Socca is a popular street food in Nice, France, and is often enjoyed as an appetizer with a glass of crisp rosé. In our own kitchens, this classic dish can be a go-to, any-time-of-day recipe. Learn how to make it by heart and it might just be one of those recipes that comes close to changing your life.
What is Socca?
Socca is a traditional dish from Nice, France, and as with many traditional dishes, there are a dozen different ways you can make it. You’ll most often find socca cooked street-side on fiery grills, where the resulting flatbread is coarsely chopped and served in a cone with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. In the South of France, every home cook has their own technique for cooking the chickpea batter, but the ingredients are almost always the same: chickpea flour, water, and olive oil.
Here’s everything you need to know about making socca.
- The basic batter is equal parts chickpea flour and water, with a few tablespoons of olive oil.
- Let the batter rest for 30 minutes before cooking — this makes the interior creamy when cooked.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F and then heat a cast iron pan under the broiler for 5 minutes before cooking.
- Broil the socca for about 7 minutes.
- Socca success will look like crispy edges with a slightly blistered surface; the interior will be moist and creamy.
What Is Chickpea Flour?
Not that many years ago, you might have had to venture to a specialty shop to find chickpea flour, but these days most supermarkets sell this gluten-free flour. Some manufacturers label it garbanzo bean flour, but it can be also found under the names gram or besan flour at international markets.
Chickpea flour is full of protein, but no gluten proteins. It needs more time to hydrate than all-purpose flour, which is why most socca batters require a rest before cooking. Expect a nutty, beany taste with a delightfully toasty aroma.
Broil the Socca Batter in a Super-Hot Cast Iron Skillet
Socca batter can be cooked on the stovetop like other pancakes or baked in the oven, but you won’t be able to mimic the smoky flavors of a Niçois(e) street vendor’s very hot grill without help from the broiler. I’ve found a hybrid baking-broiling method results in the crispiest socca. Preheat the oven to 450°F while the batter rests, and then about five minutes before cooking slide a cast iron pan under the broiler and heat the broiler to high. The pan should get a little smoky while it preheats (Open a window or turn on a fan while you’re working on this step.) Then, slick the pan with more olive oil and add the rested batter. Place the pan under the broiler and cook for just a few minutes.
The socca won’t rise, but the exterior will blister and blacken a bit under the broiler. You only need five to eight minutes of total cook time to set the outside of the socca but leave the interior creamy.
Here’s How to Serve Socca
Out of the oven you can slice the socca into bite-sized snacking pieces or into more substantial wedges for lunch or dinner. Socca is pretty delicious all on its own, but you can serve it warm from the oven with some cheeses and cured olives as an easy appetizer. For a light and easy dinner, serve socca slices with a simple green salad and ice-cold rosé.
Socca could easily stand in as a gluten-free pizza crust or as a replacement for the toast on your morning breakfast plate. I’ve easily passed plain, honey-drenched socca off as dessert for my children. We recently ate it topped with fried eggs and a dusting of Parmesan cheese for a late lunch; the runny egg yolk soaking into the creamy, crispy bits was just the thing to make me stop and marvel at the simple pleasure of life-affirming recipes like this one.
How To Make Socca
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes to 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes to 8 minutes
- 1 cup chickpea flour (4 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan and drizzling
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon za'atar (optional)
- 10-inch cast iron skillet
- Flat spatula
Prepare the chickpea batter. Whisk the chickpea flour, water, olive oil, and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes to give the flour time to absorb the water.
Preheat the oven and then the pan. Arrange an oven rack 6 inches below the broiler element and heat to 450°F. About 5 minutes before the batter is done resting, place a 10-inch cast iron skillet in the oven and turn the oven to broil.
Add the batter to the prepared pan. Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven. Add about 1 teaspoon of oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan when the pan is swirled. Pour the batter into the center of the pan. Tilt the pan so the batter coats the entire surface of the pan, if needed.
Broil the socca for 5 to 8 minutes. Broil until you see the top of the socca begin to blister and brown, 5 to 8 minutes. The socca should be fairly flexible in the middle but crispy on the edges. If the top is browning too quickly before the batter is fully set, move the skillet to a lower oven rack until done.
Slice and serve. Use a flat spatula to work your way under the socca and ease it from the pan onto a cutting board. Slice it into wedges or squares, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with the za'atar if using.
Storage: Socca is best if eaten immediately after baking while still warm, but can be refrigerated and re-toasted for up to 1 week.
Chickpea flour: You can find chickpea flour in the bulk bins at Whole Foods and other natural foods-type stores. Bob's Red Mill also sells it in packages. Look for it under the name "garbanzo bean flour" if you're having trouble finding it.
Meghan Splawn is a food editor and recipe professional with a deep love of photography. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn't I Just Feed You.