Chapati, also known as roti, or Indian flatbread, is an unleavened flatbread that has been eaten (and is still eaten) across the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years. Being of Indian descent, I’d grown up eating and making chapatis on an almost daily basis. But as I got older and became more health conscious, I began to cut out breads from my diet unless they were fermented, or ‘sourdoughed’, as it meant they were easier to digest.
Now that I have a little more experience in how sourdough breads work, I was able to recreate that childhood memory of eating chapatis with a traditional Indian curry. Or sometimes as a little treat, I’d have one hot off the pan with melted butter and lightly sprinkled with sugar. So good!
The sourdough version of these Indian flatbreads are absolutely delicious and super soft! They are very versatile and can be eaten in a variety of ways. I like to make a whole a bunch and freeze them for later use on days when things get busy.
What Type of Flour is Best to Use to Make Chapati?
Traditional chapatis are made with ‘chapati flour’ or ‘atta’, which is easily available in Indian food stores. If you don’t live near one, Amazon do a small chapati flour mix, (you can check it out here). ‘Atta’ is a durum wheat flour usually made of a mixture of white and whole wheat flour, which has been very finely milled, using a method similar to stone ground milling. If you don’t have access to traditional chapati flour, you can use all purpose flour, mixed with some sifted whole wheat flour, and you will get similar results.
Chapati flour usually comes in 3 different varieties:
- Whole wheat
If you are new to making roti, it is always best to start with white chapati flour. You will find it much easier to handle, less sticky, more malleable, and give a smoother finish when rolling.
You need to a lot of experience when handling the whole wheat version, because it will be stickier and more difficult to roll out without creasing the chapati, hence delivering a less fluffy result and texture. I like to use the ‘mixed’ version, as I feel this gives me the best balance of flavor, fiber and manageability.
The Recipe Can Be Adjusted to Make Sourdough Tortillas!
For making tortilla wraps, just swap out the chapati flour for plain all purpose flour and you have yourself a tortilla wrap! I make often make tortillas instead of chapati’s if I run out of chapati flour! The method is exactly the same for both chapati’s and tortilla’s. The only difference is in the type of flour you use, which will give you a different flavor.
Why Make Sourdough Chapati’s When the Bread is Unleavened?
Chapati doesn’t traditionally contain any yeast, but there are numerous health benefits that come from fermenting wheat in the traditional sourdough manner, including:
- Lower Glycemic Index
- Better digestive qualities
- More nutritious, etc.
If you want to learn more about the health benefits of sourdough bread, read my article “Is Sourdough Bread Good for you? 7 Things You Need to Know”
I love making this sourdough version of Indian roti and they go down really well with my family too.
The dough is really simple to make but the skill in making a good roti is in the shaping, rolling and cooking of the bread. Have a good read of the step by step guide in the instructions section with all the tips to make sure you have great success!
TIP: If you really don’t like rolling chapati, struggle to get the round shape, or just want an easy life (who doesn’t!), you can use a chapati maker. It rolls out AND cooks the chapati in one go! All you have to do is put the ball of dough into the chapati maker and it will roll it out and cook it in one step. Check it out on Amazon here.
Suggested Schedule for Sourdough Chapati/Tortilla
The chapati are best served fresh, so this is what my schedule usually is:
I make the dough in the morning, and leave it to ferment for about 6 to 8 hours during the day. About 30 to 40 minutes before I am ready to serve dinner, I’ll make the rotis (I usually make a start on them around 6pm).
Recipe for Sourdough Chapati or Tortilla
For this recipe, I use a 100% hydration starter of white bread flour, but you can use any starter you wish. If your hydration is different, you may need to adjust how much flour/water you add in.
This recipe will make 10 – 12 chapatis, depending on how big you make them. The recipe can be easily halved or doubled.
- Rolling Pin
- Small bowl
- Large bowl
- Oven mit/cloth (I use a face flannel)
- Heat proof spatula/fish slice
- Crepe pan/skillet/’tava’ (traditional Indian roti pan: here’s a pic on Amazon if you’re curious!)
- Large plate with a cloth/tea towel on it. (I use a traditional roti basket, which you can see in the my pictures)
|1 cup||Sourdough Starter (discard is fine)|
|3 1/2 cups||Chapati flour (or all purpose flour for tortillas)|
|1 cup||Water (room temperature)|
|Salt (optional)||Just a pinch|
Instructions for Hand Kneading:
Step 1: Mixing the dough
- Pour all the flour into a large bowl. Add salt if using.
- Place a well in the center of the flour and add in the sourdough starter.
- Then add most of the water in to the middle of the bowl where the starter is, and begin to mix, starting in the middle to incorporate the starter and water first, and then the rest of the dough. Add a little extra water at a time if needed and continue mixing until all the flour is incorporated.
