Besan chilla are simple protein-packed & aromatic spiced gram flour pancakes from North Indian cuisine. Just a handful of pantry staples and a fast cook time gets this colourful breakfast on the table in a flash. More importantly besan chillas are kids’ approved!! So I make them often. These can also be served as an evening snack with Indian tea or chutney.
This recipe requires no elaborate preparations, so don’t need to plan ahead either. Just stir together the ingredients to make a batter, pour it on a hot griddle & cook up to delicious pancakes that will be loved by your whole family!
What is chilla?
Chilla are basically sweet or savory Indian pancakes made with various kinds of flour. These pancakes are mostly made with unleavened batter so they are considered to be healthy.
There are many kinds of chillas made in the households using various kinds of flour like oats, semolina, millet flour and even wheat flour. But besan chilla is much loved by many as these are aromatic and taste delicious.
About this recipe
‘Besan’ is a Hindi word for ‘gram flour’ and chilla is a pancake. So besan chilla are gram flour pancakes. These are naturally gluten-free, vegan and nutritious.
The recipe requires only the basic veggies like onions and tomatoes. However to perk up the nutrition you can also add some grated carrots or fine chopped baby spinach.
I usually go with the basics – onions & tomatoes as this recipe is meant to be fast. Sometime just to use up the surplus I add spinach or carrots.
A lot of people eat besan chilla on their own with just a cup of chai. However at home, we love these with a spicy chutney like this garlic chutney, pudina chutney or coconut chutney. They also go well with a pickle.
How to make besan chilla (stepwise photos)
1.Rinse and fine chop 1 small onion, 1 green chilli pepper and 1 small tomato. 1 chopped onion comes upto 3 tablespoons & 1 small tomato comes upto 3 tablespoons. Also grate half inch piece of ginger (1 teaspoon). Rinse and chop handful of coriander leaves.
2. Add 1 cup besan, salt as needed, half teaspoon ajwain and 1/8 teaspoon turmeric to a mixing bowl. Mix up all the ingredients.
3. Then add finely chopped onions, tomatoes, grated ginger and green chilies. Make sure onions and tomatoes are very finely chopped.
4. Add coriander leaves and pour 3/4 cup water.
4. Mix gently and make a batter of thick but pouring consistency.
5. Add more water if needed. I used little less than 1 cup. If the batter is too thick then the chilla will not cook properly and may cause stomach upset. (check the video for consistency)
6. Heat a tawa or griddle. If not using non stick pan, then grease it well with few drops of oil. When it is hot enough, pour one ladle full of batter in the center.
7. Spread it as thin as possible.
8. Regulate the flame to medium and drizzle 1/2 to 3/4 tsp of oil or ghee.
9. With in few minutes, you will see the edges begin to leave the pan.
10. Flip it and cook pressing down with a spatula for thorough cooking.
11. When you see brown spots on the cheela, you can remove it to a plate. If you like soft chillas, cover them immediately.
Serve besan chilla hot with masala tea, pickle or a chutney.
Gram flour goes rancid too quickly & taste bitter even when it is within the shelf life. So always taste test the flour (besan) before using. A good way to store besan is to refrigerate it after buying so it keeps fresher for longer.
Vegetable & greens: Not all veggies go well in a chilla. So please use only veggies that you prefer. This time I used onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves. On occasions I also use grated carrots, baby spinach and fine chopped bell peppers, just to use up the surplus.
Spices: Carom seeds also known as ajwain is most commonly used here as it makes a great combo with besan. These seeds also aid in digestion and impart a good aroma to the chilla. Ginger apart from imparting a great aroma, helps in digestion. Turmeric gives a very good yellow color to your chilla.
Leavening agent: Chillas are always made with unleavened batter. So they come out dense. To make them lighter, add ½ teaspoon Eno or 1/8 teaspoon baking soda with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. But add the leavening ingredient just before making the chillas.
