Breakfast is different all around the world! This dosa recipe for Indian crepes is a savory take on the first meal of the day. All you’ll need are a few key ingredients to make it. I was hooked on them when first tried in New Delhi — either plain or filled, these are wonderful!
To combine my love of international cuisine and breakfast, I’ve made dishes like Chinese scallion pancakes, challah French toast, and Moroccan shakshuka. I had already heard of dosa, or Indian crepes, and had been eager eat them when I first was in India. After my first serving at breakfast, I asked to speak to the hotel chef and he gave me this recipe (through my interpreter guide of course). I just knew I had to make them when I got home. That’s where today’s dosa recipe comes in!
Dosas are savory, crispy, and fried in butter. Now, in order to make them, you’ll have to ferment the batter. This will take a bit of time, but it adds so much texture and flavor to the final results. Think sour dough starter-type fermentation. They are so delicious, you’ll want to add them to your brunch lineup ASAP.
Crispy Indian Crepes
Cuisine: South Indian
Traditional soft dosa are very popular throughout India, usually served with dips and condiments like pudina chutney. But when you travel further south, be sure to experience crispy, restaurant-style paper dosa, especially wonderful when filled with a spicy potato curry! These were the version I liked best and tasted first in New Delhi from the chef who was from Hyderabad.
Course: Main Dish (typically breakfast/brunch)
Difficulty: Medium 🥄🥄
Paper dosa are thin Indian crepes with crispy edges. The fermented batter is made from split black lentils (urad dal), baby chickpeas (chana dal), and parboiled rice.
After cooking on a hot griddle, the crepes are filled with spicy potato curry. At that point, they are known as paper masala dosa.
Video: How to Make Paper Masala Dosa
There’s an art to making dosas that are perfectly thin, golden brown and crispy. It can take some practice, but you’ll have plenty of batter to work with.
To see exactly how it’s done, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Parboiled Rice - Also known as idli rice, this ingredient may be a bit difficult to find. If you’re in the US, look out for Mahatma Brand, which has 16oz packages of parboiled rice.
- Urad Dal - Also called black gram washed lentil, I typically purchase my urad dal online.
- Poha Flattened Rice - Optional, but I like to add flattened rice to this dosa recipe. It’s steamed with onions, spices, and herbs and is very flavorful.
- Chana Dal - Otherwise known as split chickpeas, you also need chana dal for this recipe. It adds body to the batter along with the urad dal.
- Fenugreek Seeds - Sweet and nutty, fenugreek is similar to burnt sugar and maple syrup. I like to get mine online!
- Sugar - You only need a bit of sugar for this dosa batter recipe as it helps in the fermentation process.
- Salt - You only need a few teaspoons, and it is also necessary for fermentation.
- Onion - This ingredient is optional, but I like to rub a bit of onion in the skillet before cooking my dosa batter for some added flavor.
- Vegetable Oil - You need some oil to cook your batter. Use vegetable oil, or if you’d like to make them more authentic, opt for ghee.
HOW TO MAKE DOSA (INDIAN CREPES)
- Make The Dosa Batter. Place the rice, urad dal, chana dal (found in Indian markets or online), and poha (if using) into a sieve and rinse thoroughly with cool water for one minute. Transfer to a large bowl, then cover with fresh water by 2 inches and allow to soak for 4 hours.
- Blend The Mixture. Place half of the soaked and drained mixture into a Vitamix (or a high-powered mixer) and grind each batch with 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar. The consistency should be completely smooth and look like white pancake batter but slightly thinner. If it’s too thick, it won’t ferment.
- Ferment In An Instant Pot. Refer to the instructions on the dosa recipe card below for the exact Instant Pot settings to use. The entire process will take 12 hours, so it’s important to have patience!
- Heat A Skillet To Cook. Place a large cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Check to see if it is hot enough by sprinkling a bit of water on it — it should sizzle and evaporate immediately. Cut the onion in half and dip it, cut side down, in some oil or melted ghee. Rub the onion on the pan to apply a thin layer of oil or ghee. Set aside.
- Add The Dosa Batter. Pour ⅓ to ½ cup of batter into the center of the pan and move the batter in a circular motion from the center outwards using the bottom of the measuring cup, ladle, or spoon. Refer to the dosa recipe video below as this technique takes a lot of practice!
- Cook. When the edges lift up and turn golden brown, drizzle more oil or ghee on top. Allow it to cook for a few more minutes. You don’t have to flip it over, although I like to do so myself! Remove the cooked dosa from the pan and repeat the process with the remaining batter.
No Instant Pot? Not a problem!
If you don't have an Instant Pot, you can ferment dosa batter in an oven. It takes about 10 hours this way, but it's an option for those who need it.
- Place the batter into a large pot and cover it with a lid. Transfer it to a rack directly under the light in your oven.
Unless the weather is very cold, you probably won't need to leave the light on for more than a couple of hours. As long as you keep the oven door closed, it should be warm enough in the oven for the batter to ferment.
