Makes 1½ to 2 quarts batter (8 to 10 crepe-style or pancake-style dosas, or 12 to 16 dosa wraps)
Endlessly adaptable, inarguably delicious and fun to eat, dosas are light, crisp crepes made of rice and lentils that can be stuffed with or dipped into a variety of flavorful fillings. Food truck owners Nash Patel and Leda Scheintaub show readers how to make this iconic Indian street food at home with a master batter. Their cookbook, Dosa Kitchen, has 50 recipes for fillings, chutneys and even cocktails to serve alongside.
Gluten free, dairy free and fermented, dosas have the nutritional profile that contemporary cooks and eaters want, appealing to dietary restrictions of all kinds without sacrificing heartiness or taste.
Through the many batches of batter we’ve soaked, ground, and fermented, we’ve come up with this reliable recipe. While it may seem complicated, don’t be intimidated by the details; they’re designed to answer all the questions we’ve been asked about dosa making over the years and to preempt common roadblocks to successful dosa making at home.
This recipe gives you an option for making large, thin, crepe-style dosas; smaller, thicker, pancake-style dosas (known as uttapams); or wraps. You might try starting with thicker pancakes and working your way thinner until you’re ready to try making crepes. But the sizes we call for are just guidelines; there’s no wrong size, shape, or thickness for a dosa. For example, you can make thin crepes on a small pan or multiple mini dosas. At our food truck, we make a family-style dosa that spans 32 inches and feeds four!
Dosa batter keeps for up to 1 month in the refrigerator, so you might consider doubling the recipe to have batter on hand for multiple meals, snacks, and dosa desserts. We recommend using filtered water for your dosa batter, as the chlorine found in most tap water may interfere with fermentation.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
2 large nonreactive bowls or containers with a loose-fitting lid
1 medium nonreactive bowl or container with a loose-fitting lid
Blender, preferably high-speed
2 small bowls
Paper towels or half an onion
Small squeeze bottle
Flat-bottomed steel ladle
10½-inch cast-iron griddle pan or tabletop electric griddle
SOAK THE RICE AND DAL: Place the rice in a large bowl and rinse with two or three changes of water, until the water is just about clear. Cover with water by about 3 inches.
Place the urad dal, chana dal, and fenugreek seeds in a medium bowl and rinse with two or three changes of water, until the water is just about clear. Cover with water by about 3 inches.
Cover both bowls with dish towels or loose-fitting lids and set aside for 4 to 8 hours.
Drain the rice, reserving the soaking water. Drain the dal and discard the soaking water.
MAKE THE BATTER: Transfer the rice to a blender and add ½ cup of the reserved rice soaking water. Start blending on low speed and slowly add another ½ cup water through the hole in the lid while increasing the speed of the blender to high. Blend until the rice mixture is mostly smooth but still a bit grainy (when you rub a bit of batter between two fingers, it should feel slightly gritty) and the consistency of thick pancake batter, 2 to 3 minutes total. Add more of the reserved rice soaking water, about 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed to keep the blender moving, keeping in mind that the less water you add, the thicker the batter will be and the better the batter will rise. Transfer the rice batter to a nonreactive bowl that holds at least 4 quarts.
Put the dal in the blender (no need to clean it first), add 1 cup of the reserved rice soaking water, and blend until completely smooth, starting on low speed and increasing the speed as the dal starts to break down, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add more reserved rice soaking water, about 2 tablespoons at a time, as needed. Add the dal to the blended rice and with clean hands, thoroughly combine the two mixtures into a batter.
NOTE: Mixing dosa batter with your hands is an old tradition that is said to jump-start fermentation; we don’t know the science behind it—perhaps it has something to do with the energy your hands convey or, more concretely, the aeration your fingers provide—but we find it to be true.
FERMENT THE BATTER: Cover the batter with a clean dish towel or loose-fitting lid, put it on a baking sheet (to catch potential bubbling over), and place it in a warm spot (90°F is optimal) for 8 to 12 hours, until the batter is thick and foamy, nearly doubled in volume, and smells slightly sour. If your batter looks like the aftereffects of a small volcanic eruption or a science experiment gone wild, congratulations—it is very nicely fermented.
In a liquid measuring cup, dissolve the salt into 1 cup water, then pour it over the batter and whisk it in, breaking up any hardened top layer that might have formed. Transfer to a large nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before making your dosas.
