Fried Idli or Masal Idli: Discover the Crispy Twist on a Classic

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Written By Haryana’s Restaurant

Authentic Indian Food – Classic Indian Cuisine in Terrace BC

Imagine transforming the humble idli, a traditional South Indian staple, into a zesty, flavorsome snack that’ll have everyone asking for seconds. Fried idli, also known as masala idli, does just that! It takes the soft, spongy rounds of steamed rice cakes and gives them a crispy, tantalizing twist.

Whether you’ve got leftover idlis from breakfast or you’re whipping up a fresh batch, this recipe is a perfect way to add some spice to your meal. It’s quick, easy, and packs a punch with a mix of aromatic spices that are sure to delight your taste buds. So grab your apron, and let’s dive into making this deliciously transformed version of a beloved classic.


Gather all the necessary ingredients to create your crispy fried idli or masala idli, ensuring you have everything ready for a flavorful experience.

For the Idli

  • 1 cup idli rice or parboiled rice
  • 1 cup urad dal (split black lentils)
  • Water as needed for soaking and grinding
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for greasing

For the Masala

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped

Other Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • A few curry leaves
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (hing)

Necessary Equipment

To prepare your fried idli or masala idli, you’ll need a selection of kitchen tools that will help streamline the cooking process and ensure that your idlis turn out perfectly crispy and well-seasoned. Here’s a breakdown of the essential equipment:

Cooking Utensils

  • Non-Stick Skillet or Wok: For frying the idlis to achieve that delightful crispiness. A good-quality non-stick surface prevents sticking and reduces the need for excessive oil.
  • Steamer or Pressure Cooker: Essential for steaming the idlis before they are fried. If you are making idlis from scratch, a steamer or a pressure cooker that can accommodate idli molds is ideal.
  • Spatula: A sturdy spatula is necessary for flipping the idlis in the skillet and ensuring they are evenly fried on all sides.

Preparation Tools

  • Mixing Bowls: Needed for mixing the idli batter and the masala. Having a set of different sizes is helpful.
  • Sharp Knife: For finely chopping vegetables and other ingredients that will go into the masala.
  • Grater or Food Processor: Useful for grating fresh coconut or mincing garlic and ginger, which are typical in masala recipes.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Precision is key in achieving the perfect flavor balance in both the idli batter and masala, so these are must-haves.
  • Idli Molds: These are specially designed molds used for shaping and steaming the idlis. They are essential if you are preparing the idlis from scratch.


Now that you have all your ingredients and equipment ready, let’s dive into the preparation of your fried idli or masala idli.

Making the Idli Batter

Begin the process by soaking 1 cup of rice and 1/4 cup of urad dal (split black lentils) separately in water for about 4-6 hours. This soaking step is crucial as it softens the grains and lentils, making them easier to grind. Drain the water and grind the rice and lentils separately using a little fresh water as needed to achieve a smooth consistency. Combine the ground rice and lentils in a large mixing bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon of salt and mix well.

The consistency of the batter should be thick yet pourable. Cover the bowl with a lid or a clean cloth and set it aside in a warm place for 8-12 hours. During this time, the batter will ferment and double in volume, developing a slightly tangy scent indicative of proper fermentation. Make sure not to stir the batter after fermentation to preserve the air bubbles, which contribute to the lightness of the idlis.

Cooking the Idli

Once your batter is fermented, prepare the idli steamer or pressure cooker by filling it with about two inches of water and bringing it to a simmer. Lightly grease the idli molds with ghee or oil to prevent sticking. Stir the fermented batter gently to mix in any liquids that may have separated. Pour the batter into the prepared molds, filling each just below the rim to allow space for the idli to rise. Place the filled molds in the steamer or pressure cooker.

If using a pressure cooker, remember to remove the whistle to prevent pressure buildup. Steam the idlis for about 10-12 minutes. Check if they’re done by inserting a toothpick; it should come out clean. Once cooked, remove the idlis from the molds using a damp spoon or butter knife to ease them out without breaking. Serve the idlis hot as they are or proceed to fry them for an extra delightful twist as detailed in the next section.

Masala Preparation

Now that your idlis are steamed and ready, let’s spice them up with a robust masala that infuses them with bold, savory flavors.

