idli rava) and not to the urad dal portion of the batter. Thus, you will not mess with our friends – the microbes:).
4. Mix batter and set to ferment
The warm idli rava can be mixed in with the urad dal paste and salt in the Instant pot. Add room temperature water if the batter is too thick.
Set to ferment in ‘Yogurt’ setting for 12 hours. The yogurt setting, by default is 8 hours. You will want to increase that to 12 hours for idli fermentation.
During fermentation the volume of idli batter increases from 1.62 to 3.2 times its original volume. This increased volume of idli batter is due to the incorporation of lactic acid bacteria into the batter during fermentation and entrapment of air.
Once batter is fermented, prepare idlis using steamer. Hot yummy idlis ready from the idli batter.
People in India, especially in the south, don’t have to worry about fermentation. But for those outside with colder weather, it is trickier to get the batter to ferment. I love the fact that the instant pot keeps the batter in constant warm and humid conditions (106f-113F range) for the microbes to multiply. (Ensure that the vent is left open for the Yogurt mode)
Because of this controlled temperature help, I am able to get results without having to molly-coddle the batter even in winter.
My aunt, Raji perimma, first gave me the idea to add idli rava directly (no soaking, no grinding) to the batter. Thank you Perimma!! It was a paradigm shift for me. I always thought, the smoother the batter, the better the quality of idlis. But no, she said that her family preferred the slight graininess in the idlis and lo and behold…so did my husband!!
That made my life easier. Not only does it save time for me, it also gives me a tasty idli. Win-Win!!
Hope you are able to save time using these techniques as well. Please share your comments down below. As always, I love hearing from you!!
Looking for other time saving ideas? Try:
- Quick Milagu Jeera Rasam – Cumin Pepper Soup (6 ingredients, 8 minutes or under)
- Easy Vegan Creamy Tofu Curry
- Vegan Chana Masala ready in under 10 minutes
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You just blew my mind. I’m gonna get a blender and try this out soon.
Haha…My online aashirvad to you!! JK 🙂 – Good luck!!
Thank You so much. I followed the recipe and my first idli attempt was very successful. Batter was fermented well and idlies were soft.
I felt just little bit weird taste in my idli. Do I need to wash idli rava before mixing it with urad dal batter?thanks again!!
Hi Vandhana, It might be a good idea to wash the idli rava. Hmmm, What else could it be? – As long as the batter looked normal (without any yellow or brownish tints), it should be good. The graininess of the idli rava may also take a little used to.
Thanks for posting your feedback!!
Thank You Swetha! I will try washing idli rava next time and will post if I still have any issues.
Angelica @ nixgluten.com
This is wonderful, thank you! I was wondering if I should use the wet or dry container and I thought, probably the wet container for soaked grains. But I wasn’t sure. The dry ginder is what I used the first time, and it was hard to get fine flour from rice without heating it up a lot. Even with many pauses, it was pretty warm. Anyway I think soaking is healthier. But the dry container worked perfectly for buckwheat flour making, some “grains” are just softer.
The wet grinder works very well. Soaking and grinding them wet will give you better results than using the dry container.
The vortex of the wet grinder will suck the particles to the blade and grind everything evenly. With the dry container, you will have to grind, then stop, mix and then grind and repeat the process.
Unsoaked idli rava makes sense. I normally ferment the batter in the oven with the light on, but I will try the Insta pot. Do not have a yogurt setting but slow cook mode should work. Will post comments on the results.
Hi Chandu, Do not use slow cook mode…it will cook the batter over time.
If your insta pot does not have yogurt setting; please stick to the ‘oven with the light on’ technique.
Love your research and conclusions you draw from them!What is your view on the soaking time for urad dal for idli batter?I have done experiments with overnight soaking lasting 12 hours as well as short duration soaking of about 2 hours using urad from the same packet lot.Short duration soaking seems to create a more foamy batter leading to softer idlis.
That’s a great question. Honestly, I don’t have an answer yet. But, I will research and let you know. But your results are quite interesting and intriguing. I would have thought it might be the other way around with way more soaking time needed to grow the micro flora around. Very interesting!!
Please remember to keep track of the volume of water you add for grinding urad and measure its final volume after grinding.Then you can arrive at “expansion ratio” in both cases.With a soaking time of 2 hrs for 1.5 cups of dal(375ml) plus 800 ml of water(total of 1175 ml)I got the final qty little over 6 litres that is an expansion of 6 times the original volume.Please note that as you reduce soaking time you need to add more water during grinding.Also your grinding time will be a bit longer as well. In fact you can grind with just 1 hour of soaking as well
That’s so interesting!! Thanks for sharing, Anil!!
Thank you sooooooo much.. you are my life savior and today just few mins back i made softt idlies which lasted softtt for a long time … Mikka nandri 😘🥰😘
I am doing palak paneer today so here’s a good to know q- pls post what happens exactly to the spinach when blanched in your thoughts, also will the nutrients lost totally , can we use the used water for cooking.. and more spinach (veg) recipes … Waiting eagerly…
That’s so nice to hear, Deepika!!
Regarding your question about Spinach, usually people cite spinach as a source of calcium and iron; but spinach contains quite a bit of oxalic acid that inteferes with the body’s ability to absorb these materials. So blanching actually works well because it breaks down the oxalic acid.
Regarding the question – can we use the water for cooking? It is a matter of personal choice. I don’t…I learnt early on in my cooking life, that it is better to cook something delicious and get partial health benefits than cook something super healthy that no one wants to eat.
Regarding more spinach recipes: I make a lot of Saag at home. I have honed it down to make it really delicious that my kids truly enjoy it. I do plan on writing a post, but it is less about the ingredients and more about the process. You can also check out an early post of mine:
Couple of questions
– how much hot water do you add to idli rava? Or what is the batter consistency? Is there a certain quantity/amount of water that is added to grind udad dal/idli rava?
– do you add salt before fermentation of the batter? Or after? Please advise.
The water ratio is a very hard question to answer since most Indians ‘add as we go’ until we get the batter as thick as we want it. Idli batter needs to be thick in order to trap the gases while steaming and create that cake-like effect. However, if it is too thick, you will get a hard brick instead.
I highly recommend you check out:
I trust her expertise on idli making and she has several posts and videos which might help you answer your question.
2. Adding salt, you ask – why I have written a post specifically about it 😁
The gist is: adding salt before is better.
Good luck… idli making takes a while to master. I’m glad you are asking these questions and well on your way to mastery.
Hi.. I never saw such biologically intensive recipe description on idly batter.. i always felt those are worth mentioning.. but no one does. but you.love the way you made it:)