Spicy Deep-Fried Vegetables

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Pakora, vegetables coated in a spicy batter and fried, is one of my favorite Indian-Pakistani snacks. One of the great things about it is that there is no one fixed recipe—both the spices and the vegetables vary with the seasons and the temperament of the cook. I once had such a crush on pakora that I ate it for 150 days in a row. Then I moved away from my favorite pakora purveyor and that frequency declined rapidly, but even so, I have come to think of myself as somewhat of a pakora expert. The only reason I can claim this position is that with pakora, there is no right or wrong. no fixed recipe, the vegetables and the spices used in the batter are somewhat different every time. So I could eat pakora for lunch every day for half a year because it was different every time—I never knew what I was getting. I have experimented with other kinds of flour when making pakora, but although all-purpose flour works acceptably, it tends to leave the deep-fried vegetables too crispy. Note that chickpea flour does not contain gluten. Chickpea flour can be found in health food shops and Asian markets, especially Indian ones.

Serve with Coriander and Mint Sauce.

Serves4 as a starter, 6 to 8 as a snack

Cooking Methodfrying


Total Timeunder 1 hour

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Courseappetizer, snack, vegetable

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Equipmentdeep fryer

Mealdinner, snack

Taste and Texturecrisp, salty, spiced

Type of Dishvegetable


  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons powdered turmeric
  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • 1 to 3 green chiles, finely chopped (optional}
  • 2 to 3 quarts vegetable oil, such as canola, for deep-frying
  • 3 boiled potatoes, sliced
  • 10 cauliflower florets
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 10 to 15 spinach leaves


  1. Using a mortar and pestle, coarsely crush the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and salt. Transfer to a large bowl and add the chili powder, turmeric, and flour. Add the water and mix until you have a thick, smooth batter. Let stand for 20 minutes.

  2. Add the cilantro and chiles (if desired) to the batter and mix well.

  3. Heat the oil in a deep-fryer, or heat at least 2 inches of oil (the more oil you use, the more stable the temperature of the oil) in a large, deep pot. Working in batches, add the vegetables to the batter: coating them thoroughly, then lift out, letting the excess drip off and fry until brown and crispy. Transfer to paper towels to drain.


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