Pumpkin Pakoras


Photo by Michael Piazza

Pakoras are small, savory, deep-fried fritters typically served as a teatime snack or crispy accompaniment to a festive meal. They were served regularly in our home during the daily evening “happy hour,” in which my grandfather would welcome anyone to visit without prior appointment. Traditional pakoras are made from potatoes, onions, cauliflower or spinach leaves. In this version, I use pumpkin—which is usually treated as a dessert ingredient in the United States—to create a fritter that balances sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy and creamy. Try it with any other local hard winter squash if you like, too. The crispiness comes from Bengal gram flour (sometimes sold as chickpea flour), a common Indian flour that is a popular vegan, gluten-free batter base.  

Serves 4

1¼ cups sifted besan (Bengal gram or chickpea flour; available in Indian groceries)
½ teaspoon red chili powder ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
A generous pinch of baking soda
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted, cooled and very coarsely ground
1 teaspoon salt

Vegetable oil for deep frying
2½ pounds pumpkin or other winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut
into ¼-inch-thick slices  
Chaat masala for sprinkling on top
(available in Indian groceries)
Green chili-cilantro chutney or ketchup to serve (optional)

Start heating the oil on medium-high for deep frying. In the meantime, combine the besan, red chili powder, turmeric, baking soda, coriander seeds and salt in a large bowl. Add enough warm water to form a smooth, thick paste, up to 1 cup. Stir thoroughly to make sure there are no lumps. Using your hands or tongs, dip the pumpkin slices into the batter to coat them thoroughly, then gently drop them into the hot oil in batches. Avoid overcrowding the pot. Deep fry until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes, turning them halfway through. Remove with a slotted spatula and place on a paper-towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle with chaat masala and serve hot with green chutney or ketchup if you like.

This recipe appeared in the Winter 2018 issue as part of a larger story, “An Indian in Winter.”