Culinary magic is the only way to explain how papadum are made. Ethereally thin and immaculately crisp, each fragment shatters upon impact like a flavor grenade straight to the tongue. Even after subsequent bites, palate fatigue never sets in because each piece is a little bit different, sparkling with both whole and ground spices embedded into the peaks and valleys formed by air bubbles while cooking. Calling them crackers or chips doesn’t do this classic Indian snack proper justice.
While plain versions do exist, the vast majority apply seasoning with a liberal hand. Why stop at just cumin and chili powder when you could further enhance your papad with umami? This is a job for Sugimoto shiitake powder, of course! It’s the ideal addition because it won’t clash or cover up other spices, but serves to further enhance their inherent flavors. That’s another kind of magic that seems fitting for such a captivating crisp.
What make papadum so special?
The basic ingredients that go into making papadum are spare, common, affordable pantry staples. Chickpea flour is the only non-negotiable in this recipe, although lentils, rice, and potato are traditional variants, so there’s certainly room for more experimentation. This legume base creates a delicate dough that’s not only high in protein, but also gluten-free.
It’s the technique that creates the alchemic transformation. After initially rehydrating the flour, the individual disks are dehydrated. At this stage, uncooked papads have such a low moisture content that they can keep for months in a cool, dry place. A quick and intense blast of heat brings them to life. This is the same principle at play for shrimp chips and chicharrones: the remaining water expands, stretching the dough and creating the fine matrix of bubbles just below the surface.
Tips for making perfect papadum:
- Use a stand mixer to bring the dough together. It’s extremely thick and dry which makes it difficult to effectively mix by hand. Resist the temptation to add more water, which will quickly transform the malleable dough into a sticky paste.
- Lightly oiled hands are much more effective at flattening the individual papad than a rolling pin. Just stretch somewhat like a pizza dough first before placing each one on a piece of parchment paper. Use your fingertips to gently press it out as thinly as possible. A rolling pin is much more likely to stick, tear, and generally make a mess. For the gadget lover: If you have a tortilla press or a pasta roller, those are other great alternatives for a more consistent, smooth surface.
- Thickness, or more accurately thinness, is critical for success. Aim for about 1/16 of an inch thick; thinner than gingerbread cookies, thinner than western crackers, thinner than you think is really possible.
- Dehydrate slowly and thoroughly. Traditionally, papad are simply left out in full sun for 2 – 3 days, but it’s important to control the drying rate accurately for long term storage. Excess moisture invites bacteria growth that will cause spoilage.
What’s the best way to cook papadum?
You have three options for that final step: Microwaving, air frying, and deep frying.
- Microwaving is the quickest, easiest, cleanest, and arguably healthiest. In a matter of seconds, papadum spring to life with no oil at all. It’s safe for kids (or particularly accident-prone adults) to use by themselves for an instantly gratifying snack. The downside is that not all microwaves are created equal, so it may take some trial and error to find the sweet spot for timing, power levels, and placement.
- Air frying is my personal favorite approach, reaping the textural benefits of dry, intense heat for quick cooking, with just a touch of added oil for a subtle extra depth of flavor. This sensation, the richness of fat, is known as kokumi in Japanese, which works in concert with the umami of the shiitake powder to create a more rounded, harmonious, and simply delicious experience.
- Deep frying or pan frying is most traditional, harnessing the firepower of hot oil to make the crispiest, crunchiest, and quite frankly the most addictive food around. It’s fantastic on special occasions, but I hate the mess and peril that comes hand-in-hand with setting a bubbling vat of edible napalm on the stove.
Once you start making papadum from scratch, it’s hard to go back to store-bought. Detonating with a calculated barrage of spices, each wafer-thin bombshell blows the competition out of the water.
- 2 Cups Chickpea Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Shiitake Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Whole Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 4 - 6 Tablespoons Water
- Preheat your oven to 170 degrees and line 3 - 4 baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the chickpea flour, shiitake powder, cumin seeds, garlic powder, pepper, salt, and 4 tablespoons of water. Use the paddle attachment to slowly bring the dough together on low speed. Be patient since it takes time to properly hydrate the dough.
- Add more water a tiny bit at a time if needed to form a stiff, dry dough that will hold together in a cohesive ball. Continue to knead the dough for a few minutes longer, until smooth.
- Use your hands to shape the dough into a cylinder about 12 inches long. Cut it into 1/2 inch pieces with a very sharp knife, reshaping the rounds if needed.
- Working with one piece at a time, use lightly oiled hands to flatten out the papads. Start by stretching somewhat like pizza dough first before placing on one of the prepared baking sheets. your fingertips to gently press it out as thinly as possible; about 6 - 7 inches in diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Dehydrate in the preheated oven for approximately 2 hours, flipping halfway through, until dry to the touch, reduced in size, but not browned. They should still be slightly flexible.
- At this point, the dried papadums can be stacked flat and stored in an airtight container or zip top bag until desired. They'll keep for 4 - 6 months if stored properly.
- To cook in the microwave, heat one papadum at a time at full power for 20 - 60 seconds, until very lightly browned.
- To cook in an air fryer, lay 2 - 4 papadum out in a single layer, lightly spritz with oil, and air fry at 370 degrees for 1 - 3 minutes, until golden.
- To deep fry, bring at least 2-inches of oil to 350 degrees and fry one at a time for about 1 minute, until it floats to the top and the edges begin to curl. Drain thoroughly on paper towels.
- Enjoy right away while still perfectly crisp, ideally with a variety of chutney for dipping.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 36Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 59mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.