Pitla is a traditional Maharashtrian curry made with besan (gram flour) and onions. A spicy base of ginger-garlic-green-chillies and onions is cooked with gram flour and water until thick.
I often describe pitla as “besan ki sabzi” or gram flour curry. In tradtional pitla recipe, gram flour is cooked like a vegetable in a spicy onion-ginger-garlic-chilli curry base. It is the perfect recipe to make when you don’t have any vegetable at home! In preparation it is slightly similar to that of besan kadhi except that in pitla recipe there is no yogurt and the gram flour is first dry roasted with the onions and then cooked with water.
Spicy pithla with bhakri is the comfort food for most Maharashtrian families and a popular dish in most roadside eateries in Mumbai called the “Zunka Bhakar centres”. When I was studying at IIT Bombay, I remember eating at the Zunka Bhakar centres on many nights when we went to the town side. The complete meal would be spicy pithla with jowar bhakri (which is a lot like jowar roti) and chilli garlic chutney.
Maharashtra is also home to the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community and it is not surprising that the regional cuisine would influence the community cuisine and vice versa. Pithla is a popular dish in Bohra cuisine too. We call it kanda besan which literally translates to onions and gram flour. I remember the first time I made pithla at home, Sikander was in deep thought for long as he was trying to remember why the taste seems so familiar yet distant because he hadn’t had it in a very long time.
While many may think that Bohra cuisine is largely meat based, since marrying into the community, I have discovered so many delicious traditional Bohra vegetarian recipes like dal kanda, patli dal, palita, and now kanda besan.
How to make Maharashtrian besan Pitla?
Ingredients for Pitla recipe
Apart from oil and water you need 3 key ingredients:
- Besan or Gram flour: Use the fine variety. You can also use chickpea flour instead of besan.
- Ginger, garlic, green chillies, and onions: These form the flavour base for tempering the oil.
- Spices: Cumin seeds, salt, turmeric, coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder, and fresh coriander leaves.
Instructions for Pitla Recipe
- Temper the oil with cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, and chillies. Add onions, fresh coriander, and all spices.
- Sauté till they soften before adding gram flour. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add water and mix continuously till there are no lumps and then cook covered for 10 mins until the curry is thick enough.
If you like this recipe, please take a moment to rate it and/or leave your feedback in comments. It will really encourage me to keep exploring, learning and improving.
Maharashtrian Pitla Recipe | Kanda Besan
Ingredients (1cup = 240ml; 1tbsp = 15ml; 1tsp = 5ml)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 green chilli
- 1 onion
- ½ cup fresh coriander leaves chopped
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 cup gram flour (you can also use chickpea flour)
- 4 cups water
- Grind ginger, garlic, and green chilli together to a paste.
- Heat oil in a deep kadhai/ wok on medium heat.
- Add cumin seeds and the ginger-garlic-chilli paste. Sauté for a minute.
- Add onions, half of coriander leaves and all the ground spices. Mix well and cook for about 2 minutes till the onions start to soften.
- Add gram flour (or chickpeas flour) and mix well. Cook with continuous stirring for about 2-3 minutes till the gram flour and the onion and spice base is mixed properly.
- Add 2 cups water and continuously mix till there are no lumps. Cook for 5 minutes till the gram flour curry thickens.
- Add the remains 2 cups water, mix well until smooth and cook covered for another 10 minutes on low heat or until the desired consistency is reached.*
- Mix in the remaining fresh coriander and serve hot with jowar roti or bajra roti.
- The consistency of pitla is usually very thick when it is served with any flat bread like roti or paratha but when serving with rice, you might want to add more water to the pitla.
- Pitla will stay good in the refrigerator for upto 2 days. Leftover pithla will become thicker. To reheat, heat some water in a pan and add pitla to it. Stir until well combined and cook till heated through.
For more gram flour recipes from different parts of India, check out:
- Bohri Palita or Palidu is a soupy form of pithla with the addition of tomatoes and hokum for extra sourness. It is served with a mixed rice and lentil casserole.
- Rajasthani Gatte ki sabzi where we add steamed gram flour dumplings in a curry base served best with jowar roti or bajra roti.
- Punjabi Kadhi Pakoda where a mix of gram flour and yogurt in cooked in a spicy onion base. It is almost soup like and served best with rice or khichdi.
- Gujarati Methi Thepla is a traditional flat Indian bread made with gram flour kneaded with a lot of spices and yogurt. It makes a great travel snack.
A few of us Indian food Bloggers run a recipe challenge called “Shhh… Cooking Secretly” The members are paired together and each gives the other two “secret” ingredients (that’s why the name Cooking Secretly!) to cook a regional dish. This month’s chosen cuisine was Maharashtrian cuisine and my partner Aruna (who blogs at Ãhãram) gave me onions and salt. She was generous to give me very open ingredients and I chose to make the traditional Pitla recipe. I gave her coconut and garlic and I can’t wait for what she has created with me.
Connect with me
If you try this recipe, I would really love to know how it went. Tag your picture with #weekendkitchen on instagram or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and/or Pinterest. Or join our newest journey into Recipe Videos.
Would love to start a conversation, share recipes, cooking experiences and food stories from India and around the world.
Isn’t there a beauty in simplicity that is unmatched? This is one of my favourite dishes and you have absolutely celebrated the ingredients in this rustic dish.
Very true, Aruna.
