Popular Sicilian street food that you can easily prepare at home. Panelle (or Sicilian Chickpea Fritters) is excellent as an appetizer, a snack, or for making your own panelle sandwich!
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Although common in the whole island of Sicily, this traditional Italian snack is ubiquitous in the city of Palermo — and rightly so.
It’s a great on-the-go treat. Delicious, filling, and easy on the wallet. What more could you ask for?
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What is panelle?
It is arguably the most famous street food in Palermo, the capital of the island of Sicily.
Panelle is made of chickpea flour, with some fresh parsley, salt, and pepper for seasoning, then deep-fried to perfection.
But it’s not just for snacks. It’s also found in every osteria or trattoria’s menu, under ‘antipasti,’ — and as the locals love to do, it’s excellent for making a panelle sandwich. Yum!
- Chickpea flour – made from dry chickpeas.
- Salt – just use your favorite brand.
- Black pepper – ground black pepper
- Parsley – I strongly suggest using fresh Italian parsley for this panelle recipe, plus you would also be using it for serving later on.
- Oil – you need to use neutral (no-taste) vegetable oil for frying, not olive oil.
Start preparing your panelle by combining salt and three cups of water in a medium-sized saucepan.
Add chickpea flour and whisk until there are no lumps (photo 1).
Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and keep whisking.
After three minutes, add the black pepper and continue whisking (photo 2).
After about four more minutes, you will see that the flour is starting to thicken — when you lift your whisk from the bottom of the pan.
Adjust heat to medium-low and continue mixing for nine more minutes.
Take the pan off the heat and add the parsley (photo 3).
Mix to evenly combine the parsley, then transfer the dough into a loaf tin.
Use your spatula (or hand) to flatten the dough’s top, gently pressing down (photo 4).
Set the tin aside, uncovered to cool and solidify — at least sixty to ninety minutes.
When the dough is ready, simply turn the loaf tin over to remove the dough.
Cut the dough into half, then quarter, and then slice into about half a centimeter thick and slice across to cut a triangle (photo 6).
Heat the oil in another saucepan over medium-high heat.
Once the oil is ready, start frying the chickpea fritters, placing them on top of kitchen paper after to drain any excess oil (photo 7).
Serve panelle with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of ground black pepper.
Yep, for a complete meal, you can make a sandwich using panelle as well — and this is how you do it.
- Step #1: Get a bun or a bread roll, cut it in half and add one layer of panelle on the lower part of the bun.
- Step #2: Sprinkle some pepper, add fresh parsley, and add another layer of fritters, repeating it for at least three layers.
- Step #3: Squeeze some lemon on the last layer, then cover with the top bun and serve.
It’s really up to you how much panelle you want in the sandwich, but this is the right amount for me. 🙂
- Switch to a spatula or wooden spoon once the chickpea flour becomes too thick for the metal whisk.
- There is no need to refrigerate the dough to cool it. Setting it aside at room temperature is enough, even drier, because there is no extra moisture from the cold.
- You can experiment cutting it in any shape you want, but keep it no less than half a centimeter thick; too thin might be a bit of a challenge to handle when frying.
- Alternatively, you can use a rectangular baking tray (sheet) to flatten the dough instead of a loaf tin. I always find this option more difficult because I am not quick enough to flatten it before it becomes hard.
Some of my friends prefer this method, though, because it cools it faster.
Yes, you can prepare the panelle dough and keep it refrigerated.
I have not kept it for more than 24 hours, though, and I do not cover it when it’s in the refrigerator. If you do, the top would be moist, and that’s not what you want.
No, I don’t recommend doing this. The chickpea fritters would be soggy and blah by then.
Panelle should be enjoyed right out of the fryer!
Panelle Recipe (Sicilian Chickpea Fritters)
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper, (plus more for serving)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, (plus more for serving)
- 2/3 cup oil, for frying
- lemon, for serving (optional)
Preparing panelle dough:
- Using a medium-sized pan, combine salt and 3 cups of water.
- Add chickpea flour and whisk until there are no lumps.
- Place the pan over medium-high heat and keep whisking.
- After 3 minutes, add the ground black pepper and continue whisking.
- Wait for about 4 more minutes, and you will start seeing it thicken. Test this by lifting your whisk, and you will see bits attached to it.
- Adjust heat to medium-low and continue mixing for 9 more minutes. You can switch to a wooden spoon or spatula anytime from this point on because the whisk is not sturdy enough to handle the dough.
- Take the saucepan off the heat and add the chopped parsley.
- Mix, then transfer the dough into a loaf tin.
- Use your hand to flatten the top of the dough while gently pressing.
- Set the tin aside, uncovered to cool and solidify — at least sixty to ninety minutes. (Room temperature is sufficient.)
Preparing chickpea fritters:
- When the dough is ready, turn the loaf tin over to remove it.
- Cut into half, then quarter, and then slice into about 1/2-centimeter thick and slice across to cut a triangle.
- Using a saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is ready, start frying the chickpea fritters, placing them on top of kitchen paper after to drain any excess oil.
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a dash of ground black pepper.
Making panelle sandwich:
- Slice a bun or a bread roll in half and add one layer of panelle on the bun's lower part.
- Add a dash of ground black pepper and fresh parsley, then add another layer of chickpea fritters — repeating it for at least three layers.
- On the top layer, squeeze some fresh lemon and cover with the top bun.
- Cook’s TIp#1: Do not hesitate to use a spatula or wooden spoon once the chickpea flour becomes too thick for the metal whisk.
- Cook’s Tip #2: No need to refrigerate the dough when cooling it.Setting it aside at room temperature is enough, even makes it drier since there is no extra moisture from the cold.
- Cook’s Tip #3: Feel free to cut it in any shape you want. But try to keep it no less than half a centimeter thick, or it might be a bit of a challenge to handle during frying.
- Cook’s Tip #4: You can use a rectangular baking tray (sheet tray) to flatten the dough instead of a loaf tin.It cools it faster, but you have to be quick in flattening the dough before it becomes hard.
- FAQ #1: You can prepare it in advance and keep the panelle dough in the refrigerator for no more than 24 hours, but do not cover it once it’s in the fridge.
- FAQ #2: Reheating it will turn it soggy; panelle should be eaten straight out of the fryer!