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Idli, Whole, Fermented, and Stuffed Two Ways

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

A traditional favorite breakfast from South India, idli are light, savory steamed cakes originally made from a naturally fermented, gluten-free batter of rice and split black lentils (urad dal). Today, sadly, many opt for quick idli batter mixes that use par-boiled white rice and artificial leavening, but they lack the depth of flavor and health benefits of the real thing. A delicious savory breakfast, idli also make beautiful canapes for any time of day, served stuffed or plain, and accompanied by your favorite chutneys, pickles, or dips.

For this recipe I avoid cooking oils and use brown rice for its fiber and nutrients in its bran and germ. I made two tasty veggie fillings: a potato-curry leaf-sweet pea, and a tomato-pepper-onion. Have fun coming up with your own Indian-inspired veggie stuffings, which, to save time, you can make in advance.

Idli take a few days to ferment but it’s worth the wait for their complex flavor and nutritional benefits. A natural probiotic and functional food, idli contain multiple strains of beneficial lactobacilli shown to arrive in the gut where they suppress pathogenic bacteria, reduce inflammation, aid digestion, and boost metabolism. (,delbrueckii%2C%20L.)

Idli prep soak and ferment time 20-30 hours Stuffings prep time 50 minutes

Cooking time 15 minutes Makes about 72+ stuffed idli


A stainless idli pot with 5-6 racks

Unbleached butter muslin, cut out to line with idli rack with a hole for the center pole

A high-speed blender



3 cups brown rice, any variety

1 cup urad dal (split black gram lentils) *

½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds


Potato Pea Stuffing

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds *