The Indian breads highlight India’s diversity and culturally diverse history through their varying types, which include chapathi, naan, thepla, kulcha, paratha, and more!
Many of you may be surprised to learn that Egyptians used bread as currency, demonstrating how important bread was to them. Another intriguing fact about bread is that it crosses cultural boundaries and is used in a wide range of regional ceremonies.
The ability to sweep up tasty gravied curry or house different kinds of garnishes and stuffings is what these Indian breads have in common. Indian bread is a staple food in almost all of India and plays an important role in our Indian cuisine.
1. Where Did The Indian Breads Come From?
In India, there is no ancient baking tradition or history of ovens. So, bread arrived in India via two different routes.
The first was via Goa. The Portuguese colonized the region and were hungry for their own bread. However, they discovered no ovens, refined flour, or yeast. So, what should they do?
That is where refined flour, also known as maida, a key ingredient in bread, and the concept of baking in an oven made their way to India. But, if that’s how flour and baking got their start, how did the Portuguese turn these into bread? It all started with choosing appropriate ingredient substitutes.
To aid the fermentation process, a Portuguese baker now used whole wheat flour (atta) and a few drops of alcoholic drink in place of yeast. We all know that baking a loaf of bread without an oven is impossible, so he used his intelligence and common sense to improvise with whatever he had. Because proper ovens were scarce, he devised a crude, improvised oven with a hot surface. He simply formed the dough into a roll (or a rectangle) and placed it on the hot oven’s surface to bake the very first batch of Indian breads, “pao,” a small bread known to most Goans today.
The Portuguese went beyond this basic pao and began baking a variety of bread in standard ovens. Even today, many Goan breads are very similar to Portuguese originals.
Bread traveled another route on its way to India. In ancient India, refined flour was not used. The middle east brought refined flour and the oven to India, according to all the evidence. Muslims own a remarkably significant portion of bakeries in much of India today. As a result, more bread customizations emerged, with small and large bakeries sprouting up across the country.
2. Indian Bread Types
The majority of north Indian flatbreads are made with finely ground wheat, usually atta or maida, water, and salt. Some flatbreads, particularly paratha, can be filled with vegetables and layered with ghee or butter.
Indian breads are also made in Maharashtra and Karnataka from grains such as jowar (Sorghum bicolor), finger millet flour, and bajra or pearl millet, and is known as “rotla” in Gujarat and “bhakri” in Maharashtra.
The majority of flatbreads in South India and the West Coast are crêpes made from peeled and split black lentils or urad dal and rice. Popular varieties include dosa, appam, uttapam, ricerotis, and ragi rotis.
Indian breads are prepared with wonderful passion and love, from breakfast to dinner. Let us take a quick look at the various kinds of Indian breads. Here are some popular Indian bread varieties and bread recipes that everyone should try at least once:
Chapati, also known as Roti, is a very common Indian bread. But what is the origin of Chapati?
According to one theory, chapati originated in the Egyptian Indus Valley civilization 5000 years ago and was brought to India. The most common evidence, however, is that it was founded in Southern India.
Chapati is mentioned in an old Sanskrit manuscript from over 6000 years back. Let’s look at a conventional Indian bread roti recipe that can be served with a variety of curries.
Chapatis are made from whole-wheat flour known as atta, which is combined in a mixing utensil with water, oil (optional), and salt (optional) and kneaded to make a soft to semi-hard dough and keep the dough for 15 to 20 minutes. Knead the dough again, then pinch a ball of dough and roll it out evenly.
In a heavy frying pan, tawa, or griddle over medium heat, cook each chapati on both sides. Cook the chapati until it’s slightly less than halfway done, then flip it over and increase the heat slightly. When you turn it over, the chapati will fill with air. Serve the chapati with some of your favorite curry dishes, and enjoy it while the chapati is hot and soft.
2.2 Butter Naan
Naans are very pillowy and soft Indian breads. Naan is usually topped with butter, garlic, onions, and coriander seeds or stuffed with cheese or sweet fruit-and-nut fillings. You can be as creative as you want with these Indian breads and their toppings.
To accompany spinach chickpea curry, paneer tikka masala, paneer butter masala, or palak paneer, the majority of us prefer a warm piece of soft naan bread slathered with butter. Did you know that making butter naan at home is simple and requires no special equipment?
Since the majority of us do not have access to a tandoor or clay oven, we can make this butter naan on the stovetop or in the oven. The smoky tandoor effect can be replicated at home by cooking on direct heat or broiling for a few minutes in the oven. This recipe produces very soft naan bread that does not become chewy or hard after cooling.
The naan dough mixture is made with maida flour (2 cups), baking soda (1/4th teaspoon), baking powder (1/2 teaspoon), oil or butter (2 tablespoons), yogurt (1/4th cup), lukewarm milk, sugar, and salt. Knead a soft and non-sticky dough and keep it at rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Divide the dough into equal portions and flatten the dough into an oval shape using a rolling pin on a flat surface area. You can spread some toppings of your choice on this soft, buttery Indian breads and toast them in a hot pan. Serve these hot naan Indian breads with a drizzle of homemade butter or garlic butter and a curry dish like chicken curry or chana masala.
