I was craving pakoras the other day. So I called in the expert – my mom! I asked her to share all her pakora making secrets! And now here there are just for all of us to enjoy perfect crispy pakoras anytime! These are some great tips and tricks for making the perfect pakora – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.
What is a Pakora?
If you have never had the pleasure – A pakora is essentially a desi version of a deep fried fritter made with a mix of spices. The batter is made from besan which is a flour made from split pea lentils, so is totally gluten free.
The basic pakora batter is used to coat anything, then deep fried to turn it into a pakora!
A basic pakora can be made plain, with no filling. Or add sliced onions and potatoes as I do here (my favourite). The possibilities are endless for what can be a pakora. Eggplant works really well. For those that like a little heat, try dipping green chillies or the large serrano chilies in this batter and frying them up! Yum! Even a sliced boiled egg makes for a great filling!
What is not to like. It is deep fried, crispy and delicious!
What is Besan?
Besan is a gluten free flour made from grinding channa daal. One tip for Besan is that it is best when it is fresh, and tends to go off within about 3 months of opening the package. So make sure you store it in a cool dry place, and use it up within 3 months of opening the package.
You can use besan in my pakora kadhi recipe or to make the veg pakoras listed below, so there are quite a few delicious uses for besan.
Is Besan the same as Chickpea Flour?
This one surprised me too. They are very similar and in some cases can be swapped out for each other. Both are gluten free, but besan is made from ground split pea daal, while chickpea flour is made from garbanzo beans. So technically they are not the same thing. Chickpea flour tends to be slightly bitter too so in some recipes it will not have the same flavour as besan.
For pakoras I do prefer besan as it is the OG way to make pakoras. But in a pinch you can substitute chickpea flour. Just note the slight flavour difference.
Can I Air-Fry Pakoras?
You absolutely can. But honestly, you will loose some of the texture and crunch. So for me it is not worth it.
If you absolutely must air-fry, I do suggest adding a few tablespoons of oil to the batter before air frying. I cooked mine for about 6 mins at 375F and the turned out fine. Make sure you coat them well with a spray of oil on the bottom and top. The less oil you use the drier and less crispy the pakora will be. Personally I don’t want to sacrifice the texture and flavour so I prefer to deep fry or shallow fry my pakoras.
Tips for the Perfect Crispy Pakora
There are a few tips to get the perfect crispy pakora that mom recommends:
- Use dry veggies for your filling. Try to avoid really wet veggies as they will lead to a soggier pakora. Things like tomato should be avoided. If you are using a veg that can release some water like onion, zucchini or eggplant, give them a sprinkle of salt after slicing and let them sit for about 10 minutes to draw the moisture out before adding to the pakora mix.
- Add rice flour and baking soda to the pakora mix for extra crispness.
- Be stingy with the water. Depending on what filling you are using, you don’t want to drown the filling in the batter. Add all your filling ingredients to the dry coating mix first, toss to coat. Then slowly add water a tablespoon at a time until the dry flour has disappeared and the ingredients are just barely coated in the batter. It needs to be a very thick drop-able consistency but not drippy.
- Make sure the oil is hot! Do not drop the pakoras into the oil until it is properly heated. Cold oil will mean a greasier pakora. You can test the temperature of the oil by dropping a small bit of batter into the oil. If it instantly sizzles and starts floating, you are good to go. Making sure the oil is the right temperature will also help the pakora to absorb less oil while cooking.
- Before you start to fry, add a few tablespoons of the hot cooking oil to the batter and give it a mix. It really helps keep the pakoras moist on the inside, but still crispy on the outside. It really works! Do not forget this step!
- Cook low and slow. In order to allow the inside to cook and avoid the outside from burning, make sure to cook on medium or medium low heat. It does not take long to cook, but too high a heat and you will be left with a raw interior which is no fun.
- Deep frying is best – that is when you get those perfect crunchy scraggly bits. But if you absolutely must, you can shallow fry them too.
What is the best Pakora filling?
You can turn almost anything into a pakora. If you can deep fry it, it can be a pakora.
I prefer vegetable pakoras. But it is also common to make pakoras out of boneless chicken or fish too. As long as it is cut small enough to cook in the hot oil in a few minutes it can be a pakora.
For vegetable pakoras I recommend using more dry veggies for your filling. Try to avoid really wet veggies as they will lead to a soggier pakora. Things like tomato should be avoided. If you are using a veg that can release some water like onion, zucchini or eggplant, give them a sprinkle of salt after slicing and let them sit for about 10 minutes to draw the moisture out before adding to the pakora mix.
Other pakora filling ideas are:
- Sliced eggplant
- Large serrano chillis
- Sliced boiled egg
- Diced potatoes (my fave!)
- Sliced onions ( a classic!)
- Paneer cubes
- Shredded cabbage
- Chopped spinach
- Green beans
You can even mix and match based on what you have in the fridge. A pakora is a great way to use up leftover veggies in the fridge. Just make sure everything is cut to a similar small size so it cooks evenly in the batter.
Not recommended are wet veggies like zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes etc.
How to serve Pakoras?
Anytime is good for deep fried crunchy goodness! They can be an appetizer, side or snack.
Pakoras are best when shared with others!
What would be your preferred way to eat pakoras?
Vegetable Pakoras (Veg, GF, DF)
- 1 cup besan (split pea flour, in a pinch you can use chickpea flour)
- 2 tbsp rice flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1 tbsp crushed coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp ajwain (bishops weed) – optional
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 small potato, thin dice
- 1 handful chopped spinach (baby spinach also works)
- 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- water, as needed
- chaat masala, for serving (optional)
Make Pakora Mix
- In a large bowl, mix together the pakora mix ingredients until combined. Set aside. (Note: This can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 months).
Prepare the Pakora Filling Ingredients
- Wash and chop all your filling ingredients making sure they are all roughly the same thickness so they will cook up evenly.
- If you have a bit of time, sprinkle some salt on the veggies and let them sit for 10 minutes to allow any water to be drawn out.
Make the Pakora Batter
- Pre-heat a large wok or pan with high edges with oil for deep frying or shallow frying, as you prefer. Line a plate with some paper towel and set aside.
- Add the pakora filling ingredients to the pakora mix. Stir to coat well.
- Slowly add water, one tablespoon at a time and mix until just starting to come together and all the veggies are well coated. You want it to be very thick and drop-able, not drippy.
Fry the Pakoras
- Just before you are ready to start frying, add 2 tbsp of the hot oil from the pan into the pakora batter. Mix to combine.
- Drop one tablespoon at a time of the batter into the hot oil. Cook on medium to medium-low heat, flipping the pakora after about 1-2 minutes to get golden brown on both sides. Should take about 2-3 minutes each pakora. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan when frying.
- It is recommended to just fry one test pakora first, taste for seasoning and adjust the seasonings in the batter before frying the whole batch.
- Remove the pakoras from the hot oil and allow to drain on the paper towel lined plate.
- Sprinkle the cooked pakoras with some chaat masala for some extra flavour and garnish with some chopped cilantro leaves. Serve immediately with your favourite chutney or dip. Enjoy!