Onion Uthappam (Indian-style pancakes)

Onion Uthappam is a well-loved South Indian breakfast snack and a popular dish on Icoa’s Asian Street Food menu.

Uthappams are similar in style to a thick pancake, and feature various types of toppings. Indeed, their versatility has led them to be commonly known as the Indian pizza. This recipe is for onion uthappams, which are additionally flavored with a sprinkling of tomatoes, coriander and green chili for a burst of heat.

The most important aspect of making a successful uthappam is in perfecting the Idli batter, which is used to make the pancakes with. Ideally it should be left to ferment in a cool place overnight and should have a light and fluffy consistency. The batter will keep for up to 4 days, meaning you can easily prepare this dish in advance.

Courtesy of Icoa.

Serves 12

  • Idli batter (see recipe below)
  • 2 large red onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 green chili, chopped
  • Oil, approximately 2 teaspoons per uthappam
  • Ghee, optional

Pour a little oil into a cast iron pan and heat. Once hot, spoon approximately 1-1½ ladles of the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle generously with the chopped onions, tomatoes, coriander and chili and drizzle with a little extra oil. After 1-2 minutes, flip the uthappam and cook on a low flame for a further two minutes, or until the onions are golden brown. Serve hot.


Idli batter

  • 1 cup white lentils/urad dal
  • 2 cups cream of rice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch cooking soda

Wash the lentils in two changes of water and then soak in a liter of water for at least 1½ hours. Then, place in the fridge for a few minutes so that the water turns cold.

In a separate bowl, soak the cream of rice in water for 30 minutes. Drain the water from the soaked white lentils into a separate bowl and then place half of the soaked lentil mixture in a mixer/grinder and add a few tablespoons of the cold water.

Grind the lentils. During the grinding process, keep adding a few tablespoons of the cold water. Grind until the lentils are soft and fluffy. The batter should feel super soft to the touch. If it is coarse, continue to grind until you achieve a smooth flowing batter that is not too thick nor too thin.

After grinding you will find small bubbles appear on the top, which means the batter is aerated with a smooth consistency.

Remove the ground batter to a large stainless steel bowl (the batter will increase in size by up to 50 percent) and then add the remaining lentils to the mixer and grind following the same process. You will need approximately 1½ cups of water to grind one cup of lentils.

Next, squeeze the water from the soaked cream of rice and add the rice to the ground lentil batter, using your hand to gently mix it. Once mixed, place in a bowl and secure with a lid. Place the mixture in a warm place for 8-10 hours, or leave overnight to let the batter ferment. The key to soft and fluffy pancakes is in the fermentation process.

After 8 hours you will find that the mixture will rise to 50 percent of the original volume. Add salt and a pinch of cooking soda and mix gently with a ladle. Do not over beat.