Flat, puffed, roasted, fried, baked, toasted, stuffed, spicy & everything masaledar, that's not even the beginning of an introduction to the beautiful breads of India. The heart of the Indian cuisine lies in its breads. It helps us scoop up the beautiful curries and gravies that are paired with it. Of course, the most common ones like the naan, tandoori roti & parathas are world-famous but there's a pandora box full of culinary heritage from all across the country that have yet not been talked about much. Here's an ultimate guide to breads of India that'll leave you craving for more right now!
1. Chapati/Roti/ Phulka
An Indian staple bread, it is an unleavened flat-bread made regularly in Indian households across the country. Made with wheat flour, it has various cooking techniques; it can be roasted on a flat tawa or cooked on an open flame for the famous phulka version of it. The most interesting part about this common bread of India is that every household has its own version. Some add salt, some eat it without any seasoning, some add oil to the dough, some don't. But, in the end, it is ladled with one common ingredient, ghee, which makes it utterly delicious.
World-famous & mostly everyone's preferred choice while eating butter chicken or any paneer gravy! Naan is a leavened bread, that is made with yeast and maida. It is considered to be one of the hardest breads to make but many techniques to make it at home are proven to be fool-proof. From stuffed naans to the regular garlic and exotic ones like nawaabi, paneer, chur chur, keema & Peshawari naan, it can made in a tandoor and then slathered with generous amounts of ghee or butter.
Mostly eaten in the Punjab region, this fluffy puri like bread made with maida, curd & yeast is generally eaten with chole or a spicy chickpea curry. Due to the maida or all-purpose flour, this bread is chewy & elastic in its texture. This deep-fried bread is devoured in certain parts of northern India as a breakfast staple too. And, did you know that 2nd October is World Chole Bhature Day? But, guess what, we don't need just a day to celebrate this mouth-watering dish, isn't it? If you're planning to make them at home, don't be intimidated, here's an easy recipe for you. If you're on the streets of India, you'll find two variations of this- Aloo & Paneer, both as yummy as the original one.
It is the most commonly made bread in Indian homes during a celebratory occasion. Be it aamras that is paired with it during the mango season or shrikhand or the classic potato curry, this deep-fried, small puffed up bread can be eaten for breakfast as well as lunch. The poori dough is made with different variations- some are made with plain whole-wheat flour, some with a mix of semolina to add a crunchy texture & some poori recipes contain milk instead of water to make puffed yet soft pooris. One key tip if you're a beginner at deep-frying pooris, keep in mind, the dough of a poori should always be harder than chapati dough. Some poori recipes are even made with maida but then it becomes something also luchi, see below.
Derived from the word parat & atta (wheat flour), which means layered of cooked dough, paratha is the most commonly eaten bread after chapati on a regular basis. There are two types of Parathas-one filled with stuffing and the other, the ingredient is mixed while preparing the dough. The former has many variations- cabbage, cauliflower, potato, mix.veg, paneer, cheese, peas, radish, spinach, onion, lentils & kheema! And, the latter has coconut, sattu, laccha, garlic or methi kind of parathas. The most famous paratha of them all is the aloo/potato parathas which are served piping hot, straight from the tawa, with cold curd or raita, pickle & chole on the streets in most cities in India.
Originated from the Bengal region, Luchi is a deep-fried flatbread, made up of maida. It is one of the most popular street foods in Kolkata and is mainly eaten for breakfast. It is also commonly found in the surrounding states of Bengal like Assam, Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Tripura. This fluffy bread resembles a poori and is devoured with dum aloo.
Similarly, from the state of Manipur originates Tan, a puri-like bread that is eaten with potato curry prepared in mustard oil. It is made with refined or a mix of rice flour, salt and water which is known as Temai Tan.
Kulcha is often mistaken for a naan by their appearance but there's a distinguished difference between the two. Naan is sometimes made with the proportion of half maida & half wheat flour, while Kulcha is entirely made with maida. While naan can be stuffed & plain, Kulcha is always stuffed with a spiced mix of potatoes & other vegetables, depending on the variation you prefer. One of the most famous kinds of kulcha is the Amritsari Kulchas which are crispy & ghee-dripping; flavoured with the aromatic potato spice mix.
An interesting bowl-shaped pancake that is popular in Tamil Nadu & Kerala, this bread is made with fermented rice batter. It is relatively thick in the centre and crispy or soft on the sides and edges. It is neutral on the palette therefore it can be paired with sweet coconut milk or spicy curries & stews. Appams have a large variety to choose from-egg appams or hoppers as they call it in Sri Lanka; Idiyappams, a string net laced together; Neyyappam that is made with rice flour, jaggery & ghee & vattayappam that is made with coconut, sugar & rice flour.
With different names across India, puran poli in Gujarati & Marathi, Obattu in Kannada Poli in Konkani, Upittu in Malayalam & Tamil, Oliga in Telegu & Polae in Telangana, this bread is prepared in almost the same way everywhere. With locations, a change in one or two ingredients is evident, for example, in Konkan which is on the coastal region, usage of coconut is seen in the recipe. While in Andhra Pradesh a mix of moong & chana dal is used as opposed to only chana dal being used as a lentil in Maharashtra & sometimes toor dal is used in Gujarat. Usually, it is made with soaked & ground chana dal mixture that is flavoured with cardamom powder, nutmeg and stuffed inside a dough ball and laden with ghee.
