Roti, staple to most Indian homes are also known as Phulka or Chapati. There would not be any single meal without roti in my parent’s home growing up. A must have, in all traditional Indian homecooked meals mostly paired with dal and curry.
What is Roti?
Roti is a thin, unleavened flatbread that originated in Indian subcontinent. It is made with stoneground whole wheat flour. Roti is a staple in most parts of India, especially in Northern parts of India. It is made traditionally on a tawa (gridle) and on direct open flame. Roti is the lightest variation among all types of different Indian flatbread. Chapati or phulka are other popular names for roti in different regions.
Different types of Roti and flatbreads
Though whole wheat Roti is the most popular variation of this soft and thin flatbread in day-to-day meals, there are other popular roti variations as well. These roti variations are made using different flours or different techniques. For example, Missi roti, bajra roti, makka roti, Jowar roti, multigrain roti, akki roti, tandoori roti, roomali roti are few among many more variations.
How is Paratha different from Roti?
Other than roti or chapati, there is another popular flatbread known Paratha. Paratha, again originated in India, and is consumed across Indian Subcontinents. Paratha is an amalgamation of parat (layers) and atta (flour), meaning layers of bread. There are plain parathas, where the layers are created within the dough, as well as stuffed parathas.
The stuffed paratha are usually stuffed with various vegetable fillings (Bathua Aloo Paratha) or you can knead the filling with the dough (Cilantro Paneer Paratha). Another difference between roti and paratha is rotis are cooked dry without using any oil, whereas parathas, are pan-fried with ghee or oil on a hot gridle.
How different is Roti from Naan?
One of the first questions I’m usually asked when people find out that I’m from India is “Do you eat or cook naan every day at home?” Every time I would explain to them that naan isn’t something that people in India eat every day at home. It’s something that we (Indians) mostly enjoy eating in restaurants, just like everybody. Naan is not as healthy as roti because of the use of processed flour and thickness of the bread. It is definitely heavy on tummies compared to homestyle flatbreads.
What exactly is Naan? Naan is a soft and pillowy Indian-style leavened flatbread traditionally made in a tandoor, or cylindrical clay oven. The dough gets slapped against the walls of the tandoor, where it adheres and bakes quickly over a burning fire. Naan can also be made in different variations, including butter, garlic, stuffed etc.
Science Behind Making Soft Rotis
- Making a perfect dough is very important to achieve the soft and pillowy roti. To achieve the perfect dough, kneading is the secret ingredient. When the dough is kneaded enough, the gliadin and glutenin proteins in the flour expand and form strands of gluten.
- These strands of gluten will hold their structure and fill the air in the dough. This can be achieved by thoroughly kneading (around 5-7 minutes) and resting the dough (15-20 minutes). When the dough is done right, which is soft and pliable, you will actually enjoy the roti making process. Dough is ready to use and soft enough when you press your finger against the dough and it leaves an impression
- Water and whole wheat flour are the primary ingredients that are used to make dough. Instead of cold water, use warm water or warm milk to knead the dough, which results in softer dough. Using warm milk adds more moisture, some fat, and enhances the nutritional value of roti’s.
- To make a nice evenly thin round rotis, make sure you flatten the portioned dough ball between your palms. This helps get the initial shape right. Dust the flatten ball with dry flour and start rolling with even pressure. Keep flouring & flipping the chapati as you roll it, so it doesn't stick to the work surface or rolling pin. Make sure you dust off any extra flour before transferring it to hot griddle.
- Cooking roti at the right temperature is also a crucial step. It is equally important to knead the dough correctly and roll the rotis evenly. The tawa or griddle should be preheated on medium heat before placing the roti. After placing the roti, increase the temperature to medium hot, make sure it is not too hot. Flip when you start seeing small air bubbles (not big), around 20-30 seconds.
- After flipping, cook the other side a little longer than previous one, until there are enough brown specs. Now, turn one more time and start pressing the roti using a kitchen paper towel or cheese cloth with a light hand and a rotating motion.
