Besan Chilla or Besan Cheela is a delicious and healthy savory Indian pancake recipe made with nutty gram flour (besan), sweet onions, tangy tomatoes, fragrant spices and herbs. Fill the batter with your favorite grated vegetables to make your meal more nutritious, and serve as a quick breakfast, brunch, or even as a late-night snack.
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More on Chilla
A Chilla is a crispy, soft pancake prepared with cereal or lentil flours, millet flours or cream of wheat. Chilla are a popular snack across the North Indian states.
There are some other variations of cheela that can also be made with ingredients like paneer (Indian cottage cheese) and even sweet ones made with whole wheat flour and jaggery or sugar.
Some of the other regional versions of a cheela include dishes named puda, pudla or poli. These are common in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
One of my personal favorites is this hearty Moong Dal Chilla which can be considered as a close relative of the Andhra special Pesarattu Dosa. The dosa is however more like a crepe in nature, but still made with a moong dal batter.
Besan Chilla is a savory version made with gram flour, which is simply ground black chickpeas without the husks or skins.
In Hindi, besan is gram flour and chilla is a pancake. So you see the word ‘besan chilla‘ exactly translates to gram flour pancake.
You can make Besan Chilla either crisp, thin, thick or soft. If you spread the batter thickly, you get a soft chilla. If you make a slightly thin batter and evenly spread it, you get crispy besan chilla. Adding more oil also helps in making the chilla crispy.
Besan Chilla can be on your breakfast or snack menu as a healthy protein-rich pancake for yourself and your family.
More on Besan Chilla
The besan chilla recipe is a breeze to make and comes together in 30 minutes right from the preparation to cooking the pancakes.
Because I actually make besan chilla, or besan ka cheela, often, I was surprised when I realized I never managed to add my recipe — so here is my go to traditional besan chilla recipe that I’ve been cooking for years!
I remember making besan cheela in my teenage years for myself and my sister as our evening snack. Both of us would relish it with some white bread and tomato ketchup. Those were the days!
A basic chilla recipe would include just the spices, no onions or tomatoes. There are a number of different variations that can be done to a basic chilla recipe because it really is a very adaptable and customizable dish.
I love to add both onions and tomatoes in my chilla recipe. Onions give a nice crunch and that light sweet taste, while tomatoes add so much of tang and some umami.
In fact if you like, you can increase the tomatoes in my recipe. I assure you the chilla will still taste fabulous.
Apart from veggies, you can add greens like amaranth, fenugreek (methi) and spinach (palak). I like to add grated cabbage and carrot myself.
Give these Chilla Variations a Try!
- Oats Chilla: Healthy fibre rich chilla made with oats, gram flour, herbs and spices.
- Rava Chilla: Super easy to make savory pancakes made with sooji (cream of wheat or semolina).
- Moong Dal Chilla: Another version of nutritious protein rich mung bean pancake made with husked and split moong lentils.
How to Make Besan Chilla
Preparation for the Batter
1. First, measure 1 cup of gram flour (besan) and pour it into a mixing bowl. Replace gram flour with chickpea flour if you do not have it.
2. Next, add in your chopped veggies and herbs. It’s important to make sure all of these ingredients are FINELY chopped, otherwise, it becomes difficult to spread the chilla in the pan.
Here are the ingredients you should include in this step:
- ¼ cup finely chopped onions
- ¼ cup finely chopped tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger
- ¼ cup finely chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped green chilies or serrano peppers
NOTE: If you’re cooking besan cheela for smaller children, I’d recommend leaving out the green chilies and red chilli powder altogether. On the other hand, if you prefer more heat, you can add up to ⅔ teaspoon of the finely chopped chilies.
3. Then it is time to mix in the spices, including 2 to 3 pinches of turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain) and ¼ teaspoon red chili powder. Also add salt as per your liking at this step.
NOTE: If needed, you can substitute cumin seeds in this besan chilla recipe if you do not have carom seeds or omit them completely. Carom seeds help in digestion and also give a good flavor to the chilla.
