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Experimenting with besan (chickpea flour)

I like its flavor in pakoras and other Indian dishes, so I bought a small bag. The closest I'll come to a traditional use is in an ersatz Chicken Korma that I made, shortcutting ingredients to adapt to my pantry. Not wanting to waste ingredients, I'm going to fool around a little. I made a standard crepe recipe with egg and milk but subbed equal parts besan, white whole wheat flour, and AP flour for the usual amount of AP flour. The batter handled the same, taste was good, and there's more fiber. I've christened it a "crosa" (crepe/dosa),
I've also used besan rather than flour when a little thickening is needed for a pan sauce. I am wondering if it could be combined with cornmeal for a variant on polenta?

I haven't tried using it in baked goods - I imagine that it is not readily interchangeable with flour. Does anyone have some wisdom to share? And does it go rancid fast, like whole wheat flour (which I keep frozen)? I'm looking to use it in non-ethnic dishes. (I love many ethnic foods but generally in restaurants because I don't want to be buying lots more ingredients that I would readily use up.)

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  1. I use it as a coating for fried fish all the time--delicious! Season the besan as you would flour and coat fish for frying.

    1. I've used chickpea flour in several other ethnic recipes, a crepe-like socca from southern France (and neighboring Italy), and fried chickpea mush (panelle) from Sicily. So far I've use flour from a health food store, but have a bag of the Indian besan that I intend to try in the same way. Both have been discussed on Chow.

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj

        Besan works well for socca, though I am still working on the ideal combination of pan and amount of batter. 1/8" thick socca is ok, but I really like the crisp edges the best.

      2. Mahdur Jaffrey has some recipes in her books that use the flour (I adore her green pepper dish with besan), and it usually involves dry toasting the flour to get a "roasted" flavour. Otherwise I find besan's flavour to be kinda ooky, for some reason. Check out Sahni as well.

        I do keep my Besan in the fridge to keep it from rancidity. Just be sure it is airtight so no offtaste gets in. And I would not think it would work in baking, but perhaps there are recipes out there.

        5 Replies
        1. re: BratleFoodie

          Thanks for the storage tip - I know that ethnic uses abound; I'm looking for more ubiquitous uses.

          1. re: greygarious

            Does 'ubiquitous' mean ethnic midwestern American? :)

            1. re: paulj

              yes...white people have different types of socially constructed ethnicities, too. What does non-ethnic mean here in the query? Like the cuisine of white Americans of Northern European and/or Anglo-Saxon Christian heritage?

              As per the query, do you know what the Vietnamese food banh xeo is? You can make a similar fluffy crepe with besan instead.

              Good for fish fry as mentioned before.

              Toasted/pan roasted besan is a good additive of flavor or "perfume" in South Asian cooking, especially in certain types of gravies and also mince kababs. You could apply the same principle to any kabob like American food like a burger or a salmon/crab cake (use it as the binder) or zuccini fritter or whatever.

              In my experience, besan keeps for a long time. I also toast/pan roast besan in larger quantities and keep it in the cupboard for dishes which require it. You pan roast it by putting it in a pan on medium flame and stirring it till the color changes. You will smell the perfume. Careful not to burn.

              You can also stir it into yoghurt or cream that is meant to be cooked to prevent the dairy from curdling/splitting.

              1. re: luckyfatima

                Yikes - didn't mean to be insulting or in any way demeaning. Yes, I was looking for ideas that could be used in foods common to Americans of European ancestry. I should have been more clear, and mentioned that frying in a lot of oil is not an option, no matter how popular that is! I occasionally make potato latkes and will try using besan instead of flour. But that's about the deepest frying I'll do - for reasons not only of calories and kitchen clean-up, but because my 30-yr old electric cooktop won't maintain enough heat for deep-frying. Given my Anglo-Saxon heritage, I most often cook hearty dishes without a wide variety of spices or chile.....though I'm way more adventurous than my mother was, her chili con carne contained no spice AT ALL, just onion, bell pepper, hamburg, kidney beans, and tomato paste. I was in college before I even tasted pepperoni, and in my 20's before my first taste of szechuan eggplant. Have to laugh now - although it was only buffet-level heat, I was in desperate straits and, not knowing any better, downed quarts of water. Eventually I became comfortable with what most restaurant menus list as 1 or 2-pepper symbol dishes, but 3 peppers and vindaloo still strike terror!
                At an Indian buffet recently, my friend commented that the lamb vindaloo was good, but milder than typical, whereas the manchurian gobhi I was eating was hotter (at my comfort limit)...so I got some of the vindaloo, and loved it! But I could never manage a vindaloo of regular heat level.

                So far - crepe equivalents, dredging for pan-sauteed fish/chicken, thickening agent, and to keep cooked dairy from splitting.

                1. re: greygarious

                  no offense taken whatsoever...I was just pointing out that you also have an ethnicity, with it's own cultural and culinary history and norms, your background is not the abscence of ethnicity or the opposite of "ethnic."

                  Good luck with the besan.

                  BTW there is another besan based food you might want to experiment with, which you can google. It is a steamed besan cake called a dhokla or khaman dhokla. It is Gujarati Indian, but you could mess with the ingredients and I can see it becoming a besan based poppy seed/lemon sweet cake or something else if you got creative.

