Chapatti, or Versatile Indian Flatbreads

Before embarking on this flatbread adventure I had never tasted chapatti or even seen them in “real” life. I had read about them, seen on blogs and in cookery books, but had no idea (and still don’t have!) what texture and taste I should obtain. These chapatti are soft, taste slightly nutty and are absolutely delicious, in spite of their weird forms and scary look (normally chapatti are of course perfectly round, but I have never managed to roll them out properly…). They are quick to prepare, easy to reheat or defrost and so surprisingly versatile, I now treat them as international wraps (these above were perfect with feta and bacon for my office lunch) and wonder how I could eat the store-bought tortillas all these years…

Chapatti/chapati are, after naans, the second Indian flatbread recipe I learnt. (Maybe one day I’ll show you my naans… but they look even worse than my chapatti). Indian cuisine has a big array of breads, but I chose chapatti because I read somewhere they were to Indians what tortillas were to Mexicans. I also liked the fact that they are made simply in a pan (not in a super hot tandoori!) and are relatively quick to prepare. As I browsed through recipes, I found they were all similar (i.e. called for water and flour), but I also realised that many Indian home cooks obtain dry tough chapatti and seek for advice. I stumbled upon a chapatti thread on Indus Ladies where some advised to add curd and oil. I added yogurt instead of the curd, played a bit with the amounts and the resulting flatbreads proved soft, easy to cook and addictive. I am too scared to try and compare the traditional flour and water recipe, so I’ll stick to this one. Following Meera Sodha’s advice in Made in India. Cooked in Britain, I used half wholemeal and half white flour, the mixture which is apparently closest to the Indian chapatti flour (I think this adds slightly nutty flavours, keeping the dough acceptable for those who hate wholemeal products).

TIPS:

Even if you don’t cook Indian, I strongly advise testing chapatti as an alternative to store-bought tortillas (I plan to make those too one day, inspired by MJ’s beautiful perfectly round corn tortillas). I use them to wrap everything I find in the fridge: raw cucumbers, peppers, chillies, fresh herbs, chicken, ham, feta, tofu… and add Greek yogurt, sriracha (it’s perfect!) and pickles. They are of course delicious with Indian curries…

It’s difficult to say exactly how thick chapatti should be. I roll out mine about 1 mm – 1.5 mm thick. (If they are very too thin, slightly transparent, they will become crisp, not soft!).

Once prepared, chapatti will keep for two-three days in the fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic. They can also be frozen, but make sure you divide them, otherwise you’ll have to defrost the whole batch. I heat the refrigerated chapatti for 10 seconds in the microwave and defrost those from the freezer for about 20 seconds.

When frying the second side of chapatti you should press it and the best tool I found for that is a potato press.

Many sources advise leaving dough for 30 minutes (or even more) before rolling out, so that it becomes softer. I try to do it, but when I am in a hurry, I start grilling chapatti straight away and they are soft anyway (maybe not as soft as with the 30 minutes waiting, but the difference is small).

Preparation: about 30 minutes (+30 min for the dough to become softer, but it’s not absolutely necessary)

Ingredients (makes about 10-12 chapatti):

125 g white flour

125 wholemeal flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 heaped tablespoons yogurt

3 tablespoons neutrally-tasting oil or coconut oil (I prefer coconut oil)

100 ml water (or a bit more, see below)

In a bowl combine all the ingredients and start kneading them.

If the mixture is too dry, add water by spoonfuls. If you add too much water chapatti will be drier, so don’t exaggerate.

Knead the mixture about 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and soft. Cover with plastic film and leave for 30 minutes (this is not necessary, but if you have time, do it because it makes the dough softer).

Divide the dough into big apricot-sized balls and cover them so that they don’t dry out.

In the meantime heat a big frying pan brushed with some oil (again, I use here coconut oil).

Roll out the dough into 1 mm thickness and grill at medium heat until bubbles show up (start rolling out another chapatti while the previous one fries).

At this point turn the chapatti over and fry for about 10 seconds, pressing it (a potato masher is perfect for that).