4. Before you start to stir or combine your ingredients, first add half a cup of water to the besan cheela mixture.
Make Chilla Batter
5. Next use a wired whisk to combine all of the besan chilla ingredients. Then, add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of water, depending on the quality and texture of the besan.
TIP: Coarsely ground besan will need more water than finely ground besan.
6. Continue whisking until the batter has a smooth, flowing consistency. There shouldn’t be any lumps, so make sure to break those up while mixing the batter.
Make Besan Chilla
7. Finally, you can begin cooking your besan chilla! I use a tawa (flat, round-shaped pan) to cook my besan cheela, but you can also use any well seasoned frying pan or a cast iron skillet or a non-stick pan.
Whichever type of pan you’re using, heat it on a low to medium-low heat and ladle batter onto the center, much like making pancakes.
If you’re using iron skillet or tawa or a steel frying pan, let the pan become medium-hot and spread a bit of oil on it before adding the batter. Take a ladle or ¼ to ⅓ of a measuring cup full of the batter and pour on the pan.
8. Next, gently use the back of the ladle or measuring cup (if you have used one) to spread the batter. Make sure you are spreading the batter gently so that the chilla does not break.
9. Then continue to cook the chilla on a low to medium-low heat until the top begins to look cooked or you start seeing some air-pockets.
10. Additionally, you can drizzle oil (about ½ to 1 teaspoon) on the chilla at the edges and all around while it is cooking to help it not stick to the pan.
In fact for a crispy chilla, you need to add more oil on the pan or skillet before pouring the batter.
11. Next continue to cook until the base gets light golden.
12. Then it’s time to flip your besan cheela and cook the other side.
13. Then continue cooking until you see golden spots on the besan chilla. Cook your besan chilla evenly and well. You can flip the chilla once or twice for even cooking.
14. Finally, fold your besan chilla and serve them while they’re hot! Continue to make all chilla this way. If you make a larger batch, then cook chilla on two pans or skillets.
Serving and Storing Suggestions
Besan Chilla are best served hot and crisp as soon as they are made. They taste good when they become warm too.
If I plan to serve them later in the day, I stack them in a steel box or a roti box which keeps them warm and moist.
Make these as needed. I do not suggest to make a large batch for storage. On refrigeration the chilla becomes dry and lightly dense.
Reheating them does not bring up the original flavors and they taste kind of dull.
What to eat with Besan Chilla?
Serve besan chilla as it is or with a side dip of coriander chutney or mint chutney or any chutney of your choice or with tomato ketchup. You can serve it with plain curd (yogurt) or raita.
We also like to have it with roti or bread. I sometimes make simple sandwiches stuffing the chilla between two bread slices spread with some coriander chutney and butter. Yum!
For more besan recipes, you can check this 50 Gram Flour Recipes.
- Not just for breakfast. In addition to being a great breakfast food, besan chilla is the perfect recipe for an impromptu brunch or even an late-night snack. Simply mix the ingredients, then cook in a pan for a delicious dish in less than 20 minutes.
- I prefer tomatoes in all most (if not all) of my recipes because they just taste so good! If you’re less of a fan, you can skip the tomatoes and add in your own favorite ingredients, such as broccoli, carrots, bottle gourd, pumpkin or zucchini. Remember, though, if you’re using tomatoes or other veggies, it’s important to finely chop or even grate them.
- Fresh besan. Make sure to use besan that is fresh and not rancid. If the flour looks like having clumps and has a bitter aroma or taste, the besan is not fresh.
- Scaling. You can easily scale the chilla recipe and make a big batch.
- Leavening ingredients. Generally, we do not add any leavening ingredients like baking soda or baking powder in besan chilla. But for a fluffy soft chilla like that of a vegan omelette, you can add a pinch of baking soda or ¼ teaspoon baking powder in the batter.
Kids love eating besan chilla, even with the veggies (sometimes). For small kids, I would recommend skipping the green chilies and red chili powder, just to ensure it’s not spicy.
