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What Is an Onion Bhaji?

An onion bhaji is a savory, deep-fried Indian snack, akin to a fritter, made from a spiced mixture of onion and gram flour. This crispy delight is often enjoyed as a starter or side, with its flavors dancing on the palate, hinting at cumin, turmeric, and sometimes a kick of chili. Ever wondered how this appetizer complements traditional Indian meals?
Angie Bates
Angie Bates

Popular in the United Kingdom, onion bhaji is a spicy fried onion dish of Indian origin. Often served in Indian restaurants, onion bhaji combines spices, flour, and sliced onion to create a fritter-like appetizer or snack. This dish is frequently served with a mango chutney or yogurt-based dip.

Usually chickpea flour, also called gram flour, is used in onion bhaji. All-purpose flour can be used instead, however. Spices such as chili powder, coriander, cumin, and turmeric are also normally included. Other seasonings, such as tikka masala paste, lemon, or mango chutney, are added to the mixture in some versions as well. To moisten the onions, which is essential for the flour mixture to stick to the onions, beaten eggs or water are most often used.

Large yellow or white onions are normally chosen when making onion bhaji. The onions are first peeled and then are normally sliced into strips or rings. Some versions roughly chop the onion, leaving strips mostly whole in order to vary the texture.

Mango chutney, which is often served with onion bhajis.
Mango chutney, which is often served with onion bhajis.

Onion bhaji is prepared much like fritters. The ingredients are all combined to create a thick mixture, which is normally more paste-like than batter-like. The dry spices and flour may be first sifted together then combined with the rest of the ingredients or everything but the flour may be mixed together. Water, or flour and water if flour was not yet added, is stirred into the mixture to create the finished batter. Alternatively, the onion slices can be added to beaten eggs, then the rest of the ingredients are mixed after the onions are thoroughly coated.

Onions, the main ingredient in onion bhaji.
Onions, the main ingredient in onion bhaji.

To cook, spoonfuls of the mixture are dropped into hot vegetable oil and fried. Depending on the depth of the oil, the bhajis may need to be turned half way through cooking. Once golden, they are removed from the oil and allowed to drain on a paper towel before serving. Onion bhaji is quick to make, with cooking times of only a few minutes per batch.

Chili powder is commonly included in onion bhajis.
Chili powder is commonly included in onion bhajis.

Eaten as either an appetizer or a snack, this dish is often served with a dipping sauce or a chutney. A yogurt-based dipping sauce, usually called raita, is frequently used. Raita can be purchased premade, or a homemade yogurt sauce can easily be made instead. For example, combining plain yogurt with mint sauce creates a tasty compliment to onion bhaji. Additionally, although mango chutney can be included in the bhaji mixture, it is more often served as a side.

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    • Mango chutney, which is often served with onion bhajis.
      Mango chutney, which is often served with onion bhajis.
    • Onions, the main ingredient in onion bhaji.
      Onions, the main ingredient in onion bhaji.
    • Chili powder is commonly included in onion bhajis.
      Chili powder is commonly included in onion bhajis.
    • Chickpeas, which are used to make a flour for onion bhajis.
      By: Nika Novak
      Chickpeas, which are used to make a flour for onion bhajis.
    • Onion bhaji is frequently served with a yogurt-based dip.
      By: Colinda McKie
      Onion bhaji is frequently served with a yogurt-based dip.
    • Onion Bhaji is popular in Indian restaurants, especially in the U.K.
      By: Pavel Losevsky
      Onion Bhaji is popular in Indian restaurants, especially in the U.K.
    • Spicy fried onion bhajis are often sprinkled with chili powder and turmeric.
      By: Igor Dutina
      Spicy fried onion bhajis are often sprinkled with chili powder and turmeric.
    • Onion bhajis are one of the many savory street foods sold at outdoor markets in India.
      By: photonaka
      Onion bhajis are one of the many savory street foods sold at outdoor markets in India.