PREPARE TO MAKE YOUR DOSAS: Remove the dosa batter from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Whisk the batter until homogeneous. It should be the consistency of pancake batter; if it’s too thick, add water as needed.
Fill a small bowl with about ½ cup water and a separate small bowl with about ¼ cup oil. Take a triple layer of paper towels and fold them in half, then in half again. Alternatively, insert a fork into the root end of an onion half so the cut side is facing down. Fill a squeeze bottle with oil. (Note: The bowls of water and oil are for greasing the pan; the oil in the squeeze bottle is for drizzling over the dosas as they cook.)
TO MAKE 10-INCH DOSA PANCAKES (UTTAPAMS) OR WRAPS: Heat a 10½-inch round griddle pan over medium-high heat. The pan is ready when a few drops of water flicked onto it sizzle. Grip the paper towels with tongs (or pick up the speared onion half), dip into the bowl of water and then lightly into the bowl of oil, and rub around the pan to grease it and to tame the heat.
Ladle the batter—about ¾ cup for pancakes, ½ cup for wraps—onto the pan and quickly but methodically spread the batter with the bottom of the ladle in a circular motion from the center out to create a 10-inch round.
When small holes form on the surface of the dosa, squeeze a generous amount of oil from the squeeze bottle over the surface, getting it into the holes to crisp the dosa. When the bottom turns golden brown and the top is set, about 2 minutes, flip the dosa and cook on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes more, until lightly browned and cooked through. Repeat to make as many dosa pancakes or wraps as you like, adjusting the heat as needed to turn out dosas that are crisp but not overly browned and adding more water or oil to the bowls as needed. If your pan gets too hot, your dosas may stick or burn before cooking through. To check, splash a tiny bit of water into the pan; it should sizzle but not smoke. To regulate the heat, lower the heat a little, dip your paper towels (or onion half) in water, and then oil, and rub over the pan before making the next dosa.
TO MAKE 18-INCH CREPE-STYLE DOSAS: Preheat a large electric griddle to high.
The griddle is ready when a few drops of water flicked onto it sizzle. Grip the paper towels with tongs (or pick up the speared onion half), dip into the bowl of water and then lightly into the bowl of oil, and rub around the griddle to grease it and to tame the heat.
Ladle about ¾ cup batter onto the griddle and quickly but methodically spread the batter in a circular motion from the center out to create an 18-inch thin, oval crepe.
When small holes form on the surface of the dosa, squeeze a generous amount of oil from the squeeze bottle over the surface, really getting it into those holes to crisp the dosa. When the bottom turns golden brown and the top is set, about 2 minutes, remove the dosa from the pan. Thin dosas usually need to cook on only one side, but if the top seems pale, you can flip the dosa and leave it to brown on the second side for a minute or so.
Repeat to make as many dosas as you like, adjusting the heat as needed to turn out dosas that are perfectly crisp but not overly browned.
CHEATER BATTER: Can’t commit to making dosa batter quite yet? You’re in luck! Many Indian grocers sell very good quality dosa batter in quart containers in the refrigerator section. But do pass on the dosa batter mix packets found on the shelf, as they lack vitality and flavor.
GOLDEN DOSA: For each quart of finished dosa batter, whisk 1 teaspoon ground turmeric into 1 tablespoon water to dissolve, then whisk it into the batter.
RED HOT CHILE DOSA: For each quart of finished dosa batter, whisk 1 tablespoon Kashmiri chile powder into 3 tablespoons water to dissolve, then whisk it into the batter.
GARLIC DOSA: For each quart of finished dosa batter, whisk in 4 to 6 pressed or grated garlic cloves.
HERB DOSA: Scatter whole cilantro, parsley, or mint leaves over the dosa immediately after pouring the batter onto the pan.
GHEE OR BUTTER (BENNE) DOSA: Slather a spoonful of ghee or butter over the finished dosa just as it comes off the pan.
Nutritional analysis for recipes is created using Food Processor SQL nutrition and fitness software by ESHA. Recipes are analyzed per serving (unless otherwise indicated) for calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, fiber and protein. Nutrient amounts are approximate due to variations in brands, manufacturer, preparation and ingredient substitutions. When ingredient choices are listed, we use the first one. Nonspecific amounts, for example "to taste," and garnishes are not included.