To make vegetable fritters irresistible … make Pakora!! These are Indian vegetable patties, spiced and fried until golden and crispy. They can be made with virtually any vegetable, so use this pakora recipe as a springboard to do your own variations.
Pakora: Indian Vegetable Fritters
This is street food, the Indian way! Sold as snacks on the streets of India and as popular appetisers in Indian restaurants elsewhere, pakora are crispy, bite-size vegetable fritters. They’re loaded with gorgeous Indian spices before being fried until crunchy.
These little nuggets are dangerously easy to eat, the sort of food you just keep popping into your mouth, one after the other, until you suddenly realise the plate is half empty and you look around to find someone to accuse – Who ate all the pakoras??!!!
Ssshhh!!! I will never tell – if you don’t!
What goes in Pakora
Pakoras can be made with almost any vegetable that is suitable for cooking in fritter form. I’ve opted to use onion, potato and cauliflower, but there’s an extensive list below of other vegetables that can be used along with how to chop them.
Chickpea flour – Also known as gram flour and besan, it is made from dried chickpeas and is a staple in Indian and Subcontinental cooking. Nowadays it’s sold at large grocery stores in Australia. The flavour is nutty and it’s denser than normal flour with better nutritional qualities (lower carb and higher in protein);
Fenugreek powder – A common Indian / Subcontinental spice, it oddly enough kind of smells like maple syrup. However it tastes nothing like it, and has a pungent and mysterious flavour. It’s available at stores that carry a decent range of spices. I found it at Harris Farms (Australia). Also, of course, at Indian grocery stores!
Best sub: Garam masala or a generic curry powder. (These are not the same at all, but the extra flavour will compensate);
Chilli powder – This is pure ground chillies, not to be confused with US ‘chili powder’ which is a spice mix.
Substitute: cayenne pepper. Feel free to reduce chilli powder if you’re concerned about spiciness. Start conservatively and cook a test pakora. Taste, and if you want more add more chilli into the batter;
Turmeric powder – Adds a beautifully warm, golden colour to the pakora;
Cumin, coriander and fresh ginger – Staple spices / aromatics in Indian cooking;
Fresh chilli – For their fruity flavour and a little warmth. I’m using large cayenne peppers here which are not that spicy, but rather add a warm hum to the pakoras. Generally the rule is the larger the chilli, the less spicy they are. Feel free to omit or reduce to your taste;
Potatoes – Any all-rounder or starchy potatoes work. AU: Sebago, US: russet, UK: King Edward or Maris Piper. Waxy potatoes will work ok too for this recipe;
Onion – These add great sweet, savoury flavour to the fritters so I really do recommend keeping onions in;
Cauliflower – When finely chopped as called for in this recipe, it adds lovely texture to fritters as well as acting like a sponge that absorbs the spices in the pakora batter; and
Coriander/cilantro – For a nice hint of freshness and colour in the pakoras. However, in this recipe it is not a key flavour so it can be omitted or substituted with finely chopped green onions, parsley or chives.
Other vegetables to use for Pakoras
A nice thing about Pakoras are their versatility. While I’ve used cauliflower, potato and onion, you can use other vegetables, as long as they’re finely chopped or grated. Use 6 cups in total:
Carrots – finely julienned or grated
Broccoli, broccolini – chop finely into rice size
Green beans, asparagus – finely spice or julienne
Zucchini – grate and squeeze out excess liquid
Spinach, cabbage and similar – julienne then grab handfuls and squeeze out excess liquid
Capsicum / bell peppers – finely slice into 2.5cm (1″) pieces
Parsnip, celeriac and other root vegetables – grate like potato
Peas and corn kernels – use as-is
Not recommended (or requires extra prep steps): eggplant, pumpkin, celery, fennel, cucumber, tomatoes
How to make Pakoras
Part 1: Preparing the vegetables
Vegetables for pakoras are typically either finely chopped, grated or julienned so they are suitable to form into little patties and cook quickly. I always ensure that there’s at least one vegetable grated or julienned so you get scraggly bits that stick out and become extra crispy!
Here’s how I prepared the fresh vegetables in these pakoras:
Ginger: Finely minced using a microplane (best for maximum flavour extraction!)
Cauliflower: Finely chopped into rice size pieces, as though preparing to make Cauliflower Rice (which, actually, is a good tip if you want to just buy ready-made – simply use raw cauliflower rice). You can also grate it using a standard box grater. Use a large bowl so the cauliflower bits don’t go everywhere. Otherwise use a food processor!
Potato: Grated using a box grater; and
Onion: Grated using a box grater. Yes, the onion juice squirting out will be torture and will make you cry (unless, like me, you’re protected with contact lenses). But it’s worth it, I promise!
Part 2: Pakora batter and frying
Pakoras are deep fried so you get the signature scraggly sticking out bits that become extra crunchy. However you can cook them like pan-fried fritters (like Zucchini Fritters, Corn Fritters etc) if you prefer not to deep fry. Of course, they won’t be quite the same but they’re still delicious!
Batter: Make the batter by mixing together the chickpea flour and dried spices with water. At this stage, the batter will seem very thick and paste-like but don’t worry. It actually thins out once the vegetables are added because the salt in the batter draws out water from the vegetables which thins the batter slightly;
Add vegetables: Stir through the fresh vegetables;
Finished batter: The batter should be quite thick, thick enough to drop balls of it into oil. If It seems too thin, add more chickpea flour;
Form rough patties: Drop 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of batter roughly formed into a patty shape (~ 1.5cm / 0.6″ thick) into the oil. I use my hands (as is typical in India!) but you can also use 2 dessertspoons. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but I feel it’s safer to use my hands because I have more control and there is less risk of the batter accidentally dropping into the oil from a height, causing splashage.
Remember, don’t crowd the pot! It will lower the oil temperature too much. I generally cook 4 at a time at the beginning to get into the groove of the timing, then up to 6 at a time;
Fry 2 – 3 minutes until golden: Fry the pakoras for 2 to 3 minutes until they are a deep golden and crispy on the outside. They will easily cook through inside in this time;
Drain pakora on paper towels and continue cooking the remainder. Keep cooked pakoras warm in a low oven (80°C / 175°F) on a rack set over a tray.
Sauces for Pakora
Pakoras are typically served with a sauce which is fresh and cooling for a delicious contrast to the hot, spiced, fried Pakora.
I’ve got 2 to choose from today:
Green Coriander, Mint and Lime Sauce: Fresh and zesty; or
Minted Yogurt Sauce: Cooling and tangy.
You can’t go wrong with either of these, they both work brilliantly with Pakoras! I really just comes down to personal preference.
When and what to serve with Pakoras
Pakoras are a standard starter you’ll find on the menu of every Indian restaurant here in Australia. So make these as the appetiser for a homemade Indian feast. Browse all Indian recipes here!
In India, Pakora are a common street snack sold by street vendors. In this vein, Pakoras would make a great option to pass around as a canapé. They are the perfect finger food size, and something a little different! Cook up a big batch then just pop them in the oven to crisp up just before serving. Fabulous! – Nagi x
PS. This recipe makes a lot – around 40 pakoras. I figure if we’re going to make them, let’s make it worth our while. Plus, they reheat terrifically in the oven and also freeze well. Once you have made a stash, you’ll be glad you did!
Watch how to make it
Pakora (Indian Vegetable Fritters)
- 2 1/4 cups chickpea flour (Note 1)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp fenugreek powder (Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder (pure chilli powder, Note 3)
- 2 tsp salt (cooking/kosher salt)
- 3/4 cups + 2 1/2 tbsp water
- 1 1/2 cups onions , grated using standard box grater (~1 1/2 onions)
- 2 cups potato (~1 large), peeled and grated using standard box grater (Note 4)
- 2 1/2 cups cauliflower (~1/4 large head), finely chopped into rice size pieces (or grate)
- 2 large red chillies (cayenne peppers), finely chopped (adjust spiciness to taste, or leave them out)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger , finely grated
- 2 tbsp coriander/cilantro leaves , finely chopped
- 3 – 4 cups vegetable or canola oil (4cm / 1.5″ depth in pot)
Coriander Mint Sauce for Pakoras (Option 1):
- 2 cups mint leaves
- 1 cup coriander/cilantro leaves
- 1/4 cup eschalot , sliced
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp cooking/kosher salt
- 2 ice cubes (loosens + keeps sauce green)
Minted Yogurt Sauce (Option 2):
- 1 cup plain yoghurt
- 1/2 cup mint leaves , packed
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Make batter: Place chickpea flour in a bowl with the spices (turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, chilli). Slow whisk in the water.
- Mix in Vegetables: Add potato, cauliflower, onion, ginger, chilli and coriander. Mix well with a wooden spoon. It should be a thick batter, almost paste-like.
- Preheat oven to 80°C/175°F – to keep cooked pakoras warm. Set a rack over a tray.
- Heat oil: Heat 4cm / 1.5" oil in a large heavy based pot to 180°C/350°F (Note 6).
- Form patties: Drop 2 tbsp of batter roughly formed into a patty shape into the oil. I use my hands (as is typical in India!) but you can also use 2 tablespoons (be careful of splash-age). Don't crowd the pot, it will lower the temperature too much.
- Fry pakoras: Fry 2 – 3 minutes until golden. Drain on paper towels. Keep cooked pakoras hot in the oven on a rack set over a tray.
- Serve: Serve pakoras with Coriander Mint Sauce or Minted Yogurt Sauce!
Coriander Mint Sauce OR Mint Yogurt Sauce:
- Place ingredients in a small food processor or Nutribullet, or use a stick blender. Blitz until smooth.
1. Chickpea flour – Also known as gram flour, and besan, made from dried chickpeas. Staple in Indian cooking. Nowadays sold at large grocery stores in Australia. Using this instead of flour makes this a naturally gluten free recipe. 2. Fenugreek powder – Staple Indian spice, kind of smells like maple syrup. Available at stores that carry a decent range of spices. I found it at Harris Farms (Australia). Also, of course, at Indian grocery stores! Best sub: Garam Masala or a generic curry powder. (No it’s not the same but the extra flavour will compensate). 3. Chilli Powder – This is pure ground chillies, not to be confused with US Chili Powder which is a spice mix. Sub cayenne pepper. Fee free to reduce chilli powder if you’re concerned about spiciness. You can cook a test one, taste, then add more chilli into the batter. 4. Potatoes – Any all rounder or starchy potatoes work best. Aus: Sebago, US: russet, UK: King Edward/Maris Piper. Waxy potatoes will work ok too. 5. Other Veg: Use 6 cups in total.
- Carrots – finely julienned or grated
- Broccoli, broccolini – chop finely into rice size
- Green beans, asparagus – finely spice or julienne
- Zucchini – grate and squeeze out excess liquid)
- Spinach, cabbage and similar – julienne then grab handfuls and squeeze out excess liquid
- Capsicum/bell peppers (finely slice into 2.5cm/1″ pieces)
- Parsnip, celeriac and other root veg – grate like potato
- Peas and corn – use whole
- Not recommended (or requires extra prep steps) – eggplant, pumpkin, celery, fennel, cucumber, tomatoes
Life of Dozer
Ah Dozer. When you eye off cheesy bread like that, there’s just no doubt that you’re my boy. (Especially when “that cheesy bread” is Croque Monsieur!)