Bring this popular Indian street food into your kitchen and you’ll be amazed how easy it is to make. This onion bhaji recipe is aromatic, crispy and perfectly fried—a delicious addition to any meal.
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
Onion bhajis are one of those crunchy, deep-fried snacks that you have eaten many times over. Be it in a restaurant where it’s served as an appetiser, or you’ve grabbed some from a food truck or a roadside stall.
This onion bhaji recipe (also known as kanda bhaji) is truly easy, and you can now make them at home. They are also vegan, gluten free and budget friendly. It’s one of those things that both kids and adults will love, perfect for making the rounds if you’re having some friends over for dinner or a starter for your Diwali feast!
What Is Onion Bhaji?
Onion bhajis are deep fried, crispy onion fritters. Sliced onions are coated in a well-balanced besan flour (gram or chickpea flour) batter infused with dry spices and fresh aromatics.
In India, they are a popular street food that often conjures nostalgic afternoon snacks accompanied by fragrant cups of chai. In the West, onion bhaji is popular as an appetiser which marks the start of a delectable meal. I like serving my onion bhaji as a side dish, to be reached for throughout.
Where Did Onion Bhaji Originate?
Crispy Onion bhaji originates from the state of Karnataka in South India. For the locals, it is synonymous with tea time and a snack that is often prepared should they expect guests in their homes.
The 2 main ingredients of onion bhaji are onions and besan/gram/chickpea flour. Over time, there have been many variations which include herbs and spices.
Is An Onion Bhaji a Pakora?
Bhaji and pakora are one and the same thing. They are mainly known as bhaji in the south of India while pakora in the northern states. It is said that bhaji is perhaps more of a regional name.
The humble bhaji is known by many names or different spelling variations across the country. They are also known as pakoda, pakodi, pikore, bhajiya, bora, ponako and chop.
As you can imagine, there are many different types of bhaji. You can use paneer, potatoes, spinach, prawns, chicken, bread, corn, cabbage, to name a few. The onion bhaji, however, remains the favourite. Nothing quite as sweet as deep-fried onions covered in the perfect chickpea batter.
How To Make Onion Bhaji with Plain Flour?
If you’re not able to find besan, or you just don’t want to get besan for one recipe, you can certainly make onion bhaji with plain flour. However, the taste does differ a little as besan is nutty and earthy. Besan also forms into a batter much more easily compared to plain flour, so it’s important to get the consistency right.
The trick is to add a bit more water to the batter compared to when you’re using besan. Continue to add baking powder, as it will still be able to give you that extra crispiness.
Flavour/Texture: When something is deep fried to perfection, it’s the initial crunch that gets you. Then follows the flavours of the sweet onions as the crispy edges start to find their way through all that’s going on in your mouth.
That batter is just right and not too thick, which allows the onion to continue to be the hero as the translucent strands are soft and sweet.
Ease: If you have never worked with besan flour before, you’ll be surprised how quickly it can form into a batter, so don’t overdo the water. Add it slowly until you get the right consistency. It should naturally fall off the back of your spoon. For first timers, it can be a bit tricky, but practise makes perfect!
Time: Take it slowly and don’t rush the process. This means not overcrowding the pan or saucepan. If you have never made these before, do it one at a time until you get the hang of it. Then, increase as you become more confident.
Ingredients you will need to make the best crispy onion bhaji.
Onion: Grab 2 large onions for this recipe. Slice evenly so that the onion bhajis will cook evenly.
Besan: Besan is chickpea flour that is vegan and gluten free. You will be able to find this easily in any of your Indian or Asian grocers. Some of your mainstream supermarkets may stick them in the flour section or the Indian/Asian section.
Garlic: Ensure they are finely minced so you don’t get a mouthful of garlic. We need this evenly spread throughout the mixture.
Spices: Salt, chilli powder, turmeric powder, and cumin powder are all lovely dry spices you’ll need to give the onion bhajis those delightful aromatic flavours.
Baking powder: A bit of baking powder will help the onion bhajis become crispier. They form tiny air bubbles across the surface, which is what makes it extra crunchy.
Oil: You will need some oil for the batter as well as for deep frying. You’re looking at about 5cm/2 inches of oil in your saucepan or fry pan.
Water: Required to bring the batter to the right consistency.
Step by step instructions for how to make onion bhaji.
The first tip for making the best onion bhaji is to slice them thinly so they cook thoroughly, releasing all its sweet flavours. You also want them nice and thin so you get lovely crispy ends.
The second tip for making the crispiest onion bhaji is to get the consistency of the batter right. You don’t want more batter than onion as otherwise they just become too doughy.
Add ½ cup of besan (chickpea flour), minced garlic, salt, chilli powder, baking powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and 1 tsp of oil. Mix to become a batter. Then slowly add 1 tbsp of water at a time and mix until the batter has the right consistency.
Add the sliced onion and coat well. The consistency of the batter shouldn’t be too dry or too watery. You should be able to hold a spoonful of it in your hand, and the shape should hold.
