Indian Vegetable Fritters (Crispy Pakoras or Bhajiyas)
Homemade Pakoras, bhajiyas, or Indian Vegetable Fritters are so delicious! Crispy battered potatoes, onions, and spinach, loaded with spices, and deep fried until extra crispy and delicious! Then, serve with chutney for a crispy, crunchy treat! This is my family’s favorite recipe for homemade pakoras, and there’s a reason why!
Extra crispy pakoras (or bhajiyas) are on deck today!
One of my fondest memories as a child returning to my parent’s home country is taking an early evening stroll down to the street vendors to buy pakoras. They wrapped them up in newspaper bags and served them with baggies of chutney to take home. And if it was a rainy day, snacks like pakoras would surely be on the menu for tea time. Ask any South Asian Muslim; you can bet these are on the menu for Ramadan too.
All of this to say, I’ve had my fair share of pakoras over the years.
We love these Indian vegetable fritters. They’re extra crunchy from the shoestring onions and potatoes dusted with chickpea flour to make a light batter and fried until each part is perfectly crispy. They look like little bird nests; you can see how crunchy and flavorful these are—seasoned with fenugreek, red pepper flakes, other seasonings, and fresh peppers. These pakoras are nothing short of scrumptious. They are perfect for serving warm with a boat of cilantro and mint chutney to dip them in!
Ingredients for Indian Vegetable Fritters:
- Chickpea flour: Also known as besan or gram flour. These ingredients are usually available in the international aisle of larger grocery stores, and you’ll find them at your local South Asian grocery store.
- Ginger and Garlic Paste: You can easily find this ingredient in the refrigerated grocery section of the grocery store or the international aisle in a jar. If you have a South Asian grocery store near you, check there, they definitely carry it!
- Cilantro: Adds freshness, flavor, and color to the bhajiyas.
- Onion: Thinly slice the onions. We’ll add them in batches to the Indian vegetable fritter batter. Some of the onions are there to release water into the batter, while the other half is there to add a crunchy texture.
- Potato: Thinly sliced potatoes add the perfect crisp texture! You don’t want to grate them on a box grater for this – we’re not looking for hashbrowns. I use my mandoline to make thin slices, and then I’ll julienne the potatoes. Think more like matchstick carrots.
- Baby Spinach: This is optional! Spinach is something my mom always adds to her homemade pakoras, so it’s something I’m used to having. Don’t chop the spinach too finely. I like to give it a rough chop to break up the leaves, but not so tiny that it resembles the chopped cilantro!
- Serrano pepper: This adds freshness and some heat. Feel free to use less or more according to your spice preference.
- Spices: Like most Pakistani or Indian recipes, this one has a ton of seasonings. You’ll need carom seeds or celery seeds (also known as ajwain). You’ll also need a generous sprinkle of red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric (or a big pinch), cumin seeds that we’ll toast, and coriander seeds that we’ll toast as well. I don’t use red chili powder in my recipe because the flakes and the fresh green chilli give this enough heat, but feel free to add some if you usually prefer your pakoras extra spicy!
How to make extra crispy vegetable pakoras:
- Toast the seeds for maximum flavor. Start by adding the cumin seed and coriander seeds to a dry skillet and toast them over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes, tossing about every minute. You’ll know the seeds are done when you can smell the floral notes of the coriander and cumin in the air. Allow these to cool. Then transfer them to a mortar and pestle and break the seeds. You don’t want to turn this into powder.
- Combine the ingredients. You want to grab a bowl and stir together the chickpea flour, cumin and coriander, ginger and garlic paste, fenugreek leaves, kosher salt, celery seeds (or ajwain), red pepper flakes, baking soda, turmeric, minced serrano, chopped cilantro, half of the sliced onions, and 1/3 cup of water. Stir to combine.
- Let it sit and do its magic. Then, you want the batter to hang out. The baking soda and salt will break down the onions and get them to release more water into the batter to bring it together. See picture 2 to see what it looks like after 30 minutes. Then squeeze the mixture together to release more liquid. Add the remaining onions, baby spinach, and potatoes into the batter and let it sit for another 15 minutes. If the batter is still mostly dry, add another tablespoon of water. This will depend on how humid the climate is; sometimes, you need a bit more. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat while the batter rests.