The simple recipes are just so comforting. I am so glad you liked the recipe 🙂
The Girl Next Door
I love a well-made pitla, and yours surely looks incredible. 🙂
We Tam-Brahms make a version of this, called Bombay Chutney. Will try to post about it some time.
Thank you so much! I would love to know more about Bombay Chutney 🙂
The first time I tasted this delicious dish was when my mamiji made it. I was totally baffled as to how one can make a sabji as she called it with just besan. When we had it with bhakri, it tasted so good. At that time didn’t know its a part of the Maharshtrian cuisine. I have many Bohra friends and they don’t seem to be making a lot of the veggie dishes. A lovely share for the theme, Ashima.
Yes, the Bohra vegetarian cuisine is not that commonly made at homes… especially these days which is why many of the recipes are getting lost 🙁 In my husband’s place, his grandmother used to make it!
Rafeeda - The Big Sweet Tooth
I have read a lot of about Bohra cuisine, and love how it’s a mishmash of cuisines from states that have influenced them… Loved reading through your post… the pitla was the first recipe I wanted to try since it was easy, but then it moved to the batata vada… 🙂
I try to add a little about the history of food and I was so happy to find a dish which was also a part of my family’s food history 🙂 I didn’t know that until my husband ate and said, “This is Kanda besan! My grandma used to make it!”
pitla, bhakri, and kanda bhaji – a complete comfort meal. Ashima – you have nailed it perfectly…
I too made this dish for Maharashtra cuisine. Your’s looks perfect. My all-time favorite one!
It was something new for me and I loved it totally!
What a traditional dish, i cant imagine having bajra rotis without this pitla. its been a while i have made pitla at home. Beautiful click there.
Since my husband is gluten-sensitive we eat bajra rotis with most dishes but the pithla went wonderful with them 🙂
Besan kanda or zunka used to be made every time we had some unexpected guests and it is very tasty and very versatile. Love the presentation. Beautifully done.
Yes, I loved the simplicity of the dish. So easy and perfect when you have unexpected guests!
One of our favourite and we love to enjoy this with rice or Jowar Bhakri. You have made it to perfection and I am craving to have this right now.
It is so easy to make that you should not keep yourself wanting for long! 🙂
Ashima, for me simple recipes with basic ingredients available at home always work. I have always been a fan of Zunka and still am! Slices of onion, some green chillies on the side, any flatbreads – seals the deal for me!
I’m totally with you on simple recipes with basic ingredients! I missed the quintessential onion-green chili side on this one but definitely going for it the next time I make Zunka! 🙂
Kanda besan looks so delicious. Never tried but your pictures tempting me to try soon. Lovely share.
Thanks, Sujata. I do hope you try it. It is such a simple recipe with ingredients that most of us would have in our kitchen all the time!
I loved reading your writeup. This curry looks so delicious. Never tried it but I have heard about this besan curry. Now I am tempted to make it after reading your recipe.
For me, food is so much more than just the recipe. It’s the whole experience of connecting with the ingredients, the history, and in many cases the memory of it! I am so happy that my description is inspiring you to make the recipe.
I love this with bhakri.. tastes so yummy.
Lovely share for the theme.
Besan Pitla looks so tempting and delicious. Thanks!
This is one of my favourite dishes, it is tasty and quite easy to make. Though, making without lumps is a bit difficult. You have made it well !
The trick to having is without lumps is to stir it very well after adding water until the roasted flour is well mixed.
My mother in law would make something like this called as bombay chutney. This looks very inviting
Bombay chutney! 🙂 That sounds interesting… I will definitely look that up!
Thank you so much, Veena!
Such a comforting dish and perfectly made..
It really is a warm comforting meal 🙂 love it’s rustic flavors!
Pithla with steamed rice is one of my favorites. Loved your presentation. Looks absolutely delish !
Thanks, Poonam! 🙂 It surely is the comfort food for most Maharashtrians 🙂
Very intriguing recipe Ashima! After reading the recipe and the instructions, I was surprised as to how thick and rich this Pitla looks when there are no lentils or curd added to it. I have not tasted or even seen this dish before and I would have imagined it thin and a little insipid. Instead it looks delicious and rather like the Tamlian kootu we prepare with mashed dal, soft vegetables and perhaps coconut paste all cooked together and with a spicy tadka. I must try this recipe soon.
yes, the recipe is only besan and water! The trick for the thickness is to keep stirring the curry until there are no lumps. 🙂
Seema Doraiswamy Sriram
Love this recipe, simple and delicious. I love the way just the besan and water, forms such delicious side dishes magic of indian cuisine!!
I feel cooking should always be like that… simple ingredients and delicious dishes!
Reminds me of the sagoo that we make with pooris in tamilbadu…nice share
Would love to explore the sagoo dish you mention! Do you have a recipe for it?
Sasmita Sahoo Samanta
I haven’t tried this yet but the pithla looks like a warm comforting meal and I think I will surely love its rustic flavor. Thank you for sharing!
It surely is very rustic and tastes wonderful with even more rustic Bajra Roti!
A deliciously simple and healthy sidedish…
Thank you for the recipe and easy to follow instructions. I have had pitla a few times as I live in Pune. But, never tried to make it myself. Loved it.
I hope you try it and then tell me how it matches up to the ones you get in market 🙂 Would love to know your feedback!
C K Purandare
tried it just now and it worked very well indeed
thanks a lot Ashima
Thanks for sharing your experience of making this recipe, Purandare!
I am so happy you liked the recipe… it really encourages me to continue exploring and sharing!
Wow superr!! thanks for sharing..