Capturing the heart and soul of the Côte d’Azur is Socca, the famous rustic chickpea flatbread that’s embraced as Nice’s original street food. This Socca recipe will transport you back to Provencal France from your very own kitchen!
What is Socca?
Socca is a cross between a rustic flatbread and pancake that is made from chickpea flour, water, and olive oil and is prepared as a batter, poured into a pan, and baked. In southern France it is usually generously peppered. Some variations include caramelized onions which I include because in my opinion it makes it extra amazing. (And though not traditional, adding some smoky bacon lardons makes it even more amazing!)
Made from garbanzo bean flour, socca is naturally gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan.
Socca is usually quite thin but you can adjust its thickness according to the pan size you use.
It’s baked until nicely browned and crispy on the edges and then served piping hot cut into wedges.
Where Did Socca Originate?
Popular for centuries, Socca originated in the Genoa region of Italy, where it is known as farinata, and quickly spread in popularity throughout the Ligurian coast of Italy and the Provence region of southern France.
Its earliest origins however can be are traced back even longer, some 8000 years ago, to Egypt or Mesopatamia and it’s believed the Saracens brought it with them to southern Italy during their conquests and its first appearance was in Sicily in the 9th century. It’s popularity really took off in the Middle Ages in Genoa (a large producer of chickpea flour) where it served as a food that was quick and cheap to make and satisfying. It was sold in the shape of a large pancake and served many people at a time.
From Genoa its popularity spread to southern France, it is thought via the mass emigration of Italian workers under Napoleon. It has remained a staple, iconic food in Provencal France ever since.
Nothing quite captures the spirit of the Côte d’Azur food tradition like socca. The city of Nice in particular is known for its socca where it is regarded as the city’s original street food. You’ll find it at food markets prepared in huge shallow frying pans, cut into wedges and served sprinkled with pepper. And invariably every stall will have a line of eager customers. Marseille makes a similar dish known as panisse where the chickpea flatbread is cut into small rectangles and fried.
If you’ve been to Nice you’ve likely encountered – or have been nearly run over by – bikes rigged with large pans as the street sellers pedal their way through the city shouting “Socca, socca, caouda que bullie!” (meaning “Socca, socca, scorching hot socca!”). Wave one of them down and you’ll promptly be served up a slice of socca unceremoniously wrapped in paper or placed on napkin and, just as advertised, piping hot.
© Jlf4646 | Dreamstime
Whether you’ve had socca before and want to recreate it at home or want to sample this popular Provencal favorite for the first time, we’ve got you covered with a homemade socca recipe that you’ll return to time and time again.
Socca is not difficult to make, it just takes a careful eye to get the right balance between generously browned while not over-baking it to the point of being too dry.
How to Serve Socca
Piping hot! This is critical to capturing the right texture: Crusty-crispy on top and almost meltingly soft underneath. Once the socca cool it becomes chewy and gummy. So be sure to serve it hot straight out of the pan to enjoy the wonderful texture and flavor of this beloved traditional dish!
In a mixing bowl whisk together the chickpea flour, salt and pepper. Pour in the water and continue to whisk until the batter is smooth.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and whisk to combine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or up to several hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Heat a 12-inch heavy oven-proof frying pan (I prefer cast iron) and add the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil (I like to replace two tablespoons of the olive oil with duck fat for the best flavor). Cook the onion until deeply caramelized, adding a small pinch of sugar to enhance the caramelization. Add the chopped rosemary and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture out evenly over the bottom of the pan.
Pour the chickpea batter over the onion mixture.
Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the socca is firm, the edges are set, and it is golden in color.
Brush the socca with some additional olive oil and then place it under the broiler for another minute or two until well browned and just beginning to scorch in a few places.
Cut into wedges and serve immediately while it’s hot. You can sprinkle it with some additional black pepper if you like.
For more delicious French finger food be sure to try our:
Socca (Provencal Chickpea Flatbread)
- 1 cup garbanzo bean flour (aka chickpea flour)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup water , room temperature
- 3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , divided
- 1 medium yellow onion , thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
- extra olive oil for brushing
- extra pepper for sprinkling
- In a mixing bowl whisk together the garbanzo bean flour, salt and pepper. Pour in the water and continue to whisk until the batter is smooth. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and whisk to combine. Let sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes or up to several hours.Preheat the oven to 450 F.
- Heat a 12-inch heavy oven-proof frying pan (I prefer cast iron) and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I like to replace some of the olive oil with duck fat for the best flavor). Cook the onion until deeply caramelized, adding a small pinch of sugar to enhance the caramelization. Add the chopped rosemary and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture out evenly over the bottom of the pan.Pour the chickpea batter over the onion mixture. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the socca is firm, the edges are set, and it is golden in color. Next brush the socca with some additional olive oil and then place it under the broiler for another minute or two until well browned and just beginning to scorch in a few places.Cut into wedges and serve immediately while hot.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet September 26, 2020
If we have leftovers, do they require refrigeration?
Kimberly Killebrew says
No, you can put them in an airtight container (to keep them from drying out) and store at room temperature for up to a couple of days.
So has anyone baked it and used as a pizza…put a sauce and ingred on top and bake as pizza…I like the idea of using chicK pea flour…non gluten and a bean…
I look forward to making this for a French cocktail party I am having. What do you serve to dip it in?
Kimberly @ The Daring Gourmet says
Hi Marz, socca is traditionally served as is – no dips needed.