Instant Pot idli recipe – Do you struggle with idli batter not fermenting in winter? Learn how to ferment idli/dosa batter as well as steam the idlis in Instant Pot for perfect results every time!
Idli, (or idly) is a steamed rice cake made by steaming a fermented batter of ground rice, urad dal (skinned black lentils) and methi (fenugreek) seeds. If the fermentation is successful (i.e if the batter doubles up overnight), you’ll end up with almost sponge-like, soft idlis that will feel like a pillowy cake. And if it doesn’t (especially during winter) then you’re left with this large amount of batter and a family who is ticked off at you because you don’t have idlis ready for breakfast or for their school lunch (True story).
Enter Instant Pot and all your idli problems are solved!
Not only does Instant Pot help you with fermenting idli batter, it also allows you to steam idlis – an all in one solution.
The three steps to making soft idlis in Instant Pot
The focus of this post is to show you how to ferment idli batter and steam idlis in Instant Pot. If you are looking for a detailed post on how to make soft idlis without an Instant Pot, check out this post that lays out the idli making process and provides different options to grind as well as ferment the idli batter.
Meanwhile, here’s what’s involved in making idli using an Instant Pot.
Step 1 – Learn how to make the perfect idli batter
This process involves 2 steps – Gather ingredients for the batter and use it in the right ratio, and grind them to the right consistency.
- Using the ingredients in the right ratio –
- Ingredients – There are 2 main ingredients – rice (Idli rice or parboiled rice or ponni boiled rice.) and whole urad dal. Note: For best results, use whole urad dal . An even better option would be the unprocessed black split urad dal, but it is a pain to separate the skin out, and to do that it needs to be rinsed at least 10-12 times. Other additives that can be used to help with fermentation and to make soft idlis are methi seeds and thick poha (flattened rice).
- Ratio – The ratio in which these ingredients are used changes depending on the weather. For instance, in winter, use 1:3 ratio and summer 1:4 i.e for every 1 cup urad dal use 3 cups of rice (in winter) or 4 cups of rice (in summer).
- Batter consistency – You have various options to grind the batter to the right consistency –
- Electric Wet stone grinder – Makes the best idlis but takes approximately 20-30 minutes.
- Indian Mixer and Grinder – Most Indian homes have a mixie like this one but it has a tendency to overheat and can destroy the good bacteria in the process. To get around this issue – grind in small batches and use ice-cold water while grinding.
- High-performance blenders like Blendtec – My preferred option. I run the smoothie cycle to grind urad dal as well as the rice. Use cold water to prevent overheating and killing the good bacteria.
The batter should not be runny or too thick. Think more like a free-flowing pancake batter.
Step 2 – How to ferment idli batter in Instant Pot?
You probably know that you need to leverage the Yogurt function in the Instant Pot to ferment idli batter, but there is more to it. Did you know that the Yogurt function comes with 3 modes?
Here are the different temperature settings in the Yogurt mode –
- “Normal” mode for making yogurt: 36 ~ 43° C (96.8 ~ 109.4°F);
- “Less” mode for making Jiu Niang (fermented glutinous rice): 30 ~ 34°C (86 ~ 93.2°F);
- “More” for pasteurizing milk: 71~83°C (160~180°F).
The ideal temperature for idli batter fermentation is 75 – 90°F and if you pick anything other than the “Less mode”, you are likely to have a batter that ends up being cooked. So, please be extra careful and make sure the mode is set to less.
Three essential tips for fermentation –
- Set the ‘Yogurt’ function in ‘Less’ mode and set the timer for anywhere between 12-15 hours. I live in Chicago and I noticed that in winters letting the batter ferment for 14-15 hours works best, and during summers 10-12 hours is sufficient.
- Use a lid like this one to cover the Instant Pot. Don’t use the Instant Pot lid – there have been cases where the Instant Pot lid got locked and jammed because of fermented batter.
- Add ice cubes to the batter – A lot of times the batter doesn’t ferment when the temperature is too high. Adding ice cubes after the batter is poured into the Instant Pot helps regulate the temperature and prevents overheating.
Step 3 – How to steam idlis in Instant Pot
You need to use the steam function. Idlis steam perfectly in about 9-12 minutes. While using the Instant Pot, always keep the vent open to simulate the function of the idli cooker. Remember this, if the vent is open, the Instant Pot timer will not work when using the Steam function, so use an external timer and set it for 10 minutes. All you need is 9-10 minutes of steaming under high pressure and your idlis are ready!
Instant Pot idli recipe – Learn how to ferment idli-dosa batter as well as steam the idlis in Instant Pot for perfect results every time!
- 2 cups idli rice / parboiled rice or ponni boiled rice
- 1/2 cup whole urad dal
- 1 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) seeds
- 1/2 cup thick poha (flattened rice) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- cold water as needed
- Soaking – Wash the rice and urad dal separately until the water runs clean. Add the methi/fenugreek seeds to the rice and soak it in water for 4-6 hours or leave it overnight. Soak the urad dal too for the same amount of time.
- Grinding – Soak a fistful of thick poha (flattened rice) (if using) in water for 5 minutes before grinding rice. Grind it alongside rice.Drain all the water from the urad dal and grind it to a fine paste using spoonfuls of water at a time (approximately 3/4 cup in total). Grind the rice to a coarse paste with approximately 1 cup of water and then mix both the pastes together in a large bowl and whisk them well. Add water as needed (approximately another 1/2 cup) to get the batter to a consistency that is neither too thick or thin. If using Blendtec, run the smoothie cycle (approximately 60 seconds) for both idli and urad dal batter.Make sure you use cold water to grind.
- Fermentation – Pour the batter into the steel insert. Place the steel insert inside the Instant Pot. Press the yogurt function – the display should read “YOGT” and adjust till the “Less Normal More ” section is set to Less. Adjust the time to 12 hours in summer and up to 15 hours in winter. Add 5-6 ice cubes. Cover it with a lid (NOT Instant Pot lid). Once the batter has risen, add salt to the batter and whisk the batter to mix it well. Transfer the fermented idli batter from the steel insert to another container. Clean the steel insert well and place it back in the Instant Pot.
- Steaming – Grease the idli stand with oil. and take a ladleful of batter and fill the idli mold. Note – Don’t feel the bottom-most rack of idli mold. Add 1 cup of water in the Instant Pot and click on the Saute function and set it to the ‘More’ mode. Once the water comes to a boil, hit warm/cancel. Put the idli stand inside and close the lid. Select the ‘Steam’ function and adjust the pressure to high. Keep the vent open and use an external timer and set the timer for 10 minutes. Once the time is up, hit cancel. Do a quick release and carefully remove the Instant Pot lid ensuring no water drips off on the idli. Carefully take the idli stand out. Wait for another 5 minutes and then use a sharp knife to scoop the idlis out.
- Serve warm with coconut chutney or red coconut chutney.
Have more questions? Check out this frequently asked questions on fermenting idli batter.
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