Besan Cheela: Indian Chickpea Pancake

Indian chickpea flour pancakes

Today is Pancake Day, and last week I marked the occasion on Great British Chefs with an article about my favourite savoury pancakes. In writing that post I re-discovered one of my old favourites, the Besan Cheela.

Fellow fans of Indian food may know that “Besan” is the Hindi / Northern Indian word for chickpea flour, and a “Besan Cheela” is a very simple savoury chickpea flour pancake that’s the perfect delivery device for chutney, pickles and yogurt.

You can make these pancakes simply with salt, water and chickpea flour, but I like to spice it up: a bit of chilli powder and fresh coriander goes a long way. But you can go even father with Urvashi Roe’s (The Botanical Baker‘s) spice blend of ajowan seed, turmeric, cumin, coriander and fresh ginger and garlic. I’ve also enjoyed these with a bit of sauteed onion and peas in the mix.

Indian chickpea flour pancakes

You can eat a Besan Cheela all proper-like with a knife and fork, but I like to use my hands, ripping off pieces of the pancake to dip in mint chutney, or wrapping it in cabbage salad or lentils and eating it like a taco. I’ve also been known to adapt a Besan Cheela into a vegan omelet. And why not? The Besan Cheela is inherently vegan and gluten-free, so makes a great pancake (or omelet!) option for people who don’t eat wheat or dairy (neither of which I am, but it’s good to be aware of these things for the people who are!).

On that note, I’ve recently been trying to eat more savoury breakfasts lately and the Besan Cheela is a total win. Yes – Indian food for breakfast rocks. Cheela with lime pickle is a great way to start the day. Who’s with me?

Before I adjourn to the Besan Cheela recipe, here are a few other pancake (or pancake-ish) recipes for Pancake Day that you might enjoy:

Indian chickpea flour pancakes

Besan Cheela

Inspired by mytastycurry.com‘s basic Besan Cheela recipe and Urvashi Roe’s spice blend. I also really like these with sauteed onion and peas added to the mix. Serve with fresh yogurt and

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tsp each salt and chilli
  • 1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp each ajowan seed and turmeric (optional)
  • ~1tsp each grated fresh ginger and garlic (optional)
  • Fresh coriander leaves

Method

  1. Whisk all of the ingredients together into a batter, adding a bit more water to get a consistency that will spread out in the pan (it might take a few pancakes to get this right).
  2. Heat a nonstick pan on medium and smear it with a little ghee or oil. Ladle some batter into the pan (I used a 1/4 cup measuring cup for this) and swirl it swiftly to get a pancake (if it doesn’t swirl easily, you you need to add a bit more water to the batter).
  3. Cook the pancake on one side until it’s almost completely dry on top and golden on the bottom (you may have to adjust the heat to keep it from burning). Flip the pancake and cook until the other side is golden, too.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15-20 minutes

Yield: About 8 pancakes

Per pancake: 94 Calories | 1.6 grams Fat | 15.6 grams Carbohydrates | 4.9 grams Protein | 4.4 grams Fiber

15 thoughts on “Besan Cheela: Indian Chickpea Pancake

  1. Angelika

    This looks delicious! I don’t like breakfast food, and I’m not fond of eggs, so I am all for trying this as an omelette. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Reply
      1. Shaylyn

        I followed your recipe, but convinced myself that the batter was too runny to make a pancake. I looked up other recipes and they all called for more flour than water, so i added more water. I’ll try this!

        Reply
        1. Monica Post author

          Thank you for the feedback Shaylyn. Perhaps it is high time for me to revisit the besan cheela and make this again – so if I really do stand by this quantity of water. I’ve been wrong before! I’ll try it soon and let you know how it goes.

          Reply
  2. peggy datz

    I notice the recipe says that one serving equals 94 calories, but is one pancake one serving, or do we get 2 each? I can’t wait to try this recipe!

    Reply
    1. Monica Post author

      Hi Peggy! Yes, the per serving is actually per pancake – I’ve amended the recipe to reflect this. If you want more pancakes for your calories, you could always make them smaller or thinner. I do this often! :)

      Reply
  3. Marie

    Hi I made these pancakes and loved them, the water to flour ratio was perfect. My pancakes must have been bigger than yours as I only got 4 but that is fine it’s all I needed. I served them stuffed with chana dal with your Indian Coleslaw on the side. Lovely dinner, thank you for posting.

    Reply
  4. Julia

    I have been making a chewy soft bread with this chickpea flour and am very excited to try this pancake. I have noticed that the chickpea flour tastes really nasty before it cooks. I have also made banana bread using chickpea flour and it is delicious after it bakes but don’t taste the batter before or you will gag!

    Reply
    1. Monica Post author

      Yes I’ve noticed the same thing with chickpea flour. It does undergo a magical transformation during cooking. Let me know how these pancakes turn out for you!

      Reply
  5. jackie

    I am a Besan addict. They say we crave what our mothers ate while we were in utero. My mother and dad ate a 50# bag of pinto beans. I of course do all pulses, dals, lentils, etc. My breakfast transition started with eggs with cabbage. Then it became cabbage pancakes (with Besan of course). Your recipe is the logical progression. I make enough cabbage pancakes for several days. I will get lime pickle when I shop. I use ketchup on the cabbage pancakes. Can’t wait. Very nice site. See you again I am sure.

    Reply

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