Papri Chaat (Indian Street Snack With Potato, Chickpeas, and Chutneys)

Papri chaat is a traditional street snack found all over India, with crunchy, soft, and fluffy textures, all smothered in tangy, sweet, and hot chutneys.

Vicky Wasik

Why This Recipe Works

  • The chaat masala is a spice blend that adds funky, salty, spicy, and sour flavors to the chaat.
  • Fresh mint chutney and tangy-sweet tamarind chutney add bright, fresh, tart, and sweet flavors to the fried crisps.
  • Making papri chaat at home allows you to customize the ratios and seasoning to your taste.

Even by hour 36 of the long flight from LAX to Dhaka, my family still hadn't ended the debate. Should we risk it? Passionate arguments were whispered across the tiny aisle as we unwrapped our pre-portioned stir-fried beef in oyster sauce. Our attempts to keep the discussion to ourselves proved futile, and eventually, the mostly Bengali-speaking cabin erupted into a town hall meeting, with each opinion more persuasive than the last.

"I know the best chaatwalla in Shyamoli! It's very clean, he only uses bottled water!"

"Don't take the risk of the street, there's a great dhaba in Gulsan!"

"Wait until your last night; then by the time you get sick, you'll already be back in the States."

The debate, of course, was over if, when, and where we would eat chaat, the broad term for the various snacks sold by street vendors across Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Regardless of the logical rebuttals, our answers were ultimately yes, right away, and the first place we could find, respectively.

A ceramic plate holding composed papri chaat.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

What's a Chaat?

"Chaat" is the moniker used to describe a set of South Asian snacks that are a powerhouse of flavor and texture. They manage to mesh together salty, sweet, spicy, tart, and more without skipping a beat. They are impossibly compelling, somehow featuring everything crave-able in a single checkered paper boat.

Deep within the bewildering assortment of chaat lies a rough outline that defines it as a dish. The foundation is usually a starchy component, such as crisp puffed rice or fluffy lentil-and-rice dumplings. That base is then topped with anything from hard-boiled eggs to fried lentils to radiant, ruby-colored pomegranate seeds. The only requirement for an ingredient to make its way into a chaat is that it has to bring some serious punch to the party.

Fried sev cooling on a wire rack set above a parchment-lined sheetpan.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Every chaat is made slightly differently, not just from city to city and vendor to vendor, but also according to each patron's taste. Extra chili? No problem. Not a fan of raw onion? You got it.

I've never turned down panipuri chaat, a rendition with crisp fried shells stuffed with spiced potatoes and filled to the brim with a fiery and bright tamarind water. It's meant to be eaten immediately, in one bite, and never fails to satisfy.

My father is a fool for bhel puri chaat, a crunchy combo of puffed rice, roasted peanuts, fresh cilantro, and razor-thin slices of Thai green chili. It's all tossed together with pungent mustard oil and served up in an inky newspaper cone, ready for a walk through the teeming market. There are heartier chaats as well, such as the greedy samosa chaat, in which a samosa is smashed open and buried under warm stewed chickpeas, cool yogurt, perky chutneys, and a fistful of sev (wispy fried threads of chickpea batter).

A copper tray holding three small bowls. One bowl holds spiced yogurt, one holds tamarind chutney, and one holds mint chutney.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Although "chaat" is the word used to identify these various bold snacks, more importantly, chaat is a social event. Going out for a chaat is akin to a happy hour, where the versatile bites are enjoyed in between meals and after work with cups of sweet, milky tea and peppery gossip. In addition to the street-corner carts, there are also mini food courts devoted to chaat, where manifold vendors, armed with their arsenal of spices, brawl for your business. Menus fly, fryers bubble, and the diner always wins.

Chaat is pervasive throughout South Asia, though some scholars believe its origins are in the state of Uttar Pradesh, home of the Taj Mahal in the city of Agra. During the time of their dynasty, Mughals held court in Agra, which quickly developed into a bustling commercial hub for traders throughout the empire. As a result, stalls sprouted within the city selling poori, paratha, kebab, and chaat to travelers and merchants. These culinary traditions likely spread from the imperial city to other regions, where the dish evolved into the many forms found today.

The Key to Chaat: Chaat Masala

A small ceramic bowl holding a large pile of chaat masala spice.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

At first glance, the dizzying array of chaats can seem overwhelming. Chaat is so diverse that you can refute almost any statement made about it, but the one thing they all have in common is the balance of salty, sour, spicy, and sweet flavors. Each component in a chaat will bring at least one of these qualities to the table.