Besan chilla for toddlers
If making for toddlers, soak the gram flour for about an hour. This help to reduce the chances of stomach upset & helps to digest easily. After soaking the batter becomes thicker, so add more water as required before making the besan chilla. Also ensure the chilla is cooked well for the same reason.
These besan chillas are healthy and best if served hot, immediately after making. They become dense & drier as they cool down. However if you prefer to store them. Cool the cooked chillas completely before placing them in an air tight glass container.
Refrigerate and reheat them on a griddle (covered) on a low heat, flipping after a few minutes. These can also be heated in a microwave (high) for 1 minute. The longer you chill them the more time they take to get heated.
If you do not have much time to make these besan chilla in the mornings, you can make the batter the previous night & refrigerate. But without adding any veggies like onions as the onions alter the flavour of the chilla batter.
The next morning, add the chopped onions and give a good stir, just before pouring the batter on to the griddle. After refrigeration the batter soaks up most of the liquid and becomes thicker. So add water as required to bring it to the right consistency.
If the batter is very very cold, the besan chillas will brown without cooking well. So it is good to keep the batter out of the fridge for 30 to 40 minutes before making the chillas.
These will help you to make them ahead. But this is a fast recipe, so try to make fresh and eat them fresh & hot.
Chilla is an unleavened Indian pancake made with lentil or whole grain flour. The sweet version has jaggery and cardamoms in it while the savory version has some spices, herbs, tomatoes and onions.
Yes besan chilla is healthy if made and eaten fresh. Gram flour which is the main ingredient in a besan chilla is protein rich, fiber rich & has healthy essential nutrients.
You can have them for a light dinner but these are not as filling unless you have something on the side like a salad or soup.
Yes. Chilla made with besan or whole grain flours keep you full for longer keeping hunger pangs away. So whole grain or besan chilla is good for weight loss.
Besan chilla can increase colic in babies. So make them with soaked & ground lentils such as moong dal which are better suitable to babies.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 1 cup besan (gram flour)
- ½ teaspoon ajwain (carom seeds)
- ⅓ to ½ teaspoon salt (or as needed)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 3 tablespoons onions (1 small onion chopped finely)
- 3 tbsps tomatoes (1 small tomato chopped finely)
- 1 green chili chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 handful coriander leaves chopped finely
- ⅔ to 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons oil or ghee as needed
- Add besan, ajwain, turmeric and salt to a mixing bowl. Mix everything well.
- Add ginger, tomatoes, onions, coriander leaves and chilies. Pour enough water and make a batter of thick but pourable consistency. If needed add more water as needed.
How to make besan chilla
- Heat a pan and grease it lightly with few drops of oil.
- Allow it to turn hot and reduce the flame to medium.
- Mix the batter well from the bottom. Take a ladle of batter and pour it in the center. Quickly spread it to a round cheela.
- Drizzle some oil around the edges and the center.
- Allow to cook until the edges leave the pan. Flip it to the other side.
- Press down the edges with a spatula. Fry until it is cooked completely and gets golden spots.
- Remove to a serving plate. To make the next one ensure the pan is hot enough and not very hot otherwise they will brown too quickly.
- Serve besan cheela with some tea or chutney.
- Gram flour: Taste test the gram flour before using. Most times it has the tendency to go rancid & taste bitter even when it is in the shelf period. Store any unused flour in the refrigerator after you open the pack.
- Spices: Carom seeds and ginger together impart a wonderful aroma to the besan chillas. There is no substitute for these but you may skip if you do not have. However you will miss the flavors in your chilla.
- Turmeric gives a nice color to your chillas. If don’t used red chilli powder. If you want you may add about ¼ teaspoon but green chilies are best for heat.
- Vegetable & leafy greens: Apart from onions and tomatoes, veggies like carrots, bell peppers and baby spinach go well in these chillas. The key is to use your favorite veggies (only if you like them).
- Leavening agent: Chillas are always unleavened however to make them lighter, add ½ teaspoon plain Eno or 1/8 teaspoon baking soda with 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add the leavening ingredient just before making the chillas.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Recipe first published in November 2017. Updated & republished in February 2021.