Pakoras (Onion and Potato Fritters)
Pakora is a compound word that means “cooked” and “small lump,” which isn’t very flattering and belies the fact that they make for a delightful little bite that pleases at any time of the day, er well, maybe not for breakfast. Fritters are loved around the world but India takes these snacks to new heights. They are served all across India, made in homes, restaurants, street stalls, and roadside cafes. Depending on where in India you are, pakoras are called pakoda, or bajji/bhajias.
This goes veg or non-veg, as you wish and is a wonderful little recipe to have in your back pocket for a savory accompaniment with drinks. Pakoras beg for your creativity; almost all vegetables will work as a fritter, though I do recommend adding an allium of some sort: shallots, spring onions, etc.
A must for pakoras is that they need to be fried; baking is not a good option. If you feel comfortable with that, the steps are quick and non-fussy. For a video of pakoras being made, see Hari Ghotra’s excellent YouTube vegetable pakora video.
See the notes below before you cook.
Pakoras (Onion & Potato Fritters)
- 1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
- 1 teaspoon table or sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon garam masala ~ Recipe
- 1/2 teaspooon turmeric
- 1 pinch cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ 1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste; substitutions
- 1/4 cup cilantro ~ Chopped
- 1 cup onion ~ Very thinly sliced
- 12 ounces potatoes ~ Grated on the large side of a box grater
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 small green chili, optional ~ 1/2 tsp finely minced, or more to taste; substitutions
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, optional ~ Grated
- 2 to 3 cups neutral ~ Use oil with a high smoke point: grapeseed, peanut, avocado oil, etc.
- Gather all your ingredients.
- Heat 2 to 3 inches of oil in a wok, kadhai/karahi, or dutch oven over medium heat to 350°F (180°C) degrees.
- To a medium bowl add the chickpea flour, salt, baking soda, garam masala, cumin seeds, turmeric, and chili powder. Mix and then add 1/4 cup water, then add 1 tablespoon of the water at a time just until you have a batter the consistency of heavy cream and it coats a spoon.
- While the batter is resting, thinly slice the onion, grate the potato, and mix together in a large bowl with fresh cilantro, lemon juice, green chili, and ginger (if using).
- Add the flour batter into the vegetables and mix well. Don’t let this mixture sit too long, or the liquid from the onions and potatoes will seep out, and your batter will become watery.
- Line a baking tray with paper towels.
- Test that your oil has come to 350°F (180°C) with a thermometer, or until a bit of the batter pops up to the surface immediately and is frying nicely.
- Very carefully drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil. Do not crowd them and turn several times until they are golden brown and crispy. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the pakoras and drain on the paper towels. As you fry the pakoras in several batches, you may need to increase, or lower the heat as needed to keep the oil at approximately 350°F (180°C).
- These little treats freeze beautifully and if you want to work ahead for a party, make a batch or two, and freeze in a zip lock bag. To heat up again, place in a 350°
oven for 5 to 10 minutes, and heat until warmed through and crispy.
- Make sure your onion slices are not longer than 2 inches.
- Other vegetables ideas are zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, paneer, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, red bell pepper (capsicum) or spinach.
- Seafood or chicken pakoras are also tasty.
- If you do not have chickpea flour (besan), substitute a 50/50 mix of all-purpose flour and cornstarch makes a good substation, though I do encourage you to find besan if you can.
- Pakoras are best eaten hot out of the oil, or they lose their crispness.
- A candy or deep-frying thermometer comes in handy here, but not absolutely necessary.
- Additional flavorings to play around with:
- Curry leaves instead of cilantro
- A pinch of asafoetida (hing)
- A teaspoon of carom seeds (ajwain)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) crushed
- Chaat masala to dust the fritters after coming out of the oil