Onion Bhajis | Onion Fritters

onion bhaji

It’s that time of the year again, the month of sleep deprivation and abstinence from all unnecessary indulgence. The time of the year where there are millions of cranky Muslims (though according to the media, these millions of Muslims are apparently always cranky) going about their daily life whilst undergoing caffeine withdrawal, nicotine withdrawal, expletive withdrawal and a lack of sex.

The last condition can make men very cranky whereas us women thankfully embrace this month πŸ™‚ But all kidding aside, as much as I make Ramadan sound like a chore and a hardship, it’s the one month Muslims look forward to like no other.

Why is this month so important to Muslims and why do we eagerly wait its appearance every year? For anyone of faith with a belief of a greater power; you will understand. Ramadan offers the chance for Muslims to gain endless rewards whilst erasing sins. Every good deed and action is doubled in reward. This month Satan is chained up and cannot whisper in our ears to lead us astray. So, we use this month to perform great deeds and give charity knowing that Satan cannot interfere and all the while racking up our brownie points.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which is based on the lunar cycles instead of the solar like the Gregorian calendar. In this month, the Holy Qur’an was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by the Angel Gabriel. The verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet and they are unchanged since then. It is said that the Qur’an is protected against any change in the writings and what we read now, in our daily prayers and during Ramadan, are the very verses that were revealed more than 1400 years ago.

In this very holy month, we are commanded to fast, it is one of the 5 pillars of Islam (i.e., it’s a foundation of the religion and mandatory) and during the fast, which lasts from dawn to dusk, apart from not eating or drinking, we are to watch our actions and our bad habits. Whilst we are fasting, we should not swear or curse or lose our temper, all these void our fasts and we lose the good deed of the fasting.

We are encouraged to read the whole of the Qur’an this month and increase our prayer. We are encouraged to get up in the middle of the night to perform night prayer while everyone else is asleep to earn more reward. It is said that God ventures down to the lowest heavens in the middle of the night looking for His believers who are praying so that He may answer their prayer.

We are to increase our acts of kindness and charity. It is mandatory for all to donate money or food to the needy in this month before the end of Ramadan. We can increase our reward by donating money, food or even your time, like volunteering.

onion bhaji

What is the purpose of fasting? One of the reasons God wanted us to fast was to give up what we love the most. As we all know, most of the things we love are the hardest to give up and this is when we learn restraint. It is also to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are not as fortunate as us. It’s to make us feel the hunger and thirst and in turn, appreciate and be grateful for all that we have and enjoy. Millions of people around the world, including in rich Western countries, are hungry and do not have a proper meal if any, during the day. We put ourselves in their place to feel what they feel. The thing is though, for us it’s temporary, we get to eat at sunset, but these people continue to be hungry without any hope. This is why we are encouraged to donate as much as possible during this month.

Another reason for fasting is for our health. It’s to give our body a break from the continuous onslaught of food and drink. Our body needs the break from all the constant eating and it cleans out the system (providing you don’t clog it up by making unwise choices when it’s time to break your fast).

We prepare for the fast by eating a small breakfast before the break of dawn, this is known as suhoor.Β This may include a full out eggs and meat breakfast for those who choose to have that or preferably, a simple breakfast of cereal or whole wheat toast with nut butter. In our house, it’s usually granola cereal or oatmeal, fruit, dates maybe toast. I actually like a bowl of thick lentil soup with a whole wheat pita. I find that the soup, full of vegetables and lentils, keeps me quite full all day. I also find that the more I eat, the hungrier I get during the day so I keep my breakfast quite light and drink lots of water.

I get upset when I hear people constantly complaining during Ramadan, they complain about the heat, about the hunger, about being thirsty basically anything and everything. They seem to forget that complaining defeats the purpose of fasting and it’s reward. I have never had a problem fasting. By the grace of God, I never get hungry and I never get thirsty, even when I forget to set my alarm and sleep though the morning breakfast. It can be a 100 degrees but come the first day of Ramadan, a cool front comes through, or there is a string of thunderstorms that drops the temperatures; something happens that always alleviates our discomfort.

Right at sunset, which is around 8.30 for us here in Colorado, we get to eat. The breaking of the fast is known as iftar.Β Now, once again, we are supposed to show some restraint and not stuff our faces. A simple dinner is all that is needed and appreciated by our body, but of course there are those who like to go all out.

The South Asians, are incredibly guilty of over indulgence come fast breaking time, my family included.Β We usually break our fast with some dates and water, then we pray and then eat a simple dinner (that’s in my house)


Other houses: a huge Iftar consisting of many fried delights, fruit, dates and sugary drinks and then prayer, followed by a huge dinner a little later. That’s way too much food! But in some houses that’s the norm and if its Ramadan, then it’s definitely expected…because you know, they starved all day!

