Chana Vada (Chana Dal Peanut Patties) with a Tamarind Chili Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
channa dal vadi with tamarind sauce

I will admit that I have a hard time keeping up with all of the different names for Indian dishes, as the cuisine varies so much depending on every region's unique traditions and influences. Indian savories often have me a bit confused, even though I started cooking Indian food soon after adopting a vegetarian diet, and that was over twenty years ago.

One thing I do know is that Indian appetizers have always been one of my favorite aspects of dining out, and since growing keen on experimenting in my own kitchen, there is no match for homemade preparations. With some research and control over the quality of your ingredients and process, eating out will in all likelihood pale in comparison. I now find most of the offerings from local establishments greasy and bland in comparison to homemade. The only drawback is that many breads, patties, balls and fritters can take time and be a bit messy. It really is worth the effort though and oftentimes the savories, such as these chana dal patties complete with some tamarind sauce in this instance, easily make up the main portion of a lighter meal if the temptation to indulge doesn't overwhelm.

Vadas seem to be a new favorite of mine. Popular in South India traditionally, vadas are fried savories usually made with dal and spices that are now popular in many parts of India and beyond. Often disc or doughnut shaped, this popular street food can be eaten for breakfast or as a snack with any variety of chutneys, and are a fine feature of any celebratory meal.

These chana dal and peanut vadas came together in very little time at all, and instead of the usual deep-frying method I shallow fried them for a healthier appetizer or meal accompaniment. I adore little bites and I'm always happy to serve them up as the star of the meal. Serve with rice and a side vegetable curry and rest assured no one will leave the table hungry. The peanuts not only provide extra protein and nutty flavor but also serve to help bind the cake together, without any need for excess oil, eggs or flour. I was pleasantly surprised how well they held together when frying and after they were gone, I was eager to make up another batch. The thick, creamy coconut milk, tamarind and chili sauce that I served them with was the crowning glory.

chana dal peanut patties

I adapted this recipe from Raghavan Iyer's comprehensive guide to Indian cooking, 660 Curries. His book occupies a treasured space on a prominent bookshelf in my kitchen, and with so many ideas, including fusion-style dishes, I never get bored of exploring his tried and tested recipes and exploring new delights awaiting the curious and eager cook. Whether a novice or an experienced cook, I'm certain anyone with a keen interest in Indian cooking will embrace this book as I have for many years and many more to come.

Chana Vada (Chana Dal Peanut Patties) with a Tamarind Chili SauceChana Vada (Chana Dal Peanut Patties) with a Tamarind Chili Sauce
Recipe by
Adapted from 660 Curries
Cuisine: Indian
Published on March 23, 2015

Shallow-fried Indian spiced chana dal and peanut patties served with a tangy, creamy and zesty tamarind, chili and coconut milk sauce

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 40 to 60 minutes

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  • 1 cup dried split chana dal or yellow split peas
  • 1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried grated coconut, soaked in 1/2 cup boiling water for 15 minutes and drained
  • 4 green chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or other cooking oil for frying
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 dried whole red chilies, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Thoroughly rinse the chana dal or yellow split peas. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the peanuts, and soak for 2 hours in several inches of water.

  • Meanwhile, soak the grated coconut in 1/2 cup boiling water for 15 minutes, then drain and set aside.

  • Drain the dal or split peas and transfer to a food processor. Add the coconut, chilies and ginger. Process until the mixture is well blended and turns into a fairly thick paste. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in the cilantro, sea salt, turmeric, cumin, paprika and asafetida. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, make the sauce. Whisk together the tamarind paste, coconut milk and about 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Stir in the garam masala, salt, chilies and cilantro. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat to medium, and stir occasionally until the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes or so. Set aside until ready to serve the patties.

  • Shape about 1 to 2 tablespoons of the vada mixture into small patties about 1/2 inch thick and 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide, and place on a plate.

  • Line a few plates with paper towel and heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, fry the patties in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted lifter and let drain on the towel-lined plates. Repeat until all the patties are cooked.

  • To serve, place a few of the prepared patties on a plate and drizzle with sauce.

Makes 15 to 18 vadas

chana dal patties with tamarind chili sauce

Other little bites you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Kitchen:
Potato Patties Stuffed with Spiced Green Peas (Aloo Matar Tikki)
Chickpea Potato Koftas with Ricotta Cheese
Paneer Tikka Masala
Vegetarian Samosa Cakes with Tamarind Chutney

On the top of the reading stack: Sweetly Raw Desserts: Raw Vegan Chocolates, Cakes, Cookies, Ice Cream, and More by Heather Pace

Audio Accompaniment: chirping birds


Joanne said...

I'm constantly learning new things about Indian cuisine and I believe this is my first introduction to vada! I do love all the little fried Indian bites and breads...I suspect these will be a new favorite!

Vegan Curryzone Recipes said...

This looks amazing, I´m gonna try it.

Jacqueline Meldrum said...

Oh nice recipe Lisa. I want to reach in and grab one. BTW the Bookmarked Recipes roundup is live, Thanks for joining in.