- Knead the dough with both hands, until you have a smooth dough. The idea is to make a smooth dough that is not sticky.
TIP: Once the dough is smooth, STOP KNEADING! If you over knead the dough, you will find it starts to get sticky again, and then you will have to add more flour. You should only have to knead the dough for a couple of minutes.
Instructions if Using a Mixer:
- Put the flour, salt, sourdough starter, and most of the water into the mixer.
- Blend until just combined, adding a little water at a time if needed until you have a smooth dough.
- Turn out the dough into a large bowl.
Step 2: Leave the dough to ferment at room temperature
- Cover the bowl with a cloth or tea towel, and leave at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
TIP: As it is an unleavened bread, it’s not essential to use the dough at a specific time. As long as it has grown in size, it’s fine to to go ahead and use it.
Step 3: Set up your station!
From my experience, it is better to shape, roll and cook the roti in one go, rather than shape them all, roll them all and then cook them all. The dough will be less likely to stick this way. So set up your station to be able to do all 3 things one after the other easily, including somewhere to put your chapati after they are done.
I have a bowl of flour for my balls of shaped dough, space for rolling and it’s all next to my skillet for placing my chapati to cook. Also, a basket or plate with a cloth in it to place the cooked chapatis, and a spatula and cloth on hand for handling the chapati when hot.
Step 4: Shaping the dough.
- Take a fistful of dough from the bowl, and cover the bowl back again to stop the dough drying out.
- Take the piece of dough, into the palm of your hand, and use your thumb to place a hole in the middle. (fig 2)
- Close up the hole using the edges of the dough and then turn it into a smooth ball. (fig 4)
- Flatten the ball gently, and dip both sides in flour.
TIP: If you want your chapati to fluff up, this shaping phase is really important. Use the step by step shaping pictures above as a guide.
Step 4: Rolling the chapati
- Put the floured, flattened dough ball onto a floured surface, and roll out into a round shape about 10 inches accross. Roll it out from the center outwards. This may take a little practice, but don’t worry you’ll get there, and if it’s not perfectly round, don’t worry, it’ll still taste good! It’s more important that you get an even thickness than it is to get a round shape. Be sure to use flour to stop the chapati sticking to your rolling pin and/or the work surface.
QUICK TIP: Slightly smaller, thicker chapati’s are easier to roll and handle as a beginner than smaller thinner ones. (Thinner ones will give you softer chapati’s, but only go thin if you can handle the rolling!). Mine usually end up about 2mm thick.
Here’s a quick video of how I roll out the dough. I roll out one side until I feel the dough just starting to stick, then turn it over to roll out the other side until it is full size:
Step 5: Cooking the chapati!
- Heat up your skillet to a medium to high heat.
- Wipe the skillet with your dry cloth just before placing your chapati on it (this helps stop it from sticking).
- Place the roti onto the skillet carefully, and then immedietly slide it around slightly (just like I do in the video above). If this is not possible due to stickiness, then lift the chapati off the skillet using your fingers, and place it back down again. (you can use your fingers because the roti has not heated up yet). WARNING: Don’t touch the skillet with your bare hands as this will be hot!
- Leave it to partially cook for 15 seconds.
- Turn the chapati over either using the cloth or the spatula.
- Now you need to give the chapati time to cook fully on one side. Slide the chapati around slightly every now and again to stop it from burning.
- Lift it up to check if it is cooked on one side. If done, use your spatula or cloth to turn it over to finish cooking the other side.
- The chapati should now start to inflate with air! Use your cloth or spatula to push down on the chapati to help inflate it, and continue to move it around the skillet to stop it from burning.
- Once cooked, remove it from the skillet and place in a roti basket, or plate with a cloth wrapped around it.
In the following video, I am on step 6 of the process. In other words, I’ve par cooked the chapati on the first side for 15 seconds, then turned it over to fully cook the other side. I prefer to use a cloth rather than the spatula, but like to keep the spatula handy just in case my chapati sticks!
QUICK TIP: Keep your roti’s covered in a cloth or tea towel after they are cooked to help keep them soft. Traditionally, the roti is immedietely buttered with ghee straight after cooking to keep it softer for longer, but this is optional.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Chapatis are best served soon after cooking. It’s important to keep them warm so that they remain soft for when serving. I wrap them in cloth and store them in an insulated food warming tub and it works really well. Keeping it in one of these means even the leftovers are soft for the next day!
Do let me know how the recipe turns out in the comments below! Also, I’d like to give a little shout out to christoph_backt, a fellow Instagrammer for requesting this recipe. And Mili, who attended one of my workshops recently.
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