Pav Bhaji is a delicious, flavorful and hearty meal of mashed vegetables with soft buttery buns, served with a side of crunchy hot onions, herb cilantro and tangy lemon. Make this super delicious popular street food by following my step by step guide. I share the conventional method of making Mumbai Pav Bhaji and a quick Instant Pot recipe.
What is Pav Bhaji
Pav bhaji is an iconic Mumbai dish and extremely popular throughout India as a street food. It was born in Mumbai as a quick lunch option for workers in textile mills.
Gradually, this dish is becoming so popular that it is now served as street food as well as in restaurants in Mumbai and the rest of India.
In the Hindi and Marathi languages, the word “Pav” refers to rolls. “Bhaji” means vegetables or a vegetable-based dish (dry or sauce) in the Marathi language. Since bhaji (vegetable sauce) and pav (buns) are served together, hence the name “Pav Bhaji”.
It’s basically a mixture of mash and spicy vegetables in a flavorful and tangy spicy sauce. A special spice blend called “Pav Bhaji Masala” is used to prepare this dish. Pav bhaji masala powder is readily available in Indian stores and online, but can also be made at home.
Keep in mind that the best taste of bhaji comes from using the best pav bhaji masala. I highly recommend including your favorite brand or making your own pav bhaji masala.
About this recipe
My recipe dates back to my teenage years when I was making this delicious dish for my parents and sister. Whenever we went to Juhu beach in Mumbai the pav bhaji was a snack that we always gorged on.
I have fond memories from my childhood of enjoying pav bhaji and other Mumbai street snacks at Juhu beach. And it is from this place that I learned the fine nuances and inspiration of this decades-old recipe.
To make my version, specifically the bhaji – the onion, ginger-garlic paste, tomatoes, are first sautéed in butter. Later, the boiled and mashed vegetables are added, followed by the pav bhaji masala.
The bhaji or vegetable sauce is simmered for a few minutes and served hot steamed with buttered and lightly toasted buns.
In the streets and in restaurants, they prepare pav bhaji on a large flat tawa (hot plate). But when you do at home, you can easily use a wok (kadai) or a frying pan or frying pan.
Ingredients you need
- Mixed vegetables. I add a mixture of vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, peppers and green peas. The street side versions of Mumbai don’t have carrots, but I’m adding them for health reasons. They also add very less cauliflower and sometimes omit it altogether.
- Green peas. I always add fresh or frozen green peas. The street side bhaji has dried green peas which are cooked and mashed. Dried green peas give bhaji a different taste and consistency. In this recipe, feel free to include dried green peas.
- Butter. Personally for bhaji, I prefer using Indian brand of Amul butter but you can use any brand or even white butter.
- Pav Bhaji Masala. It is a special spice mixture that is added to bhaji.
- Pav (Dinner Rolls): Pav are soft, chewy buns. For the pav, you can either make them at home or buy them from a good bakery. For health reasons, you can opt for whole wheat buns.
How to get an orange or red color in bhaji
The restaurant bhaji has a bright orange or red color. I have heard of some street vendors adding an artificial red color to the vegetable sauce.
To get that red color naturally, you can either make a red chili paste or include the sweet Kashmiri red chili powder. If possible, avoid using artificial food colors in your food and use natural food colors instead.
To make the red chili paste, first soak 3-4 Kashmiri chilli peppers (seeds removed) in hot water for 30 minutes. Drain and add a little soaked water and mix to a fine paste in a blender.
How to make Pav Bhaji
1. Rinse, peel and chop the vegetables. You will need 1 cup of chopped cauliflower, 1 cup of chopped carrot, 3 medium potatoes (chopped) and ? cup of chopped green beans.
Note: You can also add any veg you like, but don’t add okra, eggplant, pumpkin, radish, corn, yam, or green leafy vegetables.
Cabbage, broccoli, zucchini, and pumpkin are unique options you can consider adding, but the traditional version doesn’t include these veggies.
2. Add all of the above chopped vegetables to a 3 liter pressure cooker. Also add 1 cup of fresh or frozen green peas.
I cook the vegetables in a pressure cooker. You can boil or steam them using a saucepan or in the instant casserole.
