Amma used to call Roti (chapati) ‘handmade bread’. This tortilla like flat bread is usually served with  meat or vegetable curry but in our home it was mostly served with Sugar Beans Curry or Kidney Beans Curry and often with butter and jam at tea time. We did not eat roti very often, if we did it was usually on Monday's (our primary day of abstinence from meat) or on cold rainy days when Amma could not be out in the garden -therefore having time to make roti.

Amma’s roti or handmade bread as she called it-was the best roti I've ever had, it really comes out perfect every time. Not only was it delicious but it was also soft. She used to often say roti should  be so soft yet flaky that one could "peel and eat it".

South African Roti Recipe

I would not call this a 'South African' roti recipe, because these tend to vary within individual families. For example we were Tamil and Amma's method differed from her Hindi acquaintances as much as it did within our family circle.

soft roti


How to Make Soft Roti

The secret to Amma's soft roti was threefold - her ingredient ratios, rolling and cooking technique. 

1. Use Boiling Hot Water

First off  she used "boiling hot water", water taken from the kettle as soon as it boiled. I mean this literally!, as soon as the water boils, pour directly into the flour.The boiling water reacts with flour, breaking down gluten bonds to create a soft roti dough and the softest roti's ever!

2. Make  Sure the Thawa or Pan is Hot

Apart from this 'secret technique'  she had strict rules for cooking the roti - "The first side must be half cooked-then turn-then half cook-then turn twice more to fully cook. The bread must come up otherwise it won't be cooked properly and make sure you press the sides". The pan should also be hot otherwise you end up with rock hard roti!

How to Make Round Roti

Amma always rolled her roti in near perfect circles. This must have something to do with her special technique of rolling the dough into a roll then slicing into cylinders which when pressed form near perfect circles. The rolling pin (pictured in this post) was one of  Amma's prized possessions ( older than I am it is 33 years old!).  Amma  always took great care not to  immerse it  into water- saying that it would rot. Instead she always wiped it clean  with a damp clothe then dried it thoroughly before putting it away...its no wonder its aging as gracefully as I am:)

To make soft Roti like Amma used to make, you will need flour, hot water (just boiled), sunflower oil, a tablespoon of butter, a rolling pin and thawa or heavy based frying pan. I don't own a thawa- a non stick frying pan works just as well.

roti recipe

Soft Roti Recipe

Recipe by Georgia
Prep time: 10
Cook time: 1 minute per roti
Total time: varies
Yield: 12 medium sized rotis;

  • 400g cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter or ghee
  • half teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • half cup flour for dusting the work surface
  • 250ml hot water
    Cooking Directions
1. Add 350g flour into a bowl. (Save 50g for next step,to be added little at a time). Add the oil. Add the hot water. Mix with a tablespoon since the dough will be quite hot with the boiling water.

step by step roti
roti recipe wit pictures

2. Take some of the remaining 50g flour and dust the worktop. Remove the dough from your dish then place on the work top.
easy roti
roti recipe
If it is sticky then add a little flour until it is soft and manageable. Knead the dough until a soft pliable dough is formed.This could take up to 5 minutes...keep kneading the dough until a soft dough forms.Like most breads the key  to soft bread is a dough that is well kneaded! The dough should look like the dough in the image above.

3. Once a soft dough is achieved. Cover the dough with a dishcloth or with your mixing bowl turned over it. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes while you prepare the butter and heat the pan. I leave the pan on low heat while I am rolling the rotis then turn up to high heat a minute or two prior to cooking the rotis.

4.Melt the butter then return to the dough. Break off a small piece of about 8cm diameter then roll into a large circle shape. Take the melted butter or ghee then spread over the circle shaped dough.

roti recipe

 5. Then roll the dough like a Swiss roll. Roll inward toward you.Once you have formed a snake-like shape then cut into even pieces.

easy roti recipe
roti recipe
best roti recipe

6. Take one of the cut pieces, stand upright then press down with your hand this will create a circle when flattened. Dust your hands with flour then work this small circle into a round shape then place onto work top and roll into a flat round disc. Make sure the roti is rolled as flat as possible. Thick rotis take longer to cook and are often too heavy to rise resulting in uncooked tasteless roti.

durban roti recipe

7. Amma used to roll about 10 roti before she cooked or if she enlisted one of my siblings or me to help cook the roti then she would just do the rolling then move on to cooking the Sugar Beans Curry. Take care to overlap the roti so they don't stick to each other. I prefer to roll all rotis then cook them.

8. To cook your soft roti simply place on the hot preheated pan (the pan should be hot) .The cooking process for each roti should be 1 minute. Allow the roti to cook for a 5-10 seconds before turning it over. On the second side allow to cook for a little longer, pressing the sides with your fingers to ensure that it cooks. Once the roti rises or you see bubbles form turn the roti. Careful not to burn your fingers as this can be quite hot, use a spatula if you like.

9. Once you see the dough rise up forming bubbles then turn the dough over allowing the dough to rise once more. Once you have golden brown spots then the roti is cooked. Remove from stove then repeat this process for all  remaining roti. Once all are cooked cover with a piece of paper towel or dishcloth, this will keep the moisture in keeping  roti soft until you are ready to serve them. See video demo below for cooking instructions:

How to Cook Roti Video

  • Follow the 1 minute video for instructions how to cook roti. Perfect soft roti should rise when cooked and reveal multiple layers that can be peeled.

soft roti recipe

  • I don't add melted butter to the cooked roti because I don’t like the greasy texture and don't think it is necessary- if you follow this recipe the roti should be soft enough to be enjoyed without excess butter. If you do prefer your roti with butter then simply spread a little  melted butter or ghee onto your roti before removing from the stove. Cover the cooked roti with a clean clothe or kitchen towel.This helps keep the roti soft and warm until served.
indian flatbread recipe

  • To reheat roti simply place the roti on a heated pan for a minute or two on each side until warmed.

Store your roti in an airtight container, or simply wrap with a cloth. In my experience this roti is so soft and delicious, there usually isn't any left over to store.

How To Make Soft Roti Video

More Roti Recipes in this Blog

Parotta Roti

How to Serve Roti

My two favourite serving sugestions are Roti rolls, they remind me of  Bean and Chip ones from late night studio work at uni and my absolute favourite, Amma's Sugar Beans Curry and Roti!

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  1. Can you use any other flour if you don’t have cake flour?

    1. Yes,you can use any flour, bread flour works just as well. The key to this recipe is the ratio used, one part boiling water for 2 cups of flour. For more about the types of flour see my post on the subject...


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