Here’s a classic Punjabi-style Kadhi Pakora recipe that’s easy-to-make yet authentic in taste. This no-fail recipe uses accessible ingredients and a fuss-free method yet remains true to the traditional Pakistani and North Indian flavors. Instant Pot and Stovetop Instructions included!

Authentic Kadhi Pakora on a speckled plate with tadka made of cumin seeds, red chili, and cilantro on top

“Amazing recipe. It was my first time making karhi and I was a bit intimidated. Followed the recipe to a T and it turned out amazing! Thank you!”

Abeer

What is Kadhi Pakora?

Kadhi, or karhi, is a vegetarian 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.

These pakoras are a little thicker than the usual, crispy, snack pakoras.

What Makes a Good Kadhi

Growing up, I didn’t like kadhi much. My husband would tell me it’s one of his favorite dishes. And I remained perplexed until the day I came across the kadhi that was 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 (the one I’m sharing!) is fuss-free and simple to make – the middle ground between grandparent-approved taste and millennial-approved ease.

Mom-in-law’s tip: One common error is adding too much chickpea flour (besan). This causes the chickpea flour to swell and start bubbling, making it appear as though the kadhi has finished cooking. In reality, it requires longer cooking time to make sure the chickpea flour is fully cooked. You’ll know it’s done when there’s no raw taste the oil rises to the top.

Using a spoon to scoop Kadhi Pakora on to a plate with basmati rice and a black spoon and fork

How to Make Kadhi Pakora in the Instant Pot

To make kadhi in the Instant Pot:

  1. Combine the chickpea flour and yogurt and whisk to combine until no lumps remain. Add water and whisk again. Set aside.
  2. Select the high Sauté setting on the Instant Pot. Once hot, sauté the onion until it browns, then add the ginger and garlic. Add the spices and sauté for 15-20 seconds, then add the yogurt mixture and stir infrequently until it begins to boil. It’s very important to bring it to a boil, else you could risk a burn error. Once the mixture starts to reach a boil, hit cancel and pressure cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the pakora mixture and fry the pakoras.
  4. Open the pot, adjust seasoning and salt, add a little lemon for extra sourness, and then add the pakoras.
  5. Lastly, and this is optional (but not really😅), prepare the Tarka (or tempering) by sizzling the cumin and whole red chili in oil.
Garnishing a plate of Kadhi Pakora with Cilantro

How to make Kadhi Pakora on the Stovetop

The method for making Kadhi over the stovetop remains the same. To cook it over the stovetop:

Use a non-stick dutch oven to cook the kadhi. Once the yogurt and chickpea flour mixture comes to a boil (this will take around 12 minutes), lower the heat to medium-low so that the mixture simmers. Keep the lid uncovered, and allow it to simmer for 1 hours and 30 minutes. If you’re making double the quanity, it may take up to 2 hours. Stir occasionally. Then lower the heat to the lowest setting while you prepare the pakoras.

Holding a white speckled plate with Kadhi Pakora with white basmati rice and a black spoon and fork

How to create sourness in Kadhi

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. To compensate for the lack of sourness, I’ve added a bit of lemon juice at the end to enhance the sour taste.

For even more tang, one tip my Mom-in-law gave me is is to add 1-2 tsp vinegar while your kadhi is cooking. If you do this and find it too sour, add 1/4-1/2 tsp sugar to offset the sourness.

More Helpful Tips:

  • If you prefer to pan-fry or air-fry pakoras, 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. Make-ahead option: Prepare the pakora mixture (be sure to cover and refrigerate) or fry the pakoras ahead of time.
  • You know the kadhi is cooked when the oil separates from the yogurt/chickpea flour mixture and rises to the top. The Instant Pot makes this easy to see, but you’ll also be able to see it on the stovetop if you stop stirring for a minute or two.
  • To prevent the dreaded burn sign, make sure to bring the mixture to a boil before closing the lid for pressure cooking.

What to Serve with Kadhi Pakora

Kadhi Pakora is typically served with plain rice and sometimes naan. If you want to add a protein, I think it would pair great with Shami Kebab.

Kadhi Pakora on a white plate with basmati rice garnished with cilantro

Update 10/5/22 – The previous recipe made a large batch (8 servings). I tested and updated the recipe with the halved version. It now makes enough for 4, and you can click 2x to double the recipe for 8. The only change necessary was to add more water to account for the quicker evaporation. I adjusted salt accordingly. If you’d like the older version, please let me know and I’ll send it to you!

