the taste space

Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla)

Posted in Breakfasts, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on October 28, 2011

I am having a hard time renaming some of my dishes.

Banana Scramble: I felt Banana Peanut Butter Chia Super Pancake was more accurate

Raw Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake: Better named the delicious birthday Raspberry Dreamcake (yes, I preferred Sarah’s name)

Lentil Mango Picadillo: Greek to me, so it was renamed Latin-Spiced Mango Lentil Salad (kind of boring, though?)

Lightened Up Protein Power Goddess Bowl: Rechristened as Warm Lentil, Bulgur and Vegetable Skillet with a Lemon-Tahini Sauce

I swear, vegan food does not need to be a recreation of something dairy or meat-laden. It can just be. Wonderful, in all its glory. Nameless.

While exploring our new neighbourhood, Rob and I discovered new ethnic grocery stores, including a few that carried black salt or kala namak. More pink than black, this salt has been infused with sulfur, rendering an egg-like taste when used in cooking.

We immediately made Besan Chilla (also known as cheela or pudla), which technically is an Indian chickpea-based crepe or pancake. However, I first spotted the recipe on Julia’s blog where she called it a chickpea flour omelette.  Omelet or pancake? Rob and I disagreed. The only thing we agreed on was that it was delicious.

Analogies work well when trying to convey a new concept, and for me, these reminded me of a savoury pancake. Too thick for a crepe, too pancake-like to be an omelet. We stuffed the chickpea flour-based pancakes with savoury spices (ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric, chili flakes) as well as vegetables including tomato and spinach. Broccoli stems work great, too! Really, pick your favourite veggies ad run with it. The addition of black salt conferred an egg-like taste, which is why this could be described as something similar to an omelet.

Rob can whip up a mean omelet. An egg-based one, though. He did not feel that this version warranted being christened as a vegan omelet, as is. He has vowed to tinker with the recipe, to make it more akin to a traditional omelet.

Until then, I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you because it was really tasty just the way it is. Whatever name you want to attach to it. Besan Chilla, it is for now, with the wonderful black salt. Wonderful for breakfast, or as a light lunch. Mix things up with your favourite spices and vegetables. Serve as is, with chutney on the side, or as a side to a more complete meal with Indian dishes.


This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend.

Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla/Cheela/Pudla)

3/4 cup chickpea flour
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp ginger, grated
1/4 cup tomato, finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp black salt
1/4 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1/2 cup water, or just enough to create a pancake-like batter consistency
1 cup baby spinach or broccoli stems, finely chopped

1. Mix chickpea flour, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato, turmeric, black salt and chili flakes together. Add in enough water to create a pancake-like batter consistency. Mix well. Stir in spinach leaves.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet and spray lightly with oil. Pour about half a cup of the batter in the centre with a ladle and spread slightly with the bottom of the ladle to get an even-looking round, about five inches in diameter.

3. Cook on medium heat until the sides dry up and the bottom turns richly golden-brown.

4. Flip over and cook until the other side turns golden-brown.

Serves 2.

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36 Responses

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  1. Vicky said, on October 28, 2011 at 1:02 PM

    These look lovely! Do they resemble a bread or are they more like a flat bhaji? I’ll definitely try making them when I make my bhajis this weekend! We love Indian food!

    • janet @ the taste space said, on October 28, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      I don’t even know what bhajis are… but they taste more like a pancake than a bread, if that helps!

    • Genevieve said, on October 28, 2011 at 5:13 PM

      I was thinking that too – they look like a mix between indian savory pancakes, indian bread and bhajis! Which means they must be delicious :)
      They look like they would go perfectly with some yogurt and chutney on the side.

  2. Priya said, on October 28, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Super inviting pancakes, loving it..

  3. Joanne said, on October 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM

    I’ve made lentil pancakes before that were out of this world! I bet these chickpea ones would be even better. I’m not really a fan of trying to convert non-vegan foods to vegan foods. I say let the vegan foods stand on their own!

  4. [...] really like that. She also made these AWESOME Besan Chillas. Mmmm YUM! I like those too. Besan [...]

  5. Angela @ Vegangela.com said, on October 29, 2011 at 1:26 AM

    YUMMY! I have a huge bag of besan flour to use-up and these will be perfect. Congrats on making the Vegan MoFo round-up!

  6. Caitlin said, on October 29, 2011 at 8:17 AM

    wow- these look absolutely awesome! i will positively be making these ;)

  7. Kalyn said, on October 29, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Sounds delicious. I’ve made a type of chickpea pancake called Socca (from France) but adding the veggies is a new idea to me and I like the spices here too.

