If you don’t already have a bag of gram flour (chickpea flour) to hand, then you should definitely prioritise buying some. This incredibly versatile ingredient can make some of the tastiest food, like these naturally gluten-free and vegan chickpea fries. They make for the perfect snack, starter, or finger food!
They are incredibly moreish and naturally high in protein. You may find yourself making a whole batch of these and demolishing them within 10 minutes. They definitely never last too long in my house!
As per this recipe, I love serving chickpea fries with a fresh pea sauce. It really compliments the nutty flavour of the fries, but you can choose to serve them with a dollop of vegan mayonnaise or spicy ketchup.
What are chickpea fries?
Chickpea fries are blocks of gram flour dough that have been either baked or fried to resemble chunky potato fries. The French make something very similar and they are called Panisse, but I originally took my inspiration from the Burmese dish, shan tofu.
Despite its name, shan tofu doesn’t contain any soya beans. It resembles tofu but it is made using just gram flour and water, as well as spices and other yummy flavourings of course.
Cooking with gram flour
Gram flour is a very popular ingredient, especially in India, France and Italy. In India, it is more commonly known as ‘besan’ and is often used to create dishes like pakora and some types of roti.
In France and Italy, they use it to create fried snacks as well as socca pizza, pancakes and a baked dish called farinata.
It has also more recently been largely adopted by the vegan community due to it being a really versatile cooking ingredient that helps to make many plant-based imitations of foods. For instance, you can use it as a vegan egg alternative to create a plant-based omelette or use it to bind other ingredients together in many vegan baking recipes.
Other chickpea-based recipes: try my vegan harissa stew with chickpeas
What is the texture like?
Gram flour has magically binding properties which means once it is mixed with quite a bit of water it forms a smooth batter. However, if you cook it with a little less water it turns into a sticky dough which after setting, forms a firm squidgy block that holds together well making it super easy to fry or bake into fries.
Once the gram flour dough has been turned into chickpea fries, the outside should be nice and crisp whilst the inside stays a lot more soft and squidgy.
It isn’t quite like anything else you’ll have ever tried, but if I was to compare it to anything I’d say it is like a smoother version of polenta chips and somewhere in between the texture of silken and firm tofu.
What do chickpea fries taste like?
Like both firm tofu and silken tofu, chickpea fries have quite a neutral taste. But if you’ve ever tried gram flour before you’ll know that it does have an ever so slightly nutty flavour.
It can be easily flavoured with strong spices like Indian curry powder, or Chipotle and Paprika, which mask the gram flour taste. Your choice of spices will help to create whatever flavour profile you desire from your chickpea fries, which you can then match with a sauce of your choice. In this recipe, I have opted for Indian flavours and paired it with a zingy pea sauce that nicely complements the spicing.
How do you make chickpea fries?
Chickpea fries are made by mixing chickpea flour (gram flour/besan) and water together, cooking it until it turns into a thick gloop, and then leaving it to set. Once it has cooled down you can slice it and eat it as it is, or you can bake/fry them to make them crispy (like these chickpea fries!)
It is really simple and easy to make, but it does take time to let the chickpea flour mix cool down before turning it into fries. So, this recipe does require a little bit of patience and forward thinking. Don’t feel tempted to skip ahead and cut them up before the mix has cooled since it won’t have had enough time to set, so the mix will simply fall apart.
What do you serve with chickpea fries?
Depending on the flavours you add to it and the style you cook it in, chickpea fries can be served with many things.
In my house, we love to eat it with a homemade dipping sauce, like vegan sriracha mayo (discover the best vegan mayo here) or spicy ketchup. But when we are feeling a bit more summery, this coconut pea dip works perfectly. Particularly if you add some Indian spices to the chickpea fries.
Got any awesome flavour combinations and dipping sauces to use with chickpea fries, aka shan tofu? Share them in the comments below!
Chickpea fries with zingy pea sauce
- 140 g gram flour
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Ground turmeric
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 600 g Water - same as ml
- 2 tbsp polenta - for coating
- Pickled veg
Prepare the chickpea fries
- Line a baking tray (about brownie tin size) with some baking paper
- Mix together all the dry ingredients for the chickpea fries (all but the polenta) in a large saucepan
- Add in about 200g of the water and whisk until smooth (this may take a few minutes and some strong arms, but it is worth getting it as smooth as possible)
- Gradually whisk in the remaining water
- Put the saucepan on to a medium high heat and whisk until it comes to the boil, at which point you will want to swap your whisk for a wooden spoon as the mix is prone to sticking
- Stir continuously for another 6-8 minutes on a lower heat, until the mixture is thick and gloopy.
- Pour the mix into the lined baking tray
- Leave to cool for about 10 minutes and then place into the fridge for about an hour (until it has set)
Make the pea sauce
- Place all the pea sauce ingredients into a heatproof bowl
- Pour over the just boiled water and set aside for about 10 minutes
- Blend the ingredients together until smooth (or you can leave it chunky if you prefer)
- Taste the sauce and season. Set aside until serving
Bake the chickpea fries
- Heat the oven to 200°c (fan)
- Take the set mix out of the fridge and pull the mix from the tray using the baking paper and set on to a chopping board
- Slice the mix into fries, I normally make about 20 pieces
- Sprinkle the polenta on a plate or board and roll the individual fries in it until they have an even coating
- Line a flat baking tray with some more baking paper or foil and then place the fries on to it
- Put the tray into the oven and cook for about 20 minutes (make sure to turn them over halfway through) – you can coat them with a little oil if you want
Assemble the dish
- Serve up the fries with the sauce, I also like to serve them with a pickled veg side