How to Know When Dosa Batter is Fermented
When the dosa batter has completely fermented, it should be doubled in size and will have a slight sour odor.
If it hasn't risen enough, simply place the lid back on and continue fermenting.
Tips for Golden Crispy Indian Crepes (watch my video below)
In a traditional masala dosa recipe, the Indian crepes cook up soft, and they don’t have a golden color. There are several things that help to create a perfectly crispy, golden brown paper dosa.
- Use a higher ratio of lentils to chickpeas. This masala dosa recipe calls for 1 full cup of urad dal and only a tablespoon of chana dal.
- Optional: add poha to the batter. Poha is a healthier form of white rice, also known as flattened rice or rice flakes, and can be found in Indian markets or online. It's great for absorbing any excess moisture in the batter, which will help it cook up crispier.
- Avoid using a non-stick pan.
Your first instinct may be to want to use a non-stick pan, because it prevents the crepes from sticking. After cooking them on both non-stick and cast iron pans, I recommend using a well seasoned cast iron griddle. It helps create a better color.
- Add fenugreek to the dosa batter. Adding just a tiny bit to the batter helps.
- Use extra ghee or melted butter. Just before you remove them from the pan, add a bit more ghee to the pan underneath the crepes. Not only does this give them a better color, but it also helps to release the crispy dosa from the pan.
What Is Dosa Mix Made Of?
My dosa recipe includes par-boiled rice (Mahatma brand in the USA has parboiled rice in 16oz packages, which equals the 2 cups needed for this recipe. It's labeled rice for paella - Parboiled Medium Grain Rice), urad dal (black gram lentils), flattened rice, and a few key seasonings. It’s a simple mixture, and when you allow it to ferment it is flavorful and delicious!
What Is The Secret Of Crispy Dosa?
There are a few different techniques you can use in order to make sure you end up with crispy results! Be sure to use the correct ingredients — don’t replace the parboiled rice with regular rice, for example. When you grind the batter, use cold or ice-cold water and make sure that your hands are clean before you add the salt after it's fermented.
Which Rice Is Best For Dosa?
The parboiled rice mentioned above and below on the recipe card is the best rice for your dosa batter recipe. Don’t underestimate the importance of using the correct ingredients!
How to Make Dosa + Video
- 1 medium onion optional
- Vegetable oil or ghee
Make the Dosa Batter
- Add the rice, urad and chana dals and optional poha to a sieve and rinse with cool water (use your fingers to move and mix) for a minute, then discard the water. Transfer mixture to a large bowl (or 8 cup measuring bowl) and cover with water by 2 inches and soak for 4 hours. (See Note 2)
- Working in batches, transfer half of the soaked and drained mixture to a Vitamix or high powered mixer and grind each batch with 1 cup water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Feel the batter, it should be completely smooth, no gritty chunks. It should look like a white pancake batter, but thinner in consistency. Free flowing, not clumpy and thick. Too thick and it will not ferment.
- Transfer all the batter to the steel bowl of your Instant Pot. Top with glass lid, (not the IP seal lid), and push the Yogurt setting and change time to 12 hours.
- Remove lid, you should see see air bubbles, it will smell slightly sour and the consistency will be a thick and foamy batter.
- Add 2 teaspoon of kosher salt AFTER it ferments and mix thoroughly with hands or spatula for 1-2 minutes (this aids in fermentation). To check, you can drop some batter into a glass of water, it will float if it's fermented. If it sinks, cover batter again and ferment for another 2 hours.
Cook the Dosa
- Heat a large cast iron skillet (or a non-stick pan) or griddle on medium-high heat. Check to see if pan is hot enough by sprinkling some water on the pan; it should sizzle away and evaporate immediately.
- Cut an onion in half and insert a fork in through the root end of one piece and dip the onion in some oil or melted ghee. Use the onion to rub the pan with a thin layer. Set onion aside.
- Using a ⅓ cup or ½ cup measure of batter (depending on size of pan or griddle 12 inch or 14 inch), pour it in the center of the pan. Using bottom of measuring cup, ladle or spoon, move batter in a circular motion from the center outwards, spreading the batter in a thin layer. Spread layer as thin as possible. NOTE: This takes a lot of practice and the right amount of pressure to evenly coat the pan. Be patient, there's plenty of batter!
- The edges of the dosa will lift up and turn a golden brown. Drizzle oil or ghee all around the dosa and also in the center. Let the dosa cook for few minutes until the bottom starts appearing golden brown. You only need to cook one side of the dosa (I prefer to cook both).
- Using a spatula gently scrape the sides of the dosa to release it from the pan. Rub the pan with the onion dipped in oil or lightly grease and repeat with remaining batter. You should be able to make around 12 to 14 dosa.
- Also known as idli rice. I had a hard time finding it, but Mahatma brand in the USA has parboiled rice in 16oz packages, which equals the 2 cups needed for this recipe. It's labeled rice for paella - Parboiled Medium Grain Rice.
- I found when making these several different ways that soaking the ingredients separately makes no significant taste difference, so I mix and soak them all together to keep things simpler.
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.