Are you one of those people who can never stop themselves as soon as they smell the aroma of freshly fried Indian street food snacks? Does the aroma and taste of samosas, pakoras, and vadas take you to another dimension? This ulli vada recipe will take your love of fried Indian fritters to a whole new level with its depth of flavor and pure deliciousness!
Today we are going to go through a popular tea time snack recipe that is the South Indian take on the classic onion pakoda.
As the Indian sun takes its leave and the red tinged horizons chase away the hot muggy days, evening tea retains an almost holy status in South Indian homes and streets. Ulli vada, also called vengaya pakoda, is a South Indian tiffin that is a popular evening snacks to be served with a cup of hot sweet milky tea.
The small tea shops in South India are busy places in the evening, with customers lining up for regular evening snacks and fresh tea at local tea shops.
If you are one of those regular customers, today is your day to unlock the magic of homemade Kerala style ulli vada recipes.
What Is Ulli Vada?
Ulli vada is basically the South Indian version of an onion pakoda, a fried onion fritter. It is based primarily on onions and gram flour (chickpea flour). Imagine a blooming onion, but spicier and 1000 times better.
These crunchy onion fritters are made by deep-frying a thick batter made of onions and gram flour and seasoned with different spices like turmeric powder, green chilies, and fennel seeds, etc. They are served with coconut chutney, green chutney or mint chutney with an occasional sprinkle of chat masala.
Do Homemade Ulli Vada Recipes Taste Good?
Oh gosh, yes! Ulli vada becomes an after work homage for many Indians after a hard day of work. It provides a greasy delicious snack that is perfect for chasing with a sweet caffeinated beverage. The stress of any day is eased by the delicious tiffin. Just perfect for priming the appetite, as Paatti’s homemade meal is waiting at home.
While the greasy, questionably hygienic street food has its own charm, the homemade version is way crunchier and healthier than the street version.
So, let us see how it’s made at home with this simple recipe and step by step pictures.
Cooking instructions for Ulli Vada Recipe
Are you ready to make these crunchy onion fritters? Well, let’s get cookin’ my friend! This is one of the easy recipes made with readily available ingredients, so you can walk into your kitchen anytime and start cooking.
Preparing the ingredients
Slice about two cups of onions, but make sure to keep their thickness in mind. They should neither be too thin, nor too thick. They should be chopped moderately thin. Check out the picture below for reference, but aim for slices that are about 1/8 inch thick.
Throw the sliced onions into a mixing bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.
Add two to three chopped green chilies, ½ tsp minced ginger and asafoetida, ¼ tsp chili powder, a sprig of chopped curry leaves and a pinch of salt and turmeric. You can optionally add 2-3 tbsp of chopped coriander leaves as well. Omit the asafoetida or use this brand for a gluten-free recipe.
Prepare the batter
Mix all of these ingredients and then squeeze the onions to release their juices. Set this mix aside for 5-10 minutes. The onions will slowly begin to ooze and release their delicious juices
Now add one cup gram flour or besan flour (chickpea flour) to the mixture. This is different from parippu vada as gram flour is used instead of soaked gram lentils.
Also add 2 tbsp of rice flour.
Now mix this dry mixture well.
Then sprinkle some water over it and try to combine the ingredients. Never pour water over ulli vada mixture, always sprinkle it in bits step by step to keep the right consistency as the onions also release some water. You want a stick gooey mix, not a runny one.
Frying the ulli vada
Now heat a high smoke point oil in a kadai or a big pan to medium heat and add hand made balls of the batter to the hot oil for frying. To check if the temperature is right for frying, add a small spoonful of the batter in the hot oil and watch it, if it rises without browning and doesn’t sink, your oil is perfect for frying. If you have a thermometer, you can measure the oil temperature. It should be between 350º-375º F.
Fry the vadas on medium heat with occasional stirring until they are golden brown.
When they are crisp and golden, drain them with a slotted spoon and spread them on kitchen paper towels to absorb excess oil.
Sprinkle chat masala for a north Indian twist if you like and serve them piping hot.
Serve this ulli vada recipe hot and fresh alongside parippu vada or medu vada with a selection of chutneys and dips of your choice. We like it with tomato chutney, onion chutney, coconut chutney, or mint chutney, while the kids are big fans of ketchup. You can also serve it alongside South Indian meals like dal fry as a crunchy side dish. Make sure to enjoy and savor each bite of the food with love and gratitude, and it will taste even better!
Some Pro Tips
Using Good quality gram flour
Always make sure to use fresh and good quality besan or gram flour for your vadas. The quality of your gram flour determines the aroma, taste and crispiness of your ulli vada. Most of the time, store bought besan becomes stale very quickly. Make sure you run a taste test on your besan before you use it, and always keep it in an airtight container. It is best to buy it in small amounts to use fresh.
Cutting the onions
If you cut your onions too thin, they can easily get burned while frying and will give a bitter taste. If you slice them too thick, they will remain soft inside and won’t let your ulli vada become crispy. So, it is very important to cut them moderately thin and of uniform size to avoid these issues.
Cutting the onions
If you squeeze your onions a little, they will release their own water to moisten the flour. While mixing, make sure to use water in moderation to make a batter that is neither too thin and runny nor too dry. Make sure it looks like a moist dough to yield the crispiest ulli vada.
Indian cooking mostly runs on the principles of keeping things in moderation. If your oil temperature is too low, your fritters will become soggy, if it is too hot, it will end up burning or over browning the vada on the outside and keeping them raw and soggy on the inside. So, it is important to maintain a medium high temperature of your oil while frying them. The ideal oil temperature is 350º-375º F. Between two batches, lower the heat to avoid burning the oil.
A high quality, high smoke point oil is also important for health and flavor. I like to use sunflower, avocado, or refined coconut oil for frying.
Ulli vada is the Malayalam version of Indian onion pakoda with some minor differences. They are both onion fritters and both delicious!
Ulli vada is made of gram flour, curry leaves, onions, green chilies, and various other seasonings and herbs.
Yes, ulli vada is a South Indian snack, mostly sold at tea shops, and is common street food in Kerala.
Eating fried food every day is not good for you. But, food is happiness and if eating a comfort food like vada makes you happy, then I think life would be amiss without these experiences. So, practice moderation and enjoy thy food!
Hi! I’m Ravi Kumar.
I am a husband, father of 4, board certified neurosurgeon, and a lover of South Indian Food!
I created PaattisKitchen.com to memorialize the most delicious foods on earth. South Indian food is easy to make and hard to mess up. So pull up your sleeves, and come with me as we explore the vibrant spices, colors, aromas, and flavors of South Indian culinary tradition.