If you have followed all the above tips, at this point, you will have a nicely puffed roti in your hand.
How to Store Rotis?
After grilling, try to place roti on a mesh surface or on a cotton kitchen napkin. Smear the ghee on top. Keeping rotis on a mesh surface will prevents the rotis from getting soggy with the steam. Once all the rotis cool down, store them in a closed container lined with a paper towel. For same day consumption, rotis can be stored at room temperature. If stored in fridge, rotis remain good for 3-4 days and can be consumed after re-heating.
To store rotis for a longer period, store them in freezer. Before storing rotis in freezer, make sure rotis are completely cooled off. Then stack them in numbers you would use for one meal. Store each stack in separate Ziplock freezer bags and place these Ziplock bags in freezer.
When packing rotis for work lunch or school lunch box, make sure that rotis are bit cool before packing. First place the rotis on a kitchen paper towel, then along with paper towel pack in aluminum foil. At workplace, rotis can also be warmed up in microwave. Remove the aluminum foil and place the rotis wrapped in kitchen paper towel in microwave and heat them up for 10-15 seconds.
How to reheat rotis?
Rotis can be re-heated in microwave as well as on griddle.
- For Microwave, cover roti in a kitchen paper towel, then sprinkle some water on paper towel and heat for 10-15 seconds.
- For stovetop, pre heat the griddle on medium high heat and heat rotis from each side for 10-15 seconds and enjoy good soft rotis.
- To re-heat freezer rotis, previous night transfer the Ziplock bag of roti in refrigerator section. Then follow the above steps of either microwave heating process or stovetop heating process.
Tips To Keep Roti Dough (Atta) Fresh And Soft For Longer
Since, rotis are such an important part of Indian diet, it can be tedious to knead roti dough from scratch for every single meal. In today’s world of time crunch, having kneaded dough available would be a bliss to keep your sanity intact. However, it can be a problem to keep your dough fresh for multiple days. It may turn greyish black or even it can get mold if not stored properly. Shelf-life of roti dough can be increased, if stored properly. Roti dough can be stored in refrigerator until 3 days. For longer period, I would recommend freezing it in freezer.
Grease the dough surface with oil or ghee, this thin layer of oil or ghee before placing it in container may prevent from blackening and drying of the dough.
Dough can also be covered with a clean cling wrap (though little time consuming, this step would provide additional precaution) before placing it in a container. Make sure there are no air bubbles left inside the cling wrap. The idea is to reduce the amount of oxygen as much as possible, to slow down the growth rate of microorganisms. Now store the roti dough in an air-tight container before placing it in the fridge or freezer as per your requirement. If storing in freezer, divide the dough in quantity you would typically need for one meal.
To use the dough just take it out of the refrigerator and leave it to thaw on kitchen counter for about 30 minutes then use it. For dough that was stored in freezer, make sure to transfer it a night before to refrigerator.
Benefits of Whole Wheat Roti
Roti or chapati is an inalienable part of Indian diet. It has a myriad list of health benefits to offer and is enriched with nutrients such as vitamin (B1, B2, B3, B6, and B9), iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium. A plain whole wheat roti is an excellent source of soluble fiber, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels, prevents constipation and helps keep our digestive system healthy. Whole wheat rotis are loaded with complex carbohydrates that provide sustained energy and it can keep you feel fuller and satiated for hours.
Key Points to take care while making rotis
- Use good quality whole wheat flour. Some good store bought whole wheat flours are: Sujata Chakki Atta, Aashirwad Select Sharbati Atta, Lakshmi Sharbati Chapati Flour. Rotis in pictures are done with Lakshmi Flour.
- Knead the dough well, either using warm water or milk. It should not be very soft, sticky or hard.
- Let the dough rest, covered with a damp cloth for 15-20 minutes.
- Start rolling the roti by flattening the lemon size ball with your palms.
- This will help to get the initial shape right. While rolling roti rotate it frequently to get it evenly thick and round.
- Remember to dust off any extra dry flour, used while rolling, before putting on hot griddle.
