Learn how to make this traditional fried Indian snack called Onion bhaji (or Kanda Bhaji). These crispy onion fritters are made with gram flour, onions, and spices from your pantry. These vegan & gluten-free onion pakoras are addictive!
When you think about making pakoras, they are the first ones that come to mind. They are also my favorite, as they are the crunchiest pakoras!
On a rainy monsoon day, these are the perfect snack to make with masala chai!
You can also make these in the air fryer. Check out my air fryer onion pakora recipe.
What Is Onion Bhaji?
Deep-fried, crunchy onion fritters are known as onion bhajis or Kanda bhajis, where ‘kanda’ means onion and ‘bhaji’ is fritters. It combines thinly sliced onions with a flavorful spicy batter made of gram flour, chili, and cilantro. The batter is then deep-fried until crisp and golden.
They are iconic street food in India, frequently associated with evening snacks and tea.
In the Western part of the country, onion bhaji is a typical starter that signals the beginning of a delicious meal. I prefer to serve my onion bhaji as a side dish or an appetizer.
Onion Bhaji vs Pakora?
They are technically the same. It could be a bhaji, bhajji, or pakora, depending on the region where it is made. In the west, it is known as bhaji; in the south, it is called pakodi; and in north India, it is known as pakoras. And just like any other recipes, these differ widely.
Both bhajis and pakoras are onion fritters and identical in terms of they are made with onions and a batter of gram flour. The difference lies in the spices and herbs used in the batter, which can vary by region.
For example, Onion Bhaji batter in southern India can contain garlic and curry leaves, whereas pakoras in north India typically have carom seeds (ajwain). So try the different variations and pick your favorite spices to add!
You need a few basic pantry ingredients to make this irresistible recipe!
- Onions – Red onion is preferred for this recipe as they taste sweet, but you can use any onion available. You can also mix yellow and red onion if you prefer.
- Green Chilli – Use green chili for the extra kick. Skip it if you can’t tolerate heat.
- Ginger – Use freshly grated ginger or store-bought ginger paste
- Cilantro – Freshly chopped cilantro adds a fantastic aroma and flavor
- Gram Flour (Besan) – Besan is flour made from chana dal, black chickpea, or Kala chana. You can find this easily at the Indian grocery store. It is gluten-free flour.
- Rice Flour – 2 tablespoons rice flour, when added to the bhaji mix, gives the crunchiest fritters.
- Spices – No Indian dish is complete without spices. The only spices needed are Kashmiri red chili powder, turmeric powder, carom seeds (ajwain), salt, and asafoetida (hing).
- Oil – You can use any vegetable oil with a high smoking point for frying these fritters.
- Chaat Masala – Sprinkling just a little on the bhajis will give it an appealing taste.
How To Make Onion Bhaji
Make the best Kanda bhaji using this simple recipe-
- Add all the batter ingredients to a large bowl, and mix with your hand. Massage the onions with your fingers while mixing so they release their moisture. You can leave the mixture for 5-10 minutes, giving the onions more time to release moisture.
- If needed, add 1-2 tablespoons of water. You want a clumpy mixture to form (not a runny mixture).
- The key to making excellent onion bhaji is thinly slicing the onion so it has time to cook within the batter while frying.
- Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan (kadhai) over medium to high heat until it reaches 300°F. Once the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium.
- Use a small scoop (or your fingers if comfortable) and drop the pakoras in the oil. Fry in batches to not overcrowd the pan.
- Cook several minutes per side until the pakora is golden brown. Turn the pakoras to make sure they cook evenly on the other side.
- Transfer the pakoras to a paper towel-lined plate or bowl. Sprinkle some chaat masala. Serve hot and with chutney or ketchup.
Top Tips For Making Onion Bhajis
- Always use fresh gram flour/ chickpea flour of high quality. Before making the pakoras, taste the flour because it can become bitter if sitting for too long.
- Cut the onions into thin, even slices. The onion bhaji will absorb more oil if thick, producing oily pakoras.
- Rice flour, semolina (sooji), or corn flour is added to make crisp restaurant-style bhaji.
- Low heat shouldn’t be used to fry onion pakoda. They will become greasy as a result of increased oil absorption.
- Also, avoid frying on very high heat. They will brown on the outside but remain uncooked on the inside.
Variations and Substitutions
- Onion and spinach Pakora: Finely chop 1 cup of spinach, add to the batter, and deep fry.