I don’t make all the fried goodies during Ramadan, that’s not to say I don’t love them! I do make some of my children’s favourites throughout Ramadan, usually on the weekend or the days my husband is off from work. In defence of those who do go all out, I have to say that Ramadan is a very happy and joyful time for us. Its like Christmas I guess. A big part of any holiday is food and Ramadan is no exception. Most of the time, what we eat during Ramadan is only made during Ramadan. My husband once asked me why we save all these good things for Ramadan and not have them all year around! I guess we do that because it’s a special time, its like turkey and sweet potato casserole which always seems to be reserved for Thanksgiving.

onion bhaji

I am hoping to post my family’s Ramadan favourites during this month. Kicking things off, are these onion bhajis or pakoras which are my favourite.

They are basically, spicy onion fritters made from gram flour or besan batter. Besan is widely used in Indian cooking for savoury dishes to sweet ones and can easily be found at an Indian grocery store. It is naturally gluten free and another reason why I love these! They make a great GF snack along with some spicy ketchup. They can be easily varied too by swapping out the onions for a myriad of other vegetables. Some of my other favourites are potato bhajis, spinach bhajis and cauliflower bhajis.

onion bhajis

Onion Bhajis/Pakoras | Onion Fritters

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Serves: about 18 depending on size

A Ramadan favourite; crispy, spicy onion bhajiyas
  • 2 cups/250g gram flour/besan
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 small green chilli pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon ginger. minced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cumin powder
  • ½ teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (add more if needed, check the batter)
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup/235mL water
  • oil to deep fry
  1. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and all the other ingredients on top.
  2. Pour in 1 cup of water to get a thick batter.
  3. If the batter is too thick, add extra water by tablespoons.
  4. The onions tend to release water too so adding too much at first will make the batter runny as time goes by.
  5. Heat oil in a deep fryer, wok or pan.
  6. I don't deep fry mine; just with enough oil to come up to the sides of the fritter.
  7. About a half inch to an inch of oil in the pan.
  8. Heat on medium high heat to start and then lower as needed.
  9. Drop teaspoonfuls into the hot oil.
  10. You can make them big or small.
  11. I like them about medium size because they get cooked through and crispy.
  12. Once one side is done, little bubbles will appear on the surface, flip them over carefully and brown the other side.
  13. The fritter should be cooked through and not mushy or gooey in the centre.
  14. Drain on paper towel lined plate.
  15. These are traditionally served with either a tamarind chutney or a cilantro mint chutney.
  16. In my house, we like them with sriracha spiked ketchup.
If you happen to be at an Indian store picking up your besan, look for a spice mix called chaat masala. This is a unique tasting masala that includes the pungent black salt. It adds great flavour to things like these bhaji. If you want, you can sub a teaspoon or two of chaat masala for the cumin and coriander. It is great mixed into chutneys too.

onion bhaji

My next post will probably happen once Ramadan has started. So let me take this opportunity to wish every one of you much joy, peace and happiness. May we see an end to all wars, intolerance and hatred amongst the people of this Earth and a step towards peace and unity. As is customary to say at the beginning of the season, Ramadan Kareem!

  1. Pingback: Dahi Ki Kadhi | Yoghurt Curry with Cauliflower Fritters » Coffee and Crumpets

  2. Hi Nazneen – happy ramadan (does one say that?). My father-in-law is fasting for ramadan at the moment – I’ve been in Sweden during ramadan before and he always cooks amazing things in the evening when he breaks the fast, though I think it must be so hard. I know how thirsty I feel even after 30 minutes in the sun… to have to go all day until sundown must be so difficult, but I suppose it’s easier if you feel like you have the support of a higher power!

    Thank you for writing this post – it was really interesting to read, even though I knew a fair bit about it already because of my wife’s family, it was still very nice to read and fill in my knowledge! πŸ™‚
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    • Thank you Charles! Yes, we can say Happy Ramadan! I didn’t know your wife’s family was Muslim! That’s pretty cool πŸ™‚ I am sure your father in law makes wonderful treats for Iftar, there is something about Ramadan and holiday cooking and eating.

  3. A lovely, beautiful, joyful post πŸ™‚ Enjoyed every single word of it. And loved staring at your freshly fried fluffy fritters πŸ™‚
    A HUGE ‘thank you’ from the bottom of my heart for your efforts in describe the significance of Ramadan in an interesting, happy way πŸ™‚
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  4. SUch a wonderful post Nazneen! A lot more than just what the title suggests! I feel I’ve learnt so much about this festival and the practice of fasting. I grew up in singapore so I’m used to having muslim classmates go on a fast furing the Ramadan period; I always marvel at their dedication; now I have even more respect for you all!

