Today, I’m sharing with you the recipe of one of my most favourite snacks, the epitome of South Asian street food, the very definition of delicious: Vegetable Pakora.
I have a bit of a love affair going on with a good pakora.
The thing I try (and fail) to avoid.
I pretend like I don’t need them on my Iftar plate.
I tell myself I’m going to be healthier and not fry these goodies.
I repress my craving for these tasty fritters because they’re oily and no good for me.
I act like I don’t even like them.
I love to hate these little fellas, don’t I?
No matter how many affirmations I make, no matter how many times I tell myself, regardless of how health articles I read about why we need to ditch the fried goods in favour of soup at iftar – these buddies are an iftar companion that I doubt will be going anywhere anytime soon.
What is a vegetable pakora?
Pakoras, also known as bhajis, are deep fried fritters made using a batter of gram (chickpea) flour. The batter is usually spiced with an array of classic South Asian spices like cumin seeds, coriander powder etc and can be used to coat anything from potatoes to chicken. This recipe I’m sharing is for vegetable Pakoras, which contain a mix of onions, spinach, potatoes and aubergine – my favourite combination.
How to ensure your vegetable pakora batter is perfect
I originally created this recipe in 2015 but I am updating it in 2023 with many years of (non)scientific research and trials to reflect the things I’ve learnt on my pakora-frying journey. Here are my top tips for getting that perfect crispy vegetable pakora batter that tastes like a day out in Karachi.
- I recommend preparing the batter without water and leaving it to sit for at least an hour before frying. What happens in that hour is some minor culinary magic – the vegetables release some of their own moisture which in turn moistens the pakora batter. This’ll mean you won’t have to add much, if any, water to the better? ‘Why does that even matter?‘ you ask? Adding water waters down the flavour – when the veggies release their own water you are maximising the potent flavour already within the mixture
- Bicarbonate of soda is an essential ingredient to ensure a crisp, light and fluffy batter. It’s a very noticeable difference and I highly recommend you don’t skip this
- Corn flour also helps ensure the batter is crispy – I talked at length about the magic combining gram flour and corn flour does for pakora batter in my Chicken Pakora recipe here
- Egg and yogurt are two additions which you may or may not have seen before. They also aid in that fluffy, light and crispy vibe we’re going for. Egg adds in some fat into the batter (not that we are in need of more fat because, uhh deep fried fritters) and we all know how fat helps enhance flavour
- My recipe calls for pomegranate seeds, known as anardaana in Urdu/Hindi. These are optional but they add little tangy bites of flavour into the batter and I really enjoy them. They are a bit hard though and may not be suitable for those with dental problems ongoing (I am only mentioning this highly specific issue because I have been through anaardana related teeth woes)
The ultimate batter: One bird, two stones
A pakora batter is timeless, versatile and can pretty much be used for ANYTHING.
With this particular recipe, the truth is – there isn’t a set recipe. The spices remain the same, but I mix up the vegetables depending on what I have to hand. For the recipe I’m sharing, I have used a classic mix of onion, potato, aubergine, spinach and coriander.
Other vegetables you can include in vegetable pakoras include:
- spring onions
- any leafy green of your choice
Also, you can totally use this batter to create other kinds of pakoras, such as:
- bite-sized chicken pieces
- bite-sized fish pieces
- hard boiled eggs, halved or quartered
- paneer, feta or halloumi cheese
- discs of potato, onion or aubergine
- fat green chillis
- whole spinach leaves
- pretty much anything edible. For reals, I’ve pakora-fried a sandwich before. True story.
How do you serve vegetable pakoras?
Pakoras are the star of the show on my iftar table. You can pair them with a coriander and mint raita, plum chutney and even humble old ketchup. They also go well sprinkled with some chaat masala.
Pakoras are also a popular treat on a rainy day – there seems to some sort of a cultural association between rain and fried goods. Pakoras, samosas, kachoris, spring rolls – they’re all-well loved on a wet day alongside a hot cup of chai.
My husband once told me his dad used to enjoy Pakoras with chutney with roti as a complete meal, and since then that has been my emergency go-to dinner on days when I haven’t had the time to cook something. It’s absolutely delicious!
This year in Ramadan, as always, I’m adamant Pakoras won’t be a regular show, but an occasional iftar treat. I’m going to try my utmost best to not give into the temptation and pile my plate sky-high with those mouth-wateringly divine treats. I’m going to dodge the plate of Pakoras with unwavering determination and reach for the healthier, lighter option.
And as always, I’m very sure I won’t succeed.
Enjoy, with lots of love x
- 100g onion (about one medium onion), sliced
- 150g potatoes (about one medium potato), peeled and sliced into thick strips
- 50g aubergine (about half a small aubergine), sliced into thick strips
- 20g fresh spinach (half a handful), chopped
- 10g fresh coriander (1 tbsp chopped), chopped
- 4 green chillies, chopped finely
- 100g gram flour
- 1 tsp corn flour (optional)
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp dried pomegranate seeds (optional)
- 1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 2 tsp yogurt
- 1 egg
- Oil, as needed for deep frying
- Add all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Ideally do this about 1 hour before you'd like to fry the pakoras as we ideally want the vegetables to release some moisture into the batter. If you're unable to wait an hour, add a small amount of cold water a bit at a time until the batter looks thick like PVA glue.
- Heat a pan or wok with oil for deep frying. The oil should be hot but not smoking. To test whether the oil is hot enough drop a small bit of the pakora batter into the oil. It should float up immediately.
- Using your hands or a tablespoon, drop in about a tablespoon of batter per pakora into the oil. Allow the pakora to fry for 4-5 minutes without moving it, until it is strong enough to hold its shape before turning it to fry on the other side. Fry the other side for another 4-5 minutes too. The pakora will be golden brown and crispy when it is done.
- Use a slotted spoon to drain out as much oil as possible from the pakora over the frying pan before placing them into a colander lined with tissue whilst you fry the rest of your batter.
- Pakoras are best served immediately. Enjoy!