Fifteen Types of Indian Flatbreads
The heart of India lies in its diversity.
An exhibition of this diversity demonstrates itself in a variety of forms — the patchwork of geographical conditions, the motley crew of languages, the myriad cultural and spiritual beliefs, and of course, the innumerable cuisines that dot the length and breadth of the country.
[Infographic] Exploring the Variety of Indian Flatbreads Across Different States
It is to this diversity that we owe the joyous innovation of our flatbreads. From the naan of the north to the parotta of the south, from the thepla of the west to the luchi of the east; flatbreads are not only a staple of the Indian diet. They are a fundamental building block, the cornerstone of our daily meals.
Here are some of the flatbreads that make homes and hearts happy across the subcontinent! Presented to you by Rotimatic.
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Flatbreads of Western India
What is Puran Poli?
A flatbread (poli) stuffed with a sweet lentil stuffing (puran). The ingredients for the stuffing vary from region to region.
Best enjoyed: Warm or room temperature, with katachi amti (a thin spicy dal), batata bhaji (potato dish), saffron flavored milk, or just ghee.
Origin of Puran Poli
One of the earliest mentions of puran poli can be found in the text Manasollasa, written by Someshvara — a king who ruled Bidar, near modern-day Hyderabad, in the 12th century. An early recipe is also recorded in the 14th century Telugu encyclopaedia Manucharitra, which was assembled by the poet Allasani Peddanna.
Fun fact: Cousins of puran poli include puran puri or vedmi in Gujarat, holige or obbattu in Karnataka, and bobbattu or baksham in Andhra Pradesh.
What is Thepla?
An unleavened flatbread made with wheat flour, yoghurt, and spices, cooked on a tawa.
Best enjoyed with: Yoghurt, chhotela bateta (dry potato dish), and chhundo (sweet mango pickle)
Origin of Thepla
The mythology behind the invention of thepla is that it was made to sustain travelling Gujarati merchants who found it tough to find vegetarian food during their journeys.
Fun fact: While methi theplas are the most popular, theplas are also made with dudhi (bottlegourd), bajra (pearl millet), besan (gram flour), and more!
📍 Western India
What is Bhakri?
A coarse flatbread made using a dough of millet-based flours like jowar or bajra flour, bhakris, cooked on a tawa.
Best enjoyed: Hot or room temperature, with a variety of accompaniments depending on the region. Yoghurt, pithla (gram flour porridge), thecha (a type of chutney), pickles, baingan bharta (mined roasted eggplant dish), sev bhaji (deep-fried chickpea strands in a spicy curry), green leafy preparations, or even just a chilli and raw onion.
Origin of Bhakri
Not much is known about the origin of bhakri. However, in the aftermath of the Green Revolution, landowning castes began to cultivate cash crops like rice and wheat, while the cultivation and consumption of millets were left to Dalit and Bahujan peoples. As such, bhakris are considered a staple in their households, offering farmworkers sustenance for long, difficult workdays.
Fun fact: Bhakris can be made without oil!
What is Poee?
A bread made using half-maida (all-purpose flour) and half-whole wheat flour, poee is round, soft, and has a pocket. The dough is fermented for two days, after which it is rolled into a ball, flattened, and baked in a wood-fired oven.
Best enjoyed: At breakfast, lunch or dinner, whether to mop up Goan gravy dishes, accompanying dry savoury foods, or even stuffed with sausages!
Origin of Poee
Considered a product of the Portuguese colonisation of Goa, the fermentation process originally utilised toddy – the local coconut palm wine – which over the centuries, through commercialisation, has been replaced by regular yeast. Poee-making is considered the craft of traditional bakers called poders, passed on from generation to generation.
Fun fact: A popular home meal in Goan households is ross poee — it includes omelette, xacuti, and poee.
📍 North-West India
What is Taftan?
A leavened bread, made from a dough of flour, milk, yoghurt, and eggs, and then baked in a tandoor (clay oven) till golden brown. Saffron and cardamom are used as flavourings.
Best enjoyed: Hot and fresh, topped with poppy seeds, and served alongside Persian dishes or gravies. Its slight sweetness makes it a great accompaniment to spicy food.
Origin of Taftan
The root of ‘taftoon’ is in the Persian word ‘tafan’, which translates to heating, burning, or kindling. The study of Iranian epics like Shahname has revealed that the word ‘taftan’ has been in use for centuries. In that time, the bread has travelled from Persia via Pakistan (where it is also popular!) to India.
Fun fact: Taftan is considered an aristocratic bread due to the richness and cost of its ingredients!
Flatbreads of North India
📍 All over India but most popular in the north
What is a Chapati?
An unleavened flatbread made with a soft dough of wheat flour and water, cooked on a tawa on both sides. In certain parts of the country, chapati is half-cooked on the tawa and then puffed up directly over a flame.
Best enjoyed: Hot and freshly made, with almost anything — vegetable dishes, gravies, curries, sweet accompaniments like aamras (pureed mango dessert) or shrikhand, or even jam!
Origin of the Chapati
Invented in the subcontinent, chapati has since travelled all over the world; eaten as a daily staple in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, East Africa, the Middle East, and even as far as the Caribbean.
Fun fact: Chapati has different names all over the world, including roti, rotli, phulka, chapo, and roshi!
📍 All over North India
What is a Naan?
An oven-baked or tawa-fried flatbread using fermented dough.
Best enjoyed with: Mughal and North frontier cuisine — keema; kebabs; rich, aromatic gravies; and more.