More Instant Pot Recipes you may like:

Tried this recipe? If you have a minute, please consider leaving a comment & star rating telling me how it was! If you’re on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your creations. I truly love hearing from you! Thank you!

Authentic Kadhi Pakora on a speckled plate with tadka made of cumin seeds, red chili, and cilantro on top
4.95 (19 ratings)

Kadhi Pakora (Instant Pot and Stovetop)

This is a classic Punjabi-style Kadhi Pakora recipe with Instant Pot and Stovetop instructions. This recipe uses accessible ingredients and has a shortened cook time but remains true to the flavors of traditional Pakistani and North Indian Kadhi.

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup (~250 g) plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (65 g) gram flour (besan)
  • 4 cups (3 1/2 cups for Instant Pot) water, this may vary depending on how thick or thin you prefer it
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper powder
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt or table salt, will need more if using kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
  • 1/2 medium (~90 g) onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 3/4 inch piece ginger, crushed or finely chopped

Pakora

  • 1/2 small (~80 g) yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small (~88 g) russet potato, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
  • 1 Serrano or Thai chili pepper, slit, seeds removed (if desired for less heat) and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder, sub Kashmiri chili powder for less heat
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (65 g) gram flour (besan)
  • up to 1/3 cup water
  • oil, as needed, for frying the pakoras

After Cooking

  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice* (see Note 1)
  • 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

Equipment

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, combine the yogurt and chickpea flour and whisk until no large lumps remain. Add water and whisk again. Set aside.
  • Combine the spices and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

Stovetop Method

  • Heat oil in a non-stick dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden, about 8 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 2 tbsp of water.
  • Once the water dries up, 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 pour in the yogurt mixture. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring often.
  • Once the mixture starts to reach a boil (this will take around 6 minutes), lower the heat to medium-low so that it simmers. Partially cover with the lid, and allow it to simmer for 1 hours and 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Scrape the sides of the pot as needed. If the mixture thickens too much, stir in 1/4-1/2 cup (preferably boiling) water.
  • Once the oil rises to the top and the mixture no longer has any raw taste, lower the heat to the lowest setting for about 5 minutes to allow it to settle.

Instant Pot Method

  • Select the Sauté – More setting on the Instant Pot. Once hot, add the oil and chopped onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion turns golden, about 6 minutes. Deglaze the pan with 2 tbsp of water.
  • Once the water dries up, 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 pour in the yogurt mixture. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring often.
  • Once the mixture reaches a boil (this will take around 6 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.
  • Allow the pressure to naturally release for 15 minutes. Manually release pressure by moving the Pressure Release to Venting. Stir to mix. If you'd like it thicker, select Saute – Normal and reduce down to desired consistency.

To Prepare Pakoras

  • Meanwhile, prepare the pakora mixture. In a small bowl, combine the ingredients listed under Pakora except water and oil in the order they're listed. Add water, bit by bit, until the mixture is coated but not runny. Cover and set aside for 10 minutes to give the ingredients time to release their own juices.
  • Heat a small frying pan or heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add oil so that it’s at least 3/4”/1.9 cm deep. Once the oil is hot, adjust heat level as needed to maintain medium-high heat (around 320°F/160°C).
  • Gently lower in the pakora mixture a tablespoon at a time, making sure not to overcrowd the pan (I do 4-5 at a time). (See Note 2) Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat until all pakoras are cooked, adding oil if needed.

After Cooking

  • Stir, and taste and adjust salt. (If you feel that it's missing something, it probably needs salt.) Turn off the heat and stir in vinegar or lemon juice.
  • Add cooked pakoras to the mix and stir gently. Remove from the Instant Pot and place in a serving bowl.

Tarka (Tempering) – Optional, but recommend

  • Heat ghee or oil in a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and whole red 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 basmati rice, naan, roti or other bread.

Notes

Note 1: The addition of lemon is to create sourness in kadhi. Pakistani & Indian yogurt is typically more sour than American yogurt. If your yogurt is sour to begin with (example: European yogurt), you may not need to add any vinegar or lemon juice.
Note 2 – Taste test tip: After frying one, taste and adjust the batter for salt and seasoning.
Calories: 329kcal, Carbohydrates: 23g, Protein: 7g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Cholesterol: 27mg, Sodium: 393mg, Potassium: 595mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 980IU, Vitamin C: 118mg, Calcium: 123mg, Iron: 2mg