Shouldn’t idli rice and boiled rice be the same thing? But, when you go to any Indian stores you will find 2 distinct products – idli rice sold separately and boiled rice sold separately. Is there a difference? Let us find out.
Note ->> Indians use the term ‘boiled’ rice to denote par-boiled rice. Tamilians call boiled rice as ‘puzhungal’ arisi.
How it looks
Let us compare the looks of the 2 grains side-by side
The boiled rice looks duller and larger in grain than idli rice. Correspondingly, the idli rice looks shinier and smaller in grain size.
Here’s a look at the grains close up.
I decided to cook them both as rice and observe any differences…
Here’s what boiled rice cooked in pressure cooker 1:2 water ratio looks like:
The boiled rice grains were large and separate. I used them with sambar, yogurt, etc – typical South Indian fashion and it was very good, normal and what one would expect.
Here’s what idli rice cooked in a 1:2 ratio similarly looks like:
The cooked idli rice grains were smaller, softer and stickier than boiled rice grains.
Made into idlis
Now on to the main purpose – idlis!!
Note ->>the idli and batter pictures below will have a grey tinge. That is because I use whole (black) urad dal to make idli batter and not the typical dehusked (white) urad dal.
Here’s the batter and idlis made using boiled rice. As you can see, it is a well-fermented batter.
Here are the idlis from boiled rice – not too soft, but not too hard either. Perfectly fine for a normal breakfast…
Now on to idli rice. Here are the batter and idli pictures made from using idli rice.
Batter – Superbly fermented!!
Here are the idlis:
Idlis – so soft!! In tamil, there is a saying that truly good idlis should be as soft as Jasmine flowers (‘malli-poo’)…Well the idli rice does help a lot in getting to that stage!!
Both style idli batters were made using my vitamix, not a wet grinder.
In conclusion, you can use idli rice and boiled rice interchangeably. You can use either rice to eat as a cooked grain or to make idlis.
But you will get a chewier, sturdier grain with boiled rice.
On the other hand, you will get softer, tastier idlis with idli rice.
This conclusion is probably intuitive for most older cooks, but I think, younger cooks will appreciate the clarity. What has been your experience with either rice? Chime in with your thoughts below….
If you are looking for easy way to make idlis, don’t miss out on this older post:
were you able to check on nutrients – carbs and protien. Folks seem to think par boiled is easier on diabetes
Yes, Parboiled rice has a lower glycemic index than raw rice. It is because of the way it is processed, it develops resistant starch that takes longer to digest and causes slow release of sugar inside the body. The same mechanism happens when you take cooked, cold rice out of the fridge and make a stir fry. I will post a lengthier post on the nutrition side soon.
Even I was for long curious on the difference between idli rice vs par boiled rice. Thanks for a write up on this topic.
Swetha, Both idli rice and parboiled rice are processed the same way. The difference is in the variety of rice used.They are probably named the way they are for people to be able to distinguish. Parboiled (non idli) rice variety can be cooked. Typically ponni parboiled is an excellent variety for cooking and the IR-20 variety is one such variety which is parboiled for idli rice. IR-20 yield more maavu/batter.
Yes, I know. But, I also thank you for providing additional details. They will be useful to other readers as well.
If both build and idling are made in similar way, why do you feel batter from idli to be more fluffy? Shouldn’t they both be similar?
Hi Jaya, because idli has to rise while dosa doesn’t. The air provides volume for a softer, porous idli.
Thank you Swetha, I just bought some Idli rice. I normally use basmati rice to accompany my home made curries. Will Idli rice be ok for this.? How long will I need to simmer it for in a saucepan.
Also, do you think it will be good for making English style rice pudding, or do you have any further suggestions of use/ recipes etc.
Thanks again and take care
Yes, Idli rice will be fine with curries. It is just not as fragrant as Basmati rice. Some folks (e.g. south indians) actually prefer the lack of fragrance.
I cook my idli rice in an Instant Pot at the standard white rice setting. I am not sure about the exact time for simmering method of cooking. I would recommend that you start by cooking it just like regular rice and then adjust timings for the next time based on if you want it cooked slightly more or less.
I would not recommend it for the English style rice pudding. While the sweet rice taste may come out alright; the texture not be the goeey desired style. You would get better pudding results from rice with high amylopectin levels like arborio rice, sushi rice, etc. Here’s a blogger talking about pudding made from different rice varieties:
Hi Swetha! Thanks for the detailed info on rice varieties… can you pls recommend b/w Ponni rice and Sona Masuri which variety of rice for regular meals is more nutritoious? Are both Ponni and Sona Masuri par-boiled or raw rice? I do know raw rice is stripped of all the nutrition. At this stage I am not too concerned on the GI, but on nutrition absorbed by our body as rice is such a staple food in our South Indian menu. Thanks!
Both Ponni and Sona Masuri were developed in the 80’s by Agricultural Universities. Ponni in tamil nadu and sona masuri in Andhra. They are valued for their white color, fragrant smell, long shelf life etc.
If you are seeking nutrition, it is best to go to traditional rice varieties like Samba rice, Matta rice, red rice etc. They may not look pure white, but have a lot more antioxidants, fiber, iron etc compared to Ponni or Sona Masuri. Check out the link below to look up more traditional rice types.
Thanks Swetha! The video was v informative too!
Thank you very much for the detailed explanation on parboiled and idli rice .really very helpful .
Thank you Hamsalekha!!
Can Idli rice be used for Dosa? I can find idli rice more easily than boiled rice these days for some reason.
such a wonderful site this is! I find the wealth of information here so interesting!! and your experiments have resolved many of my nutritional doubts regarding starch types and GI
my best wishes, Swetha
Thank you Laozi!! I’m very happy to hear you find it useful.
Thank you for the information that you have provided so generously after having taken so much effort. Have bookmarked this site for all such future instances where such peculiar doubts arise (even though I’ve been cooking for the last 20 years at least.)
Thank you 😊!!
Interesting post! Thank you! In another comment, it was mentioned that Ponni and Sona Masuri rices were developed by a university. Was idli rice developed or is it natural? In the post, it shows idli rice as being like sticky rice. Do you know if them it’s similar to rice used in East Asian foods like Japanese or Korean sticky rice? I actually ended up buying idli rice TK make adai. Thanks!
Idli rice is parboiled rice that has been milled very close to the starchy endosperm layer. Sticky rice is not parboiled, because of which it may not ferment quite as easily as idli rice. I think you will find idli rice quite compatible to making adais.