Originated in Iran, this saffron-flavoured bread is now a popular delicacy in the Awadhi Cuisine. In Kashmir, it is made in both sweet and savoury version. The sweet version is served with kahwa, a spicy traditional green tea made without milk, mixed with saffron. The savoury version of the Sheermal is eaten as a snack with a pink coloured salted-tea called the noon chai or Sheer Chai. Sheermal is made using ingredients like maida, milk powder, yeast, eggs, milk, salt, sugar, rose water, butter, cream & warm water. Shirmal is also known as Krippè. With a longer shelf-life owing to its dry and crumbly texture, it is made on a regular basis by bakers in Kashmir.
Originated in the Mughal Era in Bangladesh, Bhakarkhani is popular in Kashmir and parts of Old Delhi. Bakarkhani is a sweet, puff-pastry like bread made with flour, baking powder, ghee, milk, raisins, almonds and kewra. It looks very similar to sheermal but owing to its savoury aspect, Bakarkhani is eaten with tea. This is more like puff pastry, cooked in layers and often served with kahwa.
A much-loved recipe amongst the Muslim communities of Kerala, Pathiri is a rice flour bread that is very similar to a crepe. It is made on special occasions like a wedding and is popular in the Malabar region during Iftar. Getting the right consistency of the dough is key to this recipe; without which Pathiris can get difficult to make. It is often served with spicy mutton & fish curries that balances the neutral flavours of the Pathiri.
Almost resembling the batti of Dal Batti Churma from Rajasthan, Litti is popular in the states of Bihar & Jharkhand. Stuffed with sattu atta made from chickpea & barley flour on the inside, it is a dough ball made up of whole wheat flour. These dough balls are then roasted over coal & tossed in ghee. It is paired with chokha, an eggplant mash cooked in pungent mustard oil with onions, tomatoes & flavoured with spices.
Flaky, crispy yet soft, a traditional parotta is a layered flatbread that originated in Southern India. It is often mistaken with the laccha paratha but the stark difference lies in its making technique. Malabar Parotta or Barota is made with maida, salt, oil & water. The crispy flakiness and layers of the parotta are created using a high amount of fat, deeming it to be one of the unhealthiest recipes ever, ideally not suited for the faint-hearted.
Made with the coarser wheat flour than the regular chapati, bhakri is mostly eaten in Maharashtra, Gujarat & Karnataka. However, the bhakris made in Gujarat are different than the ones made in Maharashtra. The texture, colour and width of the bhakris are different. The Maharashtrian Bhakris are thicker than roti but thinner than the ones made in Saurashtra and southern parts of Gujarat. The Gujarati Bhakris have a thinner layer of top which is also softer than the bottom layer. They're roasted on a clay tawa that have holes on the bottom. It is eaten with pithla or thecha in Maharashtra and curries in Karnataka & Gujarat.
This is a speciality of dry regions like Rajasthan & Gujarat. Farmers used to make this bread early in the morning with a millet called Bajra. It is a gluten-free bread that is usually thickly-shaped with hands, increasing the circumference by slowly tipping the centre. It can also be rolled but the trick is to keep the dough smooth & full of moisture as it tends to crack easily. Using pearl millet flour and some salt with lukewarm water, the dough is kneaded and toasted on a clay tawa until cooked. It is served with (lehsun) garlic chutney and smeared with white homemade butter, evoking the rustic vibes.
Owing to the dry weather in Rajasthan, baati was first prepared in the desert region due to it long-shelf-life as it uses only minimal water. It is a hard, unleavened bread that is in the shape of a dough ball, just like litti (as mentioned above). Made with wheat flour, semolina or sooji, salt & ghee, Baati has a crispy exterior and is toasted on coals & dunked in ghee. The interior of the bhaati could feel dry and therefore is eaten with dal, garlic chutney & churma (a sweet crumbly dessert) on the side which completes the dish.
A savoury multi-grain flatbread that is popularly eaten in Maharashtra, is prepared from roasted grains like wheat, rice, ragi & jowar, legumes like Bengal gram & black gram, and spices like cumin seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric, chilli powder, salt, sugar. The dough is prepared by adding finely chopped onions, green chillies & coriander. It is generally eaten for breakfast or as a snack in Maharashtrian households. It can generally be eaten with anything but is mostly served with toop or ghee & curd. It can also be made in variations like sabudana thalipeeth & mix vegetable thalipeeth and also made using different varieties of flours.
A fresh fenugreek flatbread that sees its origin from Gujarat, thepla is made with wheat flour, sometimes with the addition of chickpea & millet flour. It is enjoyed as a breakfast, with an afternoon tea or even for lunch or dinner. It is one of those flatbreads that can last longer if made with milk instead of water & stored in an air-tight container. It is also eaten with chunda (a sweet, grated mango pickle) or dipped in curd on a hot day. It is very different from the methi or fenugreek paratha as thepla is thinner than a paratha.
Originated in Iran, taftan is leavened bread made with milk, yoghurt, and eggs and is baked in a clay oven or a normal oven. It is often flavoured with saffron and a small amount of cardamom powder and decorated with poppy seeds. It looks almost like naan, but is flakier, thicker yet lighter in texture, this bread is a part of Awadhi cuisine.