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Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

A few years ago, on one of our frequent trips to our favorite South Indian restaurant, my husband had commented, “If I have food like this everyday, I can turn vegetarian in a heart beat”. I could understand The Professor’s sentiment – the gigantic spread of utterly delicious, vegetarian food at that Udupi restaurant would make even the most hard core meat lover appreciate vegetarian fare. I don’t think we ever had a dish at that restaurant we didn’t like!

Since my husband loves South Indian food so much, we make a point of going to a restaurant to get our fill of dosas, appams and vadas, every single time we are in India. His love affair with South Indian food started on his very first trip to India – we were in Sikkim(!), at a tiny mountaintop restaurant, sitting outside in the warm winter sun and enjoying the terrific view of the Himalayas stretching out for miles and miles. A little boy served us some steaming hot uttapams and my husband absolutely l-o-v-e-d them. He gave that little boy probably the biggest tip of his life that day!

Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Since The Professor did turn vegetarian a few months ago, I have been trying to learn more South Indian  recipes to cook for him.  When I saw this recipe for adai on TV, it looked so unusual from anything I had ever made before, I knew I had to try it! I played around with the recipe a bit and finally came up with something that both of us enjoy a lot.

These adais are very filling and super nutritious – you can tell with every bite that you are having something that is really healthy! I love how the spices mildly flavor the pancakes and how well they mesh with the coconut flavor. The combination of the rice and lentils make these pancakes soft in the middle, but crunchy at the edges (my favorite part!).  Since I added some extra vegetables and nuts to the batter, I always feel as if I am having a complete meal, one that doesn’t really need anything else on the side, other than this coconut chutney, of course!

(Sorry about the pic – it has been really difficult to shoot in the weak winter sun without getting obscenely long shadows, but I had to show you the kind of breakfast I am craving these days!).

Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Here is the recipe – :)


Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

Adapted from this recipe

Makes about 20 pancakes – feeds a lot of people!


1 cup long grained rice

1/3 cup urad dal

1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils)

1/3 cup chana dal (split chickpeas/Bengal gram)

1/3 cup toor dal (yellow pigeon peas)

1/3 cup split moong dal

2 carrots, roughly cubed

3 fresh green chilies (Serrano or jalapeno), roughly chopped

handful of fresh curry leaves

1 cup grated coconut (fresh or dessicated)

1/2 tsp asafoetida

1 tbsp fennel seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp turmeric

3 cups coconut milk (about two  13.5 oz cans )

1/2 cup chopped scallions/green onions

big handful of peas

big handful of corn kernels

big handful of peanuts

Coconut oil, for frying



1) In a big bowl soak the rice, urad dal, masoor dal, chana dal, toor dal and moong dal in 3 cups of water for 3-4 hours.

2) Using a food processor, grind the rice and all the lentils, along with the water they were soaked in (in small batches, if you have a small processor). The paste should be quite thick at this point. As we are going to be adding coconut milk in a minute, try to not add too much water.

3) In a  big bowl dump the rice and lentil paste. In the food processor, grind the chopped carrots, green chillies and curry leaves until you get a coarse paste. Add this paste to the rice and lentil paste.

4) Into the same big bowl add the grated coconut, all the spices, salt, coconut milk, chopped scallions, green peas, corn kernels and peanuts. Mix everything well. You should have a thick batter, but one that is still pourable.

5) On medium heat add about 1 tsp of coconut oil to a flat bottomed skillet. Once the oil is hot, add about 1/2 cup of the adai batter and using the back of the cup, gently spread the batter so that it forms a circular shape. Cook on both sides until it is golden brown and crispy at the edges. Cooking time will depend on how thick your batter is and how thinly you have spread it out.

[If your batter is too thick, try adding a splash of water to loosen it up. If your batter is too runny, try adding more dessicated coconut or some rice flour].

6) Before you fry any more adais, do a taste check with your first pancake. Is it uncooked in the middle? If yes, then you know that should cook the pancakes a little longer. Also, keep an eye on the heat – if the skillet gets too hot, the adais will crisp up at the edges without the middle getting fully cooked.

This is also a great time to check for salt!  Once the seasoning is to your liking, repeat the process with the rest of the batter.

7) Serve immediately with coconut chutney. Enjoy!


7 comments to Adai (Savory Indian lentil pancake)

  • Rachana

    Sounds like a great recipe! A quick question: are the coconut milk and coconut oil required?

  • Madhuja

    Hi Rachana!

    You could use regular vegetable oil in the recipe, but I would highly recommend using the coconut milk, as it gives a really nice taste to the dish. Hope this helps!

  • Meghan

    All I have in my cupboard right now is the red lentils and chickpeas for the main solid ingredients but I cooked them and blended them up with the spices and some coconut cream, not really measuring, also I fried them in ghee instead of coconut oil, however, even though they differ from the recipe quite a lot (except for the spices) they taste really quite excellent! I love Indian foods of almost all sorts, so anything with that sort of spice blend is wonderful to my tastes :) thank you for sharing this recipe even though I didn’t exactly follow it.. ;)

  • Madhuja

    I love that you adapted the recipe on the fly! Great job! :)

  • Patty

    Would the paste mixture survive a few days in the refrigerator to use it in batches?

  • Madhuja

    I’ve had the paste in the fridge for a couple of days and the pancakes turned out fine! I am not sure how it would hold up beyond 1-2 days.

  • [...] 2. Savory Indian lentil pancake If your kid does not want to eat lentils or other nutritional products, then treat them with this Savory Indian Lentil pancake. This recipe not only offers a nice twist to the otherwise boring lentils, but it will provide the essential proteins and other nutritional value to your kid. Via [] [...]

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