Appetisers/sides/ Indo-Chinese

Crispy Chilli Idli

Crispy Chilli Idli

Crispy chilli idli is an Indo-Chinese appetiser made from stir fried idli (steamed rice and lentil cakes) in a variety of sauces and spices.

Leftover idli, it happens to us all. It turns hard, dry and a little stale – not that enjoyable anymore right? Wrong – that’s when it’s perfect for this. Use your leftover dried out idli to make crispy chilli idli. The fact it’s dry helps it to crisp up beautifully and absorb the sauce and spices.
You can either make your own idli (plenty of recipes available online) or use an idli box mix.

What are idli?

I know some may be wondering this, they are steamed ‘cakes/dumplings’ made from a batter of fermented rice and split black lentils (urad lentils). It’s essentially the original Indian sourdough if you will. To make the batter, both the rice and lentils are soaked and ground to a paste, then left to ferment. Fermented foods have plenty of benefits when it comes to health and digestion, making idli a fantastic food choice. These are steamed in an idli stand and served with coconut chutney and sambhar (a south Indian daal).

crispy chilli idli

Crispy Chilli Idli

To make these crisp up, we airfry or fry them. Best results are deep fried but air frying also works well. I’d recommend to avoid baking these as it tends to dry them out too much. Once they have crisped up we will add them to our spices and sauce mix. It’s honestly a very easy dish to put together and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. The sauces add saltiness, sweetness, heat and the right amount of sourness to balance – making these very more-ish.

Crispy Chilli Idli

Crispy Chilli Idli

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Indo-Chinese
Servings 2 people



  • 8 idli quartered
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1.5 tbsps oil for airfrying, alternatively can shallow fry or deep fry
  • Quarter tsp ground black pepper
  • 0.5 tsp ground coriander powder
  • 0.5 tsp dried mango powder
  • 1 spring onion whites for cooking, greens for garnishing
  • 1 medium white onion chopped into large chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 inch piece of ginger minced
  • 1-2 green chillies slit lengthways, omit if mild heat preferred


  • 1 tsp dark soy
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar/lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chilli sauce of choice
  • 0.5 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 4tbsps boiling water



  • After quartering your idli, toss in your oil and air fry at 190 degrees for around 6-8 mins or until they’re completely crisp. Alternatively deep fry or shallow fry
  • Mix all sauce ingredients in a bowl, make sure the cornflour is thoroughly whisked in till no lumps remain
  • Sautee your onion, spring onion whites, garlic, ginger and chillies under a medium-high heat for roughly 1 minute, keep stirring to prevent any burning
  • Add in your ground spices and idli pieces, toss for a further 10-15s
  • Add in your sauce mix and reduce the heat to low/medium-low. This will thicken within a minute
  • Garnish with the spring onion greens
Keyword chilli, idli, indo chinese, party food, vegetarian

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