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What Is Bolani?

Bolani is a delectable Afghan flatbread, stuffed with a savory filling of vegetables like spinach, lentils, or potatoes. It's a versatile dish, often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer, and is celebrated for its comforting warmth and rich, spiced flavors. Intrigued by how this traditional bread can elevate your mealtime? Join us as we uncover the secrets of bolani.
H.R. Childress
H.R. Childress

Bolani is an unleavened Afghani flatbread, usually stuffed with one of a variety of fillings. It may also be cooked flat, with no filling. Bolani is a popular food to buy from street vendors and cafes in Afghanistan.

The basic dough for bolani contains only white or wheat flour, water, salt, and olive oil. Eggs may be added to make a flakier finished product. The dough ingredients are mixed together and kneaded for several minutes. The dough ball is then left to rest for a while so it will be easier to work with when forming the individual breads.

Plain yogurt often accompanies bolani.
Plain yogurt often accompanies bolani.

Plain bolani with no filling is formed by dividing the dough into tennis-ball-sized pieces and stretching or rolling each piece into a thin sheet. The sheet of dough is pleated like a fan, and the resulting strip is rolled into a small circle. Once the balls of dough have rested for a few minutes, each ball is pressed into a flat circle. The flat breads are cooked in a skillet with a little oil over medium-high heat until both sides are browned and crisp.

Butternut squash is a popular bolani filling.
Butternut squash is a popular bolani filling.

Bolani can have a variety of fillings, but some of the more popular fillings include potatoes, lentils, spinach, and pumpkin or butternut squash. Mashed potatoes can flavored with cilantro, leeks or scallions, and salt and pepper for a potato filling. A lentil filling may be made with red or green lentils and is often spiced with curry flavors, such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, and cumin. Spinach filling is typically flavored with onion and garlic and may be mixed with yogurt. Pumpkin or butternut squash fillings are often both sweet and savory, and include ingredients such as garlic, coriander, and tomato sauce.

Filled bolanis are formed by rolling a ball of dough into a flat round disk, similar to a tortilla. Filling is spread onto one half of the disk, leaving space at the edges to seal the turnover. The other half of the disk is folded over the filling, and the dough is pinched together to seal in the filling. These turnover-like breads are cooked in much the same way as the plain bolanis, by heating oil in a pan over medium-high heat and cooking each bolani on both sides until brown and crisp.

Bolanis are typically eaten as an appetizer, side dish or snack. They are popular at holiday and special occasion parties, such as birthdays. Typical accompaniments for bolani include thick plain yogurt and chutney.

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    • Plain yogurt often accompanies bolani.
      By: Colinda McKie
      Plain yogurt often accompanies bolani.
    • Butternut squash is a popular bolani filling.
      By: xiangdong Li
      Butternut squash is a popular bolani filling.