Chickpea Flour (Besan) Crêpes with Spinach

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
besan flour crepes

A genuine feast can easily enough be an elegant combination of humble ingredients that come together to satisfy not only your palate but also an eager rumbling tummy. My frequent experiments with Indian shallow-fried flat breads certainly illustrates the truth of my impressions here, and if you don't think these lovely, fragrant and lightly spiced chickpea flour crêpes served with a refreshing homemade cashew chutney would qualify as a fine dining experience any time of day, then just give these little beauties a try and see if you don't change your mind. Serve them along with a bed of hot steaming basmati rice and, if enjoying for lunch or dinner, a nice spicy dal.

I was especially delighted and surprised with the dense, chewy and egg-like consistency and texture of these crêpes despite the fact that they contain no dairy whatsoever. An extra bonus is these Indian pancakes are also gluten-free. The uncooked salted spinach, once fried as a "topping" for the crêpe, adds a further crispy component to this array of culinary layers. The alchemy was going well in the kitchen the day I made up a batch and I couldn't even wait until the frying was done before I started nibbling on the first one just warm and fragrant out of the pan. Oh well, I was home alone at the time.

These make for a great breakfast too, and because they are so easy to prepare — especially if you use two skillets to cut down on the time spent in front of the stove — you can also treat yourself to a midweek breakfast that, despite the ease of preparation, is rather a lot fancier than what we are often accustomed to when we sit down to a midweek breakfast.

besan spinach crepes Indian

Not a must, but recommended for inclusion in the crêpe batter is a teaspoon or so of what I affectionately term "fire paste" or, if you prefer, red chili and vinegar paste. I always have some on hand in the refrigerator as it keeps for a good few weeks. It's perfect for adding to soups, sauces and so many other delights made up on your range if you want some extra kick. Just take care to taste your particular batch before incorporating into your creations as you don't want to overpower the other flavors present. If you don't happen to have fire paste on hand when the craving hits, then sprinkle in some of your favorite spices that are included in the blend, such as turmeric, chili powder, ground cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne or whatever else strikes your fancy from the list. Explore your spice blends and pastes and come up with a multitude of chickpea flour crêpes to stimulate and satisfy your palate.

Warning: these are highly addictive, so feel free to double or triple the batch. Any leftovers wrapped in foil wrap and heated in the oven the next day at a low temperature are just as appealing as the day they hatched from the skillet — of course, that is assuming you have any leftovers once your eager diners are invited to the table for the experience. You may also wish to keep a batch of these a closely guarded secret when you anticipate you will be eating alone.

Chickpea Flour (Besan) Crepes with SpinachChickpea Flour (Besan) Crêpes with Spinach
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on October 10, 2012

Simple, fragrant and lightly spiced chickpea flour crêpes with a delightful dense, chewy and "eggy" texture without any dairy

Preparation: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

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  • 1 cup chickpea flour (besan) sifted if clumpy
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 2/3 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • a few pinches of turmeric
  • a few pinches of cayenne
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon red chili and vinegar paste*
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • sesame oil for frying
  • Note: see recipe for red chili and vinegar paste, or substitute a teaspoon or two of your favorite dry ground spices such as turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger or cayenne.

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, cumin seeds, turmeric and cayenne. Gradually add the water and the red chili paste, lightly combining with a fork until the mixture is smooth and forms into a semi-thick pourable batter.

  • Cover the batter with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and let rest for about 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, trim the spinach. Wash, drain, and finely chop. Toss the spinach with about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let rest in a strainer while the batter rests.

  • After the batter has rested, squeeze out any remaining liquid from the spinach and set aside.

  • Heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet. When hot, ladle about a 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan, smoothing it out with the back of the ladle to form a 6-inch circle. Brush a little sesame oil on the pan between crêpes if the pan becomes too dry.

  • Sprinkle some of the spinach onto the top of the batter and cook until the top begins to dry up and little holes begin to form — about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the crêpe and fry for another minute or until both sides are dry and firm. Repeat, keeping the finished pancakes in a 150°F oven until the batter is finished. Serve hot or warm as is or with your favorite chutney.

Makes about six 6-inch crêpes
chickpea flour crepes

More Indian breads and pancakes from Lisa's Vegetarian kitchen to keep your obsessive palate happy:
Fenugreek Roti
Indian Lentil and Rice Pancakes
Paratha Stuffed with Sweet Potato and Potato
Makki Di Roti (Griddle Cooked Corn Bread)

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