Masala Cheela (Spicy Indian chickpea flour pancake)
Food writer Vritti Bansal shares a family recipe with toppings of potatoes and tomatoes improvised by her father, who would serve it as midnight snack.
Cheela (or chickpea flour pancakes) are commonly eaten as a snack or for breakfast in
Northern India. Some cooks use lentils as the base instead of chickpea flour. The former is
healthier, but the latter is more tasty.
It’s a home-style dish that isn’t usually found at restaurants. Different households use different fillings, but this recipe uses slices of potato and tomato as toppings. The toppings were my father’s improvisation and he often made it as a midnight snack for my mother. The recipe has stayed with my mother long after my father’s death and she has passed it on to me.
Photo: Vritti Bansal
'Cheela is a home-style dish that isn’t usually found at restaurants"
Makes 3 pancakes
1 cup chickpea flour (or besan in Hindi - available at Indian supermarkets)
½ cup water
Kashmiri chilli powder, as per taste
Salt, as per taste
2 boiled potatoes
2 fresh tomatoes
Chilli flakes, as per taste
1.5 tablespoons cooking oil (olive oil works well)
● Slice the boiled potatoes and fresh tomatoes thinly and keep them aside.
● Make a batter using the chickpea flour and water. Its consistency should be spreadable
and similar to the batter used for American pancakes.
● Add some Kashmiri chilli powder and salt to the batter and mix it thoroughly. Ensure that
there are no lumps.
● Ladle the batter onto a heated, greased pan and spread it evenly into a circle.
● Decorate the circle with sliced potatoes and tomatoes (the process is similar to topping a
● Let the cheela cook for around two minutes and then flip it over so that the side with the
potato and tomato slices is now touching the pan. Press with a spatula.
● Pour some oil along the circumference of the pancake.
● Let that side cook for a further two minutes and flip it over. The potato and tomato slices
will look charred.
● Once both sides are cooked, sprinkle some salt and chilli flakes on the potato and
tomato slices. Serve hot.
Eat your masala cheela for breakfast, as an afternoon snack with tea, or even a midnight snack like my parents did.