Besan Chillas: Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Veggies & Shrimp (can be made vegan!)

**This recipe can easily be made Vegetarian or Vegan**

I mentioned, a few days ago, about using leftover Indian Spiced Shrimp (recipe HERE) to make my husband a special, savory Indian-inspired breakfast.  Now, if you don’t eat shrimp, are looking for a vegan option, or are hoping to find a gluten-free alternative to pancakes, this recipe is very flexible and will definitely suit your needs–and your taste-buds!

This recipe came about because I was craving carbs.  That’s the simple truth.  I wanted carbs, and I wanted them now.  More specifically, I wanted pancakes.  Big, fluffy pancakes.  But, because I’m trying to eat healthy and watch my waistline (a never ending battle!), I thought I’d replace regular flour with besan flour (flour made from ground chickpeas).

Chickpeas are healthy, right?  I am always so amazed by how many different things you can make with the humble chickpea!  I’ve made everything from Indian spiced hummus, to curries, to pies!  Yes, a pie made out of chickpeas!  A chai-flavored chickpea pie, to be exact.

bean pie

recipe not yet posted…sorry! It will be eventually. 🙂

I wanted to increase the protein and fiber in my pancake, so I added chopped left-over shrimp and vegetables.  It was settled, I knew what was for breakfast.  Even better, I had left-over garlic and coriander raita to slather on top!

Indian chickpea pancake, chickpea pancake, besan pancake, besan flour pancake, savory pancake, Indian pancake with raita

Besan Chilla…smothered in garlic and cilantro raita and sprinkled with chopped coriander

I thought I’d whip up a simple pakora batter with besan flour (chickpea flour), spices, shrimp and vegetables.  Then, I figured I’d add a little extra baking soda–so my pancakes would get fluffy.  I wasn’t sure how it’d work, or if my pancakes would cook properly, but I was hopeful.

Half the time when I’m cooking, I have no idea what I’m going to make or how it’s going to turn out.  Usually I’m completely surprised when my husband comes home and says, “How did you know to make (insert dish here)?”  Then, I look at him and respond, “Oh, that’s what it’s called?”

Such was the case with these delicious besan chillas.  I’ve never heard the word chilla before, and now when I google it, I can see the resemblance. Although, mine seems to be a little thicker than most chillas I saw.  And here, I thought I was just making a chickpea pancake.

A giant, flattened pakora is actually what I had in mind when I started tossing ingredients into the bowl.

I started by mixing besan with baking soda and salt.

besan flour, baking soda, salt

besan flour, baking soda, salt

I added water until I had a smooth pakora batter.

pakora batter

pakora batter

I added chopped onion, tomato, coriander, chilies and ginger.  I tossed in some ajwain seeds, turmeric, and cracked black pepper.

chopped and ready to mix

Then, I chopped the shrimp and mixed everything together really well.

shrimp and vegetable pakora pancake

Once my batter was well mixed, I tossed a little ghee on a pan and melted it over medium heat.  I scooped 1/2 c. batter onto the pan for each pancake and let them cook until the pancake was really bubbling.  Then, I flipped.  The pancakes took a little longer than normal to cook through because they were so thick.

I think next time I would grate the vegetables and fine mince the shrimp before adding to the batter.  Doing this would also result in a more crepe-like pancake–a proper chilla.

cooking chickpea pancakes

These pancakes were excellent!  They had a lot of flavor and are very nutritious.  They’re also quite filling, too filling, perhaps.

Indian besan pancake

Besan Chillas: Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Vegetables and Shrimp Recipe

This recipe is quite easy to adapt to fit your dietary needs.  Naturally gluten-free and high protein, this pancake can also be made vegan.  Simply leave out the shrimp and use oil to coat your pan instead of ghee. 

Makes approximately 4 pancakes.


  • 1 tsp. ghee (substitute oil, if making vegan)
  • 1 1/2 c. Besan Flour (chickpea flour)*
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 c. water, more if needed to thin out the batter
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 roma tomato, chopped finely
  • Green chilies, finely chopped or sliced, to your taste
  • 1 small handful coriander (cilantro), finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. ginger, smashed and finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. ajwain seeds (may substitute cumin seeds or onion seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • small pinch of garam masala
  • 1/4 lb. shrimp, chopped finely- optional (leave out, if making vegan)
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste


  • In a medium bowl, combine besan flour, baking soda and 1/2 c. of water.  Whisk until smooth.  Add more water if your batter is too thick. 
  • Add vegetables, spices and shrimp (if using).  Check seasoning and add additional salt–if needed–and pepper.  Whisk everything together so that the batter is well mixed and everything is evenly distributed.
  • Heat a little ghee (or oil) in a flat pan over medium heat.  Once the ghee is melted, scoop 1/2 c. of batter onto the pan and spread the mixture out a little.  If you have large chunks of vegetables the pancake will not easily spread on its own.
  • Let the pancake cook on one side until the top is rapidly bubbling and the sides seem to be set.  Once they reach this point, flip them.  Let them cook on the other side until the pancake is cooked through.  Mine took longer than normal pancakes because of the shrimp and veggie chunks.
  • Once the pancakes are cooked, remove from heat.  Stack them on a plate and smother them with chutney, raita or use them to scoop up a delicious vegetarian curry.

I hope you enjoy this healthy and nutritious savory Indian breakfast!


9 thoughts on “Besan Chillas: Chickpea Flour Pancakes with Veggies & Shrimp (can be made vegan!)

  1. Kristen

    I just have to say I love following you on Facebook and I LOVE the recipes you post! Please keep up the great work and the delicious food! A week ago I made your Masala Bread Upma for my husband and some friends and it was INCREDIBLE. The leftovers were even better the next day!

  2. Pingback: Recipe for Masaledar Punjabi Chholey (Spicy Punjabi Chickpeas Curry) | Femmehavenn

  3. Allison

    Yum! These pancakes look AMAZING. I love savory pancake creations, anything with fresh cilantro, and more ideas for simple ways to use chickpea flour. Thanks for another great recipe idea!

    Also, I am really really eagerly awaiting that chai-flavored chickpea pie recipe… please post it soon! 🙂

  4. Lynne

    We made these for dinner tonight and they are DELICIOUS! We used veggies we had on hand (red & yellow peppers, spinach, onions) and are so happy with how they turned out. Fabulous! My husband said, “We are *totally* making these again. Soon.” Thanks!

  5. thesophisticatedladies

    This is such a fantastic recipe!! I have been having fun playing around with different ingredients, but we’re both totally addicted to these!! They are the perfect combination of total comfort food and totally fresh tasting!!

    1. Shari Post author

      So happy you like the besan chillas! …I love that you can add whatever you want to them, and they always taste delicious!


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