The real heart of chaat, though, is the spice mixture called "chaat masala"; it finds its way into every iteration, whether sprinkled liberally on papris* or stirred into chutney by the spoonful. All on its own, this single spice blend adds salty, funky, spicy, and sour flavors to anything it touches. It's such an essential chaat flavoring that merely sprinkling it on sliced fruit or mixed nuts can conjure the chaat experience.

For more on papris, see below.

The components that make up chaat masala are best understood by the qualities each adds to the whole.

Funky and Salty: Kala Namak

The key element in chaat masala is pungent and funky kala namak, which also goes by the name of Himalayan black salt. Not to be confused with black lava salt or Hawaiian black salt, kala namak is a mined salt that is actually pink in color and owes its unique, eggy aroma to trace amounts of sodium sulfate, along with a few other impurities. On its own, the sulfurous aroma can be off-putting, but when skillfully incorporated into dishes, kala namak adds a bossy bit of savory funk. It is the backbone to chaat masala, with no real substitute.

A close-up shot of a copper tray holding spices. Himalayan pink salt is in the center of the image.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

It can be purchased in its most rustic form as large, dusty mahogany crystals, or you can find it ground into a fine, millennial-pink powder, ready to dissolve into any chutney. Besides its prevalence in chaat recipes and spice blends, it's traditionally used in savory buttermilk lassis and cooling cucumber raitas. It's also a staple in vegan cooking, making tofu scrambled "eggs" taste closer to the real deal.

Pucker Up: Green Mango and Tamarind Sauces

Every chaat packs intense, tongue-prickling pucker. You need a forceful sour punch to cut through the richness of deep-fried doughs and balance the sweet chutneys. It's the biting acid that keeps your mouth watering and taste buds wanting more. The tart element in a chaat can come from the addition of lime juice or diced ambarella, but a good chaat masala should also offer up plenty of acid.

Most often, chaat masala gets its sour and fruity punch from green mango powder. This tart spice is made from unripe mangos that have been sliced and dried before being ground into a fine powder. Many packaged chaat masalas also include citric acid, a shortcut to that Sour Patch flavor. I prefer a blend of green mango and tamarind powder for my chaat masala. Tamarind powder is made by drying the sticky pulp found inside the russet pods of the tamarind fruit. It offers up a pleasant astringency through the tartaric acid it naturally contains, which pairs well with green mango powder's sour-candy zing.

Bring on the Heat: Chiles, Black Pepper, and Ginger

A copper tray with spices on it. Kashmiri chile powder is in the center of the image.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

The heat in chaat masala is a triple threat of capsaicin from Kashmiri red chili powder, piperine from black pepper, and gingerols provided by ginger powder. Kashmiri red chilies are mild and fruity, loaded with floral and citrus notes. The powder has become one of my go-to spices, offering up much more than just heat to whatever dish you add it to.

Some historians attribute the extensive use of spices in regions with hot climates to their antibiotic properties, which suppress the bacteria and fungi that spoil foods. It is a happy accident that we've also become attached to the way these spices get your endorphins flowing.

The Aroma Chorus: Cumin, Coriander, Fennel, Mint, and Ajwain

Cumin and coriander are the loudest spices in chaat masala, with fennel seeds, dried mint, and ajwain (which has an aroma similar to that of dried thyme) providing some background noise. Together, they add nutty, pungent, floral, citrus, woodsy, and refreshing aromas and flavors.

Mastering the Mix: How to Blend Chaat Masala

A zoomed out shot of a copper tray holding an array of spices. The image is composed so that all of the spices are labeled in the image. Going clockwise, starting from the top, 12 o'clock position, the spices are: kosher salt, kala namak, green mango powder, tamarind powder, black peppercorns, kashmiri red chile powder, ginger powder, fennel, coriander, cumin, dried mint, and ajwain.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Although there are many pre-blended chaat masalas available online or at your local Indian grocery store, nothing compares to making your own blend. Even in ideal conditions—kept away from light, in an airtight container, in a cool space in your hot kitchen—ground spices will be at their peak for only about three months. After that, they quickly deteriorate into nothing more than mildly aromatic sawdust. This is because the aromatic compounds in spices are highly volatile, quickly dissipating like a puff of smoke; when the spices are finely ground, there's that much more surface area from which those essential aromatic compounds can escape. Whole spices keep more of those molecules locked away, remaining fragrant for up to a year and waiting to be released as soon as you pulverize them in your spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

