How to make the perfect onion bhaji

By BBC Maestro

Cooking
Last updated: 21 February 2022 Reading time 5 minutes

Whether you’re looking to make a quick and easy snack bursting with flavour, or preparing tasty appetisers for your dinner party menu, the onion bhaji is the perfect solution. Rich in flavour and simple to make, an onion bhaji is destined to leave you and your tastebuds feeling satisfied.

Serve as an accompaniment to an Indian feast, or save a couple as a tasty snack, there are many ways to enjoy an onion bhaji. You might enjoy eating an onion bhaji with a dip, such as a creamy cucumber raita. In this article, we’ll share a killer onion bhaji recipe from our Modern Indian Cooking course Maestro, Vineet Bhatia.

"These are extremely moreish. Once you start eating one, you are not going to stop,” Vineet warns.

What is an onion bhaji? 

The onion bhaji is a popular Indian street food snack and is commonly served as an appetiser or side dish in restaurants or at mealtimes. It originates in the Southern Indian state of Karnataka and is often made as a welcoming snack to house guests.

“Onion bhaji are everywhere in India and are beloved by almost every person in every household,” says Vineet Bhatia in his course on Modern Indian Cooking. “Although most people have their favoured variation, I can say almost without exception that an onion bhaji must contain onions and gram flour; everything else is a matter of choice.”

They’re made by combining sliced onions, mixed spices and flour, which are then fried together to create small fritter-style balls or a flat cake. They’re widely known as onion bhajis but they may also be referred to as onion bhajiyas or onion pakoras. 

“I will always argue that the onion bhaji (a.k.a. pakora) is the best of all the bhajis because the tangled shape of the sliced onions crisps perfectly when deep fried, so there is crunch and texture in every bite,” says Vineet.

 

How to make an onion bhaji

This onion bhaji recipe makes the perfect crispy onion bhajis. It avoids a thick batter by using gram flour and instead produces a coating with a crunch. Gram flour is a derivative of chickpea flour and makes these onion bhajis gluten-free. Plus, these bhajis are vegetarian and vegan friendly, so they are perfect for sharing.

"With these onion bhajis, every bite, every mouthful, will have lots of crispy parts to it," says Vineet in his BBC Maestro course

Onion Bhaji mix

What you’ll need – equipment

  • A spider or skimmer
  • Wok or pan with deep base
  • Mixing bowl
  • Kitchen paper or equivalent
  • Temperature probe (optional)

 

What you’ll need – ingredients

  • 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • spices - 1.5 tsp chilli powder, 0.5 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped, seeds left in 
  • 3 tbsp chopped coriander stalks 
  • salt
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 heaped tbsp cornflour
  • 4 heaped tbsp gram flour
  • water 
  • oil to deep fry

Onion bhaji recipe:

  1. Combine the sliced onions, ground turmeric, chilli powder, green chilli, ground cumin and ground coriander into a mixing bowl. Add the chopped coriander stalks and salt, and stir the ingredients together. Leave the mixture to marinate for 7-8 minutes.
  2. Add the bicarbonate of soda, cornflour and gram flour, and use your hands to mix together. The aim is to achieve a thick mass of onions, held together by the flour.
  3. Pre-heat your oil in a deep-frying pan or wok to 180C (350F).
  4. When the oil is hot, pick up a cluster of the onion mixture with your hands and delicately drop them into the oil. Try not to overfill the pan, just add enough to loosely cover the surface of the oil.
  5. Use your spider or skimmer to push the bhajis below the surface of the oil, frying until golden. It's important to turn them frequently to ensure they cook evenly. Once golden, remove and place them on kitchen roll or another absorbent paper to remove excess oil. 

How to serve an onion bhaji

You can serve an onion bhaji on its own or with accompaniments. Mint yoghurt, green or mango chutney and salsas are all good choices. Though for Vineet Bhatia, the father of progressive Indian cooking, the best pairing with an onion bhaji is tomato ketchup.

Onion Bhajis on a plate with ketchup
These are onion bhajis as they should be, crisp and full of flavour. My favourite way to eat bhajis? With ketchup, and I don’t care who knows or who quotes me on that.
- Vineet Bhatia, Indian chef
Course Notes
Course Notes

Learn more about modern Indian cooking

Want to learn to cook even more delicious Indian dishes? From classic chicken tikka and butter chicken, to more adventurous culinary delights like coastal prawn stew and cauliflower pulao, in his BBC Maestro online course Vineet Bhatia teaches you all the skills, tips and techniques he’s learnt over his 30-year career. From demystifying spices to crispy onion bhajis, you’ll learn with one of India’s most loved chefs.