Masala Dosa With Coconut Chutney From Padma Lakshmi

November 24, 2021
3 Ratings
Photo by Padma Lakshmi
  • Prep time 5 hours 15 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

"Padma Lakshmi poses a difficult question to her daughter, Krishna, in the third episode of her new Hulu docu-series, Taste the Nation: 'Do you prefer American pancakes to dosas?' Dosa being the paper-thin, crispy-edged, savory South Indian crepes made of ground lentils and rice flour that she grew up eating three of in one sitting, and American pancakes being the fluffy stacks topped with butter and syrup. After some deliberation, Krishna replies, 'I like pancakes...but I think I prefer dosas to waffles.'

"Of all the dishes Lakshmi cooks, dosa hits the closest to home, because it’s one of her earliest food memories. At two years old, she sat and watched her grandmother grind rice for the batter in the reservoir of a huge, flat, two-foot-wide stone. Recalling the tedious process, Lakshmi demonstrates with movements of her hands how the fermented rice and lentils are carefully combined into a paste and thinned with water for fresh dosa batter. Her grandmother did that every day for 10 people when Lakshmi was a child; when she grew old enough to use the stovetop, at age 12, her grandmother eventually taught her the technique for the perfect dosa.

"Her Aunt Bhanu—whose recipe she shared with us for masala dosas and coconut chutney, all coordinated via a long WhatsApp chain—continued that tradition whenever Lakshmi visited her in India. Even after partying until 4 a.m., if a group of them came back to the house, Bhanu would ask if they wanted some fresh dosas. It became a love language that Lakshmi has passed down to her daughter, too." —Alyse WhitneyFood52

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Masala Dosa With Coconut Chutney From Padma Lakshmi
  • Homemade Dosa Batter (NOTE: You can also buy prepared batter from your local Indian store):
  • 3 cups white long-grain rice
  • 1 1/4 cups urad dal (white gram lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 1/4 cup canola or untoasted sesame oil
  • Aloo Masala:
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or untoasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal (white gram lentils)
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into thin crescents
  • 1 to 2 green chilies, such as serranos, sliced into thin strips lengthwise
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (from ½ lemon)
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • Coconut Chutney:
  • 1 splash canola or untoasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon chana dal (split yellow gram lentils)
  • 1 fresh coconut, drained and peeled, cut into small chunks (or 10 ounces frozen and grated coconut)
  • 2 to 3 fresh green chilies, such as serrano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
  • Tadka (Tempered Spices) for Coconut Chutney
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon urad dal (white gram lentils)
  • 1 dried red chile
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • 12 to 15 fresh curry leaves
  1. To make the dosa batter:
  2. Soak the rice in a large bowl with enough water to cover (by approximately 3 liters or 12 cups). In a separate bowl, soak the lentils in about 4 cups water. Let both bowls stand on the counter for at least 5 hours.
  3. In a blender, blend the lentils and rice until a smooth batter is formed.
  4. Pour the batter into a deep pot, making sure there’s plenty of room for the batter to rise up. Cover and place in an off oven and let stand overnight. Dosa batter is like an old woman and needs a shawl to keep it warm in cooler months—so if the weather is cold, you can help the fermentation by wrapping the covered pot in a towel to keep it extra warm. The warmer it is, the better the fermentation. But do not heat!
  5. After a minimum of 24 hours, check to see if the batter has risen well/fermented. You’ll know if you see tiny air bubbles on its surface. The longer you wait, the more sour (and tastier) the batter will be.
  6. Stir the batter well and add 1 tablespoon of salt.
  7. Heat a flat griddle or very large frying pan over medium-high heat. Using a rounded ladle, pour ¼ cup of the batter in the center. Starting in the middle, make concentric circles to spread the batter evenly and thinly to make a crepe-like round. Drizzle an espresso spoon or two of oil around the edges to crisp up the perimeter of dosa.
  8. When air bubbles start to appear and the underside seems golden, take a spatula and lift around the perimeter of the dosa to make sure it’s not sticking, then flip the dosa carefully. Make sure the spatula goes in under the dosa enough so that the dosa doesn’t fold when you try to flip it.
  9. Once flipped, just heat through the other side of the dosa through for a minute. Remove from the heat, add a few tablespoons of the aloo masala mixture to one half of the dosa, close to form a half-moon, and serve right away with chutney. Uncooked, the dosa batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week.
  10. To make the aloo masala:
  11. Bring a pot of water to boil over high heat. Once the water boils, add the potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes, until tender, then drain in a colander. Using a wooden spoon, smash half of the potatoes while leaving the other half in cubes. Stir to distribute the smashed potatoes among the cubes and set aside.
  12. Using a wok or large skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the mustard seeds and cook for about 1 minute, until they begin to pop. Once the seeds begin popping, add the urad dal and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until toasted and golden.
  13. Add the onion and green chiles and cook, stirring, for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the turmeric powder and mix well.
  14. After another minute, add the smashed potatoes and cook, stirring frequently, until the masala is distributed evenly and potatoes are warmed through. If the mixture seems dry, add a splash of water. Add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or more as needed. Remove from the heat. Garnish with lemon juice and chopped cilantro.
  15. To make the coconut chutney:
  16. In a small pan over medium heat,, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the chana dal and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until golden.
  17. In a blender, blend the coconut, roasted chana dal with oil, green chiles, and salt to a fine paste. Add the water, 1 tablespoon or so at a time, as needed to help the mixture blend. Transfer the chutney to a small bowl and set aside.
  18. Make the tadka: In a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat, heat the canola oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook for about 1 minute, until they begin to pop. Once popping, add the urad dal, red chile, and asafetida and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the dal is golden.
  19. Add the curry leaves (be careful not to stand too close to the pan when you do this step because fresh curry leaves have a lot of oil in them and will react to the oil in the pan by splattering) and cook, stirring, for 10 to 15 seconds, then pour over coconut chutney and mix well.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Nancy
  • So sett
    So sett
  • Licole Paroly
    Licole Paroly
  • MBE
  • Panfusine

