What if I told you that one of the most popular breads in the world is gluten-free, grain-free, and low in carbs? And that it can be purchased in stores or ordered online? All of that is true if you get the right kind.

If you’ve ever eaten in an Indian restaurant, you have probably had these big, crackly rounds called papadams. (They may also be called: papadum, popadam, poppadam, puppodum, pompadum, pompaum, pampad, papad, happala, and on and on–so be flexible if you search for them online.) They are usually made of lentils, chickpeas, or black gram flour, but may also be made of rice, jack fruit, or potato. In Northern India, they are most often made with lentils. Lentils are fairly low in carbs for a legume and they are high in resistant starch, which is an added bonus. I know many of you avoid all legumes, but these are very, very thin so there’s only a small amount. Purists my disapprove, but I think they are fine as an occasional indulgence. (They might be even better if they were made of chana dal, a kind of chickpea that is so low on the glycemic index that many low-carb and diabetic vegetarians use them as a staple food. The problem is that the ingredient lists on package labels are not clear about what kind of chickpea flour is used.)

I prefer to buy plain papadams because they are so versatile, but you can also get them flavored with herbs and spices. They are traditionally served as an appetizer in Indian restaurants with mango chutney, lime pickle, or raita, and they often come with curry dishes to use as a utensil for scooping them up.

While preparing to write this post, I ordered a package of each brand sold on Amazon for comparison. Weeks later, I found a very beat-up package plopped on my doorstep. It had been mailed from India! I shudder to think how much I paid for shipping–and they were so blazing hot, with spices, that I couldn’t even eat them. I will pay more attention when placing orders, in the future!

The two pictures above show you how different they can look depending on how you cook them. They can be thick, pillowy puffs, or flat, bubbly disks. They can be folded like tacos, formed into cones, or shaped into bowls. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out how to fold them or make cones–I tried moistening and molding them, but never got them hold the shape when I cooked them. I did make a “bowl” by placing one over a small pie pan in the toaster oven. Maybe they have to be shaped when they are freshly made. Perhaps someone out there can enlighten me about that. If you want to make Papadams from scratch, there is a recipe here.

When purchasing papadams, be sure to check the label and get one made from lentils, but even some of those may have other ingredients and some are coated with rice flour which adds a lot of carbs. I liked the Indialife brand and they had the lowest carb count of all the ones I tried. (See post script at the end of this post for where to order.)*

Nutrition data for each 10 gram Indialife papadam: Calories:

9; Fat: 0g; Protein: 2g; Total Carb: 4g; Fiber: 2g; Net Carbs: 2g.


I experimented with several different cooking methods. The directions on the IndiaLife box said,
“To fry: cook one at a time in 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches of vegetable oil. They will puff up in a few seconds if your oil is hot enough. Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels….To microwave: Lightly coat each side with vegetable oil, place in microwave and cover with a paper towel. Cook in high for 45 to 60 seconds until expanded. (The papadum may need turning for even cooking.) Do not exceed recommended cooking time.” 

Some other brands suggested grilling them over an open flame or cooking them in a dry skillet.

My results:
I couldn’t get mine to cook evenly in the microwave. There were always spots that didn’t puff. Holding them over a gas flame on my cooktop didn’t work out well either. I would get uncooked areas and burned areas (and fingers). I tried frying them in a skillet but didn’t want to waste that much oil since I don’t like to reuse oil, certainly not polyunsaturated oils, and good fats that can take high heat are expensive.

I had the most success with a counter-top toaster oven. The oven broiler would probably work as well, but it would be harder to see what was happening since mine is below eye level. You can brush them with oil or melted butter if you like, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference in how they cook. Heat the toaster oven to 375 to 400 degrees and place one papadam under the heating element. After a few seconds it will sound like corn popping. You have to watch closely and be ready with tongs in hand to snatch it out because it goes from done to burned in a flash. You can turn it if necessary for even cooking.

Here are some ideas for what you can do with your papadams. I’m sure you can think of more. Just don’t get them very wet or they will go limp and don’t try to use them with a stiff dip, like cold peanut butter, or they will break.

~Drizzle them with melted chocolate and/or xylitol “honey.”

~Brush them with melted butter while hot and sprinkle with a mixture of granular sugar-free sweetener and cinnamon.

~Break them up to make chips. Serve with salsa, guacamole, melted cheese, sour cream and chives, hummas, or any soft dip or top them with shredded cheese and bake to make Nachos. See below for directions for nachos.

~Serve them the classic way with chutney as part of an Indian meal. I’ve included my favorite, low-carb chutney recipe.

