idli and dosa batter

What Is the Difference Between Idli and Dosa Batter?

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Idli and Dosa, both so delicious and essential and yet both so different. Many people assume these items to be the same thing, but they really are quite different. Idli and dosa batter are a bit different and in the end, the results are also a bit different. 

This is why they have different names. They can often be used for the same types of things, but they will turn out differently when you understand the differences between the two. It is a common misconception that idli batter is used to make dosa. 

This is only half right. They are similar, but at the same time, they are different. Now, that being said some of the difference is also in how the end product is made. You could potentially use idli batter to make dosa and everything would work out just fine. 

So, what’s the difference? Are these two the same or not? The short answer is no, but the real answer is it’s complicated. You may be able to manipulate idli batter in order to make dosa, but you should also just know the right way and the true differences.

Maybe you have never heard of either of these things until recently and you’re here for general information. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back too! 

We’ve put together a guide for you to walk you through everything you need to know about both idli and dosa, what their differences are and maybe even their similarities. You might just find they aren’t so different after all, but then again you might just find they are. 

Keep reading to find all of the information you need to know about the differences between idli and dosa batter. 

Knowing the Difference – Idli and Dosa Batter

So you think these two things are interchangeable? But really they are not.

In this guide, we will break them out individually. Once we have done that, we will do a quick recap to overview the primary differences for your reference. 

Both of these items came from the Middle East, primarily in areas throughout southern parts of India. Of course, from there, they have been shared with the world and these dynamic foods from Indian culture are now enjoyed in many homes. 

Idli Batter Guide

Idli, sometimes also spelled as Idly, is a rice cake. This rice cake is savory in flavor rather than sweet like most rice cakes you may be familiar with. Idli are commonly used for breakfast meals, but they are a universal type of cake that could essentially be used in many ways. 

idli and dosa batter

Idli batter is very resourceful. There are a lot of things you can do with it since it is a rice mixture. Idli is packed full of proteins. They have some high-quality carbohydrates in them as well. Don’t be afraid, idli are quite healthy for you. 

Here are some common items you can make with idli batter, aside from idli:

  • Vegetable Appe
  • Cheese Uttapa
  • Make a savory pancake
  • Pesto dishes
  • Sushi
  • Cheese spreads
  • Flatten and make thick pancakes

These are just a few ideas for mixing up your idli batter and trying out something different. Additionally, idli is also quite versatile and could be used for multiple things once you make idli. 

Don’t be afraid to make a batch of idli and put it to the test trying new things – like adding jam and eating it as toast, mixing up a dipping sauce, using it as bread on the side of a meal, mixing it with stew, etc. Your options are pretty much endless. 

Now, to fully understand how idli batter may be different from dosa batter, you should probably know what is in the batter and how it is made. Here’s a quick look at those details. 

Ingredients in Idli Batter

  • Parboiled rice or Idli Rava
  • Brown rice
  • Black gram lentils or Udad Dal
  • Flattened rice or poha
  • Fenugreek or methi seeds

Making Idli Batter

  1. To prepare to make the batter, it is necessary to soak both the lentils and the rice overnight in water. You should do this separately from each other. Rice soaks in one bowl and lentils soak in another. Soak for about 6-8 hours. 
  2. After soaking, drain each item well. Again, you are still keeping the rice and lentils separately at this step. 
  3. Still keeping rice and lentils separate, grind each one. Grind the lentils into a smooth paste texture. Grind the rice into a coarse mixture, but close to smooth. 
  4. Once both have been ground to the appropriate measures, combine them. Set them aside and allow them to ferment for 8-10 hours. The best place to ferment is somewhere fairly warm, definitely not cool and dark. 
  5. As the batter ferments, it becomes puffy and raises significantly. You can put something underneath the bowl in case it overflows out of the bowl. 

This is the completion of the batter process. From here, you can go on and use the batter as you please. Whether you make traditional idli or something else is totally up to you. 

We also want to point out that we simply shared a generic recipe here. Not all idli recipes are the same. They can vary in what they call for as far as the rice and lentil population goes. Ultimately, it’s still the same process and the two primary ingredients are lentils and rice. 

Dosa Batter Guide

Dosa also comes from a rice batter, but the end result is much more like a crepe than what you find in idli. You will find that the batters are very similar in makeup. But the end result is quite different. 


Dosa are served and used much like a crepe would be. Here are some examples of uses for dosa:

  • Make crepe-type pancakes
  • Use to dip into various sauces or fruits
  • Top with fruits and eat as a sweet treat
  • Make into an omelet using the dosa as the wrap
  • Pair with chutney, sambar, or other types of sides and toppings

These are just a few classic uses for dosa to give you an idea of how they vary in use from idli. 

Dosa are rich in flavor. They are full of nutrition with healthy carbohydrates and low-fat content. There is very little saturated fat content, making dosa a reasonably healthy food choice. 

Let’s talk a bit about how dosa is made and what is used in the batter to give us a clear idea of the difference in the batter when compared to idli batter. 

Ingredients in Dosa Batter

  • Rice
  • Urad Dal
  • Fenugreek seeds
  • Salt 

Making Dosa Batter

  1. Rinse rice and urad dal. Mix together and add fenugreeks. 
  2. Cover the mixture with water about 2 inches over the mixture. 
  3. Allow the mixture to soak overnight. You may want to have a tray or something under your bowl for overflow. 
  4. Drain away water from the mixture. 
  5. Use either a food processor or grinding tool and grind to a smooth paste that is slightly grainy. You may need to add a small amount of water if it seems to dry. 
  6. Once the mixture is ground, you will need to add water back to it to turn it into batter form. This is no exact science, mix as you add water and continue until it is a thick liquid batter. 
  7. Add salt to taste to the batter, then set aside and allow the batter to ferment for 6-8 hours. 
  8. After the fermentation process, stir the batter well. 

From here, your dosa batter is ready to use as you please. 

Summary of Differences

As you can tell, idli and dosa batters are very similar, but a few small changes in the process lead to wholly different products in the end. 

The way the ingredients of the batter are mixed and then ground are the primary differences. With idli, you soak and then grind your lentils and rice separately while in dosa it is all combined and done together. 

The end result is that dosa batter is thin and provides a crepe or pancake type consistency while idli batter is soft and fluffy instead. 

Related Questions

We hope that you have found this guide to be useful in substantiating the differences between idli and dosa batter. 

We invite you to review our question-and-answer section for additional information. 

What is Urad Dal?

Urad dal is a black gram lentil bean. It closely represents a bean in looks with a black exterior that has a white interior much like seeds. 

Are Idli and Dosa Gluten-Free?

Yes, by nature each of these is gluten-free depending on the rice which you use to make the batters. Almost the only thing in these batters is rice and lentils. It may be necessary to check the rice you are using to ensure your batter is gluten-free. 

One Comment

  1. Not too bad.. nothing wrong with what was said, but no information at all to help actually make idlis or dosas! The ratio of rice to lentils is extremely important, and the fact that idlis are steamed and dosas are pan-seared might need mention!?

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