Pane e Panelle (Sicilian Chickpea Fritters)

  • by Nonna Box October 21, 2020
  • |
  • Last Updated on November 11, 2022
Panelle-Sicilian-chickpea-fritters

Panelle are classic and delicious chickpea fritters that are a Palermo popular street food tradition you won’t want to miss. Keep reading to find out how panelle sicilian chickpea fritters are made, how they are traditionally served in small buns, and how you can make them at home by following our recipe for this delightful snack.

What are Panelle?

Panelle Sicilian chickpea fritters are small fritters that are made with chick pea flour, salt, ground black pepper, and a drop of freshly squeezed lemon juice or dash of parsley before they are fried to perfection and served hot in a warm bun.

As a popular Siclian street food, they are usually served as “pane e panelle” or “bread and fritters” in small buns called Mafalde, a typical Sicilian bread covered with sesame seeds. Buns filled with panelle are found in the dozens of fried food shops and street vendors called panellari throughout Palermo, especially in the famous Ballarò market.

 

Panelle with Mafalda bread
Panelle with Mafalda bread

 

What do you need to make panelle Sicilian fritters?

This recipe is for the Sicilian chickpea fritters only and not for the bread roll, so the first thing you will need to do is find a suitable roll to serve panelle with. Here are three different roll types that can be used, or you can look for one that is similar at your local grocery store or bakery.

  • Mafalda, named after Mafalda di Savoia, is crusty, golden and topped with sesame seeds, sometimes in a twist or bun shape.
  • Scaletta is a crusty, golden loaf or bun made in the shape of a snake.
  • Vastidda is a soft round form, sometimes topped with sesame seeds.

To make this popular Sicilian street food, you won’t need any special equipment, but you will need a pot or saucepan to cook the water and chickpea flour mixture in and then a large frying pan or large saucepan to deep fry panelle in the hot oil. You will also need a cutting board, a sharp knife, heat-proof tongs and a plate where the cooked Sicilian chickpea fritters can be served.

The total time you will need to prepare this dish, between cooking the mixture and frying to a golden brown, is about 35 minutes. Then you will want to serve hot for the best taste.

Main ingredients needed to make panelle

This panelle recipe is super simple and really doesn’t have a lot of ingredients. Here is an explanation of the few ingredients you’ll need:

  1. Chickpea flour is the main ingredient, so, let’s learn a little more about it. You can find it under the name garbanzo bean flour, gram flour and many others. Chickpeas are naturally gluten free. They are a great source of protein and also contain carbohydrates, fiber, Thiamine, Folate, Irson, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Copper and Manganese. You can make chickpea flour yourself, but it is fairly inexpensive to purchase and widely available at most supermarkets which makes for happy cooking.
  2. Vegetable oil or olive oil in order to deep fry them.
  3. Lemon juice is an optional addition, we prefer freshly squeezed lemon wedges.
  4. Minced parsley, chopped parsley, as long as it’s fresh parsley! We love this dash of green when you add parsley on top.
  5. Ground black pepper is of course optional but gives a great flavor to any dish.
Panelle-Sicilian chickpea fritters

How to make panelle step-by-step

You will start by putting the chickpea flour and salt in a large sauce pan or pot and mixing well. Then you will add the water a little at a time, while whisking the chickpea flour to prevent lumps. Next, turn the flame on medium heat under the chickpea mixture and stir constantly with a whisk as it thickens. When it has formed a sort of polenta looking consistency, and comes away from the sides, it is almost ready. When the chickpea mixture is compact and not liquid, and you can remove it from the heat.

Prepare a large cutting board with parchment paper and pour the chickpea mixture out onto it. Spread the mixture evenly over the paper, it should be about 1/4 inch thick. Let it cool for about 20 minutes.

Gently place a second sheet of paper on the surface of the chick pea dough and lightly roll it with a rolling pin to create a uniform surface, do not press hard. Let it cool the rest of the way.

Cut the panelle dough into single fritters using a square, rectangular or triangular cookie cutter, or simply a knife, it will make about twenty.

Heat the vegetable oil in a deep pan until quite hot. Submerse each of the fritters fully for approximately 2 minutes, without turning. You can cook several panelle at a time, but they should not touch each other while frying.

Prepare several plates with paper towels and remove each fried panelle carefully with tongs and place on the paper towels. Sprinkle the chickpea fritters with a dash of salt. You can also top them with fresh squeezed lemon, parsley or black pepper.