Papadam Nachos
About 4 cooked papadams, broken into chips
2 ounces shredded jack or cheddar cheese, more to taste
Salsa, guacamole, cubed avocado, chopped tomato, green onion, sliced black olives, diced green chilies, and/or Sour Cream for topping as desiredDirections:

Spread papadam chips on a large oven-safe baking dish or sheet pan and sprinkle with cheese. Put in a preheated, 400 degree oven for 6 to 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and chips are very crisp. Add desired toppings and enjoy!Per Serving of 1/4 of recipe (papadams and cheese only):
Cal: 62, Fat: 4.3g; Protein: 5.5g; Total Carb: 5g; Fiber: 2g; Net Carb: 3g

Shallot and Peach Chutney
3 cups fresh peaches, peeled and chopped. Frozen peaches, thawed and drained, can be used instead.
1/2 cup sugar-free dried cranberries
2 shallots (about 2 ounces), peeled and finely chopped
1 and 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
Sugar substitute to equal 1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the fruit, shallots, vinegar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring often, for 15 minutes more. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 cups. Serving size: 2 tablespoons
Cal: 9, Fat: 0g; Protein: 0.1g; Total Carb: 1.7g; Fiber: 0.4g; Net Carb: 1.3g

*Post Script: 
Some of you have reported that you can’t find a source for the brand I recommended. Amazon is not currently listing Indialife papadams, but you can order them by mail from Uwajimaya by contacting them here:

Other stores that sell them:
Some Whole Foods stores in the US and Canada
Stores like New Leaf and New Seasons in  Oregon
Some Safeways in California, on the ethnic foods aisle

Please leave a comment if you have found them at other stores.

Photos from Wikipedia. Top photo by Charles Haynes. http://www,

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(c) 2015, Judy Barnes Baker,

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Judy Barnes Baker

The working title for my first book was, “You’ll Never Know What You Are Missing.” It summed up my goal: to make eating for health synonymous with eating for pleasure. Once you discover the secret, you will find that the very best food for weight management, longevity, the treatment and prevention of disease, and over-all health and happiness is also the most sumptuous, satisfying, and indulgent way of eating the world has to offer. You are invited to the feast. Enjoy!
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Judy Barnes Baker
9 years ago

Anonymous: thanks for the suggestion, but I'm not sure it will work for papadams. They cook really fast (less than a minute) and they twist and puff and get all contorted. I've seen pictures of cones that look very neat though, so there must be a way. It's also possible that the ones I've seen in pictures were made out of something other than lentils. I'll keep experimenting and let you know if it works.

Judy Barnes Baker
9 years ago

Hi Judith. I just added a Post Script to the story with a link to the Uwajimaya stores that sell them here in the Northwest. They will ship anywhere.

I also contacted the Indialife company and asked them about where and how to get them. They answered quickly the first time, so check back here and I'll add more info in the post if they have any suggestions.

Sorry the brand I recommended turned out not to be available on Amazon anymore. Thanks for the comment!

9 years ago

Thank you so much for letting us know about this… but now I want to buy it! Amazon is out of stock for this and the IndianLife website doesn't appear to sell this particularly product.

Wondering where you are able to buy this. Thanks!

9 years ago

Suggestion for making the cones: I made them out of tortillas, so it may work for these as well–take a fluffy one, insert a knife point at the exact center, and cut a line from the center to the edge. Then, take the two cut ends and overlap them, securing with a toothpick. After cutting, overlapping, and securing the number you need, place them open end down on a paper-lined baking sheet (or if they're small enough in diameter, a muffin pan would work). Bake them at 350 for about 10 mins. or until they look like they're rigid enough to hold stuff inside.

Remove toothpick before setting them aside to cool. When cooled, they should be able to stand up to all your cone needs (except for maybe ice cream).

Andrea Kerry
7 years ago

For authentic Lentil poppadoms contact Fudco in London at or 02088302124, I’m looking on the back of a package of jeera (cumin) upc 5025042012786 cumin wafer thin Indian Lentil crackers, otherwise known as papadums. They’re very light and delicious. This is my last pack and I can’t remember where I bought them but I’m sure the above contacts will help. It may be worth telling the company that it’s not easy to find their products.

Tyrone Williams
Tyrone Williams
7 years ago

You forgot to mention that it is also taste free.

6 years ago

Go to an Indian market they always have them

Seema Arora
Seema Arora
5 years ago

The best brand to buy is known as LIJJAT – they are best when bought at a large Indian grocery with a high turnover. All flavors are good, 30 sec in a 1400 watt mw works best. Otherwise, in India they are deep fried or toasted over an open flame on low. Top with finely chopped shallots, tomatoes, scallions, cilantro, chopped green chilies & a little yogurt.

Seema Arora
Seema Arora
5 years ago

If the soak the papads in warm water, they become pliable enough to form into shapes – then you can mw, fry or roast them once the dry & set their shape.