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Karhi | Pakora Karhi

Karhi or Karhi Pakora is a Pakistani vegetarian dish consisting of a sour yoghurt & chickpea flour/besan base with pakora’s or vegetable fritters. 

Karhi or Karhi Pakora is a Pakistani vegetarian dish consisting of a sour yoghurt & chickpea flour/besan base with pakora’s or vegetable fritters. 

Note: Recipe has been updated with added tips and tricks, new pictures and notes in April 2020

What is karhi?

First of all karhi is not to be confused with the English ‘curry’. That ‘curry’ is synonymous with the everyday salan’s that we make with chicken, beef or mutton. This karhi or pakora wali karhi is a vegetarian dish comprising of pakora’s (vegetable fritters) in a sour yoghurt soup with a tempering of spices and herbs in the end. Sort of like a dumpling soup. It’s popular in both India and Pakistan, and in India it is known as pakora kadhi or kadhi. It’s a dish usually made in the summers here in Pakistan because one of the primary ingredients is yoghurt considered to have a cooling effect on the body. Additionally, it’s considered simple to make because you can start the yoghurt base in the morning; leave it on simmer while you do the rest of the chores. Fry off the pakora’s / vegetable fritters and do the temper right before serving it for lunch or dinner. Most people eat it with steamed rice but I personally prefer eating it with roti. Either way, it’s delicious.

How to make karhi? 

There are three components to making karhi / pakora karhi which are as follows:

1. The yoghurt base (aka the karhi / kadhi) 

The base of the karhi is yoghurt and chickpea flour (besan) along with the spices. Blend onion, garlic, yoghurt, chickpea flour (besan) with spices and water into a smooth paste. Place this paste with water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Turn heat to low, and cook this mixture for around 1.5 hours on low simmer to cook and let the flavours develop.

2. The fritters (aka the pakoras)

Make a batter of chickpea flour (besan) with onions, coriander and green chilies. Deep fry till golden brown and set aside. Once the karhi is ready, the pakoras are added to the karhi and cooked on low heat till they become soft.

3. The tempering or baghaar / tarka

The final step in making this karhi is the tempering. Heat oil in a small frying pan and add sliced onions, cumin seeds, whole red chilis, green chilies and the most important thing of all – the karhi patta (aka curry leaves). Curry leaves (or karhi patta) are leaves from the curry tree and have a distinctive flavour that is enhanced after they are fried in oil.

Tips on making karhi

  1. Use sour yoghurt or buttermilk or laban. Karhi has a distinctive tangy taste which is what makes it so delicious. In order to get that flavour, it’s important to use yoghurt that is sour. It can be difficult to get sour yoghurt abroad and in that case laban or buttermilk can be substituted. Or you can also add a bit of lemon juice or citric acid in plain yoghurt to get that tart flavour.
  2. Don’t skip out on the karhi patta (curry leaves) – it’s best to get fresh curry leaves but dried can also be used. Fresh and dried curry leaves can be found at Desi stores easily. Once you buy them, keep them in the fridge or freezer and use as needed.
  3. Should I soak the pakoras (fritters) in water or not? In Pakistan, I would soak the fried pakoras in water for a few minutes and then take them out squeezing out the water. This would make for soft pakoras but when I did the same thing in Australia, my pakoras became so soft that they fell apart when I added them to the karhi. So now I add them directly to the karhi and skip the soaking step. Test by adding one pakora first, and then add the rest to see if you need to soak them or not.

Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below! 

If you are looking for other Desi vegetarian recipes, check out the following:

  1. Taheri (Aloo chawal) – Rice and Potato Pilaf
  2. Kaali daal or khari masoor ki daal – Black Gram Lentils
  3. Aloo Matar Sabzi (Potato with Peas Curry)
  4. Aloo Hari Piyaaz (Potato curry with Spring Onions)

Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below! 

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Karhi or Karhi Pakora is a Pakistani vegetarian dish consisting of a sour yoghurt & chickpea flour/besan base with pakora’s or vegetable fritters. 
4.5 from 2 votes
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Pakora Karhi

Karhi is a Pakistani vegetarian dish consisting of a sour yoghurt & chickpea flour/besan base with pakora’s or vegetable fritters.

