If you have ever had Indian food you know the pakora. Served as an appetizer, it's a nugget of deliciously earthy chickpea flour, crunch, and spices mixed together and dolloped into hot oil - fried to perfection and served with chutney on the side. If you love pakoras and are watching your weight and health, you also know that you don't eat them as often as you would like.
I wanted to experiment with these amazing North Indian treats and not only make them something I would love to eat, but also turn them into a recipe that my girls would enjoy making with me. (Kids and hot oil just don't mix.) I was curious what would happen if I mixed my batter and baked it in kid-friendly cupcake tins.
It took a few tries to perfect. The first batch was way too salty and thick. I put too much batter into the tins - almost trying to replicate a cupcake. Though they cooked through, they were too spongy. I tried again, pouring less batter into each mold.
It turned into a recipe that I will not only make over and over again, but one that I love feeding my kids. Though, I have to admit, they are pretty spoiled on the regular, fried version.
Baked pakoras are not only healthy, but also Vegan and Gluten-Free (if you fall into either category). A perfect food rich in plant-based protein (chickpeas) and veggies.
Makes 18 – 20 pieces
2 cups packed, chopped fresh spinach
1 medium red onion, diced (1 cup)
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or minced (1/4 cup)
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 heaping teaspoon carom seeds (ajwain)
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
spray oil (I use grape seed)
1. Place spinach, onion, and ginger in a bowl and mix well. If this is for you and not the kids, add in a diced green chile.
2. In a separate bowl, add chickpea flour, salt, turmeric, and carom seeds. Mix well. You can add other spices as well including garam masala, ground black pepper, red chile powder, etc. Be as creative as you like. Or, reduce the number of spices depending on your little one's taste buds.
3. Add water to the flour mixture and hand mix until smooth. This mixture should be slightly thick and not too watery. Make sure that there are no lumps in the batter.
4. Add the veggies to your batter slowly. Mix as you go. Remember. You don’t want too much batter otherwise your pakoras will not cook through and remain a little mushy on the inside. To make the batter even crispier, you can add about a tablespoon of rice flour.
5. Place your oven rack in the top position and pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil your cupcake tins.
6. Drop about a tablespoon of batter into each cupcake tin and then flatten it into the bottom of your tin slightly. I discovered that it's important to not add too much here, otherwise your pakoras won't crisp up.
7. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Carefully remove tin from the oven and flip your pakoras with a fork. Cook for another 2 minutes so that both sides crisp up slightly.
Enjoy hot with ketchup or Indian chutney (mint and/or tamarind). I love to use as fillers for pitas - they make a perfect and easy substitution for falafel.
Note: If you are gluten-free for medical reasons, please purchase your chickpea flour from a reliable source. If you are not strictly gluten-free, the best chickpea flour is from the Indian grocer and called besan in Hindi. It's made from black chickpeas rather than white, which makes a slight difference in taste and consistency. Often, however, they do not guarantee the besan is processed in gluten-free facilities.