- Onion and potato pakora: Grate two medium potatoes and remove the moisture. Add the potatoes to the onion-besan batter and deep fry.
- Herbs: Add fresh mint leaves and curry leaves for extra flavor.
- Use cornstarch for extra crispness if you don’t have rice flour handy.
- Do not use hing (asafoetida) if you want this recipe gluten-free.
- If you want to avoid deep-fried stuff and greasy fingers, you can air-fry them or bake them in the oven.
- Air fryer: You must preheat your air fryer for 10 minutes to 350°F. Air fry the bhajis till crisp. At the halfway mark, shake the air fryer basket and flip the bhajis.
- Oven: On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place spoonfuls of the bhaji batter. Make small to medium-sized pakoras rather than large ones. Then bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 400°F. Keep an eye on them and check them after about 15-18 minutes to ensure they’re properly baking and not burning. Continue to bake after moving the baking sheet around to check it. If desired, brush the pakoras with oil after 18 minutes.
How To Serve
You do not need a reason or occasion to eat this onion bhajiya!
Serve these piping hot delicious onion pakora with dipping sauce or chutney. We like mint cilantro chutney and tamarind date chutney. I always have these handy in my fridge. If you do not have any chutney, simply eat them with tomato ketchup; trust me, they taste so good…
These taste great with yogurt/raita dip or a sweet chili sauce.
You can eat these with pav. Kanda Bhajiya-pav with garlic chutney is a popular street snack in Maharashtra.
In the southern Indian states, these are eaten with coconut chutney or tomato chutney.
If you have no other accompaniments or condiments, you can’t go wrong with a hot cup of masala chai, especially on a rainy day!
Yes, you can. Place the onion bhaji mixture on the parchment-lined baking tray and lightly oil them. These can be baked for 20 to 25 minutes at 400°F. Enjoy the onion bhaji without worrying about the oil!
These onion bhajis will last about three days when stored in the fridge. Simply reheat in your Airfryer for a few minutes or in the oven for about 5 minutes at 180°C.
Freezing onion bhajis is super easy. Just pack the cooled bhajis in a plastic air-tight container and freeze them for up to 1 month. When ready to eat, allow them to defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat as above.
Hope you enjoy this delicious Onion Bhaji. Don’t forget to share how they turn out!
For pakora batter
- 2 cups Red onions, thinly sliced
- 2 Green chili pepper, finely diced, adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon Ginger , grated or paste
- 2 tablespoon Cilantro leaves , finely chopped
- 1 cup Gram flour (Besan)
- 2 tablespoon Rice flour
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Carom seeds (Ajwain)
- 1/4 teaspoon Ground Turmeric (Haldi powder)
- 3/4 teaspoon Salt
- ⅛ teaspoon Asafoetida (Hing)
- Oil , I used canola oil
Make onion batter
- In a large bowl add all the batter ingredients, and mix using your hand. Massage the onions with your fingers while mixing so they release their moisture. You can leave the mixture for 5-10 minutes which gives the onions more time to release their moisture. If needed, add 1-2 tablespoons of water. You want a clumpy mixture to form (not a runny mixture).
- Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan (kadhai) over medium to high heat until it reaches 300°F. Once oil is hot, lower the heat to medium.
Deep Fry Method
- Use a small scoop (or your fingers if you are comfortable) and drop the pakoras in the oil. Fry in batches of 4-6 to not over crowd the kadhai. Cook several minutes per side until the pakora is golden brown. Turn the pakoras to make sure they cook evenly on the other side.
- Transfer the pakoras to a paper towel lined plate or bowl. Sprinkle some chaat masala. Serve hot and with chutney or ketchup.
Air Fryer Method
- Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the onion batter. This can help make the air fryer pakoras softer inside.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
- Spray air fryer with some oil. Pick some batter in your fingers, and flatten in a patty like shape. Then place it in the air fryer basket. Make sure the pakoras don't touch each other. Do not overcrowd. Spray some oil on top.
- Air fryer at 350°F for 12-14 minutes. Flip the pakoras at about 9 minutes.
- Once they are golden and crispy, take out on a plate lined with paper towel. Sprinkle some chaat masala. Serve hot and with mint cilantro chutney or ketchup.
- You can also add 1 cup of finely chopped spinach to the batter to make spinach onion pakora.
- Add potatoes by cutting them into small pieces of 1cm, then add along with the onion to make Pyaaz Aloo Pakora (Onion Potato Pakora)
- You can add chopped curry leaves for south indian version of these onions bhajjis.