Idly vs Vada- Making a smart choice.


I am from Indian origin and I know, Indians especially from southern part of India love their Idlies, and Vadas with sambhar and coconut chutney. And there is a popular belief that, as idlies are steamed, they are healthy and ultimately they are like holy food which can be eaten in large quantities. And for person with diabetes, it is the best food for breakfast!! Let us investigate this in detail.. Shall we?

  1. Idly batter is usually 3 parts of parboiled rice/rawa along with 1 part of urad daal. ( 75% carbs with little protein.)
  2. Then rice and daal is soaked for 8-10 hours.
  3. Fermented for 8-10 hours. ( What does fermentation do: it breaks down complex carbohydrates into simple glucose. What you get ultimately is the batter with glucose formed along with bacteria.)
  4. Then there is a process of steaming. ( We kill the good bacteria we have as a probiotic and what remains is a steamed batter containing glucose. Blood glucose rise with one medium steam idly is comparable to eating 3-4 teaspoons of glucose directly. )

If a person is eating idly, he/she does not stop at two medium-sized idlies. Most people have to have 4-6 idlies.( I am talking about Indians.). The accompaniment is thin watery sambhar with less vegetables and daal  and coconut chutney. Coconut chutney actually helps in delaying the absorption of carbs.( Because it has fats and fiber and some nut protein.) But some dietitians/ nutritionist ask people to avoid chutney as it has fats. So mostly we end up eating lot of idlies with thin watery sambhar which practically has no protein. And because it is absorbed quickly, one gets hungry in less than 3 hours.

Now look at medu vada- made of urad daal only and no rice. ( so less carbs and more protein.) It is usually not fermented, so protein and carbs are intact. ( some people do ferment it. That is a different issue.) And then it is deep-fried. So the benefits that we get are

  1. Absorption of carbohydrate is slow
  2. Satiety level is more. You eat only 2-3 vadas at a time and you feel fuller for longer time.

And vada I am talking about is medium size, not giant ones.

Few people will say that calorie content of idly is less than vada. I agree. If we compare one medium size idly with one medium vada then absolutely Yes. But the punch line” No one can eat just one!” is also true for idly. A person eats at least 5-6 idlies for breakfast, followed by some food/snack or at least coffee in sometime. So if we compare the real calorie intake with idlies with vadas, vada wins here. Does this mean to give up idly for life. NO. Absolutely not.  Here are few suggestions.

1. Limit or cut idly intake to just 2-3.

2. Make a thicker sambhar with more toor daal  and lots of vegetables like tomatoes, onions, drumstick, eggplant, carrots, zucchini.( All five colors are available through this sambhar. How about that! 🙂 )

3. Eat 2 tbsp homemade coconut chutney with it. Do not over do it.

Or try my version of idly with thick sambhar and chutney. Of course eat these idlies in limited quantities too. I have not used fermentation technique or any grains in it. It is totally pulses based idly. I hope you like it. Suggestions, comments are welcome.


No fermentation No grain idly


Ingredients:   1) 1 cup moong daal- soak in water for 3-4 hours.

2) 1 cup urad daal- soak in water for 3-4 hours along with some fenugreek seeds( about 1/4th teaspoon).

Procedure :

Grind both daals individually with very little water to make a fine paste.

Mix both daals together. make batter  as thick as possible.

Put some cloth in individual idly molds so that this batter will not run down through holes in the molds.

Steam them for 10-12 minutes.

Cool them and enjoy with hot sambhar and chutney.

I usually do not add salt in the batter but if you like you can add it.  These idlies are not be as fluffy as regular fermented idlies but surely are better nutritionally.