Chapati -or, less often, chappati – is one of the most delicious flatbreads you can find. Most people tend to buy pre-made chapati from the store, but have you ever tried making your own? You simply cannot compare the two.
But, if you’ve had a look at some of the recipes to make at home, you will immediately see that each one uses a different type of flour. Why? Does it even matter if you use this flour and not that flour?
So, what is the best flour to use for making chapati? The best flour for chapati has to have a strong gluten content and a fine texture. The perfect flours to use are whole-wheat flours, preferably atta or chapati-specific flours.
With chapatti, the type of flour you use is everything and can mean the difference between a mediocre flatbread and a fantastic one.
In this article, we will discuss the characteristics of traditional chapati and how it is made to better understand why only certain flours will work. We will also offer up some suggestions for our favorite chapati flour brands on the market!
What Is Chapati?
Chapati, or more commonly known in certain parts of the world as roti, safati or phulka, is a traditional flatbread that originated in the Indian subcontinent. It is a staple dish in India, East Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
A traditional chapati bread is unleavened and can only be made from whole-wheat flour, water, oil, and seasoning, like salt.
A lot of people confuse chapati with tortillas or parathas, however, these are actually quite different foods. All of these breads fall under the flatbread category, but that is where the similarities stop.
Chapati, tortillas, and parathas are all produced in massively different ways and result in very different products. Where a tortilla is very dense and flat, chapati is light and airy.
Paratha is also light and airy but has many layers due to the shaping process used.
Chapati has hundreds of uses. It is most often used as a side for stews, spicy curries, and other delicious dishes and is also a very popular side dish for serving on a tapas platter.
Like most flatbreads though, chapati is very versatile and can be incorporated into a recipe in some way to create a dish on its own. One way we love to use chapati is to create a wrap stuffed with a lamb, chicken, or beef curry.
You can, of course, use it in different cuisines to create fusion dishes like a Mexican Burrito (using chapati) or a vegan lentil wrap.
How Chapati Is Made
Before looking at the types of flour needed to make great chapati, it is important to look at how chapati is traditionally made. This will help us determine the types of flour that will be able to help and not hinder the production process.
First of all, the dough that is created should be very soft. Softer dough is achieved by using the correct type of flour (which we will still discuss) and by properly working it.
The first step is to combine the ingredients by kneading them together until they form a ball – this dough ball should be kneaded for at least 10-15 minutes or until it has a smooth surface and springs back when poked. The dough is then rested to proof.
Proofing the dough allows for two things to happen; the first is for the dough to create strong gluten strands. These strands are formed during the kneading process and are what will give the chapati its texture and pliability.
The second reason is so that these strands that have been formed can rest and relax. If you overwork the dough (by immediately starting the shaping process) the strands will break and the dough will lose its softness and flexibility.
Once the dough has proofed, the shaping begins. It is relatively easy and straightforward. However, different people and cultures have different methods of going about this.
The simplest one is to simply divide the dough ball into equal parts and form a perfectly round ball.
These balls are pressed flat into discs and then dipped into flour (the same type that was used to make the dough). The disc is then rolled flat using a velan, belan, or a simple rolling pin.
Lastly, the shaped chapati is cooked on a dry and very hot pan until it becomes golden brown. It is then flipped over and cooked on the other side.
Sometimes the bread is cooked enough to give it a nice char, and other times it is taken off the heat before it has the chance to char. The flavor varies depending on which method is used.
Now that you understand the process, you can see that you need a very specific type of flour that will be able to handle all the kneading and shaping. Not just any flour will do.
The Perfect Chapati
Chapati should be soft and very pliable. The dough shouldn’t be crisp, although some crispy pieces or small crispy areas are fine. It also shouldn’t be chewy or rubbery.
Chapati is also often puffed or bubbled in places, but this is due to other shaping methods that are a bit more complicated. If your chapati is flat, it isn’t wrong, just a different version.
The dough should also be neutrally flavored if used as an accompaniment so that it doesn’t overpower the flavors of the main dish. You can add some spices, but don’t be too liberal when using them.
Considering flour is the main ingredient used, naturally it becomes one of the most important elements of chapati making. The type and quality of the flour will directly affect the rest of the process, as well as the final outcome.
Flour for Chapati – Buyer’s Guide
Chapati is traditionally made from atta flour. Now, if you have never heard of or seen atta flour, don’t worry; different regions of the world have different versions of this flour.
Atta flour is basically whole-wheat flour with a much finer texture. It is also sometimes labeled as “chapati flour” or “chappati flour.”
Gluten content is what it’s all about! Gluten is an essential part of making any type of flour-based product – it determines the texture and density and ultimately, the type of product you are making.
Cake, all-purpose, or pastry flours are used in cakes and baked goods that don’t require gluten. This is because they don’t have to be elastic and you want to have a denser product that holds its shape without stretching.
Breads, on the other hand, be it leavened or unleavened, require gluten for that slightly stretchy, fluffy, or layered texture. To make chapatti, a ton of gluten is a must-have! The more gluten, the better the product will be.
When working the dough, gluten strands form. If the type of flour has a low-gluten content/ strength, these strands will be weak and break very quickly.
