Masala Vada

Vada’s exquisite flavor and deep aroma brought to perfection over the centuries, evoke and accentuate the subtlest nuances of taste. Its warm appeal have long been celebrated in a cuisine which demands that the eye as well as the palate find satisfaction. Its gritty, yielding texture has been prized for being addictive in nature and gentle on the tongue. Vada varieties are many in South India, and masala vada is one of the most popular and my favorite. Composed of chana dal and spices, grounded and fried, held with the fingers, vadas are eaten like a snack or part of the main meal with much gusto.

There are several versions of masala vada and the following is from my home, a basic vada recipe without onions.

Chana Dal

Masala Vada
(for about 16 to 18 vadas)

2 cups, Chana dal (sanaga bedalu)
6 dried red chilli, about 2-inches long each
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin and ajwan (vaamu)
1 teaspoon, salt
1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
1×1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skin peeled, coarsely chopped
Peanut oil, about 3 cups to deep-fry the vadas

1. Soak chana dal in water for at least 4 hours. Strain dal to remove water. In a clean cloth or kitchen towel, spread the dal to air-dry for about 30 minutes. This helps to make the masala vadas properly and they absorb very little of oil in which they are fried.

2. Keep a fistful of chana dal on the side. Take the remaining dal in a blender or food processor or in a mortar. Add dried chilli, cumin, ajwan, salt, curry leaves and ginger pieces. Process the ingredients until they form a coarse mixture. Don’t grind too smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Add fistful of chana dal we kept aside to the mix and combine well. Coarse texture and intact chana dal are the two essential elements in a memorable vada experience. (The batter can be made in advance and refrigerated before frying.)

3. On your clean palm (hand), shape the mixture into one to two inch round patties of about half-inch thickness. Heat oil suitable for frying. Gently add the vadas to hot oil and and fry to golden color in batches. This is traditional method. Alternatively, fry the vadas on a lightly oiled skillet until they are lightly browned on both sides.

Serve the vadas hot as a tasty snack or part of the vindu bhojanam. They stay good for a week when refrigerated.

Masala Vadas
Masala Vada for Manchi(u) Roju


  • By Leena Ajgaonkar-Goutam, March 9, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    Hi Indira,

    Vada’s look YUM.
    My mother-in-law adds a few leaves of Pudina (Mint) and finely chopped Onions.

    Love your work and even more absolutely love the words you choose for presenting your food !

    I am looking forward to see your cookbook …. Hope you come up with one soon !

    Best Wishes,

  • By Cilantro, March 9, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    We add fennel instead of cumin and adding Ajwain is new to me. Looks nice and crisp.

  • By Nirmala, March 9, 2010 @ 11:38 pm

    I am a great fan of masala vada. But we usually add chopped onions. With a cup of masala chai I will be in heaven!

  • By Nirmala, March 9, 2010 @ 11:51 pm

    And drying the chana dal before frying is a very useful technique. Thanks a lot Indira!

  • By Lakshmi, March 10, 2010 @ 2:43 am

    I love them when dill leaves and onions go into it! nevertheless basic vada tastes yumm too. They look crisp and yummy in the picture.

  • By madhuri, March 10, 2010 @ 7:46 am

    wow nice yum vadas that goes great as a snack…..send me some :) I add onions to it….the tip technique is helpful.Thanks for sharing.U should come up with a cook book ASAP!

  • By vrinda, March 10, 2010 @ 8:18 am

    Yummy and crispy snack…looks delish…

  • By sreelu, March 10, 2010 @ 10:29 am

    my favorite too, I however do add onions and a garlic pod.

  • By R, March 10, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

    Recently i have seen(eaten ofcourse) masala vadas made with fennel leaves…the aroma is awesome!! Will make some before the mercury raise in california!

  • By jyothi, March 10, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

    all time favourite snack.. I add little finely chopped methi leaves or thotakoora leaves or even spring onions giving little of green color to the vadas ..
    thanks indira ..

  • By chikoosmom, March 10, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    Yummy yumm Indira … love the way its presented … I also use the leftover vadas next day in the karakozhambu and wow that’s one yummy combo :D

  • By Suman, March 11, 2010 @ 2:06 am

    Yummy, my mother adds little chopped onions and pudina leaves …my saturday evening snack !!!!!!!!

  • By Raghu, March 11, 2010 @ 7:06 pm

    My mother tongue is not telugu, but I am familiar with this adage:
    “Vinte Mahabharatame vinali; thinte Garule thinali”!

  • By DK, March 11, 2010 @ 7:25 pm

    Was out of town for a week – came back and was not really feeling like cooking anything – U know after vacation ‘u-still-want-be-lie-a-sloth” mode! But these Vadas are making me want to make some now! Yum!

  • By ruchikacooks, March 12, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

    Masala vadai with a cup of elachi tea, some rain and smelling the sweet aroma of the rain drenched soil….hmmmmm…There are simple and satisfying things still existing :)

    Indrikkka, I am hosting an event called home remedies, if you can share some remdies you know that would be great! (A request, thats all)

  • By Narayan, March 13, 2010 @ 1:19 am

    Hi Indira,

    This brings back fab memories from my growing up years in Kenya. We had a lot of Malayalis out there and we used to get together for family functions, birthday parties, christening ceremonies, etc. I remember how this Paruppu Vada was perhaps the only cooked item at these parties – the others being biscuits, cashew nuts, nendram pazham (kerala plantains) and tea. Their vadas would have onions but no garlic.


  • By Srimathi, March 13, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

    Wow! Just the perfect thing I would like to have today with rains.

  • By Gayathri, March 14, 2010 @ 4:34 am

    hello Indira garu,
    i prepared this yesterday, everybody liked this. nice pic.

  • By, March 14, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

    These vadas look lovely and delicious.

  • By Indira, March 14, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    Thank you all for sharing your family versions of masala vada. Love them all!

    DK: Hope you had a nice break from the routine. Welcome back. I missed your sunshine like comments.:)

    Ruchika: Will definitely participate in the event. Thanks for letting me know.

    Gayatri: Happy to read that you tried and liked the masala vadas.

  • By mahek, March 14, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

    Thanks for this great recipe , just what i wanted my son loves eating such crispy things and as he is at home studying for his exam this is just the thing with a hot cup of evening tea…

  • By Roshini, March 16, 2010 @ 8:47 am

    Hi Indira, Happy Ugadi to you as well. My mother makes these for Ugadi with onions and dill leaves added. The aroma is absolutely wonderful. Thank you for inspiring me to make this today :)

  • By Jaysh, March 27, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    Hi Indira,
    Nice recipes without onion. I am going to make some. As we are Jains, we do not add onion/garlic, I will try this for guests. Thanks a lot.

  • By Madhavi, April 1, 2010 @ 9:29 am

    My favorite item…looks yummy

  • By Ven, July 30, 2010 @ 9:23 am

    Thanks for all the details, especially the one about why the chanda dal has to be air dried. I learnt something new today.

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