Indian Essentials: Indian Flatbreads | Are Dosai Pancakes or Flatbread??

Are Indian flatbreads (Dosa etc) pancakes? or crepes?

Often recipes for Indian flatbreads and similar are referred to as pancakes or crepes. I wasn’t keen on this labelling so I did some research. Thanks to Wikipedia and various other sites:


Looking at a definition of pancakes:

A pancake is a thin, flat, round cake prepared from a batter, and cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan. Most pancakes are quick breads; some use a yeast-raised or fermented batter. Most pancakes are cooked one side on a griddle and flipped partway through to cook the other side. Depending on the region, pancakes may be served at any time, with a variety of toppings or fillings including jam, chocolate chips, fruit, syrup etc.

The pancake’s shape and structure varies worldwide. There are numerous variations of them throughout Europe. In Germany, pancakes can be made from potatoes. A crêpe is a Breton variety of thin pancake cooked on one or both sides in a special crepe pan to achieve a network of fine bubbles often compared to lace – a savory variety made from buckwheat is usually known as a galette.

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Indian “Pancakes”

So what about Indian flatbreads? Are they pancakes?

In India the Pooda [Ed: /Puda/Pudla] (sometimes called Cheela) is a pancake. They can be made either sweet or salty and are of different thicknesses in different places. They are made in a frying pan and are of a similar batter as their European counterparts [Ed: but are eggless].

Dosa, Appam, Neer dosa and Uttapam could be said to be other Indian pancakes. They are prepared by fermenting rice batter and split skinned urad bean (black lentil) blended with water. What Punjabis call a meetha pooda are a common breakfast food item in the Punjab. It is a sweet pancake which can be eaten with pickles and chutney. Most of the pithas in Assam are types of pancakes served on occasions such as Bihu. In most parts of India there is a sweet pancake called malpua served.“

So technically they are pancakes and sometimes crepes, but it’s good to be aware that thee common understanding of pancake is a dish made from wheat flour and eggs and often eaten for breakfast. Indian flatbreads definitely do not fit this description! 🙂

What do you think? I try to avoid calling the flatbreads as pancakes as it may give the wrong impression of them. My preference is flatbreads because this is closest to the way that they are used. However, just as we have accepted Italian, French, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, South East Asian and other cuisine’s names for dishes – we should work on popularising the Indian names for dishes rather than finding Western terms. After all, taco, risotto, paella, sushi, massamam curry etc are all internationally known regional dishes now.


You can see some dosa recipes here.





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