If you haven't tried Pav Bhaji yet - you need to! It's one of India's most famous street foods, and it's no wonder. It's a spicy, tangy and fiery mashed mixed vegetable curry topped with fresh zesty coriander, sharp red onions and a slab of butter. All mopped up with gorgeous fluffy and soft pav buns.
Mumbai is the birthplace of Pav Bhaji, where it was first introduced as a quick and filling lunch for textile mill workers. Fast forward to the present day and Pav Bhaji is one of the most famous Indian dishes served at roadside eateries and street carts all across India to fancy restaurants in the UK and North America.
In Marathi (the language of the Indian state of Maharashtra), Pav means a soft and fluffy eggless Bread Roll. Interestingly, this name comes from the Portuguese word for bread - "Pao". Secondly, Bhaji means either vegetables, or a dish made from vegetables. There is really nothing better than the thick and spicy curry scooped up on a buttery fried pav!
Some people find the idea of a bread roll served with a curry strange - but this is both authentic and delicious. There's nothing better!
Can you make Pav Bhaji Vegan & Gluten Free?
Pav Bhaji is naturally vegetarian and nut-free. Thankfully, it's really easy to veganise too! In other words, all you need to do is switch out the dairy butter for Vegan butter, or leave it out entirely.
The bhaji part of this meal is also entirely Gluten Free. Subsequently this means that all you have to do is source Gluten Free bread rolls. If you don't have them available in your area, you can use any kind of fluffy white bread - it won't be quite the same but will still mop up the gorgeous juices of the curry perfectly.
How to make or where to buy Pav Bhaji Masala?
Making your own Pav Bhaji Masala fresh is the best option. Any premade powders loose their potency over time so where possible, freshly grinding your spices will result in the best tasting dish.
If you don't have the whole spices available to grind, don't worry - Pav Bhaji Masala is available in the spice section of most large Asian grocery shops. You won't find it in a standard supermarket, but if you don't have an Asian supermarket nearby you can always order from Amazon. They stock the MDH Pav Bhaji Masala which is one of the most popular brands and very tasty.
If you have no other option, in a pinch you can use Garam Masala instead of Pav Bhaji Masala.
What Variations of Pav Bhaji can I make?
Since Pav Bhaji is a famous street food, many variations have sprung up in modern times to appeal to all tastes. Personally I love the classic Pav Bhaji - but feel free to experiment and mix it up every now and again!
Cheese Pav Bhaji - simply add some mild grated cheese on top of the bhaji before serving.
Paneer Pav Bhaji - add grated paneer and mix through the bhaji, as well as adding on top.
Vegetables - the vegetables used in Pav Bhaji vary from home to home and street food vendor to street food vendor. My recipe below is the mixture of vegetables that we love, but there is lots of room for experiment. You can use green peas as opposed to green beans, and even try with sweet potatoes as opposed to white potatoes.
This Recipe is...
Nut Free, and easily adaptable for other diets
An authentic Maharashtrian dish
Full of veggies
Fiery hot and spicy
Easy to cook even for beginners
If you’re interested in more Marathi recipes, then please do check out this delicious, light and healthy breakfast dish, Sabudana Khichdi, this delicious festive Sesame Brittle, Til Chikki, a summery festive made from Mangoes and Yoghurt called Aamrakhand, and this easy way to make your own sprouts for Misal & Usal.
Ingredients For the Mashed Vegetables:
220g Potatoes, chopped into medium sized pieces
40g Cauliflower, chopped into medium sized pieces
60g Carrots, cut into small rounds
200g Tomatoes, roughly quartered
40g Green Beans, chopped in quarters
For the Bhaji:
4 tbsp Sunflower Oil, or less to taste
100g Onion, finely chopped (1 large)
80g Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
2 tsp Lemon Juice
Fresh Coriander, to garnish
Finely chopped Red Onion, to garnish
For the Pav:
3 Pav (Indian Bread Rolls) each – or to taste
A slab of butter
First, boil the vegetables. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, green beans and water to a large saucepan. Set the heat to medium-high and boil for around 25 minutes, or until all vegetables are beginning to get soft and breaking down. At this stage, thoroughly mash the vegetables. Now cook once again for 15 minutes – or until the water has almost completely evaporated – and mash once more. After this mashing the vegetables should be completely mashed and broken down. Set aside.
Next, fry the tadka. In a large frying pan or kadai add butter and sunflower oil at medium-high heat. Let them melt and once hot add the onion. Stir and cook gently until softened and translucent. Secondly add the ginger-garlic paste and stir to mix. Sauté until the raw smell from the ginger and garlic has faded. Next add the green bell pepper and cook for a few seconds, before adding the pav bhaji masala, red chilli powder, and turmeric. Stir to mix.
Add the mashed vegetables into the pan and mix all that buttery goodness up together. Season with salt to taste and then add 200ml water. Mix well.
For the final cook, cover the pan with a lid and cook for around 15 minutes, or until the water has mostly gone and you achieve a thick consistency. I find this final cook helps me achieve a really soft bhaji, but if you want to skip this step you can – just add enough water to adjust the consistency (just the mashed vegetables alone are too thick). Finally squeeze fresh lemon juice on top and mix in. When serving add a slice of butter on top to melt.
To heat the Pav, simply melt the butter on a tawa or flat frying pan. Once the butter has melted add the pav and press until cooked. Optionally you can sprinkle some pav bhaji masala onto the butter and cook the pav in that – but I find the bhaji spicy enough without added spice on the Pav!
Notes *This is a very spicy dish – adjust to your tastes. Use either normal Chilli Powder or Kashmiri Chilli Powder for a milder dish, or even cut down to just 1 tsp of chilli powder.
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How to Serve and Eat Pav Bhaji?
Pav Bhaji is served as a main course - either for lunch or dinner! Most important are the accompaniments - plenty of fresh chopped coriander and raw red onion to sprinkle on top. A thin slice of butter placed on top of the bhaji just before serving melts beautifully into the sauce and mellows the spice a little whilst providing a richness. It's a treat, so go for it! Have some lemon quarters on the side of your plate to squeeze or suck on if needed.
To eat the Pav Bhaji, simply tear the hot pav into pieces and scoop up some bhaji onto the pav with your hands (or a spoon). Then eat it! That's all there is to it.
For a lovely fusion dish, you can easily add leftover Pav Bhaji to toasties as a stuffing. '
If you make this recipe or have any questions, let me know!
As always, if you have any questions about the recipe please feel free to comment them down below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If you made this recipe, please do share it with me! I would love to see the results. You can tag me on instagram using @ohmyvegofficial or send to me via any of my other social media channels.