Ragi Idli | Finger Millet Idli step-by-step recipe with photos.
What is idli
Idli is soft and pillowy steamed savoury cakes made with fermented rice and black gram (urad dal) batter. This healthy dish is a breakfast staple in south India and is widely popular not just all over India, but also outside India. The rice used to make idli is called idli rava. It is coarsely ground rice that has a texture similar to rava (suji/semolina). Unlike dosa batter, the rice in idli is coarse which gives the idli a perfect texture when steamed. Idli is considered one of the healthiest breakfast dishes. Idli is made by soaking and grinding rice and dal, fermenting the batter, and then steaming the fermented batter.
What is ragi idli
Ragi idli is made by replacing rice (idli rava) with finger millet. This healthy and nutritious finger millet idli is made with fermented batter. The whole ragi is ground coarsely so that it can replicate the texture of the rava. This batter is made without rice but I do use a small amount of poha to balance the ragi flavour. Made with just four ingredients, this idli/dosa batter is a great way to introduce millets to your diet. These idlis are soft, light, spongy, and pillowy. Read on for all the tips, tricks, and FAQs to make the best-tasting ragi idlis.
Ragi is known for its health benefits and is also considered diabetic-friendly as it has a low glycemic index. This gluten-free grain is high in dietary fiber and is considered to be beneficial in weight management. I have written a detailed post on different millet types, their benefits, and millet recipes.
Ragi: I use the whole ragi to make the batter.
Urad dal: I use whole skinned urad dal (black gram). Urad dal is the key ingredient for fermentation. While split urad dal also works, in my experience using whole urad dal helps in fermenting the batter well.
Poha: Poha helps balance the ragi and also adds softness to the idlis.
Methi: Methi or fenugreek seeds are an important ingredient that helps aid fermentation.
Making dosa with this batter
To make the dosa:
- Heat a tawa/griddle
- Take a ladle full of batter and pour it in the centre of the tawa. Using the ladle or a small bowl gently spread the batter in a circular motion
- Pour a teaspoon of oil or ghee onto the dosa
- Cook on medium flame until brown
- Fold the dosa as desired and remove it from tawa
The batter should have a thick consistency. So while grinding the dal, use less water. Watery or runny batter will result in flat idlis.
Grind the urad dal into a fine and thick batter. Add very little water for grinding.
Grind the ragi into a slightly coarse texture. The ground ragi should have the texture of idli rava. Take a small portion between your thumb and finger, and rub it. You should be able to feel a slight coarseness (see image below).
I add a small amount of poha to this batter. This not only helps balance the ragi flavour, it also helps with the fermentation.
Soak the ingredients 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 idli for the first time.
The 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.
The temperature at which the batter ferments best is quite high (around 35 - 40 C). It may be difficult to maintain that 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.
Fermenting the idli 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.
Yes. This batter can be used to make dosa, uttapam, and paddu/paniyaram. See instructions above.
These idlis taste good with sambar and chutney of your choice. Our favourite accompaniment for ragi idli is peanut chutney.
Cool the ragi idli completely and place it in an air-tight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to five days.
This batter stays fresh for 2-3 days when stored in the refrigerator. Make sure you don’t add salt to the entire batter once it is fermented. Scoop out the batter that you will be using immediately and then add salt.
It is best not to skip poha to get light and soft idlis.
Ragi idli must be steamed for a slightly longer time than regular idlis. Bring the steamer water to a rolling boil, place the idli stand and cover it. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 15 minutes. It is also important to open the cover of the steamer and let the idli sit in the mould for one minute before demoulding it.
I have not tried fermenting the batter with ragi flour. You can make instant idli with ragi flour. Make the batter similar to rava idli batter.
This finger millet idli is:
- healthy and delicious
- vegan and gluten-free
- a good alternative to regular rice idli
Step by step instructions
1. Wash and soak ragi for 4-5 hours. Wash and soak urad dal and methi for 4-5 hours. Wash and soak poha for one hour
2. Grind urad dal into a very smooth batter using little water
3. To this add poha and ragi. Grind into a slightly coarse batter with little water
4. Take a small portion between your thumb and finger, and rub it. You should be able to feel a slight coarseness
5. Let the batter sit for fermentation (see tips above)
6. Batter after fermentation
7. Well fermented batter will have lots of air bubbles underneath
8. Add salt to the batter and mix gently
9. Lightly grease the idli plates with some oil. Spoon in the batter about ¾ of the mould
10. Place the mould alternatingly so that there is enough room for the idli to rise
11. Place in the steamer and steam for 15 minutes on low heat. Turn off the heat and let it stand for one minute
- 1½ cups ragi (finger millet)
- ½ cup urad dal (skinned black gram)
- 1 teaspoon methi (fenugreek seeds)
- ¼ cup thick poha (flattened rice)
- Take ragi in a bowl and rinse it well (2-3 times). Add fresh water and let it soak for 4-5 hours
- In another bowl, take urad dal and methi, and rinse it well (2-3 times). Add fresh water and let it soak for 4-5 hours
- One hour before grinding, take poha in a bowl and rinse it well. Soak for one hour
- Once everything is soaked, we can begin the grinding process
- Drain all the water from dal, ragi, and poha
- Start with grinding the urad dal first. Add it to a mixie jar and add very little water. Grind into a very smooth batter
- The urad dal should be thick and frothy (see step by step pictures above)
- To this add poha and ragi. Grind into a slightly coarse batter with little water
- Take a small portion between your thumb and finger, and rub it. You should be able to feel slight coarseness - like idli rava (see tips above)
- Pour the batter in a thick-bottom vessel making sure there is enough room for it to rise. Let it ferment 8-10 hours (Read more on fermenting the batter in tips section above)
Making Ragi Idli
- Pour water in idli steamer and bring to boil
- Lightly grease the idli plates with some oil
- Spoon in the batter about ¾ of the mould
- Place in the steamer and steam for 15 minutes on low heat (see tips above)
- Turn off the heat and let it stand for one minute
- Use a spoon to demould the idlis
- Serve hot with chutney of your choice
Click here to watch millet idli web story.