  8. Richa@HobbyandMore said, on October 29, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    lovely chilla.. and the kala namak is so needed! i was going to post a chilla recipe in my breakfast round up next week!.. we make it more like thick crepes instead of pancakes… and of course my mom;s always come out perfect and round, while i make mine any random shape!
    Have a fun day!

  9. foodblogandthedog said, on October 30, 2011 at 9:39 AM

    Chickpea flour pancakes have been on my must try list for a while. This recipe has definitely pushed them to the top, so versatile and great for using up leftovers, which I love!!

  10. Ashley said, on November 3, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Whatever you call it, this looks really good! I tried making a chickpea pancake before and it was okay but not perfect. I should definitely try again.

  11. [...] pie, creamy instead of dry, filled with my favourite veggies. Rob continues to experiment with the Besan Chilla, the Indian Chickpea Pancakes, and throws all sorts of vegetables into the batter (baby bok choy, [...]

  12. [...] these pancakes. I bookmarked them after seeing them on Joanne’s blog, but she kindly she reminded me of them after I posted about Besan [...]

  13. [...] I made the White Bean Farro Soup with Chickpea Parmigiano from Terry’s new cookbook. The soup itself was pleasant and my guests really enjoyed it (moreso than myself). It became more special when you added the chickpea flour parmigiano which added a lemony tang to the soup. The soup ended up improving as leftovers and Rob adored it atop his weekend besan chilla. [...]

  14. [...] Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla) Mediterranean Crustless Chickpea Flour Quiche [...]

  15. [...] cauliflower and onions in a lemon-cilantro-cumin studded chickpea flour batter. Akin to a souped up chilla, in ball form, oozing with lemony cilantro goodness. Like naan, these tasty fritters are best [...]

  16. [...] that we are awfully low on chickpea flour, due to Rob’s (healthy) weekend obsession with Besan Chilla. We also have no nondairy milk [...]

  17. [...] from our favourites. Rob’s Repeater Recipes as I have tagged them on the site: Dal Bhat, Besan Chilla, Tamarind Lentils and this Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. Why mess with success? They fall [...]

  18. cgvegan said, on June 24, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    Reblogged this on The Common or Garden Vegan and commented:
    I must try these! I agree that ‘omlette’ doesn’t seem quite right… But I’m not entirely sure how to pronounce ‘besan chilla’! I saw a non-vegan recipe for little individual frittatas done in a muffin tin, this might translate well…

  19. [...] require eggs and cheese, so when I stumbled upon this idea for Indian chickpea flour pancakes HERE, I knew I had to try them.   Try them I did and like them THEY did.  I serve a pancake plain for [...]

  20. [...] zip from onion, garlic and tamari. The cheesiness comes from nutritional yeast and egginess from black salt. But, really, it isn’t trying to imitate scrambled eggs, although that is how we came up with [...]

  21. [...] before, Rob is the king of hot meals on the weekend. His specialties are tofu scramble, arepas and besan chilla. But this weekend, alone with some tofu and veggies, I pulled them all out for a hot lunch and made [...]

  22. [...] Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla) [...]

  23. [...] Tastespace’s Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla) [...]

  24. [...] it is a simple side for any meal Rob wants to healthify. Rob also loves adding broccoli stems to besan chilla and tofu scrambles and creamy broccoli dal continues to be one of our favourite [...]

  25. […] since besan chilla entered our lives, we have been enamoured by chickpea flour. I’ve used it in dairy-free vegan […]

  26. […] Some of the keepers I have tried from her include: Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime, Besan Chilla, Indian Lentils with Spinach, Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with Chickpeas, Iraqi […]

  27. […] Chickpea flour (for Rob to make chilla) Masarepa (for Rob to make […]

  28. […] 4. Now, it is usually time for lunch. Rob and I usually make a scramble of sorts, with arepas or chilla. […]

  29. […] at home. We went out for a Mexican fusion vegan brunch but Rob treated us to his specialty later: chilla, Indian chickpea […]

  30. […] 12. Savoury Indian Chickpea Pancakes (Besan Chilla) […]

  31. […] scrambled eggs with chickpea flour and nutritional yeast. WeRob routinely makes Indian chickpea flour pancakes and tofu scramble, so this kind of married the two. It was a fun mess, too. We served it spinach […]

  32. […] as thin as my regular or non-traditional crepes. Instead of chickpea flour as in our favourite chilla pancake, soaked split mung beans are the base. Pureed kale turned these a fun […]

  33. […] pancakes without protein powder. While I am no stranger to savoury chickpea flour pancakes (aka besan chilla), I liked how these were more traditional. Here, chickpea flour is combined with cashew flour and […]


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