    The fritters look amazing too,definitely well-deserved! x
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  5. Thank you for explaining the customs of Ramadan Nazneen! It was lovely to read. Onion Bhajis are a big favourite at our place especially with me because I love anything deep fried. I feel like diving in right now to take a bite of yours. Wish you a healthy and less stressful Ramadan.
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  6. Thank you for sharing a part of your world and your faith, I think your philosophy about Ramadan is beautiful, and I think it is lovely and sincere that you break the fast with simple foods rather than over-indulging. I know that it’s usually only adults who participate in Ramadan – what do your children think of it?
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  7. Thank you, Nazneen, for taking the time to explain Ramadan’s significance and some of the practices associated with this Holy Month. I believe Ramadan would help to bring families closer as they rise together to eat before dawn and gather at dusk to break the fast each day.
    Your onion fritters sounds fantastic. I’ve added chaat masala to my “Indian store shopping list”. I’ve no idea in what aisle anything on that list will be but it sure will be fun looking the next time I’m in Little India. πŸ™‚
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  8. Ramadan Kareem to you and your family, thank you for your thoughtful explanation, as always, wise and grounded.

    The Glam Teens love onion Bhajis, although they’re usually from the take away. Perhaps I should be brave and give them a try. I’m not keen on frying things but fried stuff does taste delicious I just hate the smell in the house. But these do look so good. GG xx
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  9. Really instructive and well written post. When I lived in Morocco, the traditional food most people ate to break their fast was harira, a nourishing and flavorful soup. And then, as you say, many went on to huge feasts, while others ate more sensibly. Anyway, love the fritters – really nice recipe. Thanks.
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  10. What a refreshing take on this holy month, especially as Ramadan continues to pass through the summer months πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing, and happy Ramadan to you and your family!

    • Thank you Rasha! I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Thank you for stopping by.

  11. Hi Nazneen, Its amazing that all Muslim women observe the fasting in Ramadan month devotedly and yet attend to their routine responsibilities. Onion bhajias are favorite of us, too and yes, chaat masala adds great flavor. If I forget to add in I sprinkle on top.
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    • Yes Balvider, I find it quite overwhelming sometimes but then I am glad I don’t have to go to work like my hubby and fast at work all day.

  12. Nanzeen,

    Thank you for this lovely blog post. It is educational, with humor and a delicious recipe.

    I wish you an easy fast as well as spiritual time with your family.

    • Thank you Betsy! Thank you for stopping by and for leaving such a lovely comment.

  13. Ramadan mubarak Nazneen! I have grown up with Muslim friends, so I learnt a lot about what you have written, still it is lovely to read all over again. It’s beautiful, and I agree – no use complaining if you have chosen to fast – it defeats the purpose. I have a muslim friend who does not fast at all, and she says the same thing – “if I can’t, and make it a hardship on myself and my family, does it not defeat the whole purpose? It does not make her any less of a muslim.”

    I love doing Karva Chauth, and though it is just for a day, it can be hard, but I love it.

    The fritters look crispy and mouthwatering. Great start to your Ramadan no doubt!
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    • I don’t think anyones ever tried them in a sandwich. They are kinda heavy on their own.

    • I hope I shed some light on it for you then! Thank you for your well wishes Sarah.

  14. Eid Mubarak (almost)! These look pretty great to end the off πŸ™‚ I’m always really sadden by my indian food experiences here, so it’s nice to have some of these recipes tucked away! looking forward to more..

    • A bit early for Eid Mubarak but I’ll take a Ramadan Mubarak! I hope you are able to source the ingredients needed for Indian food. If you can find them then I will keep posting for you. Let me know if you would like something in particular.

    • Apart from the ones I listed above in my post for spinach and potato and cauliflower, you can pretty much use any vegetables…kinda like tempura.

  15. Hello Nanzeen, thanks for the very informative post. I think it the most important time as it a time of family gathering and that is very important. I knew from many friends that the fasting was until dawn until dusk but I did not know it also meant no coffee, caffeine, or other things. About 4 months ago I stopped consumption of all caffeine. I was a hugest coffee drinker my whole life and I had the worst migraine headache for about 2 weeks straight. I don’t want to ever go through that again. I love your beautiful onion bhajis. Take care, BAM
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    • THank you Bam, yes its an important family and community time. We spend so much time at the Islamic Centres throughout Ramadan, it really solidifies the community.