Masala Papad

This image courtesy of Brave New Pictures, Inc.

Making a little spicy topping for your papad is something I came across years ago, when I was a staffer on Capitol Hill, while eating at a D.C. Indian restaurant. It’s a fun and unique way to present a traditional Indian snack, and it’s become a favorite for my kids.

NotesBecause these need to be eaten immediately, garnish each papad just before serving.

Chaat Masala (2 cups [474 ml]):

The word chaat holds a ton of meaning for me. It refers to the idea of licking your fingers clean because the food was so good. That’s how I felt the first time I can remember encountering chaat masala on the streets of India. I was twelve, visiting the sacred temples in the hills of Vaishno Devi with my family. Outside one of the shrines, I encountered a white, juicy daikon skinned and split, served on a little metal tray. It dripped with fresh lime juice and was doused with red chile powder that seared my lips before ever touching them. And there was the chaat masala-likely roasted and ground to the specifics of that street vendor’s home. Ever since, I’ve been addicted to fresh veggies and the utter simplicity of that moment and memory. This masala is used mostly on fresh ingredients and street foods. Try it on raw veggies, sprinkle it over boiled potatoes, or stir a pinch into your plain soy yogurt.

½ heaping cup (40 g) coriander seeds

2 heaping tablespoons cumin seeds

2 heaping tablespoons fennel seeds

8 whole dried red chiles, broken into pieces

½ cup (50 g) whole black peppercorns

2 heaping teaspoons mango powder (amchur)

2 tablespoons black salt (kala namak)

2 heaping teaspoons ground ginger

2 heaping teaspoons carom seeds (ajwain)

1. In a shallow, heavy pan, dry roast the coriander, cumin, fennel, and red chiles over medium heat. Stay close, and shake the pan every 15 to 20 seconds to prevent the spices from burning. They should be just toasted and aromatic. After about 4 minutes of roasting, transfer the mixture to a plate and allow it to cool for 15 minutes.

2. Once the mixture is cool, transfer it to a spice grinder or the dry jug of a powerful blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the remaining ingredients and process to a fine powder. You may need to grind it--do so in small batches, depending on the size of your grinder. Sift after grinding to get a finer powder. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

10 wafers


Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Courseappetizer, snack

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian


Taste and Texturecrisp, spiced

Type of DishCondiments


  • 1 (6-10 count) package store-bought papad (made from lentils)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and minced (1 cup [150 g])
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced (1 cup [160 g])
  • 1-2 green Thai, serrano, or cayenne chiles, stems removed, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Chaat Masala (see Notes)
  • Red chile powder or cayenne, to taste


  1. With tongs, take one papad at a time and heat it over the stovetop. If you have a gas stove, cook it right over the flame, being careful to blowout little bits that catch fire. The best way to cook these is to constantly flip them until all parts are cooked and crisp. If using an electric stove, heat them on a wire rack set over the burner and flip continuously until they are crisped. Be careful—they bum easily.

  2. Lay the papads out on a large tray.

  3. With a pastry brush, lightly brush each papad with oil.

  4. In a small bowl, mix together the onion, tomatoes, and chiles.

  5. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the onion mixture over each papad.

  6. Top off each papad with a sprinkle of Chaat Masala and red chile powder. Serve immediately.


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