Air fryer onion bhajis are an easy recipe to make, totally delicious and ridiculously crispy whilst still being low oil and super simple. Also known as onion pakora, this recipe takes a classic recipe and makes it even better. It's an ultimate side dish for a curry feast, it goes particularly well with jackfruit curry and cauliflower dal.
🌟 Why this recipe works
Delicious and easy to make - there are just a few simples steps and a selection of beautiful fragrant spices needed to make the most delicious air fryer onion pakoras. The onion mixture comes together really quickly, so you don't need to worry about them being time consuming. This air fryer version of onion bhaji, is so much better than deep frying, and no need to use loads of cooking oil either!
Air fried & low oil - as they are air fried onion bhajis there's no deep frying, so they use a lot less oil (there's still a small amount in the batter). This means they're healthier and great for diets that avoid fried or oily foods, yet they're still just as delicious and crispy. Plus there's hardly any mess, as the frying takes place in the air fryer! By the way, if you're looking to upgrade your air fryer, check out the best air fryers available right now. In addition, enoki mushrooms are also fantastic when air fried.
Naturally vegan and gluten free - onion bhaji, or even an air fryer onion bhaji is totally naturally (or accidentally!) vegan and gluten free. The onion bhaji spiced batter traditionally uses chickpea flour (a.k.a. gram flour or besan) and doesn't contain eggs or dairy.
Mess-free - these air fryer onion bhajis are practically mess-free, making them such a great recipe! Especially when compared to making onion pakoras deep fried in a frying pan or small deep fryer at home. Plus, there's less waste as you don't need to use copious amounts of vegetable oil. The air frying process means that the cooking is contained to the air fryer basket, and it's just this that will need to be washed. And most air fryer baskets can go in the dishwasher! Plus, no need to remove excess oil with kitchen paper.
So crispy - crispy onion bhajis are what we're after, and cooking them in the air fryer is an excellent way of achieving exactly that!
🧅 Pakora vs bhaji
There's a lot of terms flying around here - we've got onion bhaji, onion pakodas, onion pakora and even kanda bhaji! Basically, they're all just different names for the same thing. It just depends on the region where it is made. In the west, it is known as bhaji, in the north Indian it's pakoras and in the south, it is called pakoda (or pakodi).
The main difference between these terms is the region that they are made. And, naturally, the onion pakoda that's made in the south will vary slightly from the onion bhaji that is made in the north and also from the onion pakoras in the south.
They're always chickpea flour based onion fritters, but the spices used in the batter will vary from region to region, some will even add curry leaves or coriander leaves. And in some areas onion pakoras are known as starters, but in others it's more of a side dish. Either way, they're also crispy onion fritters.
We like to serve them as a side dish, long with a delicious vegan chicken curry, maybe some yummy raita and even some homemade roti.
In addition, there are also two types of bhajis. Simple vegetable curries can also be called bhajis, such as mushroom bhaji or brinjal bhaji. Again, it depends on the region as to what each individual bhaji will come out like, but just be aware that a bhaji can also be a dry vegetable curry as well. Unlike air fryer onion bhaji, which are made from onion and a chickpea flour batter. But often they are deep fried.
📋 Ingredient notes
Onion - we used white onions for this recipe, but it doesn't matter whether you use white, brown or red onions as long as they are finely sliced.
Spice mix- this air fryer onion bhaji uses a traditional combination of spices known as panch phoron, which is used in Eastern and Northeastern Indian cooking. It's basically an Indian 5 spice blend made up of equal parts cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and nigella seeds. It's an amazing mix of spices which is also used in this delicious matar dal recipe. If you don't have all of these spice to hand, there are lots of other possible spice mixes you could use to make an amazing air fryer pakora. So check out the variations section (below) for tips!
Chickpea flour - also known as gram flour or besan flour. It's a naturally gluten free flour made with ground, fried chickpeas. It's commonly sold in supermarkets, so is very easy to come by. You can also use it to make a pretty amazing vegan omelette. It is possible to make an air fried onion bhaji using plain / purpose flour, but this won't be as traditional. Check out the variations for air fryer onion bhajis below.
Oil - air fried onion bhajis only need a small amount of oil! In comparison to the deep fried version, way less oil is needed! So there's no need to cover them in oil or pat them off with kitchen paper. Overall, this means that this onion bhaji recipe is much healthier, just as delicious and much less faff! These are so much nicer than the deep fried onion bhaji that are traditionally made.
🔪 Air fryer pakora step-by-step instructions
This is a step-by-step overview with photos for making air fryer onion bhajis. The full recipe, along with measurements and detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
1. Slice the onions finely, with a sharp knife.
2. Throw them in a large mixing bowl with the salt. Set them aside for at least 30 minutes (and up to four hours). This will draw the water out of them.
3. After 30 minutes, using your hands, start to squeeze as much water out of the onion as you can, into the bowl. No need to do this into a different bowl, as the 'onion water' is needed. This helps to bring the batter together but also helps them to turn out super crispy.
