Chickpea Flour Pancakes (Besan Chilla/Cheela) – Traditional Pancakes Taken To The Next Level
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I’d been wanting to try chickpea flour pancakes (sometimes known as besan or garbanzo flour too, or even besan chilla and cheela) and there are nearly as many different ways to make them as there are names!
Actually, I’d heard of so many that I got a little stuck with where to start.
I knew I wanted to keep them pretty traditional (I absolutely love Indian food and these have a lot of history in Northern India) and so I wanted to keep that lovely Indian flavour but I also wanted to give them a modern, western twist so they’d be really quick and use no mysterious ingredients I’d have to travel across Europe for.
After plenty of trial and error, this is what was born. Different to most pancakes that we’ve made in the past, these are decidedly savoury.
With a pleasingly aromatic smell, these pancakes immediately ask to be paired with pickles and chutneys, or a yogurt or cream dip. Hummus and guacamole also go really well.
And so, dear readers, we give you chickpea pancakes.
A high protein, high fibre breakfast, lunch or dinner that tastes like the best of Indian cuisine while being easy to make, and even easier to eat.
Any vegans out there will also be pleased to hear that these are right up their street, as well will gluten or lactose avoiders.
Chickpea Pancakes – What I Learnt
As mentioned, these chickpea (or besan/chillas) pancakes are exceptionally easy to make, and made even better when these simple rules are followed.
- Use a large pan. These pancakes are far superior when they’re thin – easier to flip and the veggies get cooked better too.
- Use a non-stick pan, and use a little tissue to make sure the surface is evenly coated in oil.
- Use whatever veg you have laying around. This dish works on so many levels that virtually any vegetable will work with it, so here’s your chance to use those leftovers!
- Dice the veg finely. The smaller it’s chopped, the better it cooks.
- Eat them hot! In my humble opinion this is imperative, so if you’re cooking multiple pancakes then keep them warm in the oven.
- Once they’re all ready, don’t dawdle 🙂
To ghee or not to ghee, that is the question.
Throughout my experiments with this recipe, I came across a very interesting topic, worthy of our time.
Ghee is often used in Indian cooking, and, as may well be expected, goes very well as the cooking base in this dish (it replaces the oil).
It is made by melting butter and then removing the milk solids. It still has that buttery taste, and has a really high smoke point, so it’s perfect for pancakes.
It’s also high in vitamins A and E, and according to Care2 it can last for a verrrrry long time!
It is not vegan of course, however it does seem to be one of the only dairy products that is lactose-free, or so low in lactose that it won’t cause a reaction to dairy intolerant people anyway.
You should always check with your doctor of course and that doesn’t mean it’s safe for dairy allergic peeps however, so if you are, we highly advise you stay away!
If you’re interested in ghee and would like to try it, it’s easy to find. You can click here or in the recipe below if you’d like to look at the different types available.
So – up to you. Whether you go with ghee or stick with olive oil, you’re in for a treat. Welcome to the next level of pancake!
- ½ tsp chili flakes (I highly recommend this)
- 1 bell pepper, red
- ½ cup peas
- Add the flour, water, turmeric, salt, pepper and chili flakes (if using) to a mixing bowl and give it a quick blend using a food processor or blender. Leave it to settle for a few minutes while you heat up the oil or ghee in a non-stick pan. The batter needs to look very runny!
- Dice the veggies finely and add them to the mixture.
- Use a tissue or similar (a spray oil would work wonders here) to ensure the bottom of the pan is coated well in oil.
- Add about a ladle of the mixture and veggies when the pan is hot – a medium heat should be just right.
- Cook for about 3 minutes – the mixture will quickly start to firm. If you’re using two pans, you can make two pancakes at the same time.
- Make sure you use a large pan (or pans) here, you’re aiming for thin pancakes. They’re MUCH easier to handle!
- Use a large spatula to help you flip the pancakes, adding more oil underneath if necessary. After another 2-3 minutes your pancake will be ready!
- Keep it somewhere warm while you repeat with the second pancake, adding more oil when necessary.
- Done! Add your desired toppings and enjoy. Remember – it’s important to eat these pancakes warm – don’t let them get cold!
- Any chutneys (red onion is a favourite of ours) yogurt dip, hummus, avocado, guacamole, Branston Pickle (if you can find it where you are it goes incredibly well!).