Let it stand for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil for deep frying in a deep saucepan at medium heat.
With a spoon, add small batches of battered onion into the saucepan. Do not overcrowd them so that they cook evenly.
Using a slotted spoon, turn them over so they are cooked evenly on both sides. Keep frying them until they turn a nice golden brown.
When they are cooked, remove them and place onto kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
Continue until all the onion bhajis are done.
Variations and Substitutions
Besan flour substitute: If you wish to maintain the same textures and continue for it to be gluten free, select rice, quinoa, soybean, lentil, fava bean or buckwheat flour.
If you don’t need gluten-free, you can use plain flour or do a half mixture of plain and all-purpose flour.
Other spices: You can exchange or add many different spices to the onion bhajis recipe. Some other popular spices that can be used include garam masala, coriander powder, onion powder, curry powder or fennel seeds.
Other fresh aromatics: Apart from fresh garlic, you can also add some grated ginger roots, thinly sliced curry leaves and chopped green chillies.
How to Serve
There are many dipping sauces you can serve with onions bhajis. Try these recipes:
Mint cilantro chutney (Indian green chutney): A cool, spicy and tangy green chutney. This no-cook mint cilantro chutney is a must try accompaniment to these delicious onion bhajis. This Indian green sauce is so versatile, and can be varied with simple ingredients!
Sweet amla chutney: Amla or Indian gooseberry cooked with jaggery, fennel, cardamom, and other spices give a lip-smacking blend of flavours that would be a great addition for these delicious onion fritters.
Cucumber and mint raita: The sweet taste of minted yoghurt freshens your pallet and it’s a great dip for these crunchy onion bhajis.
Frequently Asked Questions
Onion bhaji is known as Veṅkāyam pāji (வெங்காயம் பாஜி) in Tamil or pyaaj bhaajee (प्याज भाजी) in Hindi. They are also popularly known as kanda bhaji.
A loose translation of bhaji is fritter. In Anglo-Indian restaurants, they are called onion bhaji or onion pakoras.
If you have leftover homemade onion bhaji, let it cool down and place them in an airtight container lined with paper towels. This will help to absorb some of the moisture. This will last about 3 days.
To freeze onion bhaji, cook it as per normal and let it cool down completely. Then, on a sheet pan, place the onion bhaji apart and place in the freezer. This ensures that they don’t stick together as it would be hard to pry them apart later. Once frozen, they can then be placed in a zip lock bag.
Yes, they can, but like all fried food, it will lose its crunchiness and become a bit more doughy than normal. However, it is perfectly ok to consume.
Deep fried batter can’t stay crispy for a long period. So to reheat onion bhajis, you can put them in the microwave to heat them up and then place them under a grill to crisp them up. Be sure to turn them, so they crisp up on both sides. Alternatively, you can heat them up in an air fryer for a few minutes. Works a charm!
This is a ridiculously good onion bhaji recipe and to say they are morerish is an understatement. These deep fried parcels are gooooooood! A super delicious Indian side dish for any type of meal!
More Indian Side Dish Recipes
Easy to make at home Indian side dishes that taste just like the restaurants or street vendors!
- Paneer Butter Masala
- Kachumber Salad [Authentic Indian Salad]
- Turmeric Rice Recipe [Fluffy & Fragrant!]
- Bombay Aloo [Bombay Potatoes]
- Veg Pulao [Easy Indian Rice Dish]
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Easy Onion Bhaji Recipe
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Slice the onion thinly.
- Add 1 cup of besan (chickpea flour), minced garlic, salt, chilli powder, baking powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and 1 tsp of oil. Mix into a batter. Then slowly add 1 tbsp of water at a time, mix until the batter has the right consistency.
- Add the sliced onion and coat well. The consistency of the batter shouldn’t be too dry or too watery. You should be able to hold a spoonful of it in your hand and the shape should hold.
- Let it stand for 10 minutes.
- Heat the oil for deep frying in a deep saucepan at medium heat.
- With a spoon, add small batches of battered onion into the saucepan. Do not overcrowd them so that they cook evenly.
- Using a slotted spoon, turn them over so they are cooked evenly on both sides. Keep frying them until they turn a nice golden brown.
- When they are cooked, remove them and place onto kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
- Continue until all the onion bhaji are done.
- If you can’t find besan flour or gram flour but wish to maintain the same textures and continue for it to be gluten free, select rice, quinoa, soybean, lentil, fava bean or buckwheat flour.
- If you don’t need this onion bhajis recipe to be gluten free, you can use plain flour or do a half mixture of plain and all-purpose flour.
- There are many different spices you can exchange or add to the onion bhajis recipe. Some other popular spices that can be used include garam masala, coriander powder, onion powder, curry powder or fennel seeds.
- For other fresh aromatics apart from garlic, you can also add some grated ginger roots, thinly sliced curry leaves and chopped green chillies.
- This recipe will yield about 16 bhajis.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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