Instead of hours over the stove, this classic Punjabi-style Kadhi Pakora needs 30 minutes in the Instant Pot. This recipe uses accessible ingredients and a fuss-free method yet remains true to the traditional Pakistani and North Indian flavors.
Kadhi, or karhi, is a yogurt-based curry popular in various forms throughout the Indian subcontinent. In the Punjabi version, chickpea fritters (pakoras) are doused in a hearty yogurt-based gravy and topped with a spice-infused tadka, or tempering.
Instant Pot Kadhi
In my usual manner, I asked my sister what she’d like to know about kadhi before I share the recipe.
“Why do people make it?” she laughed. She’s not the only one. I had never quite liked or understood kadhi either. Shared life experience, I suppose.
My husband would tell me it’s one of his favorite dishes. And I remained perplexed until the day I came across the one that must have been the source of his affection – his mom’s.
Her kadhi set a standard that’s hard to measure up to. It’s rich, yet light, deeply flavorful, and has tender, moist pakoras.
The best part? Her recipe is quite fuss-free and simple to make – the middle ground between grandparent-approved taste and millennial-approved ease. I think my sister can get down with that.
Tips for making Kadhi:
- This recipe uses a simple pakora mixture that is deep-fried. If you prefer to pan-fry (as I usually do), you can do so with the instructions in my pan-fried pakora recipe.
- I typically prepare the pakoras while the kadhi is cooking in the Instant Pot. You may prepare the pakora mixture (be sure to cover and refrigerate) or the pakoras ahead of time and use them when the recipe requires.
- Kadhi is traditionally made with sour yogurt. I have tried desi-style yogurt from Indian stores, and it does have a subtle sour tang, but I prefer plain whole milk yogurt for this recipe. I’ve added a bit of lemon juice at the end to enhance the sour taste.
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If you try this recipe, please let me know in the comments below and/or tag me on Instagram so I can see your creations. I love hearing from you!
Instant Pot Kadhi
This is a classic Punjabi-style Kadhi Pakora recipe made easier in the Instant Pot. This recipe uses accessible ingredients and has a shortened cook time but remains true to the flavors of traditional Pakistani and North Indian Kadhi.
- Scant 2 cups (500 grams) plain whole-milk yogurt
- 1 ¼ cups (130 grams) chickpea flour (gram flour/besan)
- 6 cups water
- 2 tsp mild Kashmiri red chili powder use less if using cayenne
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 2 3/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/3-1/2 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
- 1 small to medium onion finely chopped
- 5-6 cloves garlic crushed
- 1 heaped tbsp crushed ginger
- 1 small red or yellow onion thinly sliced into quarter moons
- 1 small potato peeled and thinly sliced into quarter moons or thinly diced
- 1-2 Serrano peppers or 4-5 small Thai chili peppers or slit, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp red chili powder
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 ¼ cup chickpea flour
- 2/3 cup water
- oil, as needed for frying
- 1 tsp lemon juice optional
- 2 tbsp ghee or oil
- 7-8 whole red chili peppers any kind (I've used button chili peppers)
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp cilantro leaves chopped
- In a medium bowl, add the chickpea flour and yogurt and whisk to combine until no lumps remain. Add water and whisk again. Set aside.
- Combine the spices and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- Select the high Sauté setting on the Instant Pot. Once hot, add the oil and chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes, until the raw smell disappears. Add the spices and sauté for 15-20 seconds, then add the yogurt mixture and stir infrequently until it begins to boil. Once the mixture starts to reach a boil (this will take 8-10 minutes), press the Cancel button to turn off the Instant Pot.
- Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure Cook setting and set it to low pressure. Set the cooking time for 30 minutes.
To Prepare Pakoras
Meanwhile, prepare the pakora mixture. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients listed under pakora (except oil) in the order they're listed. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes to give the ingredients time to release their own juices.
- Heat a small deep frying pan over high heat. Once hot, add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan by 2-3 inches.
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-high and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, adding oil as needed. Use a slotted spoon to place on a plate topped with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Repeat until all pakoras are cooked.
- Allow the pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, manually release pressure by moving the Pressure Release to Venting.
Open the pot and taste and adjust salt. I usually sprinkle in more salt at this point. Sprinkle in lemon juice, if desired. Add cooked pakoras to the mix and stir gently. Remove from the Instant Pot and place in a serving bowl.
Heat a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add ghee or oil, cumin seeds, and red whole chili. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, until the cumin seeds have lightly toasted and the red chili peppers begin to darken. Remove from heat and then gently pour the oil over the kadhi. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with white basmati rice, roti, naan, or other bread.