How to make dosa batter step-by-step recipe with photos and video.
What is dosa
A dosa is a rice pancake, originating from South India, made from a fermented batter. It is somewhat similar to a crepe in appearance. Its main ingredients are rice and urad dal (black gram, scientific name Vigna mungo), ground together in a fine, smooth batter, then fermented. Dosas are a common part of the diet in South India, but have become popular all over the Indian subcontinent. Traditionally, dosas are served hot along with sambar and chutney.
Origin of dosa
Dosas originated in South India; their exact birthplace in that region is a matter of conjecture. According to historian P. Thankappan Nair, dosa originated in the Udupi town of present-day Karnataka. According to food historian K. T. Achaya, dosa (as dosai) was already in use in the ancient Tamil country around the 1st century AD, as per references in the Sangam literature. In popular tradition, the origin of the dosa is linked to Udupi, probably because of the dish’s association with the Udupi restaurants. Also, the original Tamil dosa was softer and thicker. The thinner and crispier version of dosa was first made in present-day Karnataka. A recipe for dosa (as dosaka) can be found in Manasollasa, a 12th-century Sanskrit encyclopedia compiled by Someshvara III, who ruled from present-day Karnataka.
What is dosa batter
Dosa batter is the fermented batter used to make dosa. It is made with urad dal (black gram) and rice as the main ingredients. Fenugreek seeds and chana dal (Bengal gram) are additional ingredients that go into making the dosa batter. Poha (flattened rice) or churumuri (puffed rice) is also another essential ingredient that is used to make dosa batter. These ingredients are washed, soaked, and ground, which is then let to ferment for several hours.
I have covered the nutrition of both Dosa and Idli batter below as their nutrition profile is pretty similar. Both are made with rice and urad dal with the difference in the ratio. The ratio of rice and urad dal in dosa is usually 3:1 and in idli it is 2:1. So, idli contains more urad dal. Also, idli is steamed and dosa is usually cooked in ghee. Though Dosa and Idli are considered a high carb food, many are surprised to hear they are a very good source of vegetarian protein as well as a host of beneficial nutrients. This is a very nutritious food when enjoyed in moderation.
Dosa and Idli are very good sources of plant-based protein. The protein mainly comes from the urad dal and also from the rice. Urad dal contains 25% protein. Compare this with an egg that contains 13% protein or chicken which has 27% protein. It is important to remember though that while animal foods are a complete source of protein i.e. contains all 9 essential amino acids, plant sources most often do not contain all 9 essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot produce and must come from food. So, for vegetarians and vegans, it is very important to combine vegetarian food sources that complement the essential amino acids. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan you should know about the limiting amino acids which are – lysine, threonine, methionine, and tryptophan. These are the amino acids that are in short supply in plant foods and it is important to eat proteins in the right combination. Rice has a limited quantity of Lysine and can be complemented with legumes like urad dal which has plenty of lysine. Again, legumes like urad dal are deficient in methionine which rice has plenty of. So, as you can see by consuming dosa or idli you are taking care of protein complementation and making sure you are getting all 9 essential amino acids in your food.
Phytic acid is found in most nuts, seeds, and grains. It is considered an anti-nutrient as it impairs the absorption of iron, zinc, and calcium and is said to promote mineral deficiencies. Those at risk of iron deficiency including vegetarians and vegans should consider reducing the amount of phytic acid they consume. As the absorption of non-heme iron present in plant foods is significantly reduced by the presence of phytic acid. The preparation of dosa batter involves soaking of rice and urad dal in water for a minimum of 6-8 hours and discarding the water. This reduces the phytic acid content. Soaking is claimed to reduce the phytic acid of most legumes because their phytic acid is stored in a relatively water-soluble form such as sodium or potassium phytate. The next step of the preparation of the dosa batter is fermentation. The fermentation process generates organic acids mainly lactic acid which breaks down the remaining phytic acid. The reduction of phytic acids and tannins increases the bioavailability of important minerals. Studies have shown that a fermented batter of rice+black gram − 2:1 (idli) and 3:1 (dosa) – had higher bioaccessibility values for zinc (71 and 50%, respectively), while iron bioaccessibility values were increased in these cases of fermentation to an even greater extent, namely 277 and 127%, respectively. So, the foods made from dosa batter (Dosa, Idli, Uttapam etc.) are way more nutritious when compared to foods made from unfermented rice and urad dal, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
The fermentation process increases the vitamin B and vitamin C content of the batter. The most significant of them is vitamin B12 which does not have a good plant source. Many vegetarians especially vegans are at risk of B12 deficiency as this vitamin is scarcely found in plant foods. Studies have shown the fermentation process produces vitamin B12 in Dosa and Idli batter, though this is not present in rice and urad dal.