Place several fritters in one of the Sicilian style buns or bread with sesame seeds and serve hot as a panelle sandwich.

Expert tips for making panelle

Tip 1: Be sure to add the water in very slowly to the panelle mixture and stir continuously to prevent lumps. Just like polenta or puree, lumps will ruin these delicious little panelle fritters.

Tip 2: Be sure that the oil you are frying in is very hot, because oil that isn’t properly preheated before you fry will result in soggy fritters instead of crispy ones.

Variations of panelle Sicilian chickpea fritters

If you prefer a healthy version that isn’t deep fried, you can bake panelle in the oven at 400°F on parchment paper or a greased baking sheet for about 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler for the last few minutes.

This isn’t a new variation, in fact, panelle were most likely originally baked and not fried! Historians believe that the first panelle were cooked on stone in vertical ovens typically used to bake flat breads popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that Sicilians began to deep fry them.

Panelle-Chickpea fritters

Panelle Sicilian chickpea fritters

A Crispy Fritter Street Food Snack Easy Recipe of Arabic origin from Palermo, Sicily. Panelle Recipe Served in a Typical Sicilian Mafalde Bread and Eaten like a Sandwich.
4.31 from 13 votes
Print Pin Rate Save Recipe
Course: Bread
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 20 panelle
Calories: 699kcal
Author: Nonna Box

Ingredients

  • 300 grams chickpea flour
  • 900 grams water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • vegetable oil enough for deep frying
  • 1 lemon optional
  • fresh parsley optional
  • ground black pepper optional
  • salto optional

Instructions

  • In a pot or large sauce pan with high sides, add chickpea flour and salt and mix together with a wooden spoon. Add the water a little at a time, while whisking all the flour and water together, until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps.
  • Under the pot or large saucepan, turn on the flame and set to medium heat. Stirring constantly with a whisk, let the chickpea mixture thicken. It should form a sort of polenta that comes off the sides of the pot. The mixture must be compact and not liquid, so stirring will become difficult. Turn off heat when you can no longer stir.
  • Transfer the chickpea mixture to a cutting board lined with parchment paper.
  • Pour onto the parchment paper and spread with a knife until it is about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Let the chickpea mixture cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
  • Lay a second sheet of parchment paper on the surface of the chick pea dough and lightly roll over it with a rolling pin without applying much pressure, but just to create a uniform surface. Shape the edges so as not to waste panelle dough and let it cool completely before the next step.
  • Using a square, rectangular or triangular cookie cutter, cut the panelle dough into single fritters until all the dough is used. If you prefer, you can simply use a knife to create the shape you want.
  • In a large, deep pan, heat the vegetable oil or olive oil for frying the panelle.
  • When the oil is very hot, each of the fritters needs to be fully immersed in hot oil for approximately 2 minutes, without turning.
  • Depending on the size of your pan, you can cook several panelle at a time, but they should not touch each other while frying.
  • Prep several plates with paper towels and remove each fried panelle carefully with tongs, draining off any excess oil, before placing on paper towels.
  • Sprinkle the chickpea fritters with a dash of salt. You can choose to top them with lemon, fresh parsley or ground black pepper if desired. For lemon juice, squeeze the juice of one lemon and drizzle on top. For fresh parsley, use minced parsley to sprinkle on top. And for pepper, use a fresh pepper grinder to top with ground black pepper.
  • Place several fritters in one of the Sicilian style buns with sesame seeds and serve hot as a panelle sandwich. You can decorate the plate with chopped parsley or lemon wedges.

Notes

If you prefer a less oily variation, you can bake panelle in the oven at 400°F on parchment paper for about 15 minutes, then turn on the broiler for the last few minutes.
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FAQs

Which population first used chickpea flour?

Already in ancient Roman times, chickpeas (or garbanzo beans which is another name for them) were widely used in cooking and chickpea flour was consumed by all the populations in the Mediterranean. It was the Arabs who first experimented with grinding chickpeas into chickpea flour and then mixing it with water before cooking it, sort of like polenta. Making the chickpea flour was a great way to preserve the protein-rich legumes to use throughout the year.

Are panelle made all year round?

A panelle sandwich is one of the fried foods that has remained a cornerstone of Palermo’s gastronomy. Historically, “pane e panelle” were sold only in winter, from Saint Lucy’s Day on December 13th through Christmas, to celebrate the abundance during the holidays with this rich fried food. However, later, panelle were available all year round. In fact, panelle became a daily staple for the poor and sometimes the only meal they might eat all day.

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