Prepping the Vegetables

First, gather your vegetables. You’ll need:

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green chilies, slit lengthwise
  • 5 curry leaves

Ensure all vegetables are washed, peeled (where necessary), and chopped as per the specifications above. This not only helps in even cooking but also ensures that each bite of your masala idli is bursting with flavors.

Making the Masala Paste

To create the masala paste that will coat your idlis, follow these steps:

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.

2. Add 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds and wait for them to splutter.

3. Lower the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, followed by the slit green chilies and curry leaves.

4. Add the chopped onions and sauté until they turn translucent.

5. Introduce the diced bell pepper and sauté for another 3-4 minutes until slightly softened.

6. Mix in 2 teaspoons of ginger-garlic paste and cook until the raw smell disappears, about 2 minutes.

7. Add the chopped tomatoes along with:

    • 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
    • 1 teaspoon of red chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons of coriander powder
    • Salt to taste

    8. Cook the mixture until the tomatoes are completely broken down and the oil starts to separate from the masala, about 6-8 minutes.

    9. Once your masala paste is ready, gently mix in the steamed idlis, ensuring they are well coated with the masala. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes so the idlis absorb the flavors.

      This masala preparation will not only add a delightful zest to your idlis but also transform them into a mouth-watering dish that’s perfect for any snack time.

      Frying the Idli

      Now that your idlis and masala are prepared, it’s time to bring them together in a delightful fusion of flavors and textures. Frying the idli pieces until they’re golden and crispy perfectly contrasts with the soft interior, making each bite truly irresistible.

      Cutting and Frying Idli Pieces

      1. Allow the Idlis to Cool: Before cutting, let the steamed idlis cool slightly for easier handling.
      2. Cut the Idlis: Using a sharp knife, slice each idli into four equal quarters. This size is optimal for achieving a balance between crispy exterior and soft interior.
      3. Heat the Oil: In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add enough vegetable oil to generously cover the surface. You can also use ghee for a richer flavor.
      4. Fry the Idli Pieces: Once the oil is hot, carefully place the idli pieces in the skillet. Fry them until they turn golden brown and crispy, about 2-3 minutes per side.
      5. Drain: Remove the idli pieces from the skillet and drain them on paper towels to remove excess oil.

      Reheating and Combining Masala with Fried Idli

      1. Reheat the Masala: In the same skillet, reheat the previously prepared masala mixture, ensuring it’s hot and fragrant.
      2. Mix Idli and Masala: Add the fried idli pieces to the hot masala, gently toss them to coat evenly with the spices. Make sure to keep the heat on low to allow the idlis to absorb the flavors without burning.
      3. Simmer Briefly: Let the mixture simmer for about 2 minutes to ensure that the idlis are heated through and have absorbed the savory flavors of the masala.
      4. Serve: Serve the masala-fried idlis hot. They make an excellent snack or side dish.

      Serving Suggestions

      Fried idli or masala idli, with its crispy texture and robust flavors, pairs wonderfully with a variety of accompaniments. When you’re ready to serve this zesty snack, consider the following options to enhance its taste and presentation:

      • Coconut Chutney: A classic South Indian dip, coconut chutney provides a creamy and cool contrast to the spicy and crispy idlis. The fresh coconut taste complements the masala seasoning beautifully.
      • Tomato Salsa: For a more tangy side, whip up a quick tomato salsa. The acidity and juiciness of the tomatoes will balance the richness of the fried idlis.
      • Mint Yogurt Dip: Combine yogurt with some mint leaves, a pinch of salt, and a dash of cumin for a refreshing dip. Its coolness will soothe the palate against the spicy masala coating.
      • Tamarind Sauce: Drizzle some sweet and tangy tamarind sauce over the fried idlis for an extra burst of flavor that accentuates the masala.

      Each of these sides not only adds to the overall flavor profile but also introduces a delightful textural contrast, making your fried idli or masala idli experience even more enjoyable. Serve them hot, garnished with fresh cilantro or curry leaves for an added splash of color and freshness.


      Ready to dive into a culinary adventure right from your kitchen? Give this fried idli or masala idli recipe a try and surprise your taste buds with a delightful twist on a classic favorite. Whether you’re serving them up as a snack or a side dish these crispy golden delights paired with a choice of dips are sure to impress. Don’t forget to experiment with different accompaniments to find your perfect match. Enjoy the burst of flavors and the joy of sharing something uniquely delicious with your loved ones!

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