14 Reviews

tallholl August 26, 2020
The dosas turned out wonderfully! Because I didn't rinse the rice and lentils before soaking, I drained and rinsed them after soaking, then added enough fresh water to get them to blend into a batter that looked like the right texture. The batter puffed up beautifully overnight; I put the pot in the oven with the light on to keep it warm. I had some trouble getting the heat and amount of oil right on my cast iron skillet to keep the batter from sticking or getting burnt, but once I figured it out this recipe made super light and crispy dosas. They were delicious with yogurt and the aloo masala!
Nancy August 13, 2020
Just does this have 5 stars when nobody seems to have made it?
kathryn J. July 1, 2020
I think it'd be more helpful to separate these recipes. One for a dosa, one for the masala and one for the chutney. Looking at this list of ingredients, one could imagine that it was all one dish, and while they are traditionally served together, it is not one.
Anusha J. August 14, 2020
Actually, just the dosa is not a meal in itself - you need something to go with it to complete it. Strictly speaking you could serve dosa with either the chutney OR the alu masala. I think the intent of this recipe was to provide what a wholesome meal looks like and how it is meant to be eaten. Isn't that the whole point of sharing recipes from new cuisines and cultures? The dosa by itself would seem like an incomplete recipe and the audience may be lost trying to make a meal out of it. Hope that helped!
So S. July 1, 2020
I just started soaking my rice/dal and too was curious about whether to blend it with the soaking liquid. I looked at a few other dosa recipes and everyone seems to say to drain it all first and then add water "as needed" when blending until its all smooth. Easiest to follow source I found:
Some people seem to add the soaking water as liquid, someone else said that that makes theirs sour. Given that this recipe doesn't involve washing the rice/dal, I think I'm going to use fresh water. Hope this helps someone else facing this conundrum :)
Anusha J. August 14, 2020
You can use the soaking liquid - as long as you washed the rice and the dal before you started the soak. In a lot of homes, including mine, we use the soaking liquid as it has a lot of the good starch that lends a 'je ne sais quoi' to the dosa taste. This is the 'sour' taste that some people have referred to and don't seem to prefer. But for many Indians, especially from the Southern part, that 'sour' taste is what makes dosa...well, dosa.
Licole P. June 22, 2020
Could you use pre-ground rice flour?
Anusha J. August 14, 2020
Rice flour will not give you the same results or the fermentation that is needed. There are however different types of dosas that use rice flour which have a different taste and texture. I love some that are by Madhur Jaffrey in her book 'Vegetarian India'.
MBE June 21, 2020
More photos would be helpful!
Panfusine June 18, 2020
The foolproof way to ferment Dosa batter is to use the Proof setting in the oven, if you have one. Takes away the guesswork completely. the first 6 hours or so, you barely see any change, after which the batter begins rising in an unrelenting manner. Always prudent to set the container on top of a baking sheet to catch any dripping bits of batter.
Marlene T. June 19, 2020
Do you drain the water from the rice or leave it?
passifloraedulis June 21, 2020
I’ve tried making dosa before and the batter never rises. Any tips?
Anusha J. August 14, 2020
You can use the soaking liquid - as long as you washed the rice and the dal before you started the soak. In a lot of homes, including mine, we use the soaking liquid as it has a lot of the good starch that lends a 'je ne sais quoi' to the dosa taste.
Anusha J. August 14, 2020
I've had this happen to me too and the key thing was that the batter got too hot/overheated in the blender. So pausing and waiting to let the batter cool helps.