Idli Podi | Gunpowder!

Are you a fan of the idli podi? Some call it “gunpowder” because it is fiery and spicy.

Breakfast at a South Indian family includes many treats. And if you are lucky, this flavour-rich powder is served in a corner of the plate. Depending on how spicy the family likes it, it can range from a pleasant mixture of flavours to a flaming one that makes your eyes water!

A plate with two uthappams and the idli podi. Oil is being oured into the podi.
Make a “well” in the idli podi/ gunpowder and fill it with sesame oil!
Jump to Recipe

Traditionally, South Indian food is simple. Besides being very healthy, they also have components that vary from the main dish to tiny little additions.

The full satisfaction of the meal is because of these little additions that give a twist and a kick to the main dish itself. These range from the chutney (dry or wet) or the pickle or the crispy appalams or poppadams (as I saw it written in a fancy menu!). Indeed, it could be any other trick that the cook in the family has up his/her sleeve.

And the best part? You will not feel so full that you want to miss the next meal. The food is light and easy to digest. So you will eagerly wait for the next meal without feeling uneasy.

Today, I will tell you how to make one of these at home…

The making of the Idli Podi or Gunpowder!

The aromatic smells that fill the house when we roast the different ingredients is so delicious! Choose your ingredients according to your taste… (see notes)

And you can add special things like black sesame seeds and curry leaves to bring in variation. Cool and powder coarsely. Eat it with all kinds of south Indian foods like dosais, idlies, uthappams…


In Mumbai, when we were kids, a young man on a bicycle used a hooter to signal his arrival. Param…param… All of us would run to the window to see who’d be the one buying his wares. His cycle mysteriously managed to hold a box of idlies, another of sambhar, chutney, the podi besides vadais.

I can still smell the fragrance of the podi. It was quite different from the home-made one we had. The aroma actually differs according to the proportions of the ingredients, and believe me, you can change it according to your likes, adding more of something you like.

Every year when my parents-in-laws visited me, they’d bring this delicious homemade podi. But in between the visits, I’d be “podi-less”!

My father-in-law was better at making this particular dish. So one day, he patiently taught me how to make this magical mixture. I follow it exactly, except for the addition of the channa daal… (he always stuck to only urad daal)

They are no more now, but every time I make this, I recall his patience and that afternoon vividly.

Tips for a good idli podi:

The recipe is very simple. You just need to remember a few things.

Heat a thick-bottomed pan.Keep a plate ready and keep removing the roasted ingredients in it.

Keep the heat very low and be patient.

How to serve the idli podi/ gunpowder

Serve a tablespoon of this on the plate with the main dish. You’d use your finger to make a depression in the centre as you saw in the previous post. Pour a spoonful of sesame oil in it and enjoy! 

If you are lucky, the hostess may just pack a small bottle for you! If not, here’s a simple recipe you can try out! Refer notes for storage instructions.

Idli Podi | Gunpowder Recipe

Recipe by Sheetal RabindranCourse: SidesCuisine: Difficulty: Easy
Prep time


Cooking time




  • 1 cup split Channa daal

  • 1 cup split Urad daal ( with or without skin)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1″ piece of tamarind

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

  • a pinch of asafoetida

  • 6 to 12 dry red chillies

  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (unpolished, optional)

  • 2 to 3 sprigs of curry leaves (fresh or dry, optional)


  • Heat a thick bottomed pan.Keep a plate ready and keep removing the roasted ingredients in it.
    Keep the heat very low and be patient.
  • Dry roast 1 tsp of salt. Remove in a plate.
  • Add 1 tbsp of sesame oil. Add 2 cloves of garlic. Fry well. Now add 1″ of tamarind. Finally, add a pinch of asafoetida. Remove.
  • Now add 1 cup of split urad daal. After you get an aromatic smell, remove. Don’t let it turn brown… it should just get roasted. When you cool and bite a few grains, it should be crisp but not hard. You should be able to chew it.
  • Similarly, roast 1 cup of channa daal . Remove.
  • Roast 1/4 cup of unpolished sesame seeds, if using. Remove.
  • Now put everything back in the pan. Add 6-12 red chillies, depending on how spicy you want it to be.
  • Also add 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh/dry curry leaves, if using. Roast everything together once.
  • Cool. Powder to a coarse powder. This is the time to taste the podi. If you need more salt, or an added dry chilli, add it. 


  • You can choose to use only one type of daal instead of two.
  • Adjust the spicy-quotient based on your preferences. You can always add more red chillies later, hence add less initially. Best time to taste it is as soon as you grind it.
  • Store in a dry airtight container for up to 2 months. After that, it won’t spoil, but the aroma will reduce.
  • If you have made extra, you can double wrap and store it in the freezer or a corner of your fridge to retain freshness.
  • Use also on dry vegetable preparations as a coating or sprinkling for extra flavour.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *