Dosa (South Indian Fermented Rice and Lentil Crepe)

Add a Comment / June 4, 2015
Making a dosa

Photograph by Joshua Farr

These are the sourdough-style crepes famous in South Indian cuisine and the star of Dosa Kitchen, our Brattleboro-based food truck. At Dosa Kitchen we serve them in a larger-than-life length extending off the plate they’re presented on. The recipe here gives instructions for making them in a more-doable-at-home 10-inch crepe pan.

The batter makes enough for several meals of dosas; it keeps for a couple of months in the refrigerator (where it continues to sour slightly, varying the flavor of your dosas), so after all the work of soaking, blending, and fermenting, you’ll have ample dosa batter in the fridge ready for cooking up dosas anytime the urge hits. 

Indian-spiced mashed potatoes, pictured here, is the classic dosa filling for the dish known as masala dosa. Watch for an upcoming recipe for masala dosa.

A version of this recipe appears in my book Cultured Foods for Your Kitchen: 100 Recipes Featuring the Bold Flavors of Fermentation (Rizzoli, 2014).

Dosa (South Indian Fermented Lentil and Rice Crepe)
  1. 1 cup (200 grams) split urad dhal
  2. 3 tablespoons (40 grams) chana dhal
  3. 2 cups (400 g) short-grain white rice (not basmati)
  4. 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  5. 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus more if needed
  6. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  7. Unrefined sunflower oil or coconut oil
  1. Put the urad dhal and chana dhal in a medium bowl and rinse with two changes of water. Add the fenugreek seeds and top with filtered water to cover.
  2. Place the rice in a large bowl and rinse with two changes of filtered water. Top with filtered water to cover.
  3. Cover both bowls with dish towels and set aside in a warm place away from sunlight for 4 to 8 hours (it can go as long as overnight if it’s not terribly warm in the kitchen).
  4. Drain the dhal and discard the soaking water.
  5. Strain the rice, reserving the soaking water.
  6. Transfer half of the dhal and rice to a blender, add 1/2 cup (240 milliliters) of the reserved rice soaking water, and blend until smooth and the consistency of thick pancake batter, 2 to 3 minutes (a high-speed blender is ideal, but a regular blender will also work), adding a little more water if needed to thin it and keep the blender moving.
  7. Pour the blended mixture into a large bowl or container and repeat with the remaining dhal and rice, blending it with the same amount of water. Add the second batch to the first and stir.
  8. Cover both bowls with dish towels and keep in a warm place for about 12 hours, more if your fermenting area is on the cool side. The ideal temperature for fermentation is 90°F (30°C), which can be in the oven with the viewing light (not the pilot light) turned on.
  9. The batter is done when it is thick and foamy, risen a bit, and has a light sour smell to it. Stir the batter, then stir in the salt, cover, and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours before making your dosas.
  10. When you are ready to make your dosas, whisk the batter. It should be the consistency of pancake batter; if it isn’t, add a little water. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon water, then whisk it into the batter.
  11. Heat a 10-inch (25-centimeter) crêpe pan, skillet, or griddle over medium-high heat.
  12. Ladle about 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) batter onto the pan (do not oil it first); using the back of the ladle, immediately spread the batter in a circular motion from the center out to cover the pan and create a thin crêpe. (This is your test dosa; if it didn’t spread easily, add some more water to the batter to thin it, and when you taste it, see if it needs a little more salt.)
  13. When small holes form on the surface of the batter, drizzle a generous amount of oil over the dosa (putting the oil in a squeeze bottle makes this a lot easier) to help crisp it up. When the bottom turns golden, about 1 minute, flip it over and cook on the other side for about 30 seconds, until lightly browned.
  14. Place the dosa on a serving plate and and serve with your choice of filling alongside, using the dosa as your utensil.
  15. Wipe the pan with a dampened paper towel and continue making dosas with the remaining batter.
  1. Urad dhal (a split lentil), chana dhal (a split chickpea), and fenugreek seeds are available at Indian groceries.
  2. The addition of chana dhal to the mix gives a nice golden brown color to the dosas.
Leda's Kitchen
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