- Deep fry the Indian vegetable fritters. When the oil is hot, stir the batter one last time. You want it to be somewhere in between, not too runny and not too stiff. If the batter is runny, add a tablespoon of chickpea flour to bring it together. Using two spoons, gently lower a bird’s nest of batter into the frying oil. Do a test run on one to make sure it’s holding together. Let it fry for 3-4 minutes undisturbed, and maintain a temperature of around 325ºF so that the pakoras don’t brown too quickly. When they’re golden, remove them with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Taste the test pakora and adjust with more seasonings as desired. Continue to fry in batches the same way. Towards the end, you might notice that the Indian vegetable fritters batter starts to thin out quite a bit; add a tablespoon of chickpea flour or two as needed to bring it back to the original frying consistency. When they’re ready, serve pakoras with your favorite sauces.
FAQs about this recipe
Essentially pakoras and bhajiyas are the same thing. Depending on where you’re from, they’re called a different name.
Pakoras are made from chickpea flour, so they’re naturally gluten-free.
As written, this recipe is vegan-friendly.
To be honest, I’ve never had pakoras with these ingredients. And it would definitely require some additional testing to ensure that the batter was the right consistency based on the water content of the veggies you plan on adding.
To make the green chutney, you’ll need a small bunch of cleaned cilantro, 1-2 jalapenos, 2 cloves of garlic, ¼ teaspoon of cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt, and ¼ cup of water. Add these ingredients to a blender, then blend until smooth. You may need a little more water depending on the size of the cilantro bunch. Some people also like to swap some of the cilantro for mint leaves but this is purely optional. We usually use just cilantro!
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Crunchy Beef Samosas
- Chicken Patties
- Finger Lickin’ Butter Chicken Recipe
- The BEST Palak Paneer
- 30-Minute Spicy Shrimp Masala
Indian Vegetable Fritters (Crispy Pakoras or Bhajiyas)
Homemade Pakoras, bhajiyas, or Indian Vegetable Fritters are so delicious! Crispy battered potatoes, onions, and spinach, loaded with spices, and deep fried until extra crispy and delicious! Then, serve with chutney for a crispy, crunchy treat! This is my family's favorite recipe for homemade pakoras, and there's a reason why!
- 1½ teaspoon EACH: cumin seeds AND coriander seeds (see notes)
- 1 cup chickpea flour (plus more)
- 2 teaspoons EACH: ginger garlic paste AND dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon celery or carom seeds (ajwain), optional
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: ground turmeric AND baking soda
- 1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 large onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup roughly chopped baby spinach, packed
- 1 small potato, peeled and julienned (keep in water until ready to use)
- Oil, for frying
- COMBINE: In a bowl, stir together the chickpea flour, cumin, and coriander (see notes), ginger garlic paste, fenugreek leaves, kosher salt, celery seeds, red pepper flakes, baking soda, turmeric, minced serrano, chopped cilantro, 1/2 of the sliced onions, and ⅓ cup of water. Stir to combine.
- LET SIT: Allow the batter to sit for at least 30 minutes, covered. The salt will cause the onions to release their water into the batter, and this takes time! Then, stir in the remaining onions, baby spinach, and drained potatoes into the batter, let another 10-15 minutes while you preheat 2 inches of frying oil in a deep skillet to 325ºF.
- COATING: When the oil is ready, stir the batter and make sure it’s not completely liquid-y. You want the onions and veggies to be lightly coated in the wet batter but for the batter to not be too runny. If it’s runny, add a tablespoon of chickpea flour until it thickens slightly. If its too dry, add a tablespoon of water and stir to combine. The thick batter should just coat the stringy ingredients.
- FRY: Use two metal tablespoons to gently lower a heaping tablespoon of the mixture in the hot oil in the shape of a birds nest; kind of messy but together at the same time. Test one and let it fry for 7-8 minutes, flipping halfway or until golden and crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon. If the pakora held together, add more pakoras until the frying vessel has them spaced out about 1/2 inch apart and fry in batches. Towards the end, if the batter becomes too runny, add a tablespoon of chickpea flour at a time until it thickens up to the original frying consistency.
- SERVE: Serve pakoras with tamarind or green chutney.
- Toast the spices: I like to toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat for about 4-5 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and break the seeds down just a bit; you don’t want it to be a powder. This gives homemade pakoras the best flavor!
- Troubleshooting: If the fritter falls apart in the oil, most likely the batter was too thick. You just need to add a little more water so that it binds the ingredients a little better. Remember, you don't want the flour mixture to be dry.
- Green Chutney: add a small bunch of cleaned cilantro, 1-2 jalapenos, 2 cloves of garlic, ¼ teaspoon of cumin seeds, ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt, and ¼ cup of water to a blender and blend until smooth. You may need a little more water depending on the size of the cilantro bunch. You can swap some of the cilantro for mint if you'd like.