Packed with small, tender bites of asparagus, these fried treats known as pakoras are scented with cumin and seasoned with a mix of fresh green onions, cilantro, and dill. Dip it in a lemony yogurt and keep reaching for more! These are the perfect for spring when sweet and tender asparagus are in season.
In case you are not a fan of deep frying, don’t fret. Pakoras are shallow fried in a small amount of oil and prepared like patties, with a crisp exterior and pillowy inside.
In a Pakistani home, they are traditionally enjoyed with a cup of afternoon tea. I also love them with fried eggs in the morning or for lunch, atop arugula dressed with a bright, zesty vinaigrette. Looking for the perfect finger food for a Friday night in with friends? Make pakoras!
Ramadan and Fried Food
During Ramadan, a Muslim holy month full of rituals and traditions, something hot, fried, and crispy is considered an essential treat at the iftar table after a long day of fasting from sunrise to sunset. They are typically served alongside a hot cup of chai when all you want to do is put your feet up and rest.
What Are Pakoras?
Pakoras are South Asian fritters—and believe me, they are the crunchy, hot snack you need! Though traditionally made with a gram flour, my version calls for chickpea flour, which is readily available at most grocery stores.
About Chickpea Flour
I love chickpea flour, which is why I am so excited to share a recipe using this pantry staple! Chickpea flour is milled from dried chickpeas. It is most often used in savory dishes, as it has a mild nutty flavor. Did you know that chickpea flour is gluten-free, vegan, and a great binding agent for patties and meatballs? That’s why I use it in this recipe.
What About Gram Flour?
Pakoras are traditionally made with gram flour, called besan in Urdu. It is milled from Bengal gram or split brown chickpeas, and it has a nutty flavor. If you can get your hands on gram flour or besan, available at most South Asian grocery stores, you can use them in this recipe. Bear in mind that gram flour requires less liquid, so add water 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture starts to come together.
Getting the Batter Just Right
This has happened to all of us at some point: You follow the recipe to the T, but your batter is too thick or too thin! The consistency of flour can vary from brand to brand, so don’t worry.
Drag an asparagus spear through the batter. The batter should cling to it—that’s the consistency you are looking for, like pancake batter. If the batter looks thin and immediately drips off the spear, add more flour. Here are tips to make the batter just right:
- Add the water gradually to see how the batter thickens. Don’t dump all of it in at once.
- If you feel your batter is too thick to easily dollop into the oil, thin it out with a tablespoon of water at a time.
- Now if your batter is too thin, add more chickpea flour, 1/4 cup at a time. You may have to adjust the seasoning with more salt. Either way, go slowly with each addition and your batter will be perfect!
Use Tender In-Season Asparagus
This recipe highlights the freshness of asparagus. You don’t have to blanch them before using, especially if they are tender in-season beauties. Cut thick, mature stalks in half lengthwise and then dice them into 1/4-inch pieces.
No Asparagus? No Problem!
Pakoras can be fortified with all sorts of vegetables, from potatoes to onions to zucchini! Think of this as a recipe template, and add your favorite vegetables. Zucchini in season? Grate some in!
When using robust vegetables like potatoes or carrots, grate them into smaller pieces. If you want to use larger chunks, blanch them first.
Here are ideas for other veggies you can add:
- Broccoli florets
- Green beans
All Alliums Are Welcome
Green onions lend a sharp and peppery note, but if you don’t have any, you can use finely diced onions in any color, shallots, or chives.
Pining for Perfect Patties?
Asparagus Pakoras With Lemony Yogurt Sauce
For the yogurt sauce:
1 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the pakoras:
2 cups (200g) chickpea flour
1 pound asparagus (medium thickness), woody ends trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 green onions, white and pale green parts only, very thinly sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups ice cold water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Prepare the lemony yogurt sauce:
In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and salt. Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
Make the batter:
In a large bowl, add the chickpea flour, asparagus, green onions, cilantro, dill, salt, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper, and baking powder. Use a rubber spatula to stir well until combined. Gradually add the water as you stir to create a smooth, lump-free batter thick enough to coat the spatula.
Prepare to fry the pakoras:
Line a large platter with paper towels and set it aside. You will use it to drain the pakoras.
In a large 10-inch skillet set over medium-high heat, add enough oil to come 1/2 inch up the sides. Heat the oil to 350°F. If you don’t have a deep-fry thermometer to check the temperature, test the oil by carefully dropping in a tiny bit of batter. It should bubble up and sizzle.
Fry the pakoras:
To test the batter for seasoning, drop a teaspoon of batter into the oil and fry until golden brown. Cool it slightly on the paper towel-lined platter, then taste. Add more salt to the batter, if needed.
Working in batches, carefully add 2-tablespoon dollops of batter into the oil, leaving about 1/2 inch between each. Use the back of the spoon to lightly tap the tops to flatten.
Fry them for 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds per side, until they turn golden brown and are cooked through. Adjust the heat up or down, as necessary, to maintain a temperature of 350°F to 360°F. Transfer the fried pakoras onto the prepared platter to drain.
Repeat with remaining batter.
Enjoy the pakoras warm with the lemony yogurt on the side for dipping.
Leftovers store well in the fridge for up to 5 days. To warm them up, I would suggest placing them on a sheet pan in the oven for 7 to 10 minutes at 300°F. You can also use a toaster oven on the ‘toast’ setting.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 7g||9%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||7%|
|Total Carbohydrate 25g||9%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||20%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 11mg||54%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|