Flour with a strong-gluten content will be able to handle a lot more processing before becoming overworked. Any wheat-based flour has gluten, but not all of them have the same strength.
High-gluten flour (or hard flour) has a higher protein content. This content reduces as the flour is bleached and processed.
When the protein content lowers, so does the gluten content. A hard flour should have a gluten content between 12–14%.
Next, we take a look at the texture of the flour. Atta flour, which is the ultimate type to use for chapati, of course, is a very finely ground flour, meaning the texture of your flatbread will also be much finer.
Think of it this way – if you use ground almonds vs. almond flour (powder), what will be the difference in texture? One will be much courser than the other. The same applies here.
A finer textured flour is what you need when making chapatti. You can either buy a very fine-textured flour (like Atta flour) or simply grind your flour a little bit more at home with a pestle and mortar or flour mill if it isn’t already powder-like.
What Not to Buy
Flours you should stay away from including are low-gluten flours (weak flours) and very coarse flours.
The most common types people often use that are completely wrong for making chapati are cake flour, pastry flour, self-raising flour, gluten-free flour, almond flour, and all-purpose flour, to name a few.
Flours like pastry flour, all-purpose flour, and cake flour are low-gluten flours and are intended for cakes and pastries. These will create a very weak and non-elastic gluten structure that will give you a dense and hard flatbread.
Self-raising flour should never be used. Chapati is unleavened and shouldn’t puff unless the shaping method creates a puff.
Gluten-free flours are also, obviously, a no-no flour to use. Chapati has to have gluten to be shaped and a very soft airy texture.
Of course, if you’re not bothered by the authenticity aspect of chapati, or if you are gluten intolerant, you can use gluten-free flour.
We’ve included an awesome gluten-free flour on our list for all of our gluten-free readers. If you are unsure about any other type of flour, the safest bet is always chapati flour, atta flour, whole-wheat, or bread flour.
The Best Flour for Chapati
Below we have ranked the best types of flours to use for making chapati. We have tried to include a range of flours to make sure there is at least one that will meet your needs.
|1.||Golden Temple Durum Whole Wheat Atta Flour||Atta/durum blend, protein-rich|
|2.||King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour||100% whole wheat, easily accessible|
|3.||Laxmi Sharbati Chappati Flour||Durum wheat, neutral flavor|
|4.||Swad Gluten-Free Chappati Flour||Gluten-free, made of sorghum and millet|
|5.||Swad Multigrain Chappati Flour||Multi-grain, nutritious|
These are truly the best of the best and your chapati will now be much more than that 2-ingredient cake flour dough you’ve been making.
1. Golden Temple Durum Whole Wheat Atta Flour
Our number one recommendation is this amazing flour blend from Golden Temple.
Atta flour can be very difficult to find, especially in certain parts of the world, so we were excited to find this band on Amazon.
Besides the fact that atta flour is the best flour type to use (and one that is traditionally used), you need a flour that has a strong gluten content.
This blend is made of traditional atta flour, as well as durum wheat.
If you aren’t familiar with durum flour, it is an extremely protein-rich flour, meaning lots and lots of gluten – perfect for making chapati! They even put a chapati recipe on the back if you can’t pick one.
2. King Arthur Traditional Whole Wheat Flour
This King Arthur 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat flour is the ultimate choice for a more easily accessible flour.
This is a great choice because not only can it be found on Amazon, but also at your local grocery store.
This flour has a very high gluten content and will create fantastic flatbreads.
Sure, it isn’t chapati flour or atta flour, but if you aren’t going for authenticity, then you won’t even notice the difference.
This flour can be used for any other bread baking endeavors you may find yourself embarking on in your kitchen as well.
3. Laxmi Sharbati Chappati Flour
Laxmi is a top manufacturer of chapati flour and this one is as authentic as they come.
It is made from durum whole wheat, which if you remember from the product above, is a very strong gluten grain.
Because of the amazing gluten development characteristics, you will have great elasticity in your dough and the final product will come out very soft and pliable.
The flavor of the flour itself is also very neutral which is precisely what you want. You can add tons of seasoning ingredients without them being overpowered by the flavor of the flour used.
There are many different size options available for this product so you can choose exactly what you need.
4. Swad Gluten-Free Chappati Flour
We know we said gluten is an absolute must for chapati, but the unfortunate reality is that gluten isn’t all that good for you.
Whether you are choosing a gluten-free variety because of a dietary need or a lifestyle choice, this gluten-free chapati flour from Swad is just what you need.
Instead of wheat, this flour is made using different grains like sorghum and millet – entirely wheat-free!
Now, remember, you need gluten for elasticity, so naturally, using this flour for chapati won’t yield a very elastic flatbread.
However, the texture and flavor the flour produces are still pretty good. Like King Arthur flour, you won’t notice the difference if you aren’t looking for it.
5. Swad Multigrain Chappati Flour
Our last product is another chapati flour. We love this multigrain chapati flour as it adds dimension to your flatbread that plain chapati flour doesn’t.
It contains wheat, flaxseed, maize, millet, oats and chickpeas, to name a few.
The only problem you might run into is the gluten development could be more difficult to form because of the different grains and lower wheat content.
This flour still has sufficient gluten to make good chapati and is a must-try!
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