We all know the benefits of probiotic bacteria and the health benefits of consumption of probiotic foods like yogurt and kefir. Though dosa batter contains trillions of live probiotic bacteria especially lactic acid bacteria, they do not survive the process of cooking the dosa batter. However, through the fermentation process, they have already done their work. During the fermentation process, the probiotic bacteria in the dosa batter breaks down the difficult to digest starch molecules and other carbohydrates making dosa or idli very easy to digest. No wonder, idli is one of the first solid food given to babies in many cultures of India. The fermentation process also breaks down the phytic acid increasing the bioavailability of essential minerals (e.g. iron, zinc) as well as increasing and producing essential vitamins (e.g. B12). The probiotic bacteria also produce a host of other enzymes and beneficial substances. One of the enzymes is lactase which helps in breaking down the lactose in milk. Studies have shown that even dead bacteria have a host of benefits. Many different types of microbe-derived substances such as metabolites, cell wall fragments, enzymes, and neurochemicals, can have beneficial physiological effects. So though cooked Dosa or Idli cannot be considered a probiotic food it has a host of benefits similar to consuming probiotics.
Dosa and Idli are both accompanied with lots of ghee and butter, chutney/chutney powder, along with sambar. These accompaniments bring a host of health benefits.
Ghee and Butter: Read about the health benefits of ghee and butter in my posts. Apart from the nutrients in ghee and butter, they help in reducing the Glycemic Index of the meal thus preventing the roller coaster of high and low sugar typically associated with a high carb meal. Fenugreek seeds are added in the dosa/idli batters which is said to help in moderating blood sugar.
Chutney: One of the most common chutneys associated with dosa idli is the coconut coriander chutney which is almost always served in all restaurants along with dosa and idli. Read my blog post on this chutney to discover the health benefits.
Chutney Powder: While there are a lot of chutney powders that accompany dosa and idli, the most notable is flax seeds chutney pudi. This contains a lip-smacking blend of ground flax seeds along with other spices. Flaxseed is the best vegetarian source of omega-3 which is an essential fatty acid containing 23% omega-3.
Main ingredients of dosa batter
Dosa batter is made with urad dal (black gram) and rice as the main ingredients. Fenugreek seeds and chana dal (Bengal gram) are additional ingredients that go into making the dosa batter. These ingredients are washed, soaked, and ground, which is then let to ferment for several hours.
Tips and tricks to get the perfect batter
- Soak the dal and rice in filtered water where possible. The chlorine in tap water inhibits the growth of bacteria. This is particularly important in cold regions and if you are making dosa for the first time
- Wash the dal and rice thoroughly before soaking in water
- Dosa batter must be fermented in complete darkness. Do not use transparent vessels for fermentation. For example, clear glass or plastic vessels will not give you a well-fermented batter. Traditionally dosa batter is fermented overnight in steel vessels covered with a loose-fitting steel lid
- The temperature at which dosa batter ferments best is quite high (around 40℃). It may be difficult to get it up to the temperature particularly during winter. I put my oven in the keep-warm mode for exactly 5 minutes, then turn off the oven and once the oven cools down a bit, I place the batter inside the oven. The heat retained by the oven should keep the batter warm for a long time. Alternatively, you can turn the oven light during the entire fermentation process
- If you have a setup to make yogurt (e.g. Instant Pot with yogurt setting, bread proofer, etc.) you can easily ferment the dosa batter in the same setup
- Fermenting the dosa batter can highly depend on the season of the year due to the temperature. During summer, the batter ferments in lesser time when compared to winter. The key to perfectly fermented dosa batter is to find a warm and dark spot to place the batter.
Recipes to try with dosa batter
Dosa batter step-by-step recipe with photos
1. Soak urad dal, rice and poha separately
2. Grind them separately in a stone grinder or blender/mixie
3. Mix the batter well and let it sit for fermentation
4. Place in warm and dark spot for fermentation
Perfectly fermented dosa batter
How to make dosa batter