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How to Make Indian Flatbreads

Chapatis or rotis are fresh homemade bread, made with wheat or other grain flours and baked without yeast. Chapatis offer strength and energy to the body and are good for all the three doshas. If you are a bread lover and can't imagine giving up nice warm bread out of the oven, try making chapattis -- they are delicious, satisfying and fun to make.

In many traditional Indian households, a big batch of chapati dough is made each morning, and chapatis are often eaten at each meal of the day. Chapatis with a little ghee and honey form a hearty breakfast. A variety of vegetable dishes accompany hot chapatis at lunch, and a chapati with dhal soup makes a satisfying dinner.

While taking the time to make flatbreads for yourself or your family seems like a luxury in our fast paced way of life, the very act of making them can actually help correct this time pressure imbalance. The act of kneading dough is centuries old and actually involves using the stomach, chest, and arm muscles. So when you make your own bread, you not only add a healthy staple food to your diet, you also give some of your muscles a healthy workout!

How to make a chapati:


  • 2 cups sifted whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, or chapati flour called atta found at Indian grocery stores
  • 2/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • small amount of ghee for skillet

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water. The amount of water varies each time due to the variations in moistness in the air and flour quality. Start with less water and gradually increase. Mix the water in the flour as you gather the flour together to make a moist dough. Knead well, folding and pushing until the dough is pliable: about 7 minutes. Cover the dough with a damp paper towel and let it rest for 30 minutes and up to two hours. This is a good time to prepare the other foods that make up the meal.

When you are ready to start making the chapatis, warm up a cast iron skillet or a heavy non-stick griddle on medium heat. Knead the dough again for several minutes. Then tear off enough dough and divide it into walnut size balls. Roll out each ball of the dough evenly to a thin texture into a circular shape on a floured cutting board-6-7" in diameter. Do not stack the rolled out chapatis or they will stick to each other. To cook, place each chapati on a very lightly oiled skillet.

When it is well heated through, small white bubbles will appear. Using a plastic spatula, flip to the other side. The chapati will get more air pockets and should only cook about 1 or 2 minutes on the second side. When cooked, it will look a mottled brown, and be dry but flexible. Remove the chapati from the griddle and with a pair of metal tongs, place it over a low direct gas flame or electric coil. The chapati should puff up into a ball almost immediately. Remove from heat and serve. If the chapati does not puff up, there may have been a small hole in the dough or the dough may not have been kneaded enough. If the chapati does not puff up after 30 seconds, remove the chapati from the fire or else it may burn.

To make a variation called a paratha, you can dab a little Ghee on the dough after you roll it out and then fold in half. Place a little more Ghee over this and fold again to make a cone shape. Flatten out the cone shape to a fairly thin disc. Cook on both sides until golden brown, adding a little Ghee on each side as it cooks. It should puff up. When both sides are browned with dark spots, they are ready to serve.

You can add spices and herbs to the chapati dough before you knead it if you like -- choose from ground cumin, ground coriander, ground fennel, sweet Hungarian paprika, shredded ginger, finely chopped green chillies, finely chopped cilantro, finely chopped mint leaves, ajwain seeds and a pinch or two of asafetida.

These articles provide a great resource from The Council of Maharishi Ayurveda Physicians on the knowledge, practices, products, and applications of Maharishi Ayurveda.

The sole purpose of these newsletters is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area.