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Recipes | Ragi Idly or Steamed Indian Finger Millet Cakes with Chutneys – A way of life

4 May 2014 5 Comments

Healthy multi grain Idlies

It was not so long ago when the idea of starting a food blog crossed my mind and since then, there was no looking back.

A simple hobby which started with the percept of organizing recipes through a food blog has gradually metamorphosed into a memoir over the years. If some recipes help reconnect with my roots then the other recipes are woven around my personal experiences reflecting the cultural diversities I live in.

The omnipresent Idly from South India was a delicacy in mom’s place before my marriage. Many Sunday lunches were reserved for steamy hot puffy Idly (steamed rice-lentil cakes) dunked into spicy Sambhar (lentil curry).

The equation changed after my marriage to KK  from South India in 1996. The humble Idly which is often  taken for granted in Chennai is no longer considered a specialty food at my home.

Soaking a set proportion of rice-lentil, grinding the batter, fermenting it overnight and storing the fermented batter in refrigerator has become a way of life now.

The other day I and my MIL were having a casual talk about various methods of preparing Idlies in olden days.

Rice was a luxury in those days and only well off families could afford the precious grain to make pearl white puffy Idlies for their families.” She informed.

I remember most of the workers used to bring off white or brown millet Idlies to work which was quite filling for the amount of hard work they used to do in our farmland.” She continued.

I liked the idea of adding millet to my batter and that is when I started adding a small portion of millet along with rice to make Idlies. The gradual change from rice to millet was so subtle that no one at home could make out any difference.

Chutney is an integral part of any Indian meal and the variations brought in the recipes by chutney lovers are mind blowing. A small piece of ginger, a few sprigs of herbs, a pinch of asafoetida powder, a tiny gooseberry or a clove of garlic can change the taste and aroma of the chutney.

Here are a few chutney recipes and a wonderful spice-mix that I normally serve with Millet Idlis.

1. Sprouted Finger Millet or Ragi steamed Cakes aka Ragi Idlis

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys

Sprouted Finger millet or Ragi

Wash Finger millet (ragi) in water to remover dirt and soak it overnight in plain water. Tie the soaked millet in a wet muslin cloth. Hang the muslin cloth in a damp place for two days to let the millet sprout. Keep sprinkling water every now and then.

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys

Fermented millet batter


(makes about 20-22 Idlies)

  • 2 cups Finger millet
  • 1/2 cup Black gram
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 tbsp. Fenugreek seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as required

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys

Method; Wash and soak the black gram (urad dal), fenugreek seeds (methidana) and brown rice overnight or atleast for about 4-5 hours.

Grind Black gram in a mixer or a wet grinder into fine paste using adequate amount of water. Do not make the batter too thin.

Remove the Black gram batter in a bowl and add soaked brown rice and sprouted Ragi in the grinder and grind into fine paste using adequate amount of water.

Pour the Ragi-rice batter in the bowl of black gram batter and whisk well with a large ladle. If the batter makes swirls and peaks (as above) when dropped from a height the batter is of right consistency to make Idlies, a tip shared by my MIL.

Add salt to taste and keep the bowl in a warm place for 12-15 hours to start the fermentation process.

To make the millet Idlies, grease the idly moulds or use any flat plate with high-ends and pour the batter in it. Leave some space for the batter to rise when steamed.

Steam the batter in a pressure cooker or steamer for 6-7 minutes without weight or whistle on the lid.

Remove the pressure cooker from heat and let it cool.

Take out the steamed Idlies and serve with chutney of your choice.

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys

2. Mint-yogurt spread or Chutney

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys


  • 1 cup Mint leaves (tightly packed)
  • 1 cup Coriander leaves (tightly packed)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1’Ginger piece
  • 2-3 Red chilly
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard
  • Salt to taste

Method; Wash mint and coriander leave with plain water. Peel and roughly chop onion, garlic and ginger.