- Preheat the gridle on medium heat before placing the roti on gridle.
- Increase the heat to medium high after placing the roti on pre-heated gridle.
- After cooking from both sides, place the roti on a mesh surface or on a absorbent cotton cloth and apply ghee immediately.
- Store in a closed container, once cooled down to room temperature.
Some FAQs assocated with Roti:
Roti is a thin, unleavened flatbread that originated in Indian subcontinent. It is made with stoneground whole wheat flour.
Paratha, again originated in India, and is consumed across Indian Subcontinents. Paratha is an amalgamation of parat (layers) and atta (flour), meaning layers of bread. There are plain parathas, where the layers are created within the dough, as well as stuffed parathas.
Naan is not as healthy as roti because of the use of processed flour and thickness of the bread. It is definitely heavy on tummies compared to homestyle flatbreads. Naan is a soft and pillowy Indian-style leavened flatbread traditionally made in a tandoor, or cylindrical clay oven. The dough gets slapped against the walls of the tandoor, where it adheres and bakes quickly over a burning fire.
After grilling, try to place roti on a mesh surface or on a cotton kitchen napkin. Smear the ghee on top. Keeping rotis on a mesh surface will prevents the rotis from getting soggy with the steam. Once all the rotis cool down, store them in a closed container lined with a paper towel. Read full recipe for longer term storage tips.
Rotis can be re-heated in microwave as well as on griddle. For Microwave, cover roti in a kitchen paper towel, then sprinkle some water on paper towel and heat for 10-15 seconds. For stovetop, pre heat the griddle on medium high heat and heat rotis from each side for 10-15 seconds and enjoy good soft rotis. To re-heat freezer rotis, previous night transfer the Ziplock bag of roti in refrigerator section. Then follow the above steps of either microwave heating process or stovetop heating process.
They are basically same. In different regions roti is know by different names.
Making roti is a three step process. First make the dough, second roll the rotis and third is grilling on tawa. Or just follow the recipe below 🙂
Chapati – Phulka – Roti Recipe (Shoft and Thin Whole Wheat Indian Flatbread)
- 8 oz Milk 1 cup
- 300 gms Multigrain Chapati Flour 2 cups Plus extra for dusting
- Place 2 cups flour in a medium bowl.
- Add salt in flour.
- Gradually start adding warm milk or water and continue to knead till the dough comes together like a ball.
- Once the flour is all together, spread 1 teaspoon of ghee and knead it for 5-7 minutes using your knuckles until smooth.
- Make sure that dough is soft enough and not stiff. You can check it by pressing your finger against the dough and see if it leaves an impression.
- Cover the dough with dishcloth and allow it to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Rolling and Grilling
- When you are ready to grill, start by preheating your “induction friendly” griddle over a medium heat.
- While the skillet is getting heated, divide the dough in equal size balls.
- Then roll out each ball into a long log. Divide each log into ½ inch equal segments.
- Take one dough ball, flatten it between your palms. Dust lightly in dry flour.
- Roll out the dough ball using rolling pin to 5-6″ in diameter circle. During rolling, dust with more dry flour if needed.
- Turn the heat of the griddle up to medium-high. Dust off the excess flour from the rolled roti/chapati before placing on the skillet.
- Cook until small bubbles appear on the surface and the side that is down on the griddle starts to brown in small areas
- This will only take a few seconds. Flip the chapati using a pair of tongs.
- Press the sides and center of the chapati down on the griddle using a paper towel or cheesecloth, if you continue to cook on skillet only. This will help to puff up the roti.
- Once the second side is brown, remove the chapati from the heat and place it on a perforated surface like cooling rack or a mesh to avoid the sogginess from the steam. Immediately brush the top side with melted ghee.
- If you happen to have gas coking range then you can finish puffing it up on open flame. Set the skillet aside and using tongs cook the chapati on an open flame. Once the chapati puffs up, flip to cook on the other side. Take the chapati off the flame and brush the top side with ghee.
- Repeat the process with remaining dough balls.