Idli, Whole, Fermented, and Stuffed Two Ways

Updated: Jan 7

A traditional favorite breakfast from South India, idli are light, savory steamed cakes originally made from a naturally fermented, gluten-free batter of rice and split black lentils (urad dal).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 *

10 curry leaves*, chopped crudely

1 green Thai chile*, chopped (use two if you enjoy more heat)

¾” knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 teaspoon coriander powder *

1 teaspoon ground turmeric *

½ teaspoon dry mango powder * or to taste

½ teaspoon garam masala * or to taste

Up to 1 cup water

2 large potatoes, boiled, peeled, crumbled

¾ cup petite peas, fresh or defrosted frozen peas

1 Tablespoon shiro (white) miso powder or paste

Tomato Pepper Onion Stuffing

1 teaspoon black mustard seed *

1 teaspoon urad dal *

1 large onion, medium dice

1 cup tomatoes, medium dice

½ cup bell peppers, any color, medium dice

1 teaspoon ground turmeric *

½ teaspoon cumin powder seed *

1 teaspoon coriander powder *

½ teaspoon hot red chile powder, more if you like heat

2 potatoes, boiled, peeled, crumbled

½ cup cilantro, chopped

Water as needed

1 Tablespoon shiro (white) miso powder or paste

*Available online or in South Asian groceries

Hint! Dry roast and grind your own cumin and coriander seeds for the greatest flavor.

toasting spices for garam masala



Rinse the rice. Transfer to a bowl and cover by 2” with fresh unchlorinated water. Rinse the urad dal and fenugreek seed. Transfer them to a different bowl and cover by 2” with fresh unchlorinated water. Set aside to soak for 8 hours.

Pour off – but save - the excess water and grind the rice in a high-speed blender. Run for several minutes until quite smooth. Add just enough of the soaking water to grind the rice but only as needed. Set aside. The rice batter will be a little gritty and the consistency of a pancake batter.