Look, there's something you need to know. When making curries at home, you can do one or two little 'hacks' to make them healthier. Want an example? Baking things instead of frying them. Take onion bhajis! You can make one that is just as tasty without all the oil. How? With my oven-baked onion bhaji recipe. Here's how to do it.
What are Onion Bhajis?
An onion bhaji is an Indian appetizer found on thousands of Indian takeaway menus. It is normally served before the main course and makes a great accompaniment for things like chicken curry too.
An onion bhaji is a fritter made of sliced onions combined with a range of Indian spices. It is all held together with a binding agent, usually flour and either water or egg. Onion bhajis are traditionally deep-fried in hot oil until they turn a dark brown colour. They are crispy on the outside and soft and fragrant on the inside.
If you haven't got hot oil, it isn't a problem. Follow my baked onion bhaji recipe, and you'll be making something that tastes just as good as the authentic version without any of the fuss.
How to Make my Oven Baked Onion Bhaji Recipe
The beauty of making onion bhajis in the oven is that there is far less mess. No hot oil, no drips, and no having to cook your bhajis in batches to make them stay crispy! In fact, my record for cooking onion bhajis in the oven stands at 24 in one go!
Yes, it's amazing.
To start, you are going to want to get that oven nice and hot. So before you begin to prepare your oven-baked onion bhaji batter, whack the oven on and set it to 220 degrees Celsius.
We are going to need to do a little prep. And I start with the onions. I like to use a really sharp knife and slice the onions as thinly as I can. If you chop each onion in half, then it stays nice and stable on the chopping board. I find that as a general rule, one medium onion will make about two bhajis.
Once I have sliced the onion, I throw it into a bowl and give it a sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, followed by a good stir. Adding salt softens the onion slightly, which you will need as there is no hot oil to do that for you in this oven-baked onion bhaji recipe. Leave the onions to rest for about 10 minutes.
Once the time is up, I add my onion bhaji spices and binding agent. This is a simple mix of gram flour (also called chickpea flour), a little baking powder, a pinch of chilli, and a tablespoon of cumin seeds. Oh, and don't forget the turmeric for that taste and bright yellow colour in your bhajis!
I then add a single egg. From there, it is simply a case of giving the bhajis a really good mix. You should be left with a sticky and pretty stiff batter.
To bake your onion bhajis in the oven, take a dessert spoon and drop a spoonful of batter onto a lined baking sheet. This will spread as it cooks, so leave a little room between the bhajis as you repeat this process.
It is hard to get golf ball-shaped bhajis, so I normally opt for a flatter disc-style shape.
Once I've portioned out the bhajis, I give them all a little brush with olive oil, but you can also use butter or ghee.
From there, it is simply a case of sticking them in the oven for around 30 minutes until they turn all golden brown and delicious.
Once they are cooked, remove them from the oven and serve immediately with cool and delicious yoghurt and cucumber dip, and perhaps a little mango chutney.
Oven-Baked Onion Bhaji Recipe | FAQ
Still, got questions? This is a really easy onion bhaji recipe, but there may be things you aren't sure of. No problem, here's what I get asked all the time.
Why Bake Bhajis in the Oven?
There are a few reasons to consider making an oven-baked onion bhaji recipe instead of frying them. Here's why you might want to consider it: -
- Baked onion bhajis are more convenient. You don't need to keep an eye on a pan full of hot oil. There is less mess, and you can leave them in the oven doing their thing while you make a really tasty curry dish in the meantime.
- Baked onion bhajis are healthier. They don't soak up the oil like they would if you were deep-frying them. Less oil means fewer calories (but you'll still get all that delicious onion bhaji taste).
- You can cook more at once. If you overload a deep fat fryer or frying pan, you will get one thing and one thing only. Soggy onion bhajis. Cooking in batches is a massive pain. By cooking your onion bhajis in the oven, you'll find that you can cook more in a given amount of time
How to Make Onion Bhajis Crispy?
This is all about cooking time and heat. You will need two things to make this baked onion bhaji recipe turn crispy.
- A fairly hot oven temperature (220 degrees Celsius)
- A decent amount of baking time. 30 minutes is the minimum. Let the look of the bhajis be your guide. I like to cook mine until they turn dark brown. That way, you can be sure that they are crispy.
If you are frying bhajis, again, heat and time are key. If you add too many bhajis at once, the temperature of the oil will drop, meaning they won't turn crispy.
Oh, and one final tip. The key to a crispy bhaji is to get rid of as much water as possible. The salt in my recipe will do this for you, but there is no harm in giving your salted onions a squeeze over the sink before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Can I Make Baked Onion Bhajis with Plain Flour?
Yes, you absolutely can.
The flour in this authentic Indian bhaji recipe acts as a binding agent, more than to add any real flavour. While gram flour is what authentic Indian restaurants use, you'll get a similar result with white flour. If you want to make them really crispy, you could consider using a tablespoon of cornflour in the recipe too.
Can You Microwave Onion Bhajis?
You can indeed. However, don't expect your bhajis to be particularly crispy.
To microwave bhajis, just place them on a microwave-safe plate and work on 1 minute per bhaji.
Why won't they turn crispy? Well, when you bake onion bhajis, they cook from the outside in. However, microwaving cooks from the inside out, meaning the onion in the middle will steam the rest of the bhaji. That said, for a convenient snack any day of the week, I'd rather have a softer bhaji than none at all!
Here’s another useful article on how to microwave Indian dishes
Are Onion Bhajis Healthy?
Normally, no, they aren't particularly good for you. Onion bhajis are deep-fried, and like any deep-fried food, this means that they soak up quite a lot of oil.
Too much oil isn't healthy.
Cut the oil out completely. You'll find the calories drop significantly if you bake your onion bhajis instead of frying them.
If you want to learn what is healthy in curry, check out this article here.
My baked onion bhaji recipe is really easy. In fact, I think it is quicker and easier than frying bhajis. The result is very similar. The only downside is that you aren't left with lovely onion infused oil that you can use in other curry dishes. What's your favourite Indian starter? Let me know in the comments below.