        2. We make our own chickpea flour using our VitaMix or a small coffee/spice grinder and use it in gluten-free bread, muffins, etc. "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread" by Bette Hagman includes it (or garfava flour) in many recipes, generally in combination with corn starch, tapioca starch, and sorghum flour. These recipes also call for xanthan gum to make up for the missing gluten's adhesive property.

          1. Onion Bhaji: besan, S&P, water, thinly-sliced sweet onions. Mix, drop clumps into hot oil and deep fry. Yummy!

            1. Don't be silly -- not all Indian dishes require you to buy exotic and expensive ingredients.

              Have you seen Manjula's video of a puda/chilla/dosa with grated zucchini? You can substitute your veg of choice -- green onions and tomato, for example. You could even serve it with ketchup...


              1 Reply
              1. re: Channa

                note manjula is jain and will not use onions. so keep that in mind, and that you may want to add onions....

              2. Oh, I also have made a tomato sauce that gets toasted besan stirred in for both flavour and a little thickening. Use sauce on whatever you like. LuckyFatima suggested a lot of great things.

                Regarding storage, I bet once toasted it would probably be o.k. on a shelf in airtight container, as the toasting will deal with the stuff that gets rancid (it happened to me once. Ick.).

                1. greygarious-

                  Hello! Besan does not go rancid readily (I keep a bag in my pantry at room temp for weeks with no noticeable degradation).

                  While I use besan primarily for Indian cooking, I did experiment with it in other cuisines. One evening, after starting pasta for alfredo, I found I was out of AP flour and subbed an equivalent amount of besan for the bechamel base. I added 1% milk, seasonings, a bit of Dijon mustard and finished with capers. The result was exquisite, as the besan added an intriguing, unidentifiable flavour note to the sauce.

                  Indian markets are your best bet for obtaining this staple, of course...it's very inexpensive. Best of luck with your experimenting!


                  1. today i used garbanzo flour in a gluten free muffinish recipe -- because i made them in big muffin tins but only used a few tablespoons of batter per, they were more like mini cakes and flatter...
                    2 tbsp chickpea flour
                    2 tbsp buckwheat flour
                    3 tbsp soy flour
                    1 tbsp almond meal
                    1/2 tsp baking powder
                    1/4 tsp sea salt
                    less than1 tsp safflower oil
                    1 tbsp or so maple syrup
                    sprinkle (maybe 1/4 cup) erythritol
                    1/2 -1 tsp vanilla (i never measure this)
                    dash of cinnamon
                    1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
                    2 medium egg whites

                    mix dry together, then mix in oil with fingers, then mix in liquids til combined. grease tins with PAM, then bake at 475 for 10-15 minutes, depending upon your oven :)

                    they taste healthy.. they'd be nice with a little jam, and next time i may increase the vanilla a tad, and perhaps a little more maple syrup or sweetener, but as a first experiment, not too bad.

                    1. I peered over my neighbor's shoulder while she deep-fried peanuts in a besan batter for a tasty and addictive snack:
                      mix in bowl: handful of salted peanuts
                      add one cup of besan/chickpea flour
                      two teaspoons each of ajwain, cumin and tumeric
                      add enough water to make batter ( thicker than crepe batter but thinner than pancake batter)
                      deep fry in hot peanut oil
                      drain on paper towel
                      store airtight for several days
                      - it's really tasty and I've made it four times to play with seasoning and batter - it really is worth the effort
                      If anyone has a measured recipe, I'd love to try it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Cynsa

                        wow that is awesome, like the typical cacahuete-type snack I've seen in south american, indian and asian cultures. never thought about it having a recipe or even making it at home!!

                      2. Anyone reading this thread: A recent recipe for Corn and Zuccini Pancakes called for 1.5C masa harina and 0.5C AP flour. Do you think it would work with besan substituting for the masa?

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Joebob

                          I think it would be fine. If you do it, please report back.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            personally, i'd do half almond meal, half garbanzo... or all almond. but that's just me.

                            1. re: Emme

                              By almond meal, do you mean ground almonds, b/c they are quite greasy rather than like flour.

                              1. re: Joebob

                                maybe Emme misread AP as "almond powder" instead of what you probably mean, "all purpose". a nut powder will have very different results than a flour made from a grain or legume, as you well guessed.

                                1. re: bigjeff

                                  When you're right, you're right!

                                  1. re: bigjeff

                                    nope. i read it as masa harina and all purpose. there are gluten free mixes that include masa harina, but accept substituting almond meal for it.


                                    1. re: Emme

                                      cool! and quite interesting; must add a nice punch to it, the almond.

                            2. re: Joebob

                              Pancakes are as forgiving as anything using flour. Yes, you'll be fine -- just test a little bit of the batter first for density and adjust with AP as necessary with your final product.

                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                I love these:

                                I've made them with both 100% besan and 50/50 besan/all purpose, with either shrimp or scallops. So good!

                                1. re: thehungrybunny

                                  just did the simplest: tilapia fish fingers, well-seasoned with turmeric and generic garam masala, then egg wash, then dipped into gram flour seasoned with salt, dip back to egg wash, then back to gram flour and then into the fryer. amazing.