Course Dinner, Vegetarian
Cuisine Indian, Pakistani, Vegetarian
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 298 kcal

Ingredients

For Karhi/Yoghurt Base:

  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1 cup yoghurt must be sour yoghurt or use buttermilk / laban
  • 3 tablespoons heaped of sifted besan / chickpea flour sift the besan first then measure.
  • 1 salt adjust to taste
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder

For Pakora’s/Vegetable Fritters:

  • 2 cups minus 3 tablespoons sifted besan chickpea flour Sift the besan first then measure.
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 to 3 green chili finely chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda or baking powder optional
  • Oil for frying

Baghar/Tempering:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 small onion sliced
  • 1 tablespoon white cumin Sufaid Zeera
  • 3 to 4 whole red chilli's Sabit Lal Mirch
  • 4 to 5 green chilli Make slits in the chili’s so they don’t burst when frying
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves karri patta

Instructions

For Karhi:

  1. Place garlic, onion, yoghurt, besan (chickpea flour) and spices with 2 cup water in a blender. Blend till smooth.  

  2. Pour into large pot and add double the amount of water of the mixture (approximately 2 litres in total). Bring it to a boil on medium high heat and then cook on low flame for 1 - 1 1/2 hours till it reaches reach desired consistency. Set aside.

For Pakora’s

  1. Take a plastic bowl and add chickpea flour/besan. Add water to make a medium thick paste. Add onions, green chili, coriander and spices, baking powder or baking soda and mix. Set aside for thirty minutes.
  2. Heat oil in karhai or wok or frying pan. Using a spoon make little balls/dumplings of the besan/chickpea flour mixture and fry on low-medium heat till golden brown. Take them out with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen towel. 

  3. Soak the pakoras in luke-warm water for about 10-15 minutes. Take them out, squeeze lightly and add to the karhi mixture that had been set aside earlier. 

    Note - I have started skipping this step as the pakoras would get too soft and break apart (probably the quality of chickpea flour/besan in Australia). Test by putting one pakora in water and then add the rest.

Baghar/Tempering

  1. Heat oil in a mini karhai or a small frying pan for baghar/tempering. Add sliced onions and fry till light brown. Then add white cumin seeds (sufaid zeera) till it splutters. Add whole red chili’s (sabit lal mirch) and green chili and saute for 30 – 45 seconds. Add curry leaves in the end, saute for 20 seconds and then pour over the karhi.

  2. Serve hot with roti or rice. 

Recipe Notes

Use of sour yoghurt: Pakora Karhi tastes best when it has tangy tones to it, so it's recommended to use yoghurt that is a few days old, so it's more sour than sweet. Make sure it isn't spoiled. Buttermilk or laban can also be used, and in case nothing is avaialble then a pinch of citric acid or a few drops of lemon juice can be added to give it that sour flavour. 

To soak or not to soak pakoras in water: In Pakistan, I would soak the fried pakoras in water for a few minutes and then take them out squeezing out the water. This would make for soft pakoras but when I did the same thing in Australia, my pakoras became so soft that they fell apart when I added them to the karhi. So now I add them directly to the karhi and skip the soaking step. Test by adding one pakora first, and then add the rest to see if you need to soak them or not. 

Karhi or Karhi Pakora is a Pakistani vegetarian dish consisting of a sour yoghurt & chickpea flour/besan base with pakora’s or vegetable fritters. 

 

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Asima
    October 1, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Hey Kiran while going through your karhi recipe came across the tempering part… n it says to cook for 35-40 mins after adding green chilies, is it a typo error or do we actually have to cook it for this much time? Thanks

    • Reply
      kiran
      October 4, 2016 at 1:20 am

      Hello Asima,
      It is 35 – 40 seconds. Have fixed the recipe. Thank you so much for telling me!

  • Reply
    Mariam
    May 15, 2019 at 5:37 am


    This recipe is amazing! My friend’s love it whenever I make it. Easy to make and yummy to eat.

  • Reply
    Sahar Khalid
    March 10, 2020 at 8:22 pm


    I always messed up the quantities while making karhi but this recipe is very simple and full-proof. Love the way it’s been written and explained !!!

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