The Idli Steamer: A South Indian Restaurant’s Best Ally

Commercial idli steamer

South Indian cuisine, known for its rich flavors and diverse range of dishes, holds a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts worldwide. At the center of this culinary tradition is the humble idli, a soft and fluffy steamed rice cake that has been a breakfast staple for generations. For restaurants specializing in South Indian fare, investing in a commercial idli steamer can transform operations, enhancing efficiency and expanding the menu. This versatile appliance along with a wet grinder are not only essential for producing large quantities of idlis swiftly but also opens up possibilities for preparing various other delicacies, thereby elevating the overall dining experience.

Efficiency and Time-Saving

One of the primary benefits of a commercial idli steamer is its ability to produce large quantities of idlis in a short span of time. Traditional methods of steaming idlis involve using smaller, domestic-sized steamers that can only produce a limited number of idlis at once. This can be time-consuming and impractical in a restaurant setting, especially during peak hours. Commercial steamers, however, are designed to handle higher volumes, allowing chefs to prepare hundreds of idlis simultaneously. This efficiency not only reduces preparation time but also ensures a steady supply of fresh idlis, meeting customer demand promptly. The smaller ones will allow you to make 48 idlis and the larger idli steamers can be used to make up to 144 idlis in one batch. It is important to invest in purchasing the best commercial idli steamer that can last a long time.

Versatility in Cooking

While the idli steamer is quintessential for making perfect idlis, its utility extends far beyond this single dish. The same steamer can be used to prepare a variety of steamed delicacies from different culinary traditions. For instance, it can be utilized to make dhokla, a savory steamed cake from Gujarat that is light, spongy, and infused with flavors of mustard seeds and green chilies. This addition can attract customers looking for diverse options.

Moreover, the steamer is perfect for preparing momos, the popular Tibetan dumplings. These steamed pockets of joy, filled with vegetables or meat, are a hit among all age groups. Having a commercial steamer allows for the preparation of large batches of momos efficiently, catering to the growing demand for these delightful treats. This adaptability makes the idli steamer a valuable asset, enabling restaurants to offer an eclectic mix of steamed dishes that appeal to a broader customer base.

Enhancing the Menu with Idli-Based Dishes

The versatility of idlis themselves allows for a plethora of innovative dishes that can add variety to the menu. Here are a few creative idli-based dishes that can intrigue and delight customers:

  1. Fried Idli: This is a popular snack where leftover idlis are cut into bite-sized pieces and fried until golden brown. They are then tossed with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, and spices. The result is a crunchy, flavorful treat that is perfect as a tea-time snack or appetizer.
  2. Idli Chaat: Combining the softness of idlis with the tangy and spicy flavors of chaat, this dish is a fusion delight. Idlis are cut into pieces and topped with yogurt, tamarind chutney, green chutney, sev (crispy noodles), and a sprinkling of spices. It offers a refreshing change from the traditional idli and is sure to be a hit with chaat lovers.
  3. Curd Idli: Similar to the South Indian curd rice, curd idli is a comforting dish where idlis are soaked in seasoned yogurt and garnished with mustard seeds, curry leaves, and grated carrots. It is a cooling and soothing dish, especially popular during the summer months.
  4. Stuffed Idli: This involves filling idlis with a spiced mixture of vegetables or meat before steaming. The result is a flavorful surprise inside the soft idli, offering a unique twist to the traditional recipe.
  5. Idli Upma: A delightful way to use leftover idlis, idli upma involves crumbling idlis and sautéing them with onions, green chilies, curry leaves, and spices. It is a quick and delicious dish that can be served as a breakfast or snack option.
  6. Other Dishes: In many cases, you can purchase compatible size dhokla trays or mini idli trays to use in the same idli steamer and add dhoklas and mini idlis to your menu too.

Cost Efficiency and Consistency

Investing in a commercial idli steamer also translates to cost efficiency and consistency in food quality. Preparing large quantities of idlis at once reduces the need for multiple cooking cycles, saving on energy and labor costs. Furthermore, commercial steamers are designed to provide uniform heat distribution, ensuring that each idli is cooked to perfection. This consistency in quality is crucial for maintaining customer satisfaction and building a loyal clientele.

Health and Hygiene Benefits

Steamed foods are widely recognized for their health benefits, as they retain more nutrients compared to other cooking methods like frying or baking. By incorporating a variety of steamed dishes into the menu, restaurants can cater to health-conscious customers seeking nutritious yet delicious meals. Additionally, commercial steamers are designed with hygiene in mind. They are easy to clean and maintain, reducing the risk of contamination and ensuring that the food served is safe and hygienic.

Expanding Culinary Horizons

The inclusion of a commercial idli steamer can inspire culinary creativity among chefs. With the ability to prepare a wide range of steamed dishes, chefs can experiment with new recipes and fusion dishes, keeping the menu exciting and dynamic. This not only attracts new customers but also retains existing ones who look forward to trying something new on each visit.

Commercial idli steamer
Commercial Idli Steamer

How to use commercial idli steamer?

The traditional stovetop commercial restaurant style idli steamers are easy to use.  The cooking is done thru the steaming process.

  1. Pour some water at the bottom of the idli steamer box and heat up the steamer on the stove. You can also get electric steamers which are plug-in types and do not need stove.
  2. Line up a thin damp cloth on top of the idli plates and pour the idli batter in the idli mould on the tray.
  3. Arrange the idli trays in slot in the idli steamer. Try not to touch the upper trays when inserting to maintain the shapes of the idlis.
  4. Close the front sliding door of the steamer. Reduce the stove flame from medium to low. It will take around 15 to 20 minutes to cook the idlis depending on the idli steamer size, stove flame and burner setting.
  5. Once ready, turn off the stove. Stand on the side and open the sliding front door carefully.  This requires extreme caution due to steam buildup inside and is very hot.
  6. Take out the idli trays one at a time carefully, wait for 2 to 3 minutes and scoop out the idlis. Your gourmet restaurant style idlis are ready to be served to your guests.

    Idli Making Tips
    – Make sure to not overfill the idli steamer with water as that can delay the cook time and  make sure water is not touching the bottom idli tray
    – Make sure the batter is not too thin and should have a consistency. Stir the batter before pouring on the idli  trays. It is important you use a good quality stone wet grinder to make the batter to make consistent smooth batter.
    – Use a sharp small spoon or butter knife to scoop out the idlis once they are ready.


A commercial idli steamer is more than just an appliance; it is a cornerstone of efficiency, versatility, and innovation in a South Indian restaurant. Its ability to produce large quantities of idlis quickly and consistently meets the high demands of a bustling kitchen. Beyond idlis, the steamer’s versatility allows for the preparation of a variety of steamed dishes like dhokla and momos, enhancing the menu’s appeal. Moreover, the potential for creating unique idli-based dishes such as fried idli, idli chaat, and curd idli offers customers a diverse and exciting dining experience. By investing in a good quality commercial idli steamer, restaurants can elevate their culinary offerings, ensuring they stand out in the competitive landscape of South Indian cuisine. The smaller version of the idli steamers can also be purchased for home that can make 12 to 20 small idlis at a time.

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