Chicken Pakora or pakoda is an often-requested snack or appetizer at our home. Bite-sized flavorful fried chicken – pakoras have a crispy thin outer coating with perfectly cooked juicy chicken tucked inside.
This is not your average chicken nugget, but its flavor filled big brother. As it is made with chick pea (and rice) flour it is a perfect option for those low carb fans or those looking for gluten free dishes.
Fried not baked
These have to be FRIED, not baked. Frying gets a bad rap and indeed fried foods should not be what your everyday meal plan calls for. Deep fat frying creates the distinct flavors and textures that air fryers and baking cannot always hope to achieve. As long as you keep the oil at the right temperature and drain the fried food, an indulgence here or there is not something to worry about.
The stress induced by worrying about all this – well that is something you should worry about.
Again, I do want to say FRIED. Try the toaster and whatever new gadget that makes your feel better and wallets lighter – the fried version wins hands down!
Fair warning, I am going to ramble this time if you are here for the recipe It is time to scroll down!
Pakoras and rain
Well it is not just pakoras, but anything fried goes with rain. Maybe it is the contrast – all that moisture in the air makes one want to sip something hot and much on something crispy. Well at any rate I, like most folks with Indian heritage, reach for pakoras, samosas, and vadas once rains start.
My rainy day favorites
I grew up where it rains for months, so rain music to me. I miss the sound of rain, the rhythmic pounding of raindrops on the roof is the nature’s symphony that I loved – and still loves to listen to for days on end. I miss the swishing tree branches and the lightning and most of all I miss the smell of the fresh earth and crisp clean air after the first rains! Time to pack up and move to Chirapunchi or Koorg!
What I don’t miss though is getting wet. Rain meant splashes of mud on the school uniform – not a fun thing when humidity is near 100% and cloth dryers were not an option. I was lucky as for the most part that was mom’s (and dad’s as he was in charge of ironing) problem. She wasn’t too happy to see the mud spots. So, by the time I turned a teen it started becoming my problem – Parents can get on your nerves that way, just ask my son!
He too loves chicken pakora, better than vegetables ones he would say if you ask. Usually if I make a batch there rarely are any leftovers. But if you have, serve it over salads or use in wraps or tacos.
Chickpea flour is a popular ingredient in Indian kitchen. Chickpeas take long to cook but chickpea flour on the other hand can be treated just like other flour. It has higher protein content, no gluten and has tons more flavor than wheat flour. You can find chickpea flour in Indian grocery stores, natural grocers or online! I am sure you can buy garbanzo beans and try grinding your own as well (disclaimer – never tried it).
In the strict sense of the word there is no batter here. Pieces of chicken is tossed in a mix of flour/s, spices, seasonings, egg.
Rice Flour – Wonder why tempura batter is made with rice flour, other than rice being ubiquitous in japan? Well it makes the fritters crisp! For the same reason some rice flour is added to the pakoras!
Egg is a wonderful binder and I would encourage you to use it here. You are eating the chicken anyway, might as well eat the egg! Trust me it tastes WAY better, when the egg is added.
Just enough spices
Every cook has his/her way of making the pakoras. Some add whole spices while some others add a generous spoon of garam masala or other spices. I like to keep the spices minimal, but what I insist on adding is the freshly grated ginger and garlic. To me this makes a ton of difference and one can taste the chicken as well as the flavorings.
- Kashmiri Chili powder
- It is fiery red and but like without its teeth, not spicy. This chili is what that makes the pakoras red – not food color. I recommend using it if you can find it. Substitute paprika or any other pepper you have.
- Asafoetida and Turmeric
- Asafoetida is popular in the Indian subcontinent. It is considered to a digestive and has a distinct aroma (not well liked though). Don’t worry if you can’t find it. If you don’t know what it is, chances are you won’t like it.
- About turmeric, it is there because I like it – just a pinch that is all you need. Anything more is going to change the flavors and mess with the color. Now if you are going for a yellow pakora hold the Kashmiri chili and add a tsp of turmeric.
Remember – tons of ingredients does not mean tons of flavor!
I use boneless skinless chicken breast in this recipe. Of course, you can make it with other cuts, but white meat chicken is the perfect vehicle to carry the flavors in this recipe. Moreover, it cooks so much faster!
What about vegan / vegetarian
I don’t have vegan chicken – the birds are inclined to eat worms and what not. So that is not an option. But this recipe will work great with tofu, paneer or cauliflower. Add 2 tbsp of oil to the recipe and avoid water.
- 2 lb Chicken breast, cubed
- 1 C Chickpea flour Besan
- ¼ C Rice flour, Fine
- 1 Tbsp Kashmiri chili powder/paprika
- ¼ Tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 ½ Tsp Salt
- 1/8 Tsp Asafoetida optional
- 1 Tbsp Ginger finely grated
- 1 Tbsp Garlic finely grated
- 1 Egg
- 1– 2 Tbsp Water
- Oil As Needed to Fry
- Mix chickpea flour, rice flour, chili powder, turmeric powder, asafoetida, and salt together. Add the grated ginger and garlic to this mix and rub in.
- Pat dry the chicken and place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the flour mix on top and toss once or twice gently. Break the egg on top of the chicken pieces and mix everything together really well. Each piece should have a thin coating of chickpea flour. If needed add 1 to 2 tbsp water. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Heat oil in a wok (kadhai or any heavy bottomed frying pan). There should be enough oil to fully immerse a chicken piece.
- When the oil is hot fry the pakoras in batches. Keep the eat at medium. The pakoras will turn a deep red (if using Kashmiri chilis). Turn the pakoras once or twice while frying. It takes 10 to 12 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.
- Remove the fried chicken pakoras from oil and drain over kitchen towels. Taste and sprinkle salt on top if needed.
- Garnish with fried chilies, curry leaves or slices of red onions.
- Serve them hot with a hot cup of tea!!!
- When frying it is important to keep the oil temperature around 350° F.
- Frying too many pieces at a time reduces the oil temperature. When the oil is too hot the pakoras burn on the outside without fully cooking the chicken.
- Kashmiri chili has the fiery red color without the heat.
- Using it makes the pakoras deep red while the spice level is kept to low.