Roti (Indian flatbread)

As I’ve mentioned, since I got the great cookbook Cooking at Home with Pedatha, I’ve been determined to make more Indian food at home and convince Mark to like it. To that end, I decided to learn how to make roti, which I figured would entice the carb-loving Smark. Breads aren’t covered in Pedatha, but a quick google turned up this excellent video by Manjula, who made it seem so easy. If you are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, search for some of the other roti videos as well because it looks like it’s even more fun to make them on a gas stove (you puff them directly over the flame), but being stuck with an electric stove, I feel particularly attached to Manjula’s procedure.

I was worried that having years of experience, Manjula was making it look a lot easier than it really is, but I’m happy to report it really is (almost) that easy. The hard part is not getting it to puff (though they didn’t puff as nicely as those in the videos by people with gas stoves), but finding the perfect balance of using enough flour to prevent sticking when rolling but not adding so much the extra flour burns when frying. It probably took me a bit longer than Manjula to pull the roti together, but considering it was my first time making roti AND I was photographing every step (which requiring washing my hands every 30 seconds in order to be able to touch the camera), I’d say the time it takes to make these is really negligible and it’s easily doable for a weekday meal.

This recipe is direct from Manjula’s site, and I urge you to watch her video a couple of times because she demonstrates the process far better than I can.

1 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat and ended up using 1 cup + 1 Tbsp)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Mix all ingredients. You can do this with your hands (or a wooden spoon) or cheat like I did and use a food processor (actually, I used a Sumeet grinder, but it’s an Indian machine so I decided it was okay…in fact, I think the instruction manual came with a recipe for roti, come to think of it).

Knead until it forms a very soft, cohesive dough. The consistency you are looking for might be a little more difficult to determine for people less accustomed to working with wet bread doughs, but if you watch Manjula’s video I think you’ll get the idea.

Drizzle just a couple of drops of oil on the dough to keep it from sticking and place it into a bowl. Cover and let sit for at least 10 minutes. (I went on a 45-minute walk at this point so mine sat for a while.)

When you are ready to make the roti, heat a very heavy – preferably cast iron – skillet over medium heat. I set my burner just a tiny smidge past “medium” and it seemed perfect. Do not add oil. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts.

Prepare a workspace by sprinkling it with flour. You want to use as little flour as possible to prevent sticking when rolling, but the dough is going to stick, so don’t be too stingy either. Take one of the balls and flatten it, turning it in the flour to coat.

Roll the dough into a circle; don’t worry how rough your circle is. (Mine were awful!) Constantly turn the dough over and sprinkle with and roll in additional flour to prevent sticking. You’re striving for a 5-6″ wide circle.

Place the flattened dough into the hot skillet.

It will cook very quickly and you will see bubbles forming on the top as the edges lift up.

When the top surface changes appearance, flip the roti over with a spatula. Use the spatula to press down on the roti as it cooks; this helps it puff up.

Flip it back over and cook another few seconds.

The roti is done when it’s puffed up and has brown (but not burnt) spots on both sides. As you finish with each roti, move it to a stack with the others, keeping them covered with a tea towel. Ideally put the tea towel in a covered container to completely trap the steam, although just a towel worked fine for me.

The finished roti:

From the cookbook, I made vegetable sambhar.

it may have made more sense to serve the roti with something other than sambhar (which the cookbook suggested I serve with idli or steamed rice) but I’m not known for always making sense. And the sambhar was thick enough to scoop up with the roti anyway.

This was a SUCCESS! When I announced dinner was ready to Mark, I added, “I hope you eat it,” to which he asked, suspiciously, “why, is it Indian?” and I answered, “what it is is yummy!” “It’s basically lentil soup and bread,” I added in my most convincing manner. He poked the sambhar with a spoon and sniffed it, again, with an air of suspicion. Then he ladled a small amount into a bowl and scooped it up with a roti. “It’s good!” he said, somewhat surprised, returning to the pot to fill his bowl. His final verdict: “it may be Indian, but it’s good anyway!” There’s hope for him yet!


  1. Sarah Said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 1:05 am

    mhmm, roti. I got bored of roti at every meal this summer, but now I am missing it as can be. I think I need to get this cookbook.

  2. Josiane Said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

    You did a fabulous job! I’m sure Mark will soon *request* that you make Indian food!
    You did an awesome job with the rotis too! I came across Manjula’s video (and then her website) forever ago, through this very video. A friend of mine had found and tried that recipe, and she had blogged it too. Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t as successful for her as it was for you, so I ended up not trying the recipe. Now, I’m glad to learn it was bad luck for her, and the recipe is really doable! Thanks for sharing your experience with it!

  3. Jes Said,

    September 22, 2009 @ 5:55 pm

    Oh score! Another recipe I’d been meaning to try already cooked up and approved by you–you make my life so much easier sometimes, you know?

  4. Jain Said,

    September 24, 2009 @ 8:16 am

    We love Manjula and often watch her shows as entertainment.

    A question about flours: I tried the rotis a while back using whole wheat flour and they came out a little gnarly. Can you please explain the difference between whole wheat and white whole wheat? Is the fiber content similar? If I’m trying to avoid overly processed white-Wonder-bread, will white whole wheat fill the bill?

  5. renae Said,

    September 24, 2009 @ 9:35 am


    The “white” in white whole wheat somewhat confusingly refers to the wheat, not the flour. Whereas “traditional” whole wheat flour is ground from red wheat, white whole wheat is ground from a strain of wheat that’s white and was apparently “forgotten about” for a long time. It’s processed exactly like regular whole wheat, so its nutritional profile is nearly identical, but it looks and tastes lighter. It’s also usually ground more finely than regular whole wheat, which helps it act a little more like white flour. I really like it and it worked every well with the rotis.

  6. Jain Said,

    September 24, 2009 @ 11:58 am

    Thank you, Renae! Great info and I’ll stock up on white whole wheat for my next experiment.

  7. Stella Said,

    September 29, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

    Great tutorial! Thanks.

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