Kanchipuram Idli Recipe With No Rice| Kovil Idli Recipe

Did you know that idlis – that beloved breakfast of many across the globe – have a dedicated day, all to themselves? March 30 every year is celebrated as World Idli Day! I’m here today with a Kanchipuram Idli recipe for you guys, to mark the occasion. 🙂

The town of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is famous not just for the gorgeous silk sarees manufactured here, but also for the temple of Sri Varadaraja Perumal (Lord Vishnu) that it houses. For several scores of decades now, a special type of idli has been prepared at the temple as an offering to the Lord. This idli – traditionally cooked in a bamboo cylinder (called ‘kudalai‘ in Tamil) on a wood fire – is believed to be a favourite of Varadaraja Perumal. Referred to by various names like Kanchipuram Idli, Kanjeevaram Idli, Kudalai Idli (after the ‘kudalais‘ in which they are steamed), and Kovil Idli (temple idli), this is one lovely-tasting confection for sure.

Today, the Kanchipuram Idli has become a staple in more or less every household, at least in Tamil Nadu. There are several different versions to the Kanchipuram Idli recipe – it is sometimes made with boiled rice (puzhungal arisi), sometimes with whole green moong (pacchai payaru), and with split moong daal (payatham paruppu) at other times. In her famous book Samaithu Paar (Cook & See), Smt. Meenakshi Ammal offers a Kanchipuram Idli recipe using just moong daal and urad daal, with no rice going into it. Yes, you heard that right – no rice. Making no-rice idli is not just a modern fad, this proves, but something that was in vogue even in 1950, when the cookbook was first published! Apparently, this is one very authentic recipe for Kanchipuram Idli, used in several. Tamilian households. Just how fascinating is all this history, eh? 🙂

I make Kanchipuram Idli following the maestro Meenakshi Ammal’s procedure to the T. They turn out brilliant, soft and fluffy, absolutely delicious and flavourful, a hearty and filling meal, perfect for diabetics and weight-watchers. In the restaurants and homes of Tamilnadu, these idlis are typically steamed in bowls made of banana leaves or mandara leaves (‘donnai‘ in Tamil). In the absence of both of these, I tend to cook my Kanchipuram Idlis in areca leaf bowls, commonly available in most Bangalore departmental stores. If you don’t have access to any of the above steaming vehicles, don’t fret – you can still cook the idlis in steel plates, little steel bowls or glasses, and they would still taste absolutely fantastic!

Now, without further ado, let’s check out the Kanchipuram Idli recipe or Kovil Idli recipe, a la Smt. Meenakshi Ammal.

Ingredients (makes 12-15 big idlis):

  1. 1 cup split yellow moong daal
  2. 1 cup urad daal
  3. Salt to taste
  4. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  5. A little ghee, for steaming the bowls

For the tempering:

  1. 2 tablespoons ghee
  2. 1 tablespoon chana daal
  3. 4 green chillies, chopped into large pieces
  4. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
  6. 2 sprigs fresh curry leaves, roughly torn
  7. 1-1/2 teaspoon dry ginger powder
  8. 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  9. 1 tablespoon roughly chopped coconut
  10. 2 tablespoons roughly chopped cashewnuts

Equipment needed:

  1. Areca/banana leaf bowls for steaming the idli
  2. Pressure cooker


1. Wash the moong daal and urad daal together under running water a couple of times, draining out all the water from them. Then, add in just enough fresh water to cover the daals. Let them soak for 2-3 hours, covered.

2. When the daals are done soaking, drain out all the water from them. Grind to a smooth batter in a mixer, stopping at intervals to add a little water and scrape down the sides of the mixer. Transfer the ground batter to a large vessel.

3. Add salt to taste to the batter. Mix well. Keep the batter covered in a warm place, undisturbed, for 8-10 hours or till it ferments well.

4. When you are ready to make the idlis, prepare the tempering. For this, heat the ghee in a small pan. Add in the chana daal, and fry on medium heat till it gets brown. Now, add the cashews to the pan, and fry till they turn brown too. Now, switch off the gas. Quickly add the green chillies, coconut pieces, black peppercorns, curry leaves, cumin, asafoetida and ginger powder. Give the ingredients a quick stir with a spoon, ensuring that they do not burn. The rest of the ingredients will get slightly cooked in the residual heat in the pan, and that is enough. Add this tempering to the fermented batter.