Origin of Naan in India
When yeast first arrived in India from Egypt, naan was invented through experimentation using indigenous clay ovens – tandoors – to serve up the flaky, golden flatbread. The Indo-Persian poet Amir Kushrao was the first to mention naan in his notes, a record that dates back to 1300 BCE!
Fun fact: Because of the kneading process and the use of fermented dough, naan was a delicacy enjoyed primarily by royals, nobility and the rich.
What is Khamiri Roti?
A leavened flatbread that owes its spongey, chewy texture to yeast. Traditionally baked in a tandoor (clay oven), it is known for its smoky, tangy flavour — almost like an Indian version of sourdough.
Best enjoyed with: Mughlai dishes like kebabs, tikkas, korma, mutton nihari, and bhuna kheema.
Origin of Khamiri Roti In India
Khamiri roti dates back to the Mughal period of Indian history. Considered a staple of that era, making this flatbread was initially the traditional occupation of two communities – Naan Bais and Bhatiyaras. Today, it is mostly found in the streets of Old Delhi, and is a regularly consumed flatbread in Muslim households across the city.
Fun fact: While the Bhatiyara community has all but faded into obscurity, Naan Bais still make and sell Khamiri roti alongside several Mughal flatbreads like laal roti, doodh cheeni ki roti, parat-daar paratha, and kulcha.
Eastern India Flatbreads
What is luchi?
A deep-fried flatbread made with maida (all-purpose flour).
Best enjoyed with: Aloor dum (curry-based potato dish), kosha mangsho (gravy-based goat meat dish), jhola gud (liquid date palm jaggery) and more.
Origin of Luchi
Not much is known about the invention of the luchi, but it is a much-expounded flatbread in east India. Litterateurs and writers have over the last two centuries waxed eloquent on its moon-like form — or written about its role as a marker for socioeconomic differences.
Fun fact: Because it took premium ingredients like ghee and maida to make a luchi, it is considered a flatbread for the affluent.
What is Kemenya Roti?
An unfermented flatbread made of sticky rice dough flattened between the palms and deep-fried until golden brown, made either crispy or soft and chewy based on preference.
Best enjoyed: Dusted with powdered sugar.
Origin of Kemenya Roti
There is not much by way of recorded history when it comes to this Naga delicacy, however, it is considered a staple during tea time.
Fun fact: This flatbread is often prepared in advance and sold in local markets in Nagaland!
What is Janta Roti?
A flatbread made using a dough of flour cooked in milk or water until sticky. Once this dough cools down, it is kneaded, balled, flattened, and then then fried, baked, or steamed.
Best enjoyed: Warm, with dalma (daal made of split chick peas, raw papaya and vegetables), santula (curry made of potatoes, raw papaya and brinjals cooked in raw milk), paaya (goat legs soup) or a vegetable stew.
Origin of Janta Roti
Not much is known about the origin of janta roti, however, because it is made using a precooked dough, janta roti ends up being double-cooked. This makes it a preferred flatbread for very young children and the elderly, as it is easy to chew and digest.
Fun fact: Although rice is a staple in Odisha, janta roti is a well-known recipe passed down from generation to generation!
What is Arsa?
A fried bread that is sweet — made with a dough of powdered rice and jaggery syrup, which is then deep-fried. Alternatively, sugar syrup can be used as well.
Best enjoyed: Hot and fresh!
Origin or Arsa
Not much is known about the origin of arsa, however, it's a traditional Christmas bread of the indigenous tribal peoples of Jharkhand.
Fun fact: Dry fruits, coconut and sesame seeds are common additions to the dough.
South Indian Flatbreads
📍 South India
What is Appam?
A pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. It is crisp around the edges and has a soft centre. The rice batter used to make appams is fermented overnight – or for at least 8 hours – until it's light and airy.
Best enjoyed with: Spicy condiments, egg, seafood and meat curries, and stew.
Origin of Appam
An early record of appam can be found in Perumponuru, a 2nd century CE poem in the Tamil language. There is also speculation that it might have Jewish origins!
Fun fact: Variations of the appam exist in Indonesian and Burmese cuisines!
What is Parotta?
A layered flatbread, made with a dough of maida (all-purpose flour) that is kneaded and beaten into thin layers. These layers are then used to form a ball that is flattened and cooked on a pan.
Best enjoyed: Hot and freshly made, with almost anything — vegetable dishes, gravies, curries, and more. However, in Kerala, beef fry and parotta are considered a classic combination!
Origin of Parotta
Invented in Sri Lanka, the parotta journeyed to India via Sri Lankan Tamilian migrant workers as the Veeshu or Ceylon Porotta. From the coast of Tamil Nadu, it made its way to Kerala, where rebranded as the Malabar parotta, it has become an iconic flatbread.
Fun fact: Various iterations of it have cropped up across the southern half of the country, from kothu parotta of Madurai to Tuticorin’s coin parotta to the mutton-stuffed, egg-washed Ceylone parotta!
What is Rumali Roti?
A thin flatbread made using dough of maida (all-purpose flour) and wheat flour, cooked on the convex side of a karahi (a wide, circular cooking pot).
Best enjoyed: Hot and freshly made, with Awadhi, Mughlai, and tandoori dishes.
Origin of Rumali Roti
Invented in the Deccan region of India, during the Mughal period, when Royal chefs would use it to wipe excess oil off food or fold it to be served as a table napkin for the kings. Paasti or paosti chappatai is a larger version of this flatbread made in the Pakistani regions of Bannu and Waziristan.
Fun fact: Legend has it that rumali roti is such a finely-crafted flatbread, it can pass through a finger ring!
Written by: Priyanka Sutaria
Art by: Shipra Goel
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