Besan chilla, a savoury pancake, served with sauces

Besan chilla: Indian savoury pancakes

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

The Indian tradition of providing quick refreshments to guests has blossomed into the presence of all kinds of snacks in little corner shops and outdoor stalls throughout city streets. These tasty morsels include crispy titbits eaten by the handful, fried savoury treats, and sweet, syrupy goodies.

One of my favourite Indian snack dishes is the savoury “besan chilla.” It’s a skillet-fried pancake featuring besan flour, (also known as gram flour) made from ground brown chickpeas. Add some finely chopped vegetables and a few spices into the bowl, and you have chilla.

It’s so easy to reproduce this Indian snack food at home, and some even eat it for breakfast. Besan flour is available in Indian stores or natural food groceries. If you don’t find besan flour, that’s okay; you can also use chickpea (garbanzo) flour.

A whole besan chilla garnished with coriander

Besan flour is a wonder ingredient; it’s gluten-free, but has a sticky quality that binds ingredients without using eggs – so besan chillas are vegan, too. Unlike some Indian delights, chillas are not deep-fried, just pan-fried with hot oil, in a non-stick pan

Chillas are usually served with tamarind or mint chutney or with yoghurt raita – some people even go for ketchup! You can either make a few small pancakes or, as I have done, make one large chilla and cut into wedges to serve.

You can whip up this high-protein recipe whenever you’re in a hurry or want a flavorful snack, bringing a taste of India right into your home. And believe me, everyone who tries chilla will be happy!


  • 1 cup besan flour (gram flour) or chickpea flour
  • 1-1½ cups water
  • ¼ cup finely chopped white onion
  • ¼ cup finely chopped firm tomato
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), more for garnish
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½-1 fresh green chilli pepper, chopped
  • red chilli pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 1 pinch onion or garlic powder
  • oil for frying


  1. 1
    Finely chop the onion, tomato, green chilli and coriander and set aside.
  2. 2
    Measure the besan flour into a small mixing bowl. Add about half of the water, making a smooth paste.
  3. 3
    Continue adding water until you reach a spoonable pancake batter-type consistency. (you may need a little more or less than the full 1½ cups of water).
  4. 4
    Add the dry spices and mix. Add the chopped vegetables and mix to incorporate evenly throughout the batter.
  5. 5
    Heat a cast iron or non-stick skillet. When the skillet is hot, spoon oil on the bottom, swirling to cover the skillet bottom.
  6. 6
    Add the batter to the skillet to make one large pancake, using the back of a spoon to make the chilla as round as possible. (It doesn't have to be perfect!) If you prefer, you can make several smaller, individual pancakes following the same instructions.
  7. 7
    Add a bit more oil around the edges of the pancake. When the edges are browned, and you can see that the centre is (more or less) set, carefully flip the chilla and cook the other side until browned.
  8. 8
    Remove from heat and garnish with the remaining fresh coriander. Cut into slices and serve immediately with chutney, ketchup, yogurt raita or the condiment of your choice.

Optional add-ins: You can add virtually any chopped vegetables to your chilla! Try grated carrots, beets or radishes. Have fun!

You can also try using kitchen scissors to cut the chilla into sections for serving. I find that easier than a knife because the chilla is quite large, and it’s easier to hold it by the edge while hot and use scissors… but that’s just me! 

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 5 May 2023

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