What Is Roti & How Is It Made?
Roti is an unleavened flatbread commonly found in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, as well as parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Roll it with peanut butter, stuff it with scrambled eggs, dip it in curry, or mix it with spices. Wholesome, plant-based, vegan, and versatile, you can have roti at practically every meal.
The simple recipe for making roti calls for only two ingredients: flour and water. The steps are fairly basic too: Knead flour and water into a ball of dough; roll it out into thin, flat circles; and roast on a flat iron griddle (tava) for a couple of minutes:
Futura Non-Stick Tava Griddle, $39.95 on Amazon
If you want to pump up the nutrients in your roti, while also cutting down on gluten, try making roti with alternative flours such as white rice or brown rice, oat, chickpea, coconut, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, corn, teff, and sorghum flour. Most flours can be substituted 1:1 in place of regular wheat flour.
Here are four ways to make roti with gluten-free flour:
Corn Flour Roti
Corn is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Make sure to buy corn flour (finely ground from whole kernels), not cornmeal or cornstarch.
Bob's Red Mill Yellow Corn Flour, $10.99 on Amazon
One of my favorite family recipes growing up in northern India was a luscious makki ki roti. The dough is made with corn flour, chili powder, salt, dried fenugreek leaves, and ghee or butter. It does not need to set for long or be rolled very thin. To make these quick and easy corn rotis, just roast them on a flat, ungreased pan for a couple of minutes, and serve warm with green veggies, such as sarson ka saag (cooked mustard greens or spinach).
Chickpea Flour Roti
For food blogger and author of the book “Cooking Up A Storm,” Suneeta Mishra, roti is the most versatile dish that is often downplayed, but can stand out when mixed with spices. Inspired by Rajasthan (a western desert state in India), Mishra creates roti packed with flavor and fiber. She recommends pulsing a cup of chickpea flour with 1-2 teaspoons each of quick oats, turmeric, dried fenugreek leaves, chia seeds, and sesame seeds, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Lightly roast the raw flour mixture and store it for whenever you have a craving for fresh, hearty roti. “Roasting alternate flours before storing them extends shelf life and imparts a nutty taste,” shares Mishra.
Anthony's Organic Chickpea Flour, $10.85 on Amazon
To cook, simply knead the grainy dough with water or yogurt. Yogurt will impart a sour taste and make the roti less chewy. Allow the dough to settle for 20 minutes before kneading it again, and shaping into firm 6-8” flat discs.
Mishra has an unusual way of cooking roti—by placing it on aluminum foil, and baking in the oven at 200ºF for 30 minutes. She recommends adding a sprinkle of ghee or butter and flipping over the roti when halfway cooked. This oven baked roti is slightly harder in texture than the traditional version, but stores well in an airtight container for up to a week. “Gift it to your gluten-free friends and they will be impressed!” says Mishra.
According to chef and author of “Roti: 40 Classic Indian Breads & Sides,” Nandita Godbole, “Making roti is more than following a recipe or applying a technique. It engages all the senses: touching, kneading and feeling the dough, seeing how it responds to rolling, watching it cook and recognizing the aroma of dough transforming to a roti, and finally tasting the sweetness that one has just created.” In her latest cookbook, she shares classic cooking techniques and 40 recipes inspired by different parts of India, like rice flour roti.
Rice Flour Roti
“Rice flour is commonly found across a good portion of India,” says Godbole, describing her recipe for rice bhakri, a type of roti typically found in the central Indian state of Maharashtra. The preparation requires binding rice flour and water into a dough in steaming water for 2 minutes, before cooling it, and then rolling it out (a similar technique to making Asian rice buns). “Adding a pinch of salt and ghee to the pot of water will make the dough elastic and moist,” Godbole advises. Cook the discs on a hot nonstick or crepe pan with a sprinkle of water. This ensures the steam penetrates and adds a crisp outer layer.
De Buyer Crepe Pan, $24.95 at Williams Sonoma
Godbole warns that it takes a few attempts to make the perfect rice flour roti, but once you master it, you’re rewarded with a low-calorie, light and satisfying, gluten-free bread, particularly delightful paired with the rich flavors of dopiaza (an onion based stew) or coconut curry.
Related Reading: Dip Into These Essential Indian Condiments
Gluten in wheat flour tends to lend itself to making a thinner roti, which can be a challenge when using alternative flours. If you are looking for added convenience, Rotimatic (similar to a bread machine) is a robotic roti maker that combines ingredients, kneads, shapes and cooks roti—in less than 10 minutes.
Millet Flour Roti
Millet is an excellent source of fiber, and can be helpful for losing weight or lowering cholesterol.
Arrowhead Mills Millet Flour, $3.49 on Thrive Market
To make millet roti, combine millet flour with a bit of coconut flour, cumin powder, chili powder, and salt. Add them to the dry flour container of the Rotimatic machine—or use the blend to make handmade roti—and you will have a sweet and savory bread that is healthy and hearty.
Be sure to experiment with combining different flours together, boost the roti with added protein powders, and enhance the flavors with lots of spices—the possibilities are almost endless (and all delicious).
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Header image courtesy of AshaSathees Photography / Moment / Getty Images