Panelle are Sicilian fritters. From such humble ingredients, you’ll find its deliciousness amazing. Panelle is part of cucina povera or poor man’s kitchen, alluding to the inexpensive nature of the ingredients. The main ingredient in panelle is chickpea flour. Find it in the organic or health food section of your grocery store.
Panelle hails from southern Italy, mainly Palermo where according to our friend Tony-a Sicilian, street vendors do brisk business selling panelle. Sometimes, it’s a sandwich. I enjoy it with arugula salad drizzled with balsamic and topped with pieces of Parmigianno Regiano. Add a nice glass of Chianti and it’s a perfect meal.
Our friend Tony shared his panelle recipe. We are eternally grateful. Panelle is deep-fried so it’s not what you would call “health food.” But my philosophy is to enjoy all things in moderation. The perfect panelle is sliced thin and has a nice crunch and a soft interior.
As far as the origins, I was not able to find much. It’s believed that panelle was introduced by the Arabs, who dominated the area between the 9th and the 11th century. In a previous post I mentioned that garbanzo beans (chickpeas) originated in the Middle East. In Sicily people enjoy panelle with a squeeze of lemon, another Arab import. You can also add extra wow to this chickpea flour recipe by topping it with fresh herbs such as parsley.
Making panelle step by step
Making panelle is not time consuming or difficult. Some chefs in big cities are even experimenting with chickpea “French fries” more to come on that one once I learn the process.
- Gather your ingredients and have them measured and ready to go.
- Lightly grease a 9 inch loaf pan. Heat a 2 quart sauce pan on medium heat and add the salt. When the water starts to get warm slow add the chickpea flour stirring continuously.
- Add the pepper and continue stirring and the dough will be somewhat sticky when fully combined.
- Place the dough in the loaf pan and flatten out the top with a spatula. Chill the dough for 2 hours until firm.
- Invert the loaf pan and drop out the loaf. Slice into 1/4 inch pieces.
- Fry in 350°F oil for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
Frequently asked questions:
- Can I freeze panelle? Yes, it would be best to freeze the dough. Wrap the dough tightly in freezer paper and it will store nicely for up to two months. Thaw completely overnight in the refrigerator. The fried panelle is best eaten fresh and crisp. I don’t recommend trying to store the fried panelle in the freezer as it will not have the best texture when reheated.
- How do I serve panelle? It is common to serve panelle with a squeeze of lemon or place the slices between bread and eat like a sandwich. I like mine with a little grated cheese on top.
If you want to explore some other Italian dishes here are a few of my favorites that are a little less commonplace and so good! Frico is a rustic dish made with potato, onion and lots of Parmesan cheese. These simple ingredients come together in one fabulous dish. Blueberry crostata easy recipe that is great to make during berry season! The dough comes together quickly and this can be ready for a picnic or gathering fast. If you want a little spicy and savory flavor try this orecchiette with shrimp, fennel and arugula.
Panelle - Sicilian Fried Chickpea Fritters Recipe
Panelle is a popular street food in Palermo Sicily made with chickpea flour and fried like a fritter. These are often served simply wrapped in paper or between sliced bread or a roll like a sandwich. When I make them at home I like to top mine with a some Parmesan cheese.
Prepare the dough:
- Lightly grease one 9" loaf pan.
Place a 2 qt.sauce pan over medium heat and add the salt. When the water starts to get warm, slowly add the chickpea flour, stirring constantly and scraping the sides.
Continue stirring until all the flour has been incorporated into the water. Add the pepper and stir in. The dough will be somewhat sticky.
Place the dough into the prepared loaf pan and smooth out the top with a spatula by running it across the top of the dough( lengthwise).
- Refrigerate until cool (about 2 hours).
Frying the panelle:
- Remove from fridge and invert onto a cutting board. With a chef's knife slowly cut the panelle dough into thin (1/4") slices.
Fry in 350° F oil for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Sprinkle with fresh grated Parmigiano Regiano and chopped parsley (if desired).
Originally published April 2014 and updated June 2020.