Idli Milagai Podi

Idly Milagaipodi 3

Long journeys with family in Tamilnadu are not complete without idlies dipped and drenched in spicy milagai podi and sesame (gingelly) oil. Everyone eagerly waits for their packet of these idlies wrapped in banana leaf that in turn is wrapped in some old newspaper and tied with a jute string. The banana leaf imparts its own flavor to the idlies making them the most sought after delicacy during travels.

Idly 8

They not only stay good for a long time, but also get better the longer they sit. Four of these idlies with a cup of good water make a very satisfying meal for people, young or old, poor or rich. In our family, we also love to have a cup of homemade yogurt to wrap up and call it a meal.

Idly 3

I’ve moved away from India several years ago to live in a place that is so far far away from home (Chennai), yet, this habit of packing spicy idlies for travels has stayed with me, inherently. When you stay away from home, it sometimes gets really difficult to enjoy the authenticity of the tastes and flavors of home food. You know what I mean, when I say ‘home’ here. Indian food for that matter is quite complex because of the distinct and special masalas that every dish demands.

Idly 6

The Indian grocers here in the US are doing a fabulous job of bringing masalas of every kind and origin to you. However, these commercial products can’t get any closer to what your mom or grandma can make at home, obviously. Some people are not very picky or particular about the traditional taste or flavor that has to go in to their food, but for some others, it is a big deal. It sure is, for me. There used to be times when I was very dependent on my mom to send me all those masalas that were often used in our family cooking. I have now slowly grown up in to making many of these myself.

Podi 4

Idli Milagai Podi is one of the several things that I always make at home. I began to develop this recipe trying to mimic my mom’s, but have gradually landed in something that has turned out to be a favorite for many that have tasted it. I’ve also learned to roast the lentils in an electric oven which simplifies and quickens the process considerably. With this method, you do not have to baby sit the lentils and wait until they turn golden brown uniformly. All you need to do is pop them in a oven, set the timer, turn it on and switch to the next task in your never ending list of things to do :).


Prep Time : None

Cook Time: 15 mins

Wait Time : 15-30 mins

Yield : About 2 cups


1 cup chana dhal

1/2 cup urad dhal

10-15 dry red chilies

2 tbsp black sesame seeds

1 tablespoon sesame (gingelly) oil

1/4 teaspoon hing (Asafoetida)

1 teaspoon grated jaggery



Preheat oven to 375 deg F.

In a large sheet pan, toss chana dhal, urad dhal and sesame seeds in sesame oil. Spread the lentils in a such a way that almost all of them are in contact with the pan. Pop in the oven and allow them to be roasted, for about 8 mins. The lentils would have started to turn slightly golden brown. Take the pan out and give it a good mix with a wooden spatula. Add the red chilies now, spread them evenly and throw the pan back in the oven for another 5-8 minutes or until the lentils are roasted to a nice red brown color. You’ll also get a strong flavor of the roasted lentils and chilies coming from the oven.

Turn off oven, place the pan on a cooling rack (or wooden coasters)  and let it cool. Once cooled, transfer the lentils to a mixer (or spice grinder), add salt, hing and jaggery and coarse grind. Transfer the podi into an airtight container.

While serving, mix the podi with some good quality sesame oil or ghee and enjoy with idli, dosai and paniyarams.

Note :

1. The baking duration could differ from oven to oven. If you watch the roasting process closely a couple of times,  you’ll know the duration your oven needs.

2. The extent of coarseness of the podi is your preference. Stop the mixer when you think you’ve reached the right texture of the podi.

3. I add some tamarind also occasionally. If you’d want to try it, add it along with the lentils to be roasted in the oven. One tablespoon of chopped tamarind would be good for this recipe.

4. You can always roast the lentils on your stove top, if you don’t want to use an oven or don’t have one.

5. The shelf life of the milagai podi is really good, but try to use it within in a month.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. I love the way you write these blogs , keep it up. will surely try this at home

    1. Try and let me know Jothi

  2. Lakshmi says:

    What kind of chillies do you use? Round or long. How do you get the red color?


    1. Long ones. Roast the lentils well until they become nice and reddish brown. This helps you to get a nice red color of the podi.

  3. Latha says:

    Super! My mom uses black split head dhal and it gets even more tastier. Also you can add a bunch of curry leaves saute and powder

  4. Zareena says:

    Good one Meera. I prepare podi at home as well. But no channa dhal, mostly whole urad dhall,long dried red chillies, few garlic-cloves, a small piece of tamarind and curry leaves. Roasted and ground. I also use the hot pan that I used for roasting the ingredients to mix salt and asafoetida and that helps to take the moisture out of the salt. 🙂

    1. Your recipe reminds me of the podi that we used to have at our hostel.

  5. Punitha says:

    Meera though i prepare the milagai podi mostly tge same way, I read through the whole blog as I love ur way of writing…keep it up

  6. Beautiful post! Love your writing, the podi looks insanely good with those soft idlis 🙂

  7. Mumtaz says:

    Can’t thank you enough for this oven method. Only those who have suffered the pan roasting process know the value of your post. It was a breeze, and the taste was also too good. Thanks for this great recipe!

  8. Jothi says:

    you know what Meera made this yday and have started this tradition of making at home idli podi after reading your blog and following your recipe , I do it all without jaggery 🙂

  9. Gayathri says:

    Good one Meera! I make it pretty much in the same ratios, but on cooktop and with a few alterations. I dry roast the sesame seeds (I generally use white) and individually roast the lentils and red chillies in sesame oil, as each of them have a different cooking consistency. I use sugar instead of jaggery. Tip – Patting of the extra oil from the lentils will make the powder less sticky. Happy cooking 🙂

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