While paratha is another variety of Indian breads, it is not cooked in the same manner that naan is. These Indian breads are rather cooked in a tawa, or stone frying pan, with butter or ghee, or cooking oil. While naan is usually rolled out once and slapped against the side of the clay oven or tandoor oven, paratha is frequently rolled out multiple times, resulting in a very flaky texture.
The paratha dough is prepared from a simple combination of flour, salt, oil, and water. The dough is divided into equal parts, rolled out, smeared with clarified butter or butter or shortening, and sprinkled with flour to help define the layers.
During the roasting process, steam traps in between the layers, assisting in the proper cooking of the dough, resulting in several soft layers of paratha. The paratha is then drizzled with ghee to give it a pleasant aroma and flaky, crisp texture.
Add mint leaves and, if desired, yogurt for a little unique mix. Even if it’s just simple raita, you’ll need to have some sides to go with these Indian breads. Whether the parathas are plain or stuffed with potatoes, paneer, or mixed vegetables, these Indian breads require at least one accompaniment, including pickles, chutneys, raita, curries, and sabzi.
2.4 Puri or Deep-fried Flatbread
In India, an early morning walk in seek of local breakfast, or a craving for spicy street food frequently ends with Puri-Bhaaji. The spicy potato curry is served with puffed, flattened, and tasty Indian breads. This fantastic breakfast is extremely popular in North India. It has become an important part of India’s culinary culture and heritage.
Puris are traditional festive Indian breads in many regions of India. There is an unspoken indulgence and craving for this tasty Indian delicacy whenever we talk about puri. Puri comes from the Sanskrit word “purika.” Puri is typically made with maida (all-purpose flour) rather than atta (wheat flour).
While whole wheat flour pooris have a nutty flavor, those made with a combination of wheat and all-purpose flour have a milky flavor because the flour or maida imparts a milky flavor. There’s also a Bengali edition called “Luchi,” made completely of all-purpose flour.
Puris can be served as a snack or as part of your breakfast. You must make the puri dough by combining the atta or the whole wheat flour (300 grams), one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon oil, and some semolina.
The dough is tightly kneaded and allowed to rest for 20-30 minutes. Divide the dough into 25-30 equal parts and roll it out on a flat surface to form small round shapes. These small round Indian breads are then deep fried and served hot with a delicious side dish like potato curry known as “Puri Sabji” or “Puri Bhaji” and some chutney.
2.5 Pearl Millet Flatbread
Pearl millet roti or bajra roti are rich in nutrients. It is one of the millets that are most widely accessible in India, especially Rajasthan region of India. A gluten-free alternative to wheat that is rich in fiber, protein, and necessary minerals is pearl millet flour.
Because it is non-glutinous, it is a good choice for people who have a gluten allergy or celiac disease. They are high in carbohydrates, essential amino acids, antioxidants, and multiple vitamins and minerals such as thiamine, riboflavin, folic acid, niacin, beta-carotene, and zinc.
Pearl millet is one of the ancient cultivated crops dating back to prehistoric times and is the world’s sixth most important grain. Because of its high fiber content, it is very useful for diabetes management. When compared to other foods, it digests gradually and releases glucose into the blood at a slower rate.
Rajasthanis have been making these Indian breads for centuries using pearl millet or bajra flour, both of which are readily available in the state. A smooth dough is made by mixing the bajra flour and lukewarm water. The roti is cooked in a hot pan and served hot with vegetable curry.
The nutrition and energy gained from these rotis enable people to survive the harsh climatic conditions here in the Rajasthan region of India. People’s diets change dramatically during the winter. Winter platters include gond laddoos, meetha Dalia, bajre ki khichdi, bajre ki roti, and many other dishes.
It was dosai, an ancient 2,000-year-old South Indian pancake made from a fermented batter of soaked rice and a black gram or toor dal that is now consumed in almost every region of the world.
This South Indian equivalent of crepes is a crispy, savory, and slightly sour dish and is liked by many. This classic South Indian breakfast food is made with rice flour and black lentils and can range in size from a standard pancake to a foot and a half in diameter.
It’s a common breakfast item in many South Indian households, with some varieties similar to pancakes and others similar to crepes accompanied by satisfying side dishes like sambar (a sour lentil soup) and coconut chutney.
Dosa has an intriguing backstory. It was called “dosha,” which means “sin.” Deprived of alcohol, some Brahmin temple chefs believed they could get high on fermented rice, which tasted more like an alcoholic drink.
The earlier Tamil Dosa was much thicker and softer than today’s dosa. Karnataka, a state of Tamil Nadu in India, first created the thinner and crisper version of the Dosa, which is now popular throughout India.
To make the dosa or dosai, you can make a fermented rice batter by soaking urad dal and rice overnight and then blending the soaked mixture into a smooth paste. You need to keep the batter for fermentation at room temperature overnight. You can store this fermented batter in a fridge in an airtight container to stop the fermentation process.
