Loaded with veggies and butter, Pav bhaji is one of the most loved street foods in India. If you haven’t had it before, let me warn you, you will be hooked after the first bite of this delicious bhaji (vegetable dish). Serve it with crispy buttered pav (soft dinner rolls) for a complete gastronomical experience.
Origins of Pav bhaji
Pav bhaji has a huge fan following with Indians in every corner of the world but what few folks know is that this dish originated as a quick midnight meal for factory workers in Mumbai in the mid-1800s. Pav bhaji was made by mashing leftover vegetables and then combining it with a medley of spices and butter and served alongside pav (the Portuguese word for bread). What started off as a humble roadside snack has become insanely popular – from roadside stalls to fine dining restaurants, pav bhaji has made a permanent place for itself in Indian restaurant menus worldwide.
How to make the best tasting, authentic Pav Bhaji
Well, pav bhaji does contain an assortment of vegetables but that doesn’t mean you can throw in anything. I tried that once, and threw in some beans and beetroots, to work some extra veggies in our meals, but that kind of altered the taste. I will tell you this: my family was not too pleased. The veggies that work best with Pav bhaji are potatoes, cauliflower, peas, carrots, and capsicum.
There are two techniques you can follow to make pav bhaji –
- One pot method – Make the base gravy, add the veggies and pressure cook them together. Once the pressure cooker cools down, you mash the contents with a potato masher.
- Two pot method – Boil the veggies in a cooker (traditional or Instant Pot) and mash the veggies, make the base gravy (in a wok or your second Instant Pot) and combine them together.
I prefer the second method because while the veggies are being pressure cooked, I can get the base sauce ready simultaneously.
The first method is for those who like the idea of one-pot meals where you just need a pressure cooker (traditional or Instant Pot) to make Pav bhaji from start to finish. While making a one-pot pav bhaji sounds great, I prefer not to have the base sauce pressure cooked because it impacts the color. And maybe it is just me, but when I am making pav bhaji, I want everything to look and taste perfect. Yeah, I am crazy like that 🙂
How do I get the nice red color in my Pav Bhaji?
Please don’t add red coloring to your Pav bhaji like the roadside hawkers blatantly do. We don’t need any chemical additives in our homecooked meals. The ideal way to get that orangish-red hue in your pav bhaji is to use Kashmiri chili powder and follow the second technique of making pav bhaji as I have described above.
How to saute the Pav to get the best flavor
For every batch of pav that you are making, follow these steps –
- Add a tablespoon of butter to your frying pan kept over medium heat.
- Once the butter heats up, add a pinch of both dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) and pav bhaji masala to the melted butter. Immediately place a couple of pavs on top and saute them until they slightly brown.
The perfect pav that accompanies the bhaji is slightly crisp on the inside and soft and buttery on the outside. Sauteeing the pav with dried fenugreek leaves and pav bhaji powder enhances the flavor and makes your pav bhaji even more delectable. Try it and let me know how you like it!
- 2 cups chopped potatoes
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 3 cups cauliflower florets, frozen will work
- 1 cup peas, frozen will work
- 1/2 cup capsicum / green bell pepper cut into small pieces
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cup water
- 2 cup chopped onions
- 2 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 9 cloves of garlic
Rest of the ingredients
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 tablespoons salted butter + 1 tablespoon salted butter
- salt, as needed
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, add 2 teaspoons if you really like it spicy
- 2 teaspoon pav bhaji masala, I use MDH pav bhaji masala
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- a pinch of asafetida, hing
- salt to taste
- lemon wedges, finely cut onions and coriander leaves for garnishing
For the Pav
- 12 pav or dinner rolls
- a teaspoon of dried fenugreek leaves
- a teaspoon of pav bhaji masala
- 3 tablespoons of salted butter
- Put all the veggies (potatoes, carrots, capsicum, peas, and cauliflower) in a cooker on medium heat with roughly 1.5 cups of water. Close the cooker and let it cook [I wait till the vent goes off 4 times before I switch off the gas.] Take the cooker off the heat. Once the cooker has cooled down, mash the veggies using a potato masher.
- Grind the onions, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic into a fine paste. In a medium-sized pan, heat oil, add asafetida and then add the onion-tomato paste along with salt and cook them until the oil separates (around 15 minutes). Add pav bhaji masala, along with chili powder and mix well.Add the mashed veggies along with lemon juice and butter to the bhaji and mix well. [Add more chili powder, salt, and pav bhaji masala]. Let it cook for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld in.
- When you are ready to eat squeeze some lemon juice over the bhaji and add chopped onions and coriander/cilantro leaves and pair it with pav (bread) slightly roasted with butter.
Instant Pot method
- Add all the veggies(potatoes, carrots, capsicum, peas, and cauliflower) in the steel insert of the Instant Pot along with 1.5 cups of water. Cover the lid, keep the vent in the sealing position and pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Once the pressure is released, mash the veggies using a potato masher and set aside. [You can do the next step as the veggies are cooking. Do the next step in parallel and use a wok/kadhai or your second Instant Pot, if you have one. This reduces the total cooking time to about 20 minutes :)]
- Grind the onions, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic into a fine paste. Remove the steel insert of the Instant Pot, clean it and wipe it dry. Press the 'Saute' button, and adjust the heat setting to ‘Normal’. Once the display reads ‘Hot’, add oil along with 4 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion-tomato paste along with some salt and cook until the oil separates (around 15 minutes). Add the pav bhaji masala, and the chili powder and stir it in. Add the mashed veggies along with lemon juice and a tablespoon of butter to the bhaji and mix well. [Adjust the spices - chili powder, salt, and pav bhaji masala as needed.] Let it cook for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld in. Press warm/cancel to cancel the cooking cycle.
- When you are ready to eat squeeze some lemon juice over the bhaji and add onions and chopped coriander/ cilantro leaves and pair it with pav (bread) slightly roasted with butter.
To make the pav
- Add a tablespoon of butter to your frying pan kept over medium heat.
- Once the butter heats up, add a pinch of both dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) and pav bhaji masala to the melted butter. Immediately place a couple of pavs on top and saute them on both sides until they are slightly brown. Repeat the process for the rest of the pav.
Disclaimer: Approximate Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and can vary depending on the exact ingredients/brands used. If you have health issues, please work with a registered dietician or nutritionist for accurate information.
Is Pav bhaji healthy?
Hell no! Considering the amount of butter that goes in the bhaji as well as in sauteeing the pav, there is no way we can categorize it as healthy in spite of the fact that it is loaded with veggies. If you want a healthier version, skip the butter and use oil to cook the bhaji (vegetable curry) and ghee to saute the pav.
Pav bhaji is supposed to be a once-in-a-while culinary treat, so if you are following that rule, go ahead and indulge your senses.
– Instant Pot pressure cooker review – Do you really need one?
– 10 things to know before using your Instant Pot
– All you need to know about your Instant Pot
Other recipes for you to try on your Instant Pot
- Indian Chickpeas curry (Chole)
- Dal fry
- Kidney beans curry (Rajma)
- How to make yogurt in Instant Pot
- How to ferment Idli batter in Instant Pot
Before you leave, do follow me on Pinterest and pin this recipe to your board to make it in the future.
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