Dosa – A South Indian Classic

Plain Dosa
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Dosa is by far the most popular South Indian Dish. This is a  healthy  crepe  made with a naturally fermented rice and lentil  batter. These  are so popular  that,  many households  have a  a  container of  Dosa batter in the  fridge  all the   time.   There are  many variations of  the basic  recipe , but  today  it  is  all about  the  ever popular  classic Plain  Dosa .   

Moms  love  it  as an easy  on demand  snack that  can be  made  and  served  anytime.  Serve  with a   quick   chutney for an  easy  nutritious  snack  or  with  assorted  chutneys, fillings  and sides  for a  more  substantial meal.  Think  about  this  you have a  container of  dosa  batter  ready to go.  5  minutes  is  all it  takes  to make fresh, piping  hot  dosas . Serve  with  a  quick  chutney powder (like  the  flax seed  chutney powder ) – and  you have a  protein   filled   nutritious  snack/meal.  There are no  preservatives,   fillers   or  any artificial  ingredients  here.   Any wonder  there  is   almost  always a  container of  dosa  batter in   south Indian homes ?

Compared to  many other   bread and pancake recipes dosa is  a  very forgiving.   A  wide  varieties  of  rice  to  dal  ratios  yield excellent  results. Where  as  idlis,  the  steamed  cakes  made  with a  very similar  batter,  are  quite  another  story.   1: 2  to  1:5  ratio  of urad  dal to rice  works  well.  Increasing  urad  dal  to  rice ratio to   1:1  or  more will  yield  very  soft  and spongy dosas  that  tend  to  stick to the pan or  break   as  you  remove  them  from  the pan .  Too  high a  percentage of   rice  will tend  to  weigh  down the  batter,  and  will not  yield  the characteristic  spongy  texture  or  flavor  of  traditional  dosa. But   with  enough  fermentation   a  rice  heavy batter   could  make   pancakes  similar  to  Appams.

Plain Dosa Ingredients

Here are  the  basic  ingredients  for  the  dosa  batter –  Rice  and  Urad  dal  and  optionally some  methi (fenugreek)  seeds. The  way  I  understand it – methi seeds  are  used  to  kick start   fermentation, as a wild  yeast  starter.  The  fermentation  involves a  many naturally occurring  yeast  and bacterial strains. Modern processing  methods  tend  to   strip the   rice  and  grains  of these. This is  where  the  seeds  comes  in as a  starter.  If  you  were  using   whole  unprocessed ingredients-  say  unpolished rice , or whole  dal  with skin on –  there is  no  need  for  fenugreek  seeds.

When you start out making your dosas I would suggest trying the 1:3 ratio of urad dal to rice . If you can find Idli rice , use that, but most raw /parboiled rice will give good results . As you get more comfortable with the grinding and the fermentation of the batter , you could experiment with altering the rations and different types of rices.

Plain Dosa Batter

Wash and soak the  rice  and  urad  dal   in plenty of  water.  For  dosa  batter  you can  mix  both and  soak  together.  You need a   good  quality  grinder   to  grind  these.  The  blenders and   grinders  used in Indian  homes are  usually  usually  of  500 or more  watts  and   will  be  up to the  job.

The  rice  and   dal  need  to be  soaked  for at  least  3  hours.     Drain  from   the  water  and   grind  to a  smooth paste.   As you start  grinding  add   just a  tablespoon  of  water or so.  As  the  grains  break  down  drizzle   water  little  by little , just  enough  to keep things  moving.  If  your  grinder/blender  seems  to heat  up  during  the   course of  grinding, stop and  wait  for  everything  to  cool  down,  add a  little  more  water  to the    mix .

It is  important  to  keep the  batter  from  getting  hot. If  needed   work in multiple  batches.

Pour  the  batter  into a  pan  large   enough to  contain at  least  twice  the   amount of  batter . Mix  in  the  salt  and  add  just  enough  water  to  make  a  thick a  batter.  Cover  and  set  aside  for  10  to 12  hours  under  warm  conditions.  In  warmer weather  the  batter  ferments  in  as  less as 4  hours.  If  that is   the  case check the  batter  after  2  hours.  If  there are  signs  of  vigorous  fermentation, transfer  to the  refrigerator  and  keep chilled until  about  30 minutes  before   cooking.

Making Plain Dosa

When  ready to  make  dosa,  heat a  griddle or a  thick  bottomed  pan (tawa) over  medium heat.  personally I prefer  the  cast  iron  griddles (the traditional  choice)  over the  non stick  pans.  These  retain  and  heat  evenly   without  creating a  hot  spots  and  make  perfectly crisp  dosas.   Cast iron  pans are  my tools  of   choice   whether  I am   making  dosas,  fluffy pancakes, eggs  or rotis.

