This crispy Paneer Pakora is deceptively easy to make. The traditional flours used are not only gluten-free, they lend a better flavour and texture to the dish, than wheat flour would!
Note: This recipe was first posted on my original blog, Celebration Generation, on April 12, 2013. It was transferred over to this blog - existing comments and all - on 9/20/2021, and updated on 9/29/22.
And then, when I posted one more recipe, I procrastinated for another few months?
Yeah... sorry about that! Better late than never, right?
Here am, finally sharing my easy paneer pakora recipe!
What is Paneer Pakora
Paneer Pakora is basically the Indian food version of deep-fried mozzarella sticks.
Think battered instead of breaded, cottage cheese instead of mozzarella, and tons of flavour - from Indian spices - instead of... not so much.
Crispy pakoras are a popular snack in Indian cuisine, especially during rainy season and the winter season.
You can cut the paneer into slabs and make a paneer sandwich!
(See my Paneer Burgers recipe over on Celebration Generation - SO good!)
These are one of those food items that SHOULD in inherently gluten-free, in restaurants - but the batter is often cut with wheat flour, and they're always cross-contaminated anyway.
Never fear, though!
These are very easy to make, and taste quite authentic... and they're especially delicious with my Cilantro-Mint chutney!
This recipe uses mostly simple ingredients that you should be able to find at larger grocery stores.
I have some notes on the main ingredients for you, though:
Paneer is a fresh cheese from India ... basically Indian cottage cheese. Rather than loose curds, though, it’s in brick form.
This makes it easy to cut into strips or little paneer cubes, for battering and frying!
You can use store bought or homemade paneer, it’s all good.
Can’t find any? You can use halloumi cheese, in a pinch. Much like paneer, it also holds its shape when heated, rather than melting and oozing.
This is traditional - paneer pakora is an inherently gluten free* dish!
You can generally find these flours in larger grocery stores, in the gluten free section.
They’re also basic ingredients sold in Indian or South Asian grocery stores. When shopping there, you’re more likely to see the bean flour labelled as besan, besan flour, or gram flour. It’s all the same!
* That said, don’t take my word for it when eating at a restaurant - some restaurants DO use some wheat flour in their batter.
If you need it to be gluten-free, it’s always best to double check with the restaurant!
Herbs and Spices
As is - in the recipe card - I like to think of this recipe as a base recipe. It uses:
It’s how I started making these - and it’s the recipe I published on Celebration Generation, here, and in one of the Beyond Flour books.
If I were to change it here, I’d risk getting told off!
So, let me elaborate.
As written, it’s got some good flavour... but there’s a lot of room to customize it and punch it up a bit!
We’ll usually add 1-2 tablespoon of Ginger Garlic Paste to the batter, for starters.
Really, leave it as is, or do whatever you want - it’s really adaptable!
Oil for Frying
9 times out of 10, I’ll use vegetable oil for deep frying. It’s cheap, easy to find, neutral flavour, and works well.
That said, any oil with a high smoke point and neutral - or at least acceptable - flavour will work.
Canola oil, sunflower oil, and peanut oil are all great options for deep frying pakoras.
Much like with regular cheese sticks, these benefit from a dip.
Rather than marinara sauce, I like to use Cilantro-Mint Chutney ... while my husband prefers tamarind chutney.
Go with whatever you like!
As this recipe involves deep frying, you’ll want something to do that with.
If you have a deep fryer, great!
If not, a heavy bottomed pan will work fine.
You’re going to want to keep an eye on the temperature of the oil - something built in to deep fryers - so you’ll also want a thermometer of some kind.
I like to use an IR Thermometer, but a candy or deep frying thermometer are other great options.
How to Make Paneer Pakora
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, here is a walk through with step by step photos and extra tips.
Start heating your oil to 375F – you’ll want at least 2-3″ of oil in your pot or deep fryer.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, spices, salt, baking powder, and cilantro.
Add water, stir well to form a thick batter. Allow this gram flour batter to sit for 5 minutes or so, to soften the bean flour.
Slice your paneer into long fingers about 1″ x 1″, by however long your bricks are.
Toss paneer pieces with additional garbanzo flour, gently shaking off excess flour.
Dredge in the pakora batter, allowing excess batter to drip off.
Fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
Serve paneer pakora hot, with chutney of choice.
I like green chutney - mint coriander chutney - my husband likes tamarind chutney best.
Others will dip these in tomato ketchup or tomato sauce - you do you!
You can also sprinkle chaat masala over the crisp pakora immediately before serving it, if you like.
More Gluten-Free Indian Recipes
Craving some curry, pakoras, and chutney? I’ve got some delicious Indian Recipes for you!
Chicken Shahi Korma
Mango Lassi Popsicles
Mixed Vegetable Pakora
... I even have a few diet friendly adaptations on my low carb blog, Low Carb Hoser:
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- Oil for deep frying
- 1 ¼ cups Garbanzo / Chickpea Flour
- ¼ cup White rice flour
- 1 ½ teaspoon Hot curry powder
- ½ teaspoon Coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
- 2 tablespoon Finely chopped cilantro
- 1 cup Water
- 2 Bricks of paneer room temperature
- ¼ cup additional garbanzo flour
- Cilantro Mint Chutney
- Start heating your oil to 375F – you’ll want at least 2-3″ of oil in your pot or deep fryer.
- In a large bowl, combine flours, spices, salt, baking powder, and cilantro. Add water, stir well to form a thick batter. Allow batter to sit for 5 minutes or so, to soften the bean flour.
- Slice your paneer into long fingers about .75″ x ,75″, by however long your bricks are. Toss paneer slices with additional garbanzo flour, then dredge in the batter.
- Carefully transfer a few battered sticks of paneer to the preheated oil. Fry for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown.
- Use a slotted metal spoon to transfer fried paneer to paper towels.
- Serve hot, with with cilantro-mint chutney.