Ridiculously good onion bhaji recipe

March 18, 2013


I’m a big fan of South Asian cuisine. There was a momentous time when I was growing up in Malaysia where I ate proper Indian food for the very first time. I was captivated by the plate-less experience as a large and green banana leaf takes the place of a plate. All of a sudden, five different vegetable side dishes were generously spooned around the leaf by an Indian guy carrying a large metal container with 5 compartments. Did I tell you that these vegetables were refillable, free of charge too? Another Indian man then swoops in to deliver scoops of steamy hot rice until you say ‘when’ and then with a large ladle delivers your choice of curried gravy: fish, chicken, dhal/sambhar and then he tops it all off with some papadum. Still in awe, a small unpretentious plastic plate arrives and on it, nuggets of crispy, caramelized onion fritters. It was a side of onion bhaji and it came with a sweet and spicy tamarind dipping sauce. It wasn’t an essential component to banana leaf rice, it sure was a decadent addition. I took a bite and it was crispy, sweet and spicy on top of a strong caramelized onion flavour. It was delicious!

I don’t get to eat banana leaf rice in North America. The closest I’ve gotten was a thali meal  served on a metal plate, sometimes with a small square of banana leaf, and you don’t get to refill your vegetable side dishes. But I have eaten my fair share of onion bhajis around town in Montreal. And I have to say, I wasn’t very impressed with them. Most of them were just okay, all of them were over-floured. And so were my quests to make them at home. Then I found an onion bhaji recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation. The episode explored Gujerati cuisine in the UK. The method the Gujeratis use to make their onion bhaji floored me, it was simple and it made sense. The result was a crispy, delicious onion bhaji from my childhood and I have an alternative flour you can use if you cannot find chickpea flour.

This recipe makes approximately 30 ping-pong ball sized onion bhaji.

Gujerati-style onion bhaji

Tamarind dipping sauce

Method of tamarind dipping sauce:

  1. Soak tamarind pulp with hot water until soft and pulp is soft and squishy. Squeeze as much pulp out and discard the seeds/sacs.
  2. Mix everything together and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

onion-bhaji-mixtureMethod for onion bhaji:

  1. Put your sliced onions in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
  2. In another mixing bowl, mix all the other ingredient in with a spoon. You will get a sandy looking mixture and that’s fine.
  3. Pour the flour mixture into the bowl of   onions and with your hands, really work the flour into the onions. Don’t be afraid of squishing it because you want the onions to sweat, the juices will transform this dry-looking mixture into a workable paste. Just remember that if you feel it’s too dry, leave the mixture for 10 minutes to let the onions sweat and then mix again. If it’s still too dry, you may add 1 tablespoon of water. This genius method is what gives this onion bhaji recipe it’s incredible flavour as there is no dilution, only onions and it’s natural juice.
  4. Once you get the onion bhaji mixture into a nice workable paste, they should hold their shape if you scoop them up with a spoon. Heat a deep pan with vegetable oil. You want to have about 1-inch of oil in your pan for frying.
  5. Fry up scoops of onion bhaji (you can decide on how big you want your bhaji to be) until they are golden and crisp and drain the excess oil to keep the bhaji crispy for longer periods of time.
  6. Eat with the tamarind dipping sauce.



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March 29, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

They were delicious :-)

Tony Hampson
November 23, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

This worked a treat. Tasted fantastic.

    November 23, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    Thank you for your comment, I love that you enjoyed it! :)

stuart mcivor
January 28, 2014 @ 11:58 am

My wife has started buying onion bhaji mixes from the supermarket which are dreadful. I needed an alternative and this is it! As good as or better than those from restaurants even! Definately one to remember and do again. Thank you

    February 12, 2014 @ 7:26 am

    I’m really pleased that you and your wife enjoyed the onion bhaji recipe. Thanks for dropping me a line! :)

March 13, 2014 @ 9:22 am

Hi, do you have any substitutes for yohgurt?(do you mix the 2 tbsp with the spices?)
Also we are having 20guests and I’m serving them as starters how many times your quantities should I make? Thanks so much in advance

    May 11, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

    Hey Galite, this might come as a bit late. You can substitute yogurt with creme fraiche or sour cream if you have those lying around. This recipe makes 30 pingpong ball size onion bhajia so as starters you might want to allot 3 for each guest and work your number from there. Or, you can make smaller size ones to compensate for the number of guests. Good luck!

  • Pingback: Onion Bhajis | Kitschnflavours

  • Dave Mellor
    March 26, 2014 @ 2:14 pm

    Hi love the bhaji recipe,
    Can you help?? I’m looking for a basic vegetable curry to go with my biriarni

    May 15, 2014 @ 8:43 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog and this recipe! These were delicious and a great addition to my weeknight Indian meal. Thanks!

      May 15, 2014 @ 10:47 pm

      I am glad you enjoyed the recipe! It’s comments like these that makes my day. :)

    June 24, 2014 @ 3:24 pm

    I found your recipe tonight and although I have not yet tried it, until I get the ingredients, I wondered if you had a similar recipe for mushroom bahjis as I imagine they would taste great too especially if using brown mushrooms which seem to have more flavour than button mushrooms.
    thank you

      June 29, 2014 @ 10:23 am

      Hi Wendy, you could use mushrooms but you would have to cook it first. Liquid from squished mushrooms have a woody and musky flavour and may not be appetizing even for the most avid mushroom lovers. I’d suggest slicing the mushrooms, cooking with some olive oil, salt and pepper until all the liquid’s evaporated and then mix it with the onions like in the recipe. :)


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