3. Add 2.25 to 2.5 cups of water.
4. Cook the vegetables under pressure for 5 to 6 whistles or for about 12 minutes over medium heat.
5. When the pressure settles on its own, open the pressure cooker and check to see if the vegetables are fork-tender, soft and cooked through.
You can even steam or cook the vegetables in a pot or pan. The vegetables should be cooked completely. Reserve the vegetables with the boiled water (broth / broth) in the stove itself.
Sauté the onions, spices
6. Heat a pan or kadai (wok). You can also use a large tawa or a pan. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter. You can use amul butter or any butter brand. The butter can be salted or not.
7. Let the butter melt.
8. As the butter melts, add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds.
9. Let the cumin seeds crackle and change color.
10. Then add ½ cup chopped onions.
11. Mix the onions with the butter and brown over low to medium heat.
12. Sauté until the onions become translucent.
13. Add 2 teaspoons of ginger garlic paste. You can crush 1.5 inches of ginger, and 5-6 medium garlic cloves, in a pestle mortar.
14. Stir and sauté for a few seconds until the raw aroma of ginger and garlic is gone.
15. Then add 1 to 2 green peppers (chopped).
16. Mix well.
17. Add 2 cups of finely chopped tomatoes. Swap canned tomatoes if you don’t have fresh tomatoes.
18. Mix very well.
19. Then start to sauté the tomatoes over low to medium heat.
20. Sauté until tomatoes are soft and soft and you can see butter coming off the sides. It takes about 6-7 minutes on low to medium heat.
TIP: If the tomatoes start to stick to the pan, sprinkle a little water on it. Mix well and deglaze the pan.
Sauté peppers and ground spices
21. When the tomatoes are soft, add ½ cup finely chopped bell pepper (green pepper). Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
TIP: If the mixture starts to stick to the pan, add a few splash of water. You don’t need to cook the pepper until it is very soft. A little crunch is good in the pepper.
22. Add 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri red pepper powder.
23. Add 2-3 tablespoons of Pav bhaji Masala Powder. Depending on the intensity of the aroma and the flavor of pav bhaji masala, you can add it in greater or lesser proportions.
Add 2 tablespoons if the pav bhaji masala is intense, strong and tasty. For a more robust and spicy bhaji, add 3 tbsp.
24. Mix very well.
Include cooked vegetables
25. Add the cooked vegetables. You can choose to mash the vegetables before adding them to the pan or skillet.
26. Mix well.
Add broth or water
27. Add all the broth or water from the pressure cooker in which the vegetables were cooked.
28. Combine and mix thoroughly.
29. Season with salt according to your taste preferences and mix.
30. With a potato masher, begin to carefully mash the vegetables directly in the pan.
31. You can mash the vegetables less or more depending on the consistency you want in the bhaji. For a smooth mixture, mash more. For a big bhaji, crush less. Add more water if the bhaji looks thick.
32. Continue stirring occasionally and simmer the mashed vegetables for 8-10 minutes over low heat.
33. If the bhaji looks dry, add water. The consistency is neither very thick nor thin.
34. Stir continuously so that the bhaji does not stick to the pan. When the bhaji simmer to the desired consistency, check the taste. Add salt, pav bhaji masala, red pepper powder or butter if needed.
Toast Pav (rolls)
1. When the bhaji is simmering, you can pan-fry the buns to serve the pavement with hot steamed bhaji. Cut the bun from the center to make two equal halves.
2. Heat a tawa or a skillet or a shallow pan. Keep the heat low and add 1 to 2 tablespoons of butter or more if desired.
3. When the butter starts melting, add 1 teaspoon of pav bhaji masala (for 2 to 3 pav). You can ignore the pav bhaji masala if you prefer.
4. Mix the pav bhaji masala well with a spatula or spoon.
5. Then place the pav on the butter.
6. Press down with a spatula and rotate the pavé over all the melted butter so that the paver absorbs the butter with the ground spices.
7. Now turn the pad over. Press a little with a spatula and flip them on the tawa so that the second side absorbs the butter.
Add more butter if needed. You can turn them over and grill them more if necessary. Then transfer the lightly seared buns to a plate and set aside. Fry the rolls this way in two to three batches.