This article was updated on the 13th of August 2023 for clarity and to improve text readability.
If you’re wondering what to serve with your idli, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I list 33 of the most popular side dishes for idli.
In a rush? Here’s the short answer.
The best dishes to serve with idli are coconut chutney, drumstick sambar, dosa, poondu thokku, and chicken ghee roast. Try masala smashed potatoes, vegan chili, and mushroom shawarma for unconventional but delicious options. You can also serve Goan fish curry, tomato rasam, and Indian potato stew.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
Idli is a staple food item in South India, so it’s no surprise that we have plenty of classic Indian dishes on the list. From piping hot sambars to hearty curries, these dishes have bold flavors that complement the mildness of idlis.
Make your idli meal even more nourishing with a bowl of drumstick sambar. It’s a spicy and sour South Indian soup made of lentils and vegetables.
And no, the drumsticks are not chicken. They’re a vegetable that comes from the tree Moringa oleifera and are valued because of their flavor and health benefits. Drumsticks are a bit tricky to find, but try visiting a local Indian grocery store to look for them.
And don’t be intimidated even if it’s the first time you’re cooking this. Everything comes together in one pot and you simply have to cook it down.
Like idlis, dosas are a popular Indian food that goes well with chutneys. They’re paper-thin like crepes, except they have an irresistible crispiness that will leave you begging for more.
You can make these dosas using leftover idli batter. Just water it down to a thin, pourable consistency, and you’re ready to get cooking.
Making this requires a bit of a learning curve, but you’ll be a pro once you master the proper technique of pouring and forming them on your pan.
Enjoy these dosas alongside your idlis and your favorite chutney (more on that below).
Chicken ghee roast
Want to have idlis for lunch? Complete the meal by making this chicken ghee roast. This South Indian dish is indulgent and spicy, with tender pieces of chicken swimming in a sea of deliciously spiced ghee.
This deep-colored ghee tastes so good, and your soft idlis are perfect for soaking up every last drop of it. Yum!
Recipe creator Monika uses 1/2 cup of ghee for this dish, which seems like a lot. But don’t skimp on it — it’s important for this dish’s incredible flavor. You can add more, especially if you like a saucy dish. But don’t reduce it.
Goan fish curry
In the mood for an even lighter protein? Skip the chicken and whip up this goan fish curry to accompany your idlis.
Unlike the masala and butter chicken that many love, Goan curry has a distinct tang that helps offset the richness of the sauce. RecipeTin Eats’ version includes a homemade curry paste to give you the best flavor, with substitutions for hard-to-find ingredients.
And the great thing about this curry is that you can use any firm white fish like cod, mahi-mahi, tilapia, or halibut.
The best things in life are simple – like this delicious tomato rasam. This one-pot wonder has the perfect balance of spicy and tangy flavors that’ll wake up your taste buds.
Aside from its warm, cozy taste, the best thing about rasam is how quick it is to make. The lentils take the longest time to cook, but you can skip them if you prefer to get this soup done in just 15 minutes. It’ll still be delicious, although not as filling — but that’s what your idlis are for!
Indian potato stew
Potatoes have always made for delicious dishes – and this potato stew, also called Kumbakonam kadappa, is no different. It’s a stew made with potatoes and moong dal, typically served with idlis and dosas at breakfast.
Imagine dunking your fluffy idlis in the thick, coconut-based stew – it’s heaven in a bite. This stew also has a subtle spiciness. It’s just enough to warm your taste buds, but not to set them on fire.
Trust me, you’ll want to have this dish every week once you’ve had your first taste.
Chutneys and relishes
If you want to enjoy idlis as they are, pair them with chutneys and relishes instead of another Indian main course. These side dishes will provide your idlis with an instant flavor boost without weighing you down.
Start off your morning right with a serving of fluffy idlis and flavorful coconut chutney. It’s a classic pairing for a reason. The aromatics in this chutney have been tempered, which adds crunch and elevates the dish’s flavor.
Want your coconut chutney to have a lovely green color? Follow Fun Food Frolic’s lead and add some fresh coriander leaves. They also give this dish a nice, refreshing kick. Win-win!
Take your idlis up a notch with a heaping serving of poondu thokku. This relish is made with fresh garlic cloves and sesame oil. It’s extra garlicky (duh) with a distinct spicy kick to jazz up your mildly flavored idlis.
The process for making this relish is pretty straightforward, although there are some spices you’ll need to hunt for like fenugreek seeds. But once you make this recipe, the relish will last you for 2-3 months, as long as it’s stored properly.
Idli’s mild flavor makes it versatile enough to pair with dishes from different cuisines. It holds up well to warm, bold flavors and is great at soaking up thick, creamy sauces.
Looking for a more familiar dish to go with your idlis? You can’t go wrong with a fresh bowl of chili.
It’s a fiber and protein-packed stew guaranteed to leave you full. You can enjoy it as it is, with a serving of idlis and chutney on the side. Or you can add fun toppings like cheese, cilantro, and sour cream.
This chili is so good, you wouldn’t even guess it’s meat-free – but it is. It only takes 40 minutes and one pot for this three-bean chili to come together.
Go on a culinary adventure by making mushroom shawarma to go with your idlis.
Like meat shawarma, these mushrooms are flavored with intense Middle Eastern spices that will make your mouth water. With how meaty and umami-loaded these mushrooms are, you won’t even think about this dish being completely vegan.
Enjoy this meatless mushroom shawarma alongside your idlis, or stuff it inside the idlis for a fun twist. Whichever way you choose, you’re guaranteed to be satisfied with this combination.
Masala smashed potatoes
Craving more potatoes? Make these masala smashed potatoes as a fun and delicious accompaniment for your idlis.
They’re addictive on their own, but spicing them with chaat masala takes them to another flavor level. And you can dip them in your chutney to up the yumminess factor even more.
Make sure to prepare a double (even triple) batch of these masala smashed potatoes. I guarantee they’ll run out quickly.
What To Serve With Idli
- 1 portion drumstick kambar
- 1 portion coconut chutney
- 1 portion three-bean chili
- 1 portion dosa
- 1 portion poondu thokku
- 1 portion mushroom shawarma … and more
- Prepare your idli according to your favorite recipe.
- In the meantime, choose one of the following sides to serve alongside it.
- Side dishes include: coconut chutney, drumstick sambar, dosa, poondu thokku, chicken ghee roast, goan fish curry, tomato rasam, indian potato stew, masala smashed potatoes, three-bean chili, and mushroom shawarma.
- Serve immediately and enjoy.