Idli Sambar


This South-Indian breakfast is a tried and true classic for a reason



If you’ve been searching for a light and satisfying breakfast to enjoy on a hot summer’s day – then I have you covered. Well, actually my friend Sandita does with her recipe for Idli Sambar. These steamed rice cakes are one of the most popular breakfasts you can find throughout South India. And that’s certainly high praise considering all of the delicious breakfast options South India has to offer like crispy dosa and comforting pongal. But no matter if you’re chatting with a street food vendor or ordering at a restaurant, you’re sure to find Idli Sambar just about anywhere. However for Sandita, the best idlis have always been found at home.  

Growing up in Chennai, Tamil Nadu in South India, Sandita can remember her grandmother making Idli Sambar from scratch at least twice a week. South Indians like Sandita’s grandmother have been making idlis since the 10th century, with the first written mention of them dating back to 920 CE. Today idlis are regarded as a cultural cornerstone thanks to their long history and two main ingredients: Rice and lentils. The Indian subcontinent is well known for its varieties of rice and lentils and knowing just how to turn them into mouth-watering dishes.

For Idli Sambar, both rice and urad dal (or black lentils) are soaked, ground, and fermented before being formed into small cakes. From here, the cakes are steamed using a tiered idli stand to help them keep their shape. All of these steps produce a soft and fluffy cake that’s ready to soak in the spices of all kinds of chutneys, sauces, or in this case, sambar. A spicy vegetable stew, sambar is another popular dish in South Indian cuisine that just so happens to be the perfect thing to pair with idlis.  

Now when it came to actually making Idli Sambar, I didn’t have quite the same level of dedication as Sandita and her grandmother. Luckily, there are a few small shortcuts you can use to whip up delicious Idli Sambar at home. For starters, I absolutely recommend picking up a pack of MTR Instant Sambar Mix and Rice Idli Mix from your local Indian grocery store. It’s an easy hack that lets you get Idli Sambar on your table in half the time, which of course leaves you extra time to savor the flavors of this amazing South Indian breakfast. 

Watch the Video

Idli Sambar


  • idli mix
  • sambar mix
  • ghee
  • Indian yogurt
  • 1 small zucchini
  • podi


  • Make idli batter according to package instructions using the yogurt.
  • Spread a little ghee in each of your idli molds to prevent sticking. Fill molds with batter being careful that they don't overflow.
  • Place the idli stand inside the inner pot of your Instant Pot. Place the lid. Put the floating valve to VENTING. Press the STEAM button. Set the time for 5 minutes on High. As soon as the time gets over. Remove the lid. Take out the mold carefully. Remove the mold plates. Let idli sit in the mold for about 2 minutes. Then unmold these carefully. 
  • Chop the zucchini into half moons.
  • Make sambar according to package instructions adding in the zucchini to cook
  • Serve idlis with a bowl of the sambar and melted ghee/podi on the side.
Course: Breakfast
Region: Asia
Diet: Vegetarian


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