Heat oil in a wok and crackle mustard seeds in it. Add chopped onion and sauté for a minute.

Add chopped garlic, ginger and washed mint & coriander leaves in the wok. Saute all the ingredients for 2 minutes on medium heat. Do not over cook the greens.

Add all the ingredients into a mixie and grind.

3. Spicy Tomato spread or chutney

millet idly and chutney recipes


  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 4-5 dry red chillies
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. vinegar
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1’ ginger piece
  • 1/2 tsp. grated jaggery or sugar
  • Salt to taste


  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. Nigella seeds
  • A pinch of asafetida powder

Method; Dry roast cumin, fennel and Nigella seeds in a wok for 2-3 minutes on low heat.

Crush the roasted spices coarsely in a mortar and pestle

Wash and roughly chop about 10-12 medium ripe tomatoes.

Heat oil in a wok and add dried red chilies, ginger, garlic and sauté for 2 minutes on medium heat.

Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes till the tomatoes are soft and the water content in it is reduced.

Add crushed spice mix, salt, grated jaggery, asafoetida powder, vinegar and mix well. Take it off the flame and let it cool. Store the chutney or spread in a clean glass bottle.

4. Spicy Lentil and Sesame powder or  Milagai podi

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys


  • 1/2 cup Bengal gram
  • 1/2 cup Black gram
  • 1/4 cup black sesame seeds
  • 6 dried red chilies
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • A pinch of asafoetida powder
  • Salt to taste

Method; Wash black gram and Bengal grams with water, drain the water and pat dry with a kitchen towel.

Heat oil in a large pan and dry roast both the grams for 6-7 minutes on medium heat till they turn light brown in colour. Add sesame seeds in the same pan and quickly roast it along with the grams for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the grams and sesame seeds in a flat plate and let it cool.

Dry roast the dry red chilies in the same pan for 2-3 minutes.

Add both the grams and dried red chilies into a grinder and grind into coarse powder. Add rest of the ingredients and grind for just a few seconds. Remove it in a plate.

Let the spice mix cool, store it in an air-tight container.

Recipes | Finger Millet Idly and Chutneys

Refer Glossary for names of food and ingredients in Hindi and English.


  1. The spreads or chutney stays good for 3-4 days when refrigerated.
  2. You can avoid sprouting the Ragi to make the batter if you are short on time.
  3. Try replacing rice with other millet varieties for better nutrition.
  4. These spreads or chutneys goes well with any Indian flat bread, Naan or sandwiches.

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  • Ambika said:

    Such a beautiful post Sanjeeta! Loved the pics. The recipe mentions pearl millet, whereas the pics show ragi, are they same? Also, can I use ragi flour instead of whole ragi?
    Ambika recently posted..Aam Panna – A Refreshing drink made with Raw MangoesMy Profile

  • sanjeeta kk (author) said:

    @Ambika, It is finger millet..checked and updated. I am not sure if ragi flour would work well to help the batter ferment for Idly. I do mix ragi flour in the normal rice-lentil batter to make Dosas and it comes out crisp and good.

  • Dipti Bandekar said:

    I regularly visit your site as I also try to give a healthy twist to everything I cook. Being Diabetic, I was just thinking of replacing rice by ragi, (done it for dosas) and you did it. Now I can confidently go ahead.

  • Shashi @ RunninSrilankan said:

    My mom loves idly and she makes some amazing ones! But I haven’t seen her make millet idly – such a great idea to sneak in some extra fiber! These millet idlies look so fluffy! The chutneys are mouthwatering! GORGEOUS photos as always!
    Shashi @ RunninSrilankan recently posted..Freekehlicious Pumpkin & Chocolate SconesMy Profile

  • mjskit said:

    You are always dishing up something completely foreign to me. This post is just bursting with color, textures and FLAVORS! What a great post! the millet cakes looks wonderful – very light but with lots of great texture. And the chutneys – just hand me a spoon.
    mjskit recently posted..Green Chile and Lime Zest RelishMy Profile

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