Enjoy savory Indian crepes filled with spicy potato masala for breakfast with this paper masala dosa recipe. They're golden brown, crispy, and delicious!
While breakfast isn’t popular everywhere, it certainly is in South India. What they truly enjoy are savory breakfast entrees, especially dosa.
One of the most popular dishes is a crispy thin, restaurant-style crepe known as paper dosa. With warm curry tucked inside, it becomes a hearty and delicious breakfast treat known as paper masala dosa.
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.
Making Dosa Batter
- Measure, rinse and soak the pulses in water for several hours.
- Create a smooth batter by blending in a food processor or high speed blender.
- Ferment the dough in an Instant Pot.
You'll use the yogurt setting on your Instant Pot for this, and be sure to use the glass lid and NOT the pressurizing lid.
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.
Filling for Paper Masala Dosa
Whether you make them soft or crispy, the classic filling for a masala dosa recipe is a spicy potato curry called aloo masala.
If you'd like to add other vegetables to the potato, such as onion or peppers, you certainly could! Or make something like aloo gobi matar, which is a curry of potatoes, cauliflower and peas.
Indian Crepes (Masala Dosa) + Video
- 2 cups Parboiled Rice (See Note 1)
- 1 cup Urad Dal
- 2 tbsp poha flattened rice, optional
- 1 tbsp Chana Dal
- 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp 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 tsp 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 tsp 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.