4. Next, preheat the air fryer to 180°c.
5. Place all the remaining ingredients in with the sliced onions. That includes the garlic, onion, ginger cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, gram flour, turmeric powder, fresh coriander, oil and gram flour.
6. Mix it all together until a thick batter forms. It should be sticky but not runny, and you should be able to form a ball with the mixture without it falling apart or getting stuck to your hands.
7. Shape them into evenly sized balls (small bhajis).
8. Pop them into the air fryer basket. Optionally, spray with oil spray generously, as this will help them to go golden brown.
Air fry for 15 minutes at 180°c. Depending on the size of your air fryer, this will cook the first batch and you can do a second batch if there are any onion bhajis remaining. They should be cooked throughout and lovely and crispy on the outside.
👩🍳 Expert tips
Don't make them too big - nobody wants an undercooked bhaji with a doughy or wet middle, so make sure they're not too big. They should roughly be palm sized (which is subjective, of course), but try to replicate the sort of size you may have encountered at an Indian restaurant or take away. If they are all evenly sized, they should cook evenly and turn into a really crispy bhaji!
Help them brown with oil spray - you can oil spray the basket with oil before cooking and the onion bhajis are partially air fried, spray them with a little more oil spray. Air fryers are great at making crispy pakoras, but they're not so good at browning things - a little oil spray fixes that! Alternatively, brush them with a little oil part way through cooking.
Grind the spices - if you're not a fan of whole spices then you could use the ground versions, or even grind the spices yourself using a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. It won't affect the flavor but could be more enjoyable if you don't like the texture of whole spices.
Flour - switch out the gram flour for plain flour. You can do this on a 1:1 basis, but all flours absorb liquids a little differently, so you might need to adjust the flour or liquid quantities once the batter is mixed. It should be a thick, sticky mixture but not so sticky that you can't work with it!
Different spices - some of the main ingredients for this recipe are whole spices - that's for the panch phoron. If you don't have them, then there are a lot of alternative options using other spices that you might have in your cupboard! Try out a teaspoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander, half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and a little pinch of chilli powder and garam masala.
Serve them in a curry - sounds weird, but trust us, it's so good! When we first developed this recipe it was for this bhaji video to test out our new air fryer and we served them in the korma sauce from this tofu korma recipe. This is totally delicious, we only learned afterwards that there is a traditional Indian curry called Punjabi kadhi pakora, but that curry sauce is completely different to the korma that we served it with. Fun fact though!
Additional ingredients - some recipes call for baking powder, baking soda, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice. These ingredients are not traditional so we don't recommend using them.
Air fryer onion bhajis keep well for 3-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. To reheat, just blast in the air fryer for around 5 minutes at 180°c.
Yes, you can use plain flour instead of chickpea flour (gram flour) but this isn't as traditional. In addition, some people use rice flour, which is also free from gluten but again, isn't the traditional option.
Yes! Onion bhaji recipes, including air fryer onions bhajis are almost always vegan, as the traditional recipes are accidentally vegan - as well as being a gluten free recipe!
🍛 Serving suggestions
These all make a great accompaniment for a crispy air fryer onion bhaji.
🇮🇳 More vegan Indian recipes to try
Air Fryer Onion Bhajis (Onion Pakoras)
- 2 large onions ~400g, finely sliced
- 0.5 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon garlic - finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon ginger - finely sliced
- 1 green chilli - finely sliced
- 0.25 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 0.25 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 0.25 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 0.25 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 0.25 teaspoon nigella seeds
- 0.25 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1.5 tablespoon fresh coriander - roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 cup chickpea flour
- Finely slice the onions, then throw them in a large bowl with the salt. Set them aside for at least 30 minutes. This will draw the water out of the onions.2 large onions, 0.5 teaspoon salt
- After 30 minutes, using your hands, start to squeeze as much water out of the onions as you can, into the bowl. No need to do this into a different bowl, as the 'onion water' is needed.
- Next, preheat the air fryer to 180°c.
- Place all the dry ingredients plus the oil into the bowl with the sliced onions. That includes the garlic, onion, ginger cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds, gram flour, turmeric powder, fresh coriander and gram flour.2 teaspoon garlic, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 green chilli, 0.25 teaspoon cumin seeds, 0.25 teaspoon black mustard seeds, 0.25 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, 0.25 teaspoon fennel seeds, 0.25 teaspoon nigella seeds, 0.25 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1.5 tablespoon fresh coriander, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 cup chickpea flour
- Combine it all together until a thick batter forms. It should be sticky but not runny, and you should be able to form a ball with the mixture without it falling apart or getting stuck to your hands.
- Shape them into evenly sized balls, then pop them into the air fryer basket.
- Optionally, spray with oil spray generously, as this will help them to brown.
- Air fry for 15 minutes at 180°c.
- Serve hot as a snack, starter or side dish.
- You can switch out the gram flour for plain or rice flour, but this isn't as traditional.
- If you want to deep fry instead, they will take about 5 minutes in very hot oil. If you shallow fry them, they will take around 3-4 minutes on each side.
- This onion bhaji recipe will keep in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, just blast in the air fryer for around 5 minutes at 180°c.