Include random vegetables in besan chilla — savory Indian pancakes made with besan (gram flour) — for a quick, easy, satisfying snack or meal that helps you use up food you have on hand. These protein-filled pancakes are as easy and quick to make as they are delicious.
Besan chilla taste like omelets but contain no eggs. Remarkably, these rich pancakes contain very little (but taste so good!): besan, salt, vegetables and water. Besan—also known as gram flour (not graham flour!)—is made of finely ground split roasted chickpeas and differs from chickpea flour, which is made of ground whole chickpeas. (If you use chickpea flour for these, add the water gradually rather than all at once to avoid lumps.)
My daughter Charlotte bought besan before she left for school in the fall and it had sat in the cupboard ever since. What started as a desire to find a use for all of it has turned into a mild obsession with making and eating besan chilla coupled with problems keeping enough gram flour on hand.
Besan chilla add-ins
I added scallions to the pancakes pictured in this post because mine needed harvesting and also because, well, savory pancakes and scallions. I regrew the onions from white hairy ends that I planted in a pot outside near the end of 2020. They grow. I cut. They regrow. (Go here for more on regrowing herbs and scallions.)
These taste fabulous with chopped tomatoes also. Shallots and fresh cilantro are other great add-ins. Chopped fermented jalapeños as some heat and flavor (or use fresh!). In the summer, grate zucchini. In fall, add shredded parsnips. I didn’t add spices to the chilla in this post but cumin, turmeric and cayenne pepper are all good contenders or, or, or… Experiment and enjoy.
Serve with cilantro chutney
I’ve been devouring these with a quick cilantro chutney, which uses up any amount of cilantro you have on hand—both leaves and stems. It goes perfectly with besan chilla and also ensures we eat all the cilantro we buy. Herbs have to be one of the most wasted food items. We often need just a small amount but must buy an entire bunch, the bulk of which can head south quickly.
For the chutney, in a food processor, whir up cilantro along with a few cloves of garlic, a spoonful of chopped fresh or fermented jalapeños or serranos and a bit of lemon or lime juice. Once the cilantro and garlic are finely minced, with the machine running, drizzle in olive oil slowly and continue to process until the chutney has reached your desired consistency. Store leftovers in a jar in the refrigerator for at least a week or freeze them for up to six months.
5 Ingredient Besan Chilla with Scallions
- 1 cup besan (gram flour) or chickpea flour, see Note
- ¼ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¾ cup water
- 3 green onions, white and green parts, chopped 1 cup
- olive oil for cooking or coconut oil
- Heat a medium-size, well-seasoned cast-iron pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the pan with oil.
- In a large measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the besan and salt. Stir in the water, followed by the green onions. The batter will be very runny.
- Pour ⅓ cup of the batter into the center of the pan. With the back of a large metal spoon, swirl the batter around and out. Spread it as thinly as you can. Drizzle several drops of oil around the edges and across the pancake.
- Cook for several minutes until the edges pull away from the pan, bubbles appear across the surface and the bottom turns golden-brown. Flip over. Cook for a few minutes more until cooked through. Transfer to a plate or a towel-lined basket to keep the pancakes warm.
- Serve with chutney of your choice, ketchup or yogurt. Store leftovers in a container in the refrigerator for several days.
- If you don’t have besan, use chickpea flour for these. Because the batter may be lumpier than the besan batter, gradually stir in the water rather than adding it all at once.