A kulcha is often overshadowed on Indian restaurant menus by its more popular cousin, the naan. But with its flaky, soft texture this flatbread is just as capable of holding its own and even shining brighter. Try this version of a stuffed Aloo Kulcha, with an easy, savory potato filling. And for those of you who have a sourdough starter bubbling away, I have directions for making this with sourdough discard, which makes it healthier and even more delicious. A vegan, soy-free and nut-free recipe.
Among the many Indian flatbreads you may or may not be familiar with is the kulcha, which looks something like a round naan, only with greater complexity.
This Aloo Kulcha, with a potato filling, is one of my favorite Indian breads to make, and it is so good, it'll likely become yours too if you try it.
A kulcha has a slightly flaky yet soft texture and although you can make it plain, it's even better with a stuffing of potatoes not unlike that you'd find in an aloo paratha.
If you have a pot of sourdough starter, and hate throwing away the discard, this is a recipe you should be trying. You can use as little or as much of the discard as you want to -- I added three-fourths of a cup, but you could use as much as 1 cup or as little as half, depending on how much you are discarding or want to use up.
Or, if you don't have sourdough discard, you could just use baking powder as the leavening.
This is an easy recipe, but it does involve a few steps--making the dough, making the stuffing, and then putting it all together before cooking the kulcha. And if you're making it with sourdough you need to plan a little ahead--not a lot, but a little. That's because when you're using sourdough, you want to harness its benefits, which means giving the dough some time to stand and let the good bacteria break down the starches in your dough. You don't need too long, two or three hours is good.
You could just add the sourdough and proceed after a few minutes, but then you'd not get that benefit, see? If you're in a hurry, just use some baking powder.
This is an eminently kid-friendly recipe--flour and potatoes, what's not to like? You can vary some of the spices in the stuffing if you have picky kids who won't eat this or that--cilantro, for instance, although Jay loves it.
How to make the best aloo kulcha:
- Unbleached all purpose flour or bread flour are both fine here. You can sub half the white flour with whole wheat, but if you do so, be warned that your kulcha won't quite have the same flaky texture--it'll be more dense and heavier. If you use sourdough, the sourdough will the bread a little healthier, by breaking down the starches.
- Your dough should be tacky not smooth when you're done kneading it. In other words it won't roll up into a smooth ball and might seem a little unfinished, but don't fret. You'll get there.
- You will need to do some layering to get your kulcha to the correct texture. The way you do this is by rolling out your dough, brushing on some oil, then sprinkling on some flour. This is a technique not unlike that used for puff pastry or in my khasta paratha recipe, but there's no waiting here, so it goes by quickly. It's not at all hard to do, and it will bring your dough to the perfect texture.
- Your dough, once ready, will need to stand for two to three hours so the bacteria in the sourdough can go to work. If you use baking powder instead of sourdough, you can do away with the two-hour resting time and let your dough rest for just 15 minutes.
- For the stuffing you will need potatoes, of course. Mash your potatoes so there are no lumps--lumps make rolling out the kulchas harder.
- I add only powdered spices to my filling, but I keep the ingredients quite traditional. This ensures that the kulcha is easy to shape and there are no big pieces of spices sticking out or tearing through the dough.
- You will get about eight kulchas from this recipe. I like overstuffing the kulchas, so the ball of potato filling I use is just slightly smaller than the ball of dough. You can definitely use less, but why would you?
- To shape the kulchas, you can use a rolling pin or just use your fingers. It's fun and easy to do. Keep a bowl of water by your side, dip your fingertips in it, and then press into the dough using your fingertips to make little indentations all over. If you roll the kulchas out with a rolling pin, you should still brush on some water because the kulchas will achieve the right texture when they steam a little.
- Kulchas, like many north Indian flatbreads, are baked in a tandoor oven. But we will be making these on a griddle.
- After you place the kulcha on the griddle, you will sprinkle on some cilantro and onion seeds (which are optional). You want to press these into the kulcha with your fingers, but if you're not comfortable with this step, you can skip it altogether. Instead melt some vegan butter, add the cilantro to it (skip the onion seeds) and brush it on as soon as the kulcha comes off the griddle.
