Sunday, 16 November 2014

Chappatis (Indian Flatbread/Phulkas)

I've done a lot of research on the net to figure out how to get the softest and best chappatis. I always used to wonder how some people had a knack of making super soft chappatis and if you ask anyone for their secrets, they don't seem to have any. There's nothing to it!, they say....Then why do ours turn out hard and chewy ?... To those who have been doing it for years, it comes very naturally but for a beginner the whole process can sound very overwhelming. The art of making it is usually passed down from mother to child. Some use curd/yoghurt, warm water, milk etc, to achieve a softer dough, but I do not think they are necessary if you follow my steps below.

Indian Chappatis Phulkas
Chappatis (Indian Flatbread/Phulkas)

Once you master it, and it may take you about 1 - 2 attempts before you get the hang of it, and soon it will take you  roughly half an hour for the whole process from rolling to frying them out. Its a lovely healthy meal and kids always seem to love eating them.

There are a few key steps which I will highlight in bold. Please make sure you don't skip those steps as they are essential to get the softest chappatis.

I usually make a little extra dough so there is a little left over which i give the kids to play with. Kids so enjoy rolling away, though the end product of theirs is usually not edible! 

Figure out just how much your family needs for one sitting and adjust the flour accordingly. That way you aren't slaving away in the kitchen making more than you need to.

I don't use any oil when frying the chappatis as I feel this keeps them softer. I store them in a foodwarmer till I require them. You can line the base with a small cloth to avoid the bottom chappati from getting soggy with all the steam.

I have a special grill pan for making the phulkas. Phulkas are chappatis that are cooked directly on the heat, causing them to rise like "balloons" as my kids fondly refer to them as. But if you don't have this or cannot get access to it, i think any small bbq grill rack will work or maybe even a wire/stainless steel rack that you get for cooling dishes. As long as it doesn't have any plastic bits on it that won't burn.

Phulka wire rack

Working with tongs is another key step as I found it more difficult juggling a spatula around. I found a really nice non stick one with plastic coated ends tongs from Ikea.

Non stick tongs

I like storing my chappatis in a foodwarmer container. It keeps them hot till they are ready to serve.

Food warmer box

Also keep in mind that when making chappati dough you use roughly half the amount of water. So for 2 cups of flour, you would use 1 cup of water. This also depends a lot on the humidity of your climate. So you may need a little less than half the water, or more.. Add the water slowly so you can judge if you feel its getting too sticky.  If you need more flour, just sprinkle it slowly dusting it over the dough as you need it.


2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of water
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of oil
extra oil for coating the main dough ball
A little extra flour for dusting in a small plate


Mix the ingredients together, sprinkling a little flour at a time if needed till you form a ball.. Knead well till the dough stops sticking to your fingers.

This next step is extremely important. Drizzle a little oil over the dough ball and rub lightly all over the dough ball. Cover it with a container and set aside for 15 mins to half an hour. This step will make your dough super soft.

Chappati dough after applying oil to the outer ball

Covered Chappati Dough

After the rest period, give it another quick knead for a few minutes and form into smallish balls and keep. Cover with a tea towel. Preheat your pans. I heat the phulka grill pan down first and put the frying pan on top of it to provide a more indirect heat to the chappati. I found it easier to just slide off the frying pan and place the chappati on the phulka grill. The heat should be on a medium high. Keep your tongs ready and your food warmer container lined with a small cloth.

Portioned out chappati dough balls

Dip the small ball ONLY ONCE in the extra flour. Coat all sides of the ball with the flour. Do NOT use more flour for dusting unless the chappati sticks as you roll. Using more flour will cause your chappati to burn faster and you will get that powdery taste that is not appealing.

Always cover the rest of the balls with a tea towel as you work. This will keep them from drying out.

Roll out the chappati as thin as you can.

Do not attempt to preroll all the chappatis and keep, it could cause them to dry out or stick to the board making it difficult to remove (and losing their shape in the bargain).

Pre warm your pans as you start to roll out the first chappati. It will not rise if the phulka grill pan is cold. Place the frying pan on top of the grill pan on the heat. This way,  there is more of an indirect heat going to your chappatis, so it cooks nice and slowly and your chappatis are less likely to burn. The idea is to half cook the chappati on the frying pan and then finish the cooking process on the grill pan.

Place the chappati on the pan. Do NOT use any oil on the pan. 

In the meanwhile, roll out the second one.. You need to get a rhythm going where you place one on the pan, and in the meanwhile roll out the other..

Another key here is to start rolling the second one, the minute you place the first one in the pan. It will take a few seconds for the one on the pan to start cooking, that gives you the much needed time to roll the second one.. There is no need to watch the one on the pan initially. As you start rolling out the second keep an eye out for the one on the pan.

As soon as you see small bubbles on the chappati, flip it over. Give it another few seconds to cook the bottom a bit longer than you did the first side. (This ensures that this side is properly cooked as once it goes on the phulka grill it wont touch the bottom again) Then with a pair of tongs, flip to the first original side, remove the frying pan to the side of your gas and place the chappati on the phulka grill.

****A slight change from the pictures below, as what I found easier, was so put the phulka grill pan directly on the electric range and  place the frying pan on the top of it.. This heats the pan lightly so that the chappati doesn't burn and let's it cook slowly. I then just take the tongs and remove the chappati and set aside the frying pan and put the chappati on the phulka grill.. The phulka grill  is already on the fire so it has been warming up nicely.. This way I have just one burner going instead of two.. Keep in mind to keep the flame on a medium high..

Quick cook on the pan

 In other words, once the chappati is placed on the pan, it should be flipped only once. The second time you flip it, place it on the phulka grill.. It should puff up almost immediately. As soon as it balloons up, lift it up with a pair of tongs and transfer to the food warmer, keeping it covered with the lid on. Try not to leave it too long on the grill pan or it will start sticking to the grill pan. If it doesn't balloon up, there could be two reasons why. One is there is a hole somewhere where the steam is escaping or it has started sticking to the bottom. Use a light hand (or tongs rather) when handling the chappati on the grill pan. If you find it sticking, keep lifting it and rotating it to get it to rise, and remove quickly.

Chappatis Phulkas Indian Flat bread
Chappatis (Indian Flatbread/Phulkas)

Chappatis Indian Flat Bread Phulkas
Chappatis (Indian Flat Bread/Phulkas)

If you do want to use oil or ghee, especially for the kids, what I do is, I rub a little ghee on one chappati and then put another one on top of it (in the food warmer).

If you want them to store better the next day, do not add any ghee at all.. Keep the chappatis dry and the next morning, add a bit of ghee when frying them on a low fire to get them soft again.

I like using Gowardhan ghee if you can get your hands on it.