Savory breakfast lovers will adore masala dosa! Stuffed Indian crepes are filled with spicy potatoes called aloo masala and fried until they become perfectly crispy and golden brown. Spicy, savory, and filling — it’s a wonderful way to switch up your breakfast routine!
Crepes, pancakes, waffles…you name it, and I love it. Breakfast is such a special meal — it can set the tone for your entire day. Whenever I skip it, I find myself feeling pretty “hangry” (hungry and angry for those who have never experienced it!), and no one likes that.
I’ve experimented with lots of different pancake recipes that I’ve shared with you here. Some are savory, like these Chinese scallion pancakes. Others are sweet, like these Moroccan pancakes called baghrir or this twist on a classic, challah French toast. Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t technically pancakes, but they are sweet and fluffy. And definitely worth a try!
Today’s recipe is undeniably savory. Masala dosa is also spicy, thanks to that special potato filling called aloo masala. In fact, that’s where this dish gets its name. Masala refers to the filling, while dosa refers to the crepes. Now that you know, let’s get into the specifics of how to prepare them!
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!
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 - The base of all dosas. Make sure to use parboiled rice here — it can be difficult to find, but I typically have luck with Mahatma’s brand.
- Urad Dal - This is another key ingredient that you’ll need for your stuffed Indian crepes. It’s a type of lentil used in all dosa recipes.
- Poha Flattened Rice - You don’t have to include flattened rice in your creations, but I almost always include it in mine!
- Chana Dal - Split chickpeas, called chana dal, are another essential ingredient for this recipe.
- Fenugreek Seeds - If you prepare Indian-inspired dishes often, you likely have this spice on hand! It’s sweet and nutty.
- Sugar & Salt - You’ll have to allow your dosa batter to ferment before cooking it. Both sugar and salt encourage fermentation.
- Onion - I apply onion to the hot skillet before cooking the dosas for added flavor.
- Vegetable Oil - To pan-fry your dosas. You can also use ghee instead if desired.
- Aloo Masala - The spicy and flavorful filling for your stuffed Indian crepes. I have a great recipe for them.
HOW TO MAKE MASALA DOSA (STUFFED CREPES)
- Assemble The Batter. Add the rice and urad and chana dals (and the flattened rice if using) to a sieve and rinse with cool water for one minute. Place in a large bowl, cover with 2 inches of water, and allow to soak for 4 hours.
- Grind The Mixture. Place half of the soaked and drained mixture into a food processor or blender and grind in batches, adding 1 cup of water and 1 teaspoon of sugar each time. The batter should be smooth and similar to pancake batter but thinner in consistency. This is important for the fermentation process.
- Allow To Ferment. Follow the fermentation instructions on the recipe card below. You’ll need an Instant Pot, and the entire process will take 12 hours. Be patient, it’s worth it!
- Prepare A Skillet. Place a cast iron skillet, non-stick pan, or griddle on medium-high heat and check to see that it’s hot enough. When it’s fully heated, dip half of the onion (cut side down) in oil or melted ghee. Rub it on the pan to grease it, then set it aside.
- Cook The Dosas. Place some batter in the center of the pan, then use the bottom of a measuring cup or a ladle and move the batter in a circular motion from the center outwards to spread the batter in a thin layer. Watch the video for instructions on how to do it as it can be tricky! The edges of the dosa will turn golden brown — add a bit of oil or ghee over the crepe and allow it to cook for a few minutes until the bottom becomes crispy.
- Add The Filling. Remove the dosa once it has fully cooked. Add the aloo masala, then fold your stuffed Indian crepes however you like. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter and enjoy immediately!
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
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. 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. 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 Are Masala Dosa Made Of?
Masala dosa is a stuffed Indian crepe that is made with a mixture of lentils, chickpeas, and parboiled rice. The crepes are then filled with a spicy potato mixture called aloo masala. It’s a very popular South Indian dish!
What Is The Difference Between Dosa And Masala Dosa?
Dosa is the name for the actual crepe while masala dosa is stuffed with aloo masala, a potato filling. Dosas can be eaten as is, but are even more hearty when filled with tender, spicy, and flavorful potatoes!
How Long Should Dosa Batter Ferment?
I like to allow my dosa batter to ferment for 12 hours. You’ll be able to tell when it’s ready if the batter has doubled in size, has a slightly sour smell, and is thick and foamy.
Masala Dosa (Stuffed Crepes) + Video
- 2 cups Parboiled Rice (See Note 1)
- 1 cup Urad Dal
- 2 tablespoon poha flattened rice, optional
- 1 tablespoon Chana Dal
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 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. Add some aloo (potato) masala on one side if you wish to fold it or in the center lengthwise if you want to roll the dosa.
- Press with a spatula and then remove dosa 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.
- Nutritional information shown is for 2 plain dosa, without filling
*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.