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What is Papadum Bread?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Papadum bread is a type of Indian cracker bread which can be eaten on its own, like a snack, or served with meals of Indian food. This bread is abundant across India, and in regions of the world with a large population of people from India; regionally, papadum bread often integrates locally available ingredients for a unique take on this traditional bread. Most Indian restaurants offer papadums with their meals, and this bread is also extremely easy to make at home.

In many regions, papadum bread is made with a legume flour, like lentil, chickpea, or black bean flour. In some regions, rice flour is used, and it is also possible to use wheat or other grains for the flour, although some of the characteristic flavor may be lost. The simple dough is made with flour, salt, oil, and enough water to bring the dough together into a smooth mass. Many cooks also add seasonings like various Indian spices to their papadum bread to make it more interesting.

Once the dough is made, it is pulled apart into small chunks which are rolled into balls and then rolled out into round sheets. At this stage, there are a number of options for the papadum bread. It can be deep fried, to make a crispy cracker, or it may be grilled, to create a soft wrap almost like a tortilla. It is also possible to pan fry or microwave papadum dough for different textures.

When eaten as a standalone food, papadum bread is typically dressed with a sauce like a chutney or a raita, and people often like to eat it this way in the crispy form. Papadum bread can also be served with curry, and used as a utensil to scoop up the curry. The bread also helps to cut the spiciness of the curry, which can be useful for people who are unfamiliar with spicy food.

Papadums go by a number of alternate names, including lentil chips, appala, and papari, and the spelling of these names is often inconsistent, as they are transliterated from non-Roman alphabets. In addition to being sold and eaten fresh, papadum bread is also sold in packaged form, in which case it can be eaten cold or reheated. Women in Indian sometimes use the sales of papadum bread and other Indian treats to support themselves, as a papadum business requires minimal investment and it can potentially generate a large return.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By PamSmith011 — On Dec 25, 2013

Chapatis here in Fiji are a staple, but papadums are eaten all week round too. Interestingly, in the same meal as well. But, since my purchase of the newly and cleverly Aussie made Papadum Express tray for the microwave, I can't go back to the oils, pans and all that messy fuss. I bought one when I was in Sydney, Australia and now in Fiji, that's all I do to cook them fast and easy.

Making papadums is getting more popular, but we have traditional oil cooking and stove papads always, as microwaves are catching up slowly here.

By galen84basc — On Nov 29, 2010

@tunaline -- Although this is a gross oversimplification, in general, there's not an enormous difference between chapatis and papadum bread.

Again, huge oversimplification, but in the long run, they're both fairly flat, crispy, breads served as a side dish or starter for many kinds of Indian food.

And if you want to go really broad, you can even include paratha bread. I am definitely not an expert on Indian food, but I do eat a lot of it, and if you're just looking for something that's flat, bread-based, and crispy, then any of the above will do.

If you want something a little more chewy though, stick with the tandoori naan, or any kind of naan -- I also find those a little more filling than the papadums, paratha, or chapati bread, but that could be just me.

But honestly, if you really are super-curious, just ask the staff at whatever restaurant you frequent. They're usually more than happy to answer questions, and believe me, they're used to getting questions about the nature of the food all the time, so don't be shy. Just ask!

By TunaLine — On Nov 29, 2010

So can anybody tell me what the difference is between chapati bread and papadums? I keep hearing those two terms thrown around, and it sounds like they're almost interchangeable. Are these two the same things?

I know this may be a really ignorant question, but I've only recently discovered how amazing Indian food is, and I'm still doing good to remember what exactly a tandoori naan is -- all my experience with breads before only involved things like white versus wheat bread, or sourdough if I was feeling really adventurous.

So can somebody explain to me what exactly the difference is? I want to figure it out before I go back to and Indian restaurant so I can know what I'm doing next time I order.


By EarlyForest — On Nov 27, 2010

Papadum bread is so much fun to make! A store near my house sells instant papadum bread that you can make at home, and it really is fun.

I'm not sure how it works, but all you have to do is to heat up a pan of oil almost to the boiling point, and then drop in the papadum rounds.

As soon as they hit the oil, they explode! It's really cool, they just instantly expand into these huge pieces of bread with a big bubble in the middle. It's almost like a science experiment -- with much tastier results though.

So that's what makes me choose the papadums over the tandoori naan every time -- food that fun you just can't turn down!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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