The key to making a crispy dosa is not to grind the batter too finely. Make sure the batter texture is coarse. Just use the proper rice and add the chana and toor dal to the batter to get a crispy dosa batter.
Also, when you are grinding the batter, use very cold water or ice cubes to prevent the batter from heating up. The fermented batter is then spread on a hot griddle or tawa like a crepe and cooked till a crispy and light brown color appears on the surface of the pancake.
The traditional dosa is available in various variations, making it a versatile South Indian dish. The simple masala dosa is served with crispy dosa, potato curry, and a sambar-chutney combination.
The Rava dosa batter is made with semolina, rice flour, and spices such as onion, ginger, and curry leaves. Another type of dosa that does not require fermentation is neer dosa. The batter mixture can be used to make the dosas directly.
Other dosa variations include moong dal in place of toor dal, as well as oats, ragi, and whole wheat flour. The traditional dosa makes its grand entrance to fast food counters with numerous variations such as cheese dosa, pav bhaji dosa, sabudana dosa, bread dosa, schezwan dosa, soybean masala dosa, mix dal dosa, and many more.
Kachoris are popular Indian Breads that are made with all-purpose flour (maida) or whole wheat flour and have a rich filling made of black lentils, moong dal, mawa, onion, and Indian spices.
These deep-fried Indian breads, served with spicy aloo curry or various types of chutneys, have evolved over time and are now an integral part of breakfast menus in various parts of the country, particularly in Rajasthan.
The humble kachori contains all of the spices known as “thanda masala,” or cool spices such as coriander, fennel seeds, and even turmeric powder. These spices made the dish ideal for the weather.
The Marwaris, who settled across the country and pioneered trade and commerce, invented the kachori. All street food originated in bazaars, where traders needed to eat and drink while conducting business.
Whole wheat flour, vegetable oil (Flavorless Refined Oil), salt, and cold water are required to make this kachori dough. Add just enough water to make a stiffish dough (it should not yield easily when a finger is pressed into it). Cover and set aside for at least 15-20 minutes to rest.
The filling must be made with soaked and ground lentils, such as black or yellow lentils, spices, and salt. This filling is cooked with lentils and spices and is divided into small balls. This filling is wrapped in dough and deep-fried.
Depending on the fillings used, there are many different types of kachoris, such as onion or pyaaz kachori, dry fruits kachori, peas kachori, potato or aloo kachori, cottage cheese or paneer kachori, and so on.
Appam (also spelled “palappam”) is delicious, lacy, and fluffy pancakes or hoppers from Kerala cuisine made from ground, fermented rice, and coconut batter. When coupled with vegetable stew for a hearty vegetarian breakfast, thin and crispy appam with a soft fluffy center tastes delicious. They are also vegan and gluten-free.
Traditionally, appam is fermented with a local alcoholic drink called toddy, made from palm or coconut flowers. Toddy is also known as “kallu” in Tamil and Malayalam, or “tadi” in Hindi, and is made from palm or coconut flowers.
Unlike a dosa, appam is fluffy in the center, crisp on the edges, and tastes subtly sweet. These pancakes first emerged in India’s southernmost tip. Although little is known about the history of the appam, some believe it originated in Jewish communities in India.
It is usually served with hot sauces like coconut milk curry. Steamed eggs, chutneys, fish, meat, and vegetables are some ingredients used to fill the pancakes. Appam is a popular street food that is typically eaten as a snack.
With its growing popularity, appam has spawned a slew of variations, including palappam, honey hoppers, and achappam. Sweet varieties are typically prepared on special occasions.
Pav or “Pao” are small loaves of Indian breads introduced to India by the Portuguese. These Indian breads are always made commercially with maida or all-purpose flour. Pav is more stretchy than normal bread and has a tasty yeasty flavor. The aroma of pav preparation is also distinct and pleasant. These Indian breads come in two varieties: kadak (tough shell with a gentle interior) and naram (soft pav).
The most bizarre story about the origin of the word pav is that it was named after the dough was kneaded with the feet (paon in Hindi) rather than the hands to speed up the process and keep up with demand!
Vada Pav, a popular snack, is one of Mumbai’s most humble street foods, consisting of a potato or batata vada between two slices of pav and topped with sweet, green, and dry garlic chutney. Batata vada is a potato dumpling fritter fried in a chickpea flour batter.
The pav or pao is made with all-purpose flour, yeast, and sugar. The yeast is activated using sugar and some hot water. A thick batter is made and put to rest for 30-40 minutes. Once the bubbling starts, more flour is added to the mix to make a soft dough.
This dough is further kept for leavening at room temperature or at a controlled temperature and moisture. It might take from thirty minutes to an hour. The dough is divided into equal parts and is baked in an oven. These soft and buttery pao buns are best served with spicy chicken curry or any veg curry of your choice.
Throughout the country, lots of distinct types of Indian breads are made in India, with each region and household putting its own spin on a classic recipe. You could try these breads and their recipes at home and put your own spin on these classic Indian bread recipes today!