- You should brush your kulcha with some vegan butter once it's off the griddle for the best flavor.
What do I serve with the Aloo Kulcha?
You can also serve the kulcha and it'd be perfect with a north Indian veggie curry, like this vegan Palak Paneer with Tofu or this Vegan Paneer Butter Masala. A vegan Butter Chicken with Tofu would make this an elegant and divine meal.
Serve a vegan cucumber raita on the side for the perfect meal.
Looking for more vegan Indian bread recipes?
- Garlic Vegan Naan
- Vegan Grilled Naan
- Aloo Paratha
- Khasta Paratha
- Chana Bhatura
- Arbi Paratha
- Sourdough Roti
Aloo Kulcha Recipe
Aloo Kulcha, a Potato-Stuffed Indian Flatbread
For the kulcha dough:
- 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- ¾ cup sourdough discard (or sub with ½ tsp baking powder. You can use more or less discard, up to a cup, but you might want to adjust the flour up a little if you use less than ½ cup)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tsp vegetable oil (divided, for the dough and for brushing)
For the potato stuffing:
- 5 medium russet potatoes (boiled and mashed until there are no large lumps)
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp cayenne (or red pepper flakes)
- ½ tsp ginger powder (can use 1 tsp fresh grated ginger)
- ½ tsp garlic powder (can use 1 tsp fresh grated garlic)
- 1 tbsp kasoori methi (dry fenugreek leaves, crushed into a powder)
- 1 tsp amchur (dry mango powder)
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- Salt to taste
For brushing on at the end:
- 2 tbsp vegan butter
- 2 tbsp cilantro (chopped)
- 2 tsp onion seeds (kalonji, optional)
Make the dough:
- Place the flour in a bowl along with the salt and mix. Add the sourdough discard, if using, or the baking powder. Drizzle in water, a little at a time, kneading until you have a shaggy dough that sticks to your fingers. I needed just under ¾ths cup of water.
- Add 2 tsp of oil and continue kneading until incorporated.
- Cover the bowl and set it aside in a warm place for 2-3 hours. If using baking powder, you can go to the next step after 15 minutes.
- Flour your work surface. Using your fingers or a rolling pin, stretch the dough out to a rectangle about six inches wide and eight inches long. Brush on some oil, sprinkle on some flour. Pick the two long sides and fold them over so they overlap, creating three layers. Roll out the dough again and once again oil, flour, fold. Repeat one more time for a total of three times.
- After you've done this three times, roll the dough into a cylinder and cut lengthwise into eight pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside, covered with a kitchen towel.
Make the stuffing:
- Place the mashed potatoes in a bowl with all the spices. Add salt to taste and mix well with your hands or a fork until everything is incorporated.
Assemble the kulchas:
- Heat a griddle over medium-high heat.
- Take a ball of dough and with your fingers or a rolling pin, roll it into a diameter of about four inches. Form the stuffing into a ball almost as big as the ball of dough and place it into the center. Pull up the sides of the dough over the stuffing and form a seal at the top.
- Place a bowl of water next to you. Wet your fingertips and press into the dough with them to shape the dough into a diameter of about six inches. You can also just roll the dough with a rolling pin and press into it with wet fingertips at the end, or just brush on some water with a pastry brush.
- Place the kulcha, wet side down, on the griddle. If adding the cilantro and onion seeds at this point, sprinkle them on, then press into them very carefully with your fingertips so they are embedded within the dough. You can skip this step if not comfortable working with heat.
- Cover with a lid and let the kulcha steam-cook for about a minute or two or until the underside has golden-brown spots. Flip over and cook until golden spots appear on the other side.
- Remove and brush on some vegan butter. If you didn't add the cilantro earlier, you can mix it into the vegan butter and brush it on at this time.
- Pick up the kulcha with your palms as soon as you can handle it and crush it between your palms to make it separate slightly into flaky layers.