Air fryer pakora is a healthy version of the pakora or pakoda, a popular Indian and Pakistani snack which is traditionally deep fried. This air fryer pakora recipe has all the flavor of a regular pakora, with a fraction of the calories. Plus, no wastage of oil, and no having to deal with the oil splatter after frying. The recipe that I am sharing is for an air fryer onion pakora, but you can use other vegetables.
What is a pakora?
Pakoras are the Indian and Pakistani version of a fritter made with chickpea flour (known as besan in Hindi / Urdu) and vegetables. Also known as a bhaji or bhajiya, it is a popular snack and appetizer across the Indian sub-continent. It is also a must have item during the month of Ramadan when it is served as a snack at Iftar, and during the monsoon season. It has become a cultural tradition of that whenever it rains, one must have pakoras with chai.
There are many kinds of pakoras depending on the filling used – aloo pakora (potato fritters), spinach pakoras (palak pakora), green chili pakoras (mirch pakora), but the most popular are the onion pakoras (piyaaz pakoras). Traditionally pakoras are always deep fried for the crispy crunchy exterior. Today I will be giving a healthy twist to the classic pakora by sharing a recipe for air fryer onion pakoras.
What is the difference between a deep fried pakora and an air fryer pakora?
The major difference between a deep fried pakora and an air fryer pakora is the usage of oil. A regular pakora needs a significant amount of oil, as it will be fried whereas the air fryer pakora can be made with just a spray of oil. Due to all that oil, the deep fried pakora no doubt tastes delicious, but it’s also unhealthy and then of course, there’s all the mess created by deep frying.
The air fryer pakora, on the other hand, is a guilt free snack. Though it doesn’t taste exactly like the deep fried pakora, the convection technology of the air fryer ensures that the pakora is crispy and crunchy on the outside. It’s a great way to eat your favorite snack on a regular basis instead of once in a blue moon.
How to make air fryer onion pakora?
Make the batter: Start with making the chickpea flour (besan) batter for the air fryer pakora. Add chickpea flour (besan) in a bowl, spices, baking soda and water. The baking soda is optional, but it’s used to give a fluffy texture to the pakora. Stir till a thick batter is formed, and then let it sit for 15 minutes.
Add the vegetables: Add sliced as well as chopped onions, along with chopped coriander / cilantro leaves and green chili. The reason I add both chopped as well as sliced onion is because the sliced onion gives that characteristic crispness to the pakoras, whereas the chopped onion adds bulk.
Place the pakora batter in mini baking molds: Use oil spray to prep your baking molds. Any shape of baking molds can work, as long as they are mini baking molds. I have used both silicon baking molds, as well as non-stick ones. Pour the batter into the baking molds, and spray with oil again.
Air fry the pakora: Place the baking molds in a pre-heated air fryer. Air fry at 180 C for 3 - 5 minutes, until they are golden brown from the top. Open the air fryer basket, and then quickly unmold the air fried pakoras, and place them on the air fryer basket / tray. Air fry for another 2 – 4 minutes till golden brown on both sides. The total cooking time will depend on the size of the baking molds. When unmolding the trays, be careful as the molds will be hot. Once the air fryer pakoras are crispy and golden brown, remove and serve hot with green chutney.
Why should I make pakoras in the air fryer?
- The health factor: The amount of oil used in an air fryer pakora is minimal when compared to deep frying.
- No mess: As much as I love pakoras, the reason I dislike making them is because of the mess it creates. Pakoras, especially the onion pakoras can’t be shallow fried, so even if you are frying a small batch of pakoras, you need a decent amount of oil. Once the pakoras are made, trying to figure out what to do with the leftover oil is another hassle. Leftover oil from frying pakoras can be used to fry other items, or to make a salan, but it needs to be strained, cleaned, and stored in an oil jar. Plus, there’s the splattering of oil on the stove and the countertop that comes from deep frying. By using an air fryer, you avoid all that.
- There’s no need to use the stove: Another reason I love air fryer pakoras is that there is no need to use the stove. This means having one burner free, less heat in the kitchen, and no need to stand at the stove looking over a karahi / wok of oil. The air fryer is more consistent with heating, and once you have made a few batches you will be able to set a timer to make air fryer pakoras.
- The safety element: I have been cooking and frying for many years now, and I am quite used to it. However, a pan of hot oil on the stove always worries me, especially when I am trying to juggle multiple tasks, or there are children in the house.
Air Fryer Pakoras - FAQs
The reason that I use baking molds is because the batter is contained in the baking mold, so no mess. I have tried doing it on the air fryer tray directly, but I have found the results inconsistent, and messy. There are recipes out there that do use the air fryer tray directly. In that case, you would need to make a super thick batter and use parchment paper (or Chinese steamer papers). Carefully place the batter on the tray and air fry till crispy.
Yes, you can. If you are using root vegetables like potatoes, make sure they are finely sliced or diced so that they can cook through.
The temperature and heat intensity of air fryers can be quite highDecrease the temperature by 10 – 20 C – you may need to increase the total cooking time by 1 – 2 minutes as a result.
Add more sliced onions and add another spray of oil. Make sure to also turn the pakoras halfway through the cooking process. That will crisp up the pakoras more. Also, make sure the air fryer is pre-heated.
Since the recipe I have shared uses baking molds, you can use any type of air fryer variant, be it the classic basket style air fryer, a spaceship style model, or the new oven style models. The airfryer I use is the Philips XXL, which has a basket.
If you need to reheat the pakoras, just put them in the air fryer and air fry for 1 – 2 minutes at 180 C. No need to use a baking mold when reheating.
Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below!
Some other snack recipes that you can try for Ramadan are:
- Puff Pastry Twists (or Cheese Straws)
- Potato and Chicken Croquettes
- Daal and Aloo Bun Kebab
- Keema Samosa
- Chicken Spread Sandwiches
- Chicken Box Patties
- Chicken Tikka Bread Pizza
Air fryer pakora | No fry pakora | Healthy onion pakora
- ½ cup / 8 tablespoon chickpea flour / besan
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- salt to taste about ½ teaspoon
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 4 - 6 tablespoons coriander leaves / cilantro chopped
- 2 green chilies seeds removed and sliced (adjust to taste)
- oil spray if oil spray isn't available, then vegetable oil can be applied with a pastry brush
Place the chickpea flour / besan in a bowl, and add red chili powder, coriander, turmeric, salt and baking soda. Stir through, and then add a few tablespoons of water to make a thick batter. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes.
Add chopped onion, sliced onion, chopped coriander leaves / cilantro to the batter and mix through. If the batter is too thick, you can add a splash of water. In case the batter is too liquid, add a few teaspoons of chickpea flour / besan. The batter should not be too thick, and should not be too thin.
Grease the mini baking molds – you can use a pastry brush or use oil spray. Any kind of baking mold can be used, as long as it's on the smaller side. Pour the batter into the baking molds, filling about ½ - ¾ full, and spray with oil again. The batter shouldn’t be too thick, else it won’t cook from inside.
Place the baking molds in a pre-heated air fryer carefully. Air fry at 180 C for 4 - 5 minutes, until they are golden brown from the top. Open the air fryer basket, and then quickly unmold the air fried pakoras, and place them on the air fryer basket / tray. Use a butter knife, and heat safe gloves as the molds will be hot. Air fry for another 2 – 4 minutes till golden brown on both sides. Reduce the heating time if the baking molds that are used are on the smaller side.
Once the air fryer pakoras are crispy and golden brown, remove and serve hot with green chutney.