Besan, or gram flour, is definitely the best choice for this recipe (and has a great taste, too!), but if you are unable to find, then chickpea flour – which is ground white chickpea, is probably your best gram flour substitute.
Unlike traditional pancakes, besan chilla is good for weight loss if you reduce the oil or make them without oil.
Yes of course. Besan chilla is a healthy as gram flour is rich in protein and other essential nutrients.
North Indian Food
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Besan Chilla | Chilla Recipe (Gram Flour Pancakes)
- 1 cup besan (gram flour) – 100 grams
- ¼ cup finely chopped onions or 1 small onion
- ¼ cup finely chopped tomatoes or 1 small tomato
- ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves (cilantro)
- ½ to ⅔ teaspoon finely chopped green chilies or serrano pepper
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped ginger or ½ inch peeled ginger
- ½ teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
- 2 to 3 pinches turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- ½ to ⅔ cup water or add as required
- salt as required
- oil as required
Making chilla batter
- Take the gram flour in a mixing bowl.
- Add the onions, tomatoes, ginger, green chillies ground spices, carom seeds, coriander leaves and salt.
- First add ½ cup water and with a wired whisk begin to mix.
- If the batter looks thick, then add 1 to 3 tablespoons more water. Depending on the quality and texture of besan, you can add less or more water.
- Mix to a smooth flowing consistency in the batter. Break lumps if any while mixing batter.
Cooking besan chilla
- Heat a frying pan or a skillet on a low to medium-low heat. You can use an iron skillet or a non-stick pan. If using iron skillet or tawa, then spread a bit of oil on it.
- Let the pan become medium hot. Then take a ladle full of the batter and pour on the pan
- Gently with the back of the ladle, begin to spread the batter.
- Spread lightly and gently so that the cheela does not break.
- On a low flame cook the chilla till the top begins to look cooked.
- Then drizzle ½ to 1 teaspoon oil on the chilla at the edges and all around.
- Continue to cook till the base gets light golden.
- Flip and now cook the other side.
- Cook this side until you see golden spots on the besan chilla.
- Fold and serve chilla hot or warm. Besan chilla are best had hot. But if you are not able to serve them hot, then place them in a roti basket or casserole. They remain warm and can be served later.
- Enjoy besan chilla as it is or with a side dip of coriander chutney or mint chutney or any chutney of your choice or with tomato ketchup. You can serve it with plain curd (yogurt) or raita.
- We also like to have it with roti or bread. I sometimes make simple sandwiches stuffing the chilla between two bread slices spread with some coriander chutney and butter. You can make the besan chilla sandwich with toasted bread if you like.
- Besan Chilla are best served hot and crisp as soon as they are made. They taste good when they become warm too.
- If I plan to serve them later in the day, I stack them in a steel box or a roti box which keeps them warm and moist.
- Make these as needed. I do not suggest to make a large batch for storage. On refrigeration the chilla becomes dry and lightly dense. Reheating them does not bring up the original flavors and they taste kind of dull.
- Veggies: I like to add tomatoes in my chilla recipe. If you are not a fan, you can skip the tomatoes and add your own favorite veggies, such as broccoli, carrots, bottle gourd, pumpkin or zucchini. Remember, though, if you’re using tomatoes or other veggies, it’s important to finely chop or even grate them. You can also add greens like amaranth, fenugreek leaves and spinach.
- Fresh besan: Make sure to use besan that is fresh and not rancid. If the flour looks like having clumps and has a bitter aroma or taste, the besan is not fresh.
- Scaling: You can easily scale the chilla recipe and make a big batch.
- Spicing: For small kids, skip the green chilies and red chili powder. Spices can be altered as per your taste.
- Leavening ingredients: Generally, we do not add any leavening ingredients like baking soda or baking powder to the besan chilla batter. But for a fluffy, soft chilla like that of a vegan omelette, you can add a pinch of baking soda or ¼ teaspoon baking powder to the batter.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Besan Chilla recipe post from the archives first published in May 2016 has been republished and updated on November 2022.