The other benefit of making your own chaat masala is that you can tweak it to your personal preferences. Chaat is all about customization, and by blending your own chaat masala, you truly can have it your way. The main spices in chaat masala are kala namak, cumin, chili powder, and green mango powder; from that starting point, the possibilities are endless. Many traditional recipes use yellow chili powder in place of red; some include asafetida, and others use garam masala (another spice blend common in Indian cooking) as a jumping-off point. Every auntie has her own blend, often with a secret ingredient or two, so treat the recipe as more of a guide rather than a hard-and-fast rule.

A carbon steel pan holding many coriander seeds.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Whether you've decided to try my chaat masala or experiment on your own, properly toasting the whole spices will bring out the best qualities from each one. To ensure even toasting, it's best to start in a cool, dry pan, roasting one spice at a time over medium heat. Fennel seeds toast at a different rate from coriander seeds, so you'll achieve optimal flavor by giving each one some special attention. Keep the seeds in constant motion in the pan, and roast them until they're warm to the touch and fragrant. Once they're toasted, remove the seeds from the hot pan to prevent them from scorching over the residual heat.

In a pinch, I've ground whole spices with a muddler in a pint glass, but a more traditional tool is a mortar and pestle. For larger quantities, I've found that nothing beats a high-speed blender. It can quickly yield a fine powder, and you won't have to sift out any husks or seeds gone astray. A spice grinder or blade coffee grinder also makes quick work of the task, though these often require processing the spices in batches.

A two-image collage. The left image shows whole and powdered spices inside of the bowl of a spice grinder, and the right image shows the spices fully ground into a homogenous spice mix.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Chaat Up Your Life: How to Make Chaat at Home

In South Asian cities, it's difficult to walk a meter without tripping over a chaatwala, but in other parts of the world, the search for good chaat can become an endless march. If you've grown up eating chaat, the other obstacle can be finding one that tastes true to your memories. I'm never satisfied by papri chaat if it doesn't taste exactly like the one my parents would use as a bribe to take me sari shopping during my tomboy age.

Making chaat at home allows you to make it to your personal specs, but requires expert shopping, devoted prepping, and a lot of fryer oil. Even though each individual component in chaat is quite simple, there are a lot of them to make. Luckily, there are many ways to make chaat at home, whether it's for a first taste or to relive a flavor experience you haven't had in years.

The Quick and Easy Route

Given how central chaat masala is to the flavor of chaat, just having the spice mix is enough to arm you with all you need to chaat up your life. You'll still have to plan ahead by ordering the specialty spices online or hiking through the aromatic aisles at your local Indian grocery store, but once you have the spice mixture made, there are endless easy ways to use it to create a chaat experience at home.

Sprinkle it on fruit with a dollop of zesty Greek yogurt, and you've instantly made a fruity, chaat-y snack. Combine it with chickpeas, hard-boiled egg, tomato, and onion, and you've re-created a classic chana chaat. The acidity in the spice blend works well with seafood, so a dusting over lime-marinated shrimp is all it takes to make a ceviche chaat.

A favorite gas station snack of mine has always been Chex mix. The erratic combination of cereals and seasonings reminds me of bhel puri chaat, which is what inspired me to make a chaat-spiced version of the classic. I made the mix to my taste, with extra corn and rice Chex, few wheat Chex and pretzels (because who needs 'em?), and an absurd amount of chaat seasoning. I admit, it's probably more seasoning than necessary, but, as someone who's known for digging through a bag of Doritos for that one extra-cheesy chip, I don't see the point of snack foods if they don't leave your blood pressure elevated.

Feel free to turn the volume down if you prefer a sane level of salt and spice, but definitely don't skimp on the sugar. Sweetness is the one area where chaat masala falls short, and without sugar, the balance just won't be right. When you slowly toast the un-spiced snack mix in a low oven, the cereals crisp and the sugar melts into a sticky glaze, allowing the chaat masala to coat every crevice. In my first batch of testing, I tossed the mix with the chaat masala before baking, resulting in scorched, bitter spices. I've found it best to instead shower on the spices right out of the oven, while the sugar is still tacky and warm.

