The Ultimate Chapati Cheat Sheet

16 Dec


In olden days I’m told, the first test of the new Indian bride’s ability to cook was based on how she would make chapatis. Did she roll them round and even, cook them just right (no patches raw or charred), get them to fluff out beautifully? Could she roll out a chapati and watch the one on the stove at the same time?

The in-laws would scrutinize the final product, tear off a portion, bite and pass their verdict.

Those days of “judging” the bride are over (or so I hope!), but the fact remains that getting the chapati right is an instant indicator of the chef’s experience. Someone with a flair for cooking can possibly prepare any dish (like a curry) first time right – instructions and instinct guide them well – but one cannot make a perfect chapati until one has made several not-so-good ones before. Making chapatis is easy once you know how but it takes a few stumbles to get there.

This article will help to minimize those stumbles. Presenting for you the “ultimate” chapati recipe, with time-tested tips to help you jump from newbie to pro in the quickest time.

The Ultimate Chapati Cheat Sheet

You Need:

  • Whole wheat flour (atta) – a small bowl for the dough + some separately for the rolling
  • Water – 1/2 cup or so, for the dough
  • Wide container – for kneading the dough
  • Tava and tongs – for the cooking (see step D for pictures)

How To:

A. Preparing The Dough

Measure out the whole wheat flour (atta). Take a small bowlful for 4-6 chapatis. The number will depend on how large/thin you want them. Don’t worry about the measurements in the beginning, a few chapatis more or less is no big deal. (You have bread or rice as backup, don’t you? If this is your first go at making chapati, better have a contingency plan.)

Knead the atta right. I cannot stress enough how important this is. Half the credit of making chapati right goes to the well-kneaded dough.

To knead the dough by hand (it’s supposed to be great exercise for the fingers, you know) – keep adding a little water at a time and mixing the flour in. The final consistency should be even, soft enough to pluck out balls with ease and not so soft that it sticks like paste. If it has become too soft, simply add some more dry flour and blend it in.

When done it should look somewhat like this:

Kneaded Atta

B. Letting it stand

After you have the dough nicely kneaded, make it into a big ball, moisten its surface with water, cover its container with a lid and let it sit for 30 minutes.

C. Rolling it

Use a rolling pin you’re comfortable with. Some of my friends swear by the thin long type of rolling pin. My personal preference is for the thicker, shorter type. There are fancy ridged ones too that make patterns on the chapati. If you’re new to this, I’d recommend the type I use – about an inch in diameter.

Divide the dough and shape them into equal spheres, of around 1.5 inch diameter.
Keep some dry flour nearby.
Flatten a ball slightly, dip it quickly into the dry flour and start rolling. Follow these tips to roll them round and even:

  • Make a firm straight stroke, putting a little more pressure near the circumference than the center.
  • Turn the flattened dough at different angles and repeat the stroke.
  • If you start to feel the dough sticking to the base, sprinkle some (very little!) atta to it on both sides.
  • When you’re nearing the size and thickness you want (I keep it around 7 inches in diameter), make sure that the dry atta on the chapati has been more or less used up. If any remains, brush it away.
  • Don’t let the rolled out dough to stand for long else it’ll lose moisture. Have the tava ready.

All right, you may not get a perfect disc the first few times – no worries, it’s wiser to concentrate on evenness before shape.

D. Playing With Fire

This step thankfully requires no tricky artistry, just timing.

To cook, you need a tava (a flat griddle), and tongs.

Indian Tava Kitchen Tongs


Follow these points carefully, this step is the deal-breaker!

  • Heat the empty tava for a couple of minutes. Then set the flame to medium.
  • Place the raw chapati on the hot tava gently in the center, making sure there are no folds. Let’s call the side being heated first side1.
  • Twist side1 a couple of times so that it cooks evenly. Turn the chapati over before black spots start to form, again making sure there are no folds. Depending on the thickness of the tava and the intensity of the flame, this will take around a minute.
  • Heat side2 for twice the time as side1. This side can become almost fully cooked directly on the tava. Twist it as you did with side1.
  • When side2 is nearly done, use the pincers to pick up the chapati, turn the flame on High and place side1 directly on the flame. Note the sides, the sequence is important!
  • If all has gone well so far, the chapati will swell. The moment it swells completely, turn it around and place side 2 on the flame for 2 seconds. Keep flipping the chapati over if you want it toasted more, else remove.

That’s it. Your chapati is ready to eat. Pat a little ghee on the chapati if you like. Serve hot with curry and dal.

Making Chapatis

In Closing

Don’t let the length of this article daunt you. Making chapatis is pretty easy and the entire process from rolling to completion takes no more than 3 minutes. You will soon be able to roll the next one while the the previous chapati is on the tava, and have a batch of a dozen chapatis ready in a few minutes.

How to Make Chapati

Good luck!

PS: Once you’ve got the hang of making chapatis, go on to learning how to make parathas.

13 Responses to “The Ultimate Chapati Cheat Sheet”

  1. Frank August 9, 2016 at 5:53 PM #

    That’s a pretty incomplete recipe since no flour quantity :'(

    • S August 13, 2016 at 12:17 PM #

      Hi Frank, there is a mention of flour quantity! The post says:

      “Take a small bowlful for 4-6 chapatis. The number will depend on how large/thin you want them.”

      • Not Frank August 24, 2016 at 4:31 AM #

        “A small bowlful” is not a quantity. You mention 1/2C water but then this vague amount of flour.

      • S August 24, 2016 at 7:31 AM #

        @Not Frank: I mention the quantity of water equally vaguely – “1/2 cup or so“. There is a reason for the imprecision: the amount of water we end up using while kneading chapatis varies by the fineness of flour. More importantly, we do not add all the water in one go, but a little at a time, kneading all the while, till the dough has reached the right consistency. In the process, if the dough turns too soft we top with more flour; if too hard we top with more water.

        For making chapatis, the best thing to do is to start with “some” flour (i.e. a bowlful) and take it forward from there. The trick is in the technique, not in the quantities.

      • Rose December 18, 2016 at 12:46 AM #

        Very nicely explained xxx

  2. Charlotte Dugdale April 7, 2017 at 1:41 AM #

    Just wanted to let you know the recipe was brilliant no exact quantities required as you explained the required texture, was my first go at making them and they were brilliant!

    • S April 7, 2017 at 9:39 PM #

      Great to hear that Charlotte! Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Book lovet July 12, 2017 at 9:04 PM #

    How is this supposed to help, this is just basic techniques. Nothing new or like a tip for newbies to get perfect chapatis. Your title is misleading.

  4. Shayna Lowry August 3, 2017 at 7:21 AM #

    If you do not have a stove with a flame can you still make these? Do I just skip that step?

    • S August 4, 2017 at 11:11 PM #

      Good question Shayna. I’m reminded of my days cooking on an induction stove. It was hard to get the chapatis to puff up without the final burst of high heat. Skipping the step entirely would mean leaving the chapatis slightly raw. I would cook them longer on the tawa instead – that would make the chapatis hard and brittle.

      In the absence of stove with flame/good heat control, I prefer making parathas instead. You don’t need to place those directly on the flame while cooking or maneuver the heat too much.

  5. Lokender Jain August 21, 2017 at 3:19 PM #

    Loved the way you gave an opening to your Article! :-)

    • S August 21, 2017 at 8:38 PM #

      Thanks :-)

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

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