Instead of the traditional Urad dal vada recipe | Minapa garelu | medu vada | ulundhu vadai let us try a healthier low oil version.
Why bake vadas?
- To reduce oil intake – Absolutely, yeah!! Traditional vadas are a heck of a vegan/vegetarian protein source, if not for the fact that they are oil magnets
- Great snack option for kids without sweating over hot oil
- If we are going to eat sambar vada, rasam vada or thair (curd) vada, in which the fried crispiness is no longer necessary and is in fact soaked in liquid, why add additional calories?
- Personally, I get headaches if I eat oil-dripping vadas. Baked version, free from that headache :)!!
How NOT to do it:
This is a post months in the making. My original thought was to just stick the batter in the oven and see what happens. This was one of my first attempts to bake vada
Initially, my family was not very thrilled at my persistence in this matter. I don’t blame them…The first versions were really sad.
So, how did I get from these (above) to the yummy “Give me more” baked version (below)?
The right way to do it
Let us look at some rules to get baked vada right.
#1 – Whip your batter thoroughly
One advice I got from a vada expert was to get a wet grinder. Well, you see, while I am a kitchen appliance junkie, I really have no counter space to get a wet grinder. Besides, I had my superman blender – my Vitamix. Why would I want anything else?
So, then I checked out a bunch more recipes and understood the reasoning behind fluffy vadas with wet grinder. It is not just the grinding motion, it is also the constant whipping of air into the vadas.
That leads me to the first rule in making baked vadas – Whip your batter very well. I used a stand mixer to whip air into the vadas.
Most of you are probably familiar with the traditional test for good vada batter. If not, no big deal – it is a simple test to check if your batter is well-aerated. Drop a spoon of batter in a cup of water. If it floats, yay!! carry on with the recipe. If it sinks, the batter is too dense and you want to whip it more.
#2 – You want to bake your vada at high temperature, but not too too high
I started my experiments with the standard 350F. That temperature is BAD for a crispy baked vada. By the time, the heat reaches the inside of the vada, it stays too long in the oven and the vada starts getting hard.
But, if you crank it up to 500F, then the vadas will cook in the inside, but the heat on the outside is relentless and starts getting dry and chewy. It is better than 350, but not the best option.
450F was the sweet spot for me. At 450F, the vadas cooked all the way inside. But the outside remained crispy.
Oven to oven temperatures vary, but I would recommend you start your vadas at 450F and then go higher or lower on the next batch based on the feedback.
#3 – Give it the full 14-15 minutes to rise and bake
Don’t be tempted to peek. The vadas need about 15 minutes to get cooked all the way to the inside. Opening the oven before will create fluctuations in temperature and you have to cook longer, and that will give you dry vadas.
At this point, the underside of the vada is nice and brown, but the top is not.
How do we solve this issue? For that my dear friends, we use the broiler.
#4 – Use the broiler to get the nice browning on the top of the vadas
When frying the vada in oil, heat attacks it from all sides and you get the nice, brown crispiness all around. Baking does not have that advantage. Why can’t I flip it, you wonder?
Since the bottom side does not sit flush with the surface of the pan, there is no way to get uniform browning using the pan.
At this point, the vada is almost cooked. It just needs the browning on the top to give it the authentic vada feel. Brush the top with oil.
Pop it under the broiler for a minute. Now they are golden brown all over…
#5 – Best made in a donut pan (Sorry!!)
I hate making you go out and buy something specifically for this recipe, but I love my donut pan that I got on sