I present to you my healthy spin on the traditionally deep fried Pakistani and Indian pakora (onion and potato fritter)! These naturally gluten-free and vegan pakoras are an ideal snack with chai on rainy afternoons. I’ve also included a simple green chutney recipe!
We are deep into fall in our household. The fireplace is always on. Pumpkin has been given due respect. And I’m kind of craving this flavor called ‘chatpata’.
It’s this hot and sour, tangy, subtly sweet flavor that is prevalent in South Asian snacks. It’s especially celebrated during Ramadan, when a typical ‘iftar’ is incomplete without fruit chaat, chana chaat, and pakoras sprinkled with chaat masala. I’m not sure why our taste buds need that chaat shock after resting all day, but it’s tradition so I’d like to keep some semblance of it.
Pan-Fried Pakora (A healthier take)
My understanding of health and (maybe more importantly) my fear of flying hot oil preclude me from deep-frying much.
At first, I tried baking these pakoras, but they didn’t have the same flavor and distinct crisp of regular pakoras. I found pan-frying with minimal oil to be the happy medium between baking and deep-frying.
Pan-Fried Pakistani Pakora
This is my healthier spin on the traditionally deep-fried Pakistani/Punjabi pakora (onion and potato fritter). These pakoras are an ideal snack, naturally gluten-free and vegetarian, and I've included a simple green chutney recipe to go with them!
- 1 small red or yellow onion or half large, thinly sliced into quarter moons
- 1 small potato* or half large, peeled and thinly sliced into quarter moons
- 1/2 Serrano pepper slit, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
- 1 tbsp mint leaves chopped (or sub more cilantro leaves)
- ½ tbsp neutral oil may omit but this makes them extra moist
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 ½ tsp whole coriander seeds roughly crushed using a mortar and pestle
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
- 1 1/8 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- scant 1 cup chickpea flour (gram flour/besan)
- 2/3 - 3/4 cup water
- neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado as needed for pan frying
- 1/4 tsp whole carom seeds ajwain, roughly crushed using a mortar and pestle
- ½ tbsp dry fenugreek leaves methi, crushed between the palms of your hands
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder for extra spice
Simple Green Chutney
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup mint leaves (or sub more cilantro)
- 1/2 small Serrano or other green chili pepper to taste
- black salt (or sub regular salt) to taste
- 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tbsp plain yogurt optional
- Combine all the ingredients up until the chickpea flour in a bowl.
In another bowl, add the chickpea flour and 2/3 cup water and stir to combine so that no large lumps remain (small lumps are okay). Add additional water if needed to have a pourable consistency. Pour this mixture into the vegetables and mix well.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to thinly coat the bottom of the pan.
Add the pakora mixture a heaped tablespoon at a time, making sure not to overcrowd the pan (I do 4 at a time). Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, adding oil as needed. Repeat until all pakoras are cooked.
Place on a plate topped with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with green chutney (recipe in the notes) and/or ketchup.
To prepare the simple green chutney, add all ingredients in a spice/coffee grinder or blender and blend until smooth. Add water as needed to thin it out. Put the mixture in a bowl and whisk with yogurt, if desired.
Be sure to slice the potatoes thin for faster cooking!
*For the chutney, you can also double the quantity of cilantro or mint and omit the other.