This hybrid snack combines easy-to-find ingredients with chaat masala to create something that has the complexity of chaat, but comes together in a snap.

Down and Dirty: Papri Chaat from Scratch

If you're feeling particularly brave, and have an afternoon (or weekend) to kill, then dive into this recipe for papri chaat. Papris are crispy chips made from a simple wheat dough. Much like nachos, the papris are topped with assorted accoutrements of complementing and contrasting textures and flavors, all of it always dusted generously with chaat masala.

Traditionally, you find the papris buried under fluffy boiled potatoes, tender chickpeas, cool yogurt, bright mint chutney, sweet-and-sour tamarind chutney, and crunchy sev (fried chickpea noodles). The recipe can look intimidating at first, but just like with nachos, you can save time and effort by purchasing some or all of the more labor-intensive components—like the papris, sev, and chutneys—and assembling them at home, adjusting the ratios to your tastes.

November 2017

This recipe was originally published with multiple sub-recipes included within it. Some of those recipes have since been excerpted and published separately, to make them easier to use.

Recipe Details

Papri Chaat (Indian Street Snack With Potato, Chickpeas, and Chutneys)

Prep 25 mins
Cook 50 mins
Active 2 hrs
Resting Time 60 mins
Total 2 hrs 15 mins
Serves 4 to 6 servings

Papri chaat is a traditional street snack found all over India, with crunchy, soft, and fluffy textures, all smothered in tangy, sweet, and hot chutneys.


For the Mint Chutney:

  • 1 bunch (60g) cilantro

  • 1 bunch (60g) mint

  • Juice from 1 lime (about 30ml)

  • 1 medium (20g) serrano pepper, sliced

To Assemble:

  • One recipe homemade papris, or one 12-ounce bag of store-bought papris

  • 1 cup (about 250g) boiled, peeled, and cubed russet potato

  • 1 can (434g) chickpeas, drained (or equivalent freshly cooked from dried)

  • Chaat Masala spice mixture, to taste

  • 1 pint (450g) whole-milk yogurt

  • 1 small onion, diced

  • One recipe homemade Spiced Tamarind Chutney or one jar of store-bought tamarind chutney

  • Mint chutney (recipe above)

  • One recipe sev or one bag of store-bought sev crackers


  1. For the Mint Chutney: Prepare an ice bath. In a pot of salted boiling water, blanch cilantro and mint until they turn bright green, about 20 seconds. Shock herbs in ice bath to stop the cooking, then drain well. Squeeze out any excess liquid from herbs.

    The blanched greens in an ice bath.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  2. Remove and discard the thick mint stems, then roughly chop herbs and remaining tender stems. In a blender, purée blanched herbs with lime juice, serrano pepper, and just enough cold water to bring the mixture together, taking care not to over-blend and heat up the chutney, which can lead to discoloration. Season with salt to taste. The chutney will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

    The pureed mint chutney in the bowl of a high speed blender.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  3. To Assemble: On a large serving plate, spread papris in a single even layer.

    Papri chips on a plate without any toppings on them.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  4. In a small bowl, toss potatoes and chickpeas with chaat masala to taste. Spread potatoes and chickpeas all over papris.

    Papris topped with potatoes and chickpeas dusted in spices.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  5. In a small bowl, combine yogurt with chaat masala to taste and spoon over potatoes, chickpeas, and papris.

    Papris, potatoes, and chickpeas now topped with spiced yogurt.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  6. Top with diced onion, mint and tamarind chutneys, and sev. Sprinkle more chaat masala on top and serve right away, preferably with sweet, milky black tea.

    A four-image collage showing the papris, potatoes, and chickpeas being topped by chutneys and sev crackers.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Special Equipment



Kashmiri red chili powder is mild and fruity. If you cannot find it and wish to substitute cayenne pepper, be sure to cut the amount used in the recipe by half. While this recipe gives instructions for making all components from scratch, you can save time by buying some of the components premade. The papris and chutneys can be found at many Indian grocery stores, and the chutneys can be found online. Mix and match store-bought and from-scratch components for your own semi-homemade version.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
383 Calories
7g Fat
67g Carbs
16g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 383
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 7g 9%
Saturated Fat 2g 10%
Cholesterol 10mg 3%
Sodium 161mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 67g 24%
Dietary Fiber 11g 41%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 16g
Vitamin C 15mg 77%
Calcium 171mg 13%
Iron 4mg 24%
Potassium 757mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)