Instant Pot idli – How to ferment batter and steam idlis using Instant Pot

Note: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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!

Soft Idlis made in Instant Pot served in a black bowl
Idlis steamed in Instant Pot

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!

Instant Pot not only helps 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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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?

Fermented idli batter in Instant Pot
Fermented idli batter

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.

      Instant Pot covered with a lid
      Fermenting Idli batter in Instant Pot with a glass lid

    • 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.
Ice cubes added to Idli batter left in an Instant Pot for fermenting
Ice cubes in Idli batter

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!

Idlis steamed in Instant Pot
Idlis steamed in Instant Pot


Serving suggestions for idli

Serve with piping hot sambar and either red coconut chutney or white coconut chutney

Have more questions? Check out this frequently asked questions on fermenting idli batter.

Other recipes for you to try in your Instant Pot



Got a new Instant Pot? Check out the links below to make the most of your pressure cooker -  


cooked idlis in an idli stand

Instant Pot idli Recipe

5 from 4 votes
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!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Fermenting time: 12 hours
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 32
Diet : Gluten-free, Nut-free, Vegan
Course : Breakfast
Method: Instant Pot
Cuisine : Indian

Ingredients
 
 

  • 2 cups idli rice / parboiled rice , or ponni rice
  • ½ cup Urad dal gota
  • 1 teaspoon methi seeds, fenugreek seeds
  • ½ cup  thick poha, flattened rice (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cold water as needed

Instructions
 

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.
  • As the poha soaks, 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). Transfer the paste to the steel insert of the Instant Pot. 
  •  Grind the rice along with soaked poha to a coarse paste with approximately 1 cup of water. NOTE -  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.
  • Add the rice paste to the Instant Pot on top of the urad dal paste 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.

Fermentation

  • 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. Take a ladleful of batter and fill an idli mold. Repeat the process for the rest of the molds. Note - Don't fill 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.

Notes

  • Set the 'Yogurt' function in 'Less' mode and set the timer for anywhere between 12-15 hours. In winters let 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.

Pantry EssentialsGetting the right tools for your kitchen makes cooking more enjoyable and less frustrating. Here's a list of kitchen essentials I own and recommend.

Disclosure: This recipe contains affiliate links to products we love and recommend. As an affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition

Serving: 1idliCalories: 52kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 1gSodium: 74mgFiber: 1g

Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist.

Did you make this recipe?Take a photo and tag @simmertoslimmer on Instagram for a shoutout!
Keyword : dosa batter, South Indian, winter

Get dinner on the table faster!

Learn my meal planning + prepping secrets to make fresh Indian food without spending hours in the kitchen.

An overhead shot of Gujarathi kadhi along with rice, rotis and a side of lemon

FREE EMAIL COURSE

Simmer to Slimmer Logo

36 Comments

  1. Hi,

    May I know why there is a difference in the ratios of rice and urad in Summer and Winter? Batter used to rise and ferment nicely in Winter with 1:3 ratio. I am in Canada and with warm temperatures, batter is not rising, though i follow everything as I used to do earlier. Thank you!

    1. Urad dal helps with fermentation so we increase the ratio in winter and reduce it in summer. Shabana – are you using Instant Pot to ferment?

  2. Hi Anu,

    Thank you for the recipe.
    My instant pot doesn’t have the steam option as I am using instant pot Viva.

    Could you suggest a way to steam idli in my case.

    TIA
    Pavithra

  3. Hi Anu
    I’m new to instant pot and I want to try fermenting idli batter in instant pot.So I have a doubt as in like when we set the timer for 12hrs should we cancel the yogurt mode immediately or is it ok if it’s on. can we cancel it may be an hour later? Will that affect the batter.. How does it work.. Sorry if it’s a silly question

    1. Hi Rashmi – The yogurt setting provides a consistent temperature for the batter to ferment giving you a well-fermented batter every time. Don’t switch the yogurt button off unless you live in a place with a warm climate like India. In that case, you don’t need an Instant Pot to ferment batter.

  4. Hi Anu, my idli batter would rise just fine left anyone in an oven or microwave, but I decided to follow your advice and try out the proof setting on my oven for the first time. I set it at the lowest Temp which is 100 F. It’s been about 10 hrs and it hasn’t risen one bit…I’m disappointed- did I do something wrong? Was hoping the idis would be ready for breakfast but now I’ve kept the batter out on the deck- it’s hot in Texas, so hoping it will rise soon. Any suggestions? Thx!

  5. We tried to make Idlis in instant pot as our regular idli cooker broke and had it on Steam / High pressure for 10 mins , but idlis did not cook well and were very water logged . I read somewhere to have water boiling in Saute mode before putting in idlis , would that help ? any other suggestions

    1. Yes, Aparna. That’s why I mentioned these steps in my recipe
      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.

      Follow them to a T and your idlis will turn out fine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe Rating