Place on a plate and proceed in the same way with other balls, brushing the pan with oil every second chapatti.

Cover the plate with plastic film and keep at room temperature until they cool down.

Then you can keep them for several days in the fridge or freeze them.

 

19 thoughts on “Chapatti, or Versatile Indian Flatbreads

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you, A_Boleyn. They don’t look half as good as they should…. For such a skilled baker as you they’ll be a piece of cake (and I imagine you’ll make them perfectly round too!).

      1. A_Boleyn

        Haha … I obviously have you fooled as to my expertise in baking. I dropped the baked loaf of hybrid honey whole wheat/AP today as I was transferring it to the cooling rack. I had let it proof too long so it looks like a mushroom cap on top. But I took enough pictures that I found one that makes the loaf look like a beauty. Guess which one I’ll share. 🙂

  1. mjskitchen

    Oh I am so going to make these! I bet my tortilla press would work for shaping them. 🙂 They are somewhat like flour tortillas, but much tastier I’m sure. Flour tortillas is white flour, lard and water. The yogurt and coconut oil in your chapatti plus the 2 flours make these much more interesting and tastier. I need to make these so I can throw together that wrap in the first picture – bacon, feta, jalapeno and cilantro. Now that’s a wrap! Great post Sissi and thanks for the shout out!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks you so much, MJ. I really took this photograph during my office lunch… so the wrap is very very messy, but it was so good !
      Normally chapatti are made of flour and salt and water, nothing else, but these are exceptional with the oil and yogurt. I must really make your tortillas because I’m sure they have nothing in common with the store-bought ones.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you, Gerlinde. These are really foolproof (I’m not a skilled dough maker…), so I hope you will find them easy and most of all good!

  2. Toffeeapple

    I think I am right in saying that Indian curd is yogurt that has been hung so that the liquid is removed.

  3. Toffeeapple

    I also think that a very thick yogurt, as in Greek yogurt, would be closest to curd. Thank you for the recipe, by the way.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you once more. I always try to use thick yogurt whenever I cook Indian… so I was probably right. I hope you will like these chapati if you try them one day.

  4. Eva Taylor

    Your chappati are beautiful that they are not perfect little rounds—that would look manufactured and not homemade at all. Adding yogurt to the dough is very clever, I shall try that when I make my homemade flour tortillas again.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Eva, for kind words… You are so sweet… Let me know if it works with your tortillas.

  5. Kelly Mulcair

    I am not familiar with chapatti by name (it’s possible I’ve come across them in Indian restos but usually we order naan and papadums – the crispy flatbread that I’m all heart eyes for ;o) the texture and taste of your chapatti sounds memorable and I love that you made your own. I must discover these gems.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Kelly. Reading your comment I thought: this is exactly the reason why I have even no idea if chapati are served in Indian restaurants I went to… I think only about naans whenever I see an Indian restaurant (I don’t even take rice). They are very close to tortillas in shape, making process and use (in my opinion), so if you like tortillas you might love them too.

  6. Toby

    I make these all the time. I do not put any oil in the pan in which they are heated. You can also make a paratha with the chappati [aka roti aka phulka] very easily. Once rolled out, you spread the top surface with a small amount of oil/butter/ghee/coconut oil and sprinkle it with salt and cayenne. fold one side over to the half-way mark, and then fold the other side over to cover it so you have a sort of rectangle. spread more oil etc down that, and fold each end in one at a time, to now have a sort of square shape. Roll that to make it the regular thickness of a chappati. In a dry frying pan heat it until the bottom is baked, turn it over and do the top. spread a small amount of the oil etc on the baked top, turn it over, and do the same with the other side. You need very little oil. These are delicious. They can be filled with mixture but it’s not necessary.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Toby. Thank you for all the tips and explanation! I’m still a beginner in Indian cuisine, and especially flat breads (no matter which origin) so I appreciate it. I have to brush my pan with oil from time to time anyway because it’s a traditional iron pan and it needs grease to exist 😉

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