5. Add the finely chopped coriander to the fermented batter too. Mix the batter well. It is now ready to be used to make Kanchipuram Idlis.

6. Place about 1-1/2 cups of water in a pressure cooker bottom. Place the cooker on high heat and allow the water to start boiling.

7. Meanwhile, grease two of the leaf bowls with a little ghee. Fill the greased leaf bowls about halfway through with the batter.

8. Once the water in the pressure cooker bottom starts boiling, place a stand inside and place a colander on top of it. Place the two bowls with idli batter in the colander. Close the pressure cooker and steam for about 15 minutes without putting the whistle on.

9. Serve the cooked idlis hot with the leaf bowl intact, with chutney of your choice.

10. Replenish the water in the pressure cooker bottom. Prepare Kanchipuram Idlis from all the batter, in a similar way.


1. You can also add in a couple of tablespoons of fenugreek seeds (sabut methi or menthiyam) while soaking the moong daal and urad daal. This makes the idlis softer.

2. This Kovil Idli recipe uses split yellow moong daal and whole white urad daal. However, you can use whole green moong and split urad daal instead, too.

3. Make sure the batter is well fermented before using it to make the idlis.

4. The time the batter needs for fermentation would be different in different locales/weather. In hot weather, the batter might ferment much before 8-10 hours. In cold climes, one might need to leave the batter for over 12 hours to ferment.

5. Once the batter ferments, give it a good stir. You can make idlis with it immediately or keep it refrigerated for later use. If you plan to use the batter later, I would suggest doing the tempering just when you are ready to cook the idlis.

4. The fermented batter stays well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

5. Any leftover batter (after tempering) can be used to make kuzhi paniyaram.

6. If you are using refrigerated batter to make idlis, make sure you get it out of the fridge well in advance. The batter should be completely at room temperature when you begin to make the idlis.

7. Make sure the ingredients do not burn while tempering, as per the above Kovil Idli recipe. This will alter the taste of the idlis.

8. I used medium-sized areca bowls to steam the idlis, and could fit two into my pressure cooker at a time. You might be able to steam more idlis at a time if using smaller leaf bowls or steel glasses. If steaming in a steel plate, you might be able to fit in only one.

9. You will need to keep adding more water in the pressure cooker bottom in between steaming the idlis.

10. About 15 minutes is usually good to steam Kanchipuram Idlis. A toothpick inserted in the middle of the cooked idli should come out clean – that’s when it is done.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!


Foodie Monday Blog Hop

I’m sharing this recipe with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the blog hop this week is #IdliMedley, suggested by Mayuri of Mayuri’s Jikoni. wherein participants are cooking up a variety of no-rice idlis!

Check out the different types of no-rice idlis other members of the blog hop have come up with:

I’m also sharing this post with Fiesta Friday #268. The co-host this week is Julianna @ Foodie on Board.


28 thoughts on “Kanchipuram Idli Recipe With No Rice| Kovil Idli Recipe

  1. Kanchipuram Idlis are on my to do list for quite some time now. Your post tempts me to try them asap. Loved that the idlis are steamed and served in the leaf bowls !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful post! Thanks for sharing all the info on idli, esp. Kanchipuram idli. Your idli looks super soft & spongy, and I will definitely try all the 3 versions.


  3. The Idlis look do tempting in these bowls.. loved the bowls and the recipe too!! I never made these Idlis at home though I had relished these at one of our favourite South Indian restaurant.. Good to know that we can make these in Idlis plates as I won’t get these beautiful leaf bowls here in Iowa.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yum! I have always wanted to try making Kanchipuram Idli but have held back thinking about the steaming part, or the ingredients… But now I want to try making these idlis but think I may have to leave out the chana dal and dry ginger. Will that be ok?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @themadscientistskitchen

      Thank you! You can definitely make this without the chana dal and the ginger, but the two are distinguishing characteristics of Kanchipuram Idli. You could try using fresh grated ginger.


  5. books such as these are seriously a treasure trove. I make kanchipuram idli with Idli Rice / Idli rava. this non-rice version is so new to me, despite having that book ! super stuff priya 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Veena Krishnakumar

      Thank you so much! Do try this no-rice Kanchipuram Idli some time – it tastes awesome. 🙂

      I’ve never had a chance to visit Kanchipuram. Now, you are tempting me to go immediately.


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