Papdi chaat is a lip-smackingly tasty Indian street food snack combining crunchy crackers, vegetables, smooth curd/yogurt and tangy chutneys. It might sound like a lot of ingredients, but it's really easy to make. It's a real feast for the senses with tangy, sweet and spicy flavors, and great to nibble on whatever the excuse.
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Sometimes snacks are super simple, other times it can be fun to be a little more elaborate. While this one might seem like it has a number of components (and does), it's really as simple as layering things up. And the end result is so worth that little bit of effort, it's easy to see why this is such a popular Indian chaat recipe.
What is chaat?
Chaat is a broad group of snacks from North India, originally the Uttar Pradesh region. You would typically call chaat street food but that said, they are so well loved by many that you often make them at home, too. "Chaat" literally means to lick or taste which broadly describes the sensation of eating these bites.
There is no one set rule on what to include, and you'll find many variations. Most start with a base which can be vegetables (like potato, corn or chickpeas), crackers or both, as here. Some versions use other snacks like samosas or fritters as the base.
Then you usually add toppings including chutneys (often tamarind and green chutney) and sometimes yogurt. A key element is some spices, particularly chaat masala, and some garnishes like crispy sev, pomegranate and herbs.
The end result is a tasty mix of flavors, textures as well as colors. I've already shared aloo chaat which uses fried potatoes as the base and is a tasty mix. This version, also called papri chaat or dahi papdi chaat, shares a few components. It also has some similarities to chickpea fatteh which I am a big fan of, too.
What is papdi chaat made of?
As with many dishes, you will find more than one version of this dish. This version has a relatively typical mix:
- "Papdi" are the whole wheat crackers that make the base of this dish. They are typically fried, but you can also find (or make them) baked. I made my own baked crackers here (using this recipe as a base), which are that little bit healthier. But I'd say use as you can find, prefer or are able to make.
- Potatoes - these are simply boiled, peeled and diced. You can make them ahead, as suits.
- Chickpeas - brown chickpeas are more typical for this, but harder to find elsewhere so I use regular canned chickpeas, just drained and rinsed.
- "Dahi" is a type of curd, though a thick plain yogurt is similar and works well. If it's on the more tart/sour side, like a Greek-style, you might want to add a touch of sugar to lighten it.
- Chutneys - as mentioned, the most typical are tamarind chutney and green chutney (cilantro mint). I sometimes make, sometimes buy the sweet tamarind chutney but pretty much always make green chutney as it's easy and great for a few things, like chaats and with bites like paneer tikka.
- Spices - the main spice is a blend called chaat masala. It's a core part of most chaat recipes, and while you can make your own, it's a lot easier just to buy. You can find it in any Indian grocery store. Then in addition, I add a little cumin and chili.
- Sev - this is a thin, crispy kind of broken noodle made from gram flour (chickpea flour). This, too, you will find in Indian stores.
- Pomegranate - you can skip these if you like, as they are not a core element as such. But they do add a lovely burst of color and their pop of sweet-tart flavor fits so well too.
- Cilantro - (aka coriander leaves) this, too, is a little optional but again adds color and a nice contrasting freshness that works well.
This might seem a long list, but once you have everything, it's really quick to put together. It's as simple as layering everything up. You don't really even need to chop or mix much.
The only real tips for doing this is to start with the heavier items, add the liquids then the garnishes. Make sure you dot each of the ingredients over the plate so you can get a mix of flavors in each bite.
How to serve papdi chaat
You typically serve papdi chaat straight after making it so that the crackers and sev are still crunchy. This means you get that nice mix of textures. To eat it, take one of the crackers and layer up some of the toppings on it to get a good mix. Remember, it's a finger food so there's a good chance you'll get slightly messy!
Papdi chaat is a popular street food for a reason, with a delicious mix of textures and flavors, not to mention colors. Yes, it has a few components, but it's really easy to make and each adds to the mix of sweet, spicy, tangy and creamy that works so well. You'll be scraping up every last drop as you enjoy.
Try these other tasty savory snacks:
- Thai corn fritters (crispy bites flavored with lime leaves and red curry paste)
- Gougères (light and tasty cheese puffs)
- Shrimp ceviche tostadas (a tasty mix of lime and chili shrimp and crunchy chopped vegetables)
- Plus get more snack recipes, both sweet and savory, and Indian recipes in the archives.
- 12 papdi crackers
- ½ cup cooked chickpeas
- ½ cup cooked potato typically boiled then cubed
- ½ cup plain yogurt eg Greek-style, see notes
- 1 tablespoon tamarind chutney
- 1 tablespoon cilantro mint chutney green chutney
- ½ teaspoon chaat masala
- ¼ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder or more, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cumin or a little more, to taste
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro coriander
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate arils
- 1 tablespoon nylon sev (ie the fine sev)
- If starting with raw potato - peel the potatoes and cut into a relatively small dice. Place them in a small pot and cover with cold water, put lid on then place over a medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat slightly so you have a simmer then cook for a couple more minutes until the potatoes are just gently cooked. Drain the potatoes and leave, uncovered, to cool slightly and dry out. You can also cook the potatoes whole then dice once cooked. These can be cooked ahead and refrigerated, though be sure to dry off excess moisture.
- Layer up everything on a plate - start with a layer of crackers, then top with the chickpeas and potato cubes. Then drizzle the yogurt over the top, or blob it on evenly if it is thick.
- Dot or drizzle the tamarind and cilantro mint chutneys over the yogurt then sprinkle over the chaat masala, chili and cumin evenly.
- Top with the pomegranate, sev and chopped cilantro then serve.
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