The  batter  would have  risen   fairly well by now.  You  should  be  able  to see a  slight  dome  on the  to .  Get the ladle  all the  way to the  bottom  and   turn  to mix  the batter  from top to bottom .  There  should  be  plenty of  tiny bubbles  inside.   The heavier  rice  particles  tend  to  settle  in the bottom  and  the  more  lighter  urad  tends  to  get  carried  up  to the  top  by the co2  molecules.  Give  it a  good  mix  to  get a  homogeneous  mixture. Fill the  ladle   and   tip it  to pour  the  batter  back  in.  It  should  flow  down in a  thick stream  and  not  fall   as a  big  blob.  If  needed  add  a  few  table spoons  of  water  and  mix  well  until a  thick pouring  consistency is  reached. This  is  a  good  time  to taste and  adjust  salt  as  well.

When the  griddle is  hot  lightly brush the  top  with oil. It  should be evenly coated  with oil,  with  no pools of oil on the  surface.   Pour one  or  two  scoops of  batter in the  center of  the  pan , (depending on the  size of  your  griddle  and  the  scoop)  and spread  using  the  back of  the  ladle in a  spiral  motion  from  center   to the   outer  edges.   This  creates a   thin  disc   with a  few  thick circular  ridges.  This is the   traditional pattern for   Dosa. This   creates a  few   softer   regions    preventing  it  from  breaking  apart when transferred  from the  pan.

Cook for  30 seconds  or  so  till  you begin to see  the   thinner  portions  turning  golden  brown .  Pour few  drops  of  oil on top  and  around  the   sides.  The oil on the   sides  will help   release  the  dosa  from  griddle.  At  this  point , you have a  choice  to either flip and  cook on the  other  side  or  let  it  cook  through in the  same  side. If  you choose  not  to flip  make  sure  that  the   heat  is  set  on  medium , so as  not  to  let  the  bottom  burn .

As the  sides  begin to  brown and  seems  to pull  away from the  griddle  use a  turner  to flip  the   dosa  and  let  it  cook  for  another  30 seconds . Transfer  to a  serving plate .  Serve  hot.


Plain Dosa

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours

Yield: Serves 4 to 6


Raw Rice - 1 1/2 C
Urad dal Skinned - 1/2 C
Salt - 3/4 Tsp (As needed)
Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds - 1/2 Tsp (Optional)
Water - As needed
Oil - As Needed


Wash and soak the urad dal , rice (and fenugreek seeds) separately in plenty of water for at least 3 hours.

Drain and grind the urad dal fine with just enough water to make a fine fluffy batter.

Transfer to a large container .

Drain the rice and grind smooth by adding just enough water to make a fine paste. Transfer to the container with the urad dal batter.

Add enough salt and a little water to mix the rice and urad dal pastes well together. Cover and set aside in a warm place to ferment overnight (8 to 10 hours under normal temperature).

Uncover mix well. Mix in a few tablespoons of water to make the batter into pouring consistency. Taste and adjust salt if needed .

Heat a tawa or flat griddle . When hot lightly brush the top with oil . Wipe of excess oil .

Pour a ladle of dosa batter at the center of the hot tawa. Spread the batter thin using the

back of the ladle in circular motions.

Cook for 30 seconds or so till the sides begin to turn brown. Brush or sprinkle a few drops of oil on and around the edges of the dosa. Use a flat spatula or turner to flip the dosa . Cook for 20 to 30 more seconds and remove to a serving dish ,

Repeat with the remaining batter,

Serve hot with assorted chutneys , sambar or your favorite side dish .



  • If  unsure of  the  grinder’s   power , soak  rice  and  dal  separately,  and  grind in small batches.
  • When  soaking  separately  you can  add  the  fenugreek  seeds  to  either  batch.
  • Once  fermented keep the  batter  in  fridge  and  take out only the amount needed  to mix   with water  and  salt.
  • Over fermented  batter  can  be  used  to make   oothappams,  which are  thicker pancakes   with spices and  herbs  mixed in .
  • If  the  batter  sticks  to pan  make  sure that  it  is  oiled  properly .
  • A  well  seasoned  pan  needs  to brushed   with oil  only  in the  beginning and   after  every few  dosas.
  • If the  batter is  too thin, it  tends  to  stick  more and  will take longer  to  cook .
  • In  cold  weather, keep the  batter in  the  over   with the  light on , or in an insulated box  with a  hot pack  by the  side.

Dosa is  served  with  assorted  chutneys or podi (chutney powder).  But  these a  good  way to scoop up  many of  the  curries though  south  Indian  prefer their  coconut  chutney or  sambar .

Plain Dosa

You might like these chutneys with  Dosa.

Peanut Coconut Chutney

Coconut Chutney with Peanuts

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Red Coconut Chutney

Red Coconut Chutney – From Kerala

  This is a  typical  Coconut  Chutney prepared  in Kerala homes.  This creamy,  red  coconut chutney  has  smokey undertones and  a  tinge of tang. I have  had it umpteen times – mom,  granny,   countless aunt’s  and  a  few  friends are   all  experts   when it  comes  to  making  Coconut  Chutney.   The  taste isRead more


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