Idli sambar is a popular and delicious South Indian dish that consists of steamed rice cakes (idli) served with a flavorful lentil soup (sambar). This delectable combination of soft, fluffy idlis and aromatic sambar has gained worldwide acclaim for its unique taste and nutritional value.

In this article, we will delve into the process of cooking idli sambar, explore its ingredients, share valuable tips, and uncover the reasons behind its widespread fame.


To prepare idli sambar, you will need the following ingredients:

For Idli:

  • 2 cups of parboiled rice
  • 1 cup of urad dal (split black gram)
  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
  • Water (for soaking and grinding)
  • Salt (to taste)

For Sambar:

  • 1 cup of toor dal (pigeon peas)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 drumstick, cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of tamarind pulp
  • 2 tablespoons of sambar powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • A few curry leaves
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • Salt (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • Water (as required)


  1. Soaking and Grinding:
    • Rinse the parboiled rice, urad dal, and fenugreek seeds separately.
    • Soak the rice and fenugreek seeds together in water for about 4-6 hours.
    • Soak the urad dal in water for the same duration.
    • After soaking, drain the water from the rice and dal.
    • Grind the rice to a smooth batter using a blender or wet grinder. Add water gradually while grinding to achieve the right consistency.
    • Similarly, grind the urad dal to a smooth and fluffy batter.
    • Mix the rice batter and urad dal batter together in a large bowl.
    • Add salt to the mixture and mix well.
    • Allow the batter to ferment overnight or for about 8 hours, ensuring it is covered and kept in a warm place.
  2. Steaming the Idlis:
    • Before steaming, mix the fermented batter well.
    • Grease the idli molds with oil or ghee.
    • Pour the batter into the molds, filling them about three-fourths full.
    • Place the molds in a steamer and steam for approximately 10-12 minutes on medium heat, or until the idlis are cooked.
    • To check if the idlis are done, insert a toothpick or knife into the center. If it comes out clean, the idlis are ready.
    • Remove the idlis from the molds using a spoon or a spatula and keep them warm.
  3. Preparing the Sambar:
    • Cook the toor dal in a pressure cooker with water and a pinch of turmeric until it turns soft and mushy. Mash the cooked dal and set it aside.
    • In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
    • Add mustard seeds and let them splutter.
    • Add cumin seeds, curry leaves, and asafoetida, and sauté for a few seconds.
    • Add chopped onions and sauté until they turn translucent.
    • Stir in the sambar powder and turmeric powder, and cook for a minute.
    • Add chopped tomatoes, diced carrots, and drumstick pieces (if using). Cook until the vegetables are tender.
    • Add tamarind pulp, cooked dal, and salt. Mix well.
    • Add water as required to achieve the desired consistency of the sambar.
    • Bring the sambar to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend together.
  4. Serving:
    • Serve the idlis hot, accompanied by a generous ladleful of sambar.
    • Idlis can also be enjoyed with coconut chutney or tomato chutney for added flavor.

Also Read: Culinary Trends: Exploring the Latest Food Trends and Their Impact on the Culinary World

Tips for Perfect Idli Sambar:

  1. Fermentation: Ensure proper fermentation of the batter by keeping it in a warm place for the required time. This helps in achieving soft and fluffy idlis.
  2. Consistency: Adjust the amount of water while grinding the batter to obtain a medium-thick consistency. A runny batter will result in flat idlis.
  3. Steaming: Grease the idli molds well to prevent the idlis from sticking. Steam the idlis on medium heat to ensure even cooking.
  4. Sambar Flavor: Use freshly ground sambar powder or a good quality store-bought version to enhance the taste of the sambar.
  5. Vegetable Variations: Feel free to experiment with different vegetables like eggplant, okra, or bell peppers to add variety and nutrition to your sambar.

Why is Idli Sambar So Famous?

  1. Nutritional Value: Idli sambar is a highly nutritious dish as it combines proteins from lentils, carbohydrates from rice, and various vegetables. It is low in fat and cholesterol, making it a healthy choice.
  2. Versatility: Idli sambar is not only a popular breakfast option but also a versatile dish that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. It is commonly served in restaurants, hotels, and households throughout South India.
  3. Easy Digestibility: The fermentation process involved in making idlis breaks down the starches, making them easier to digest. The combination of idlis and sambar provides a balanced meal that is light on the stomach.
  4. Unique Taste: The soft and spongy texture of idlis, coupled with the aromatic and tangy flavors of sambar, creates a harmonious blend that is loved by people of all ages.
  5. Cultural Significance: Idli sambar is an integral part of South Indian cuisine and is deeply rooted in the region’s culinary heritage. It represents the rich cultural diversity and traditions of South India.


In conclusion, cooking idli sambar is an art that requires precision and patience. By following the simple steps mentioned above and incorporating the suggested tips, you can master the art of preparing this delectable South Indian delight.

Whether you are a fan of the dish’s unique taste or appreciate its nutritional value, idli sambar is sure to satisfy your taste buds and leave you craving for more. So, roll up your sleeves, gather the ingredients, and embark on a culinary journey to create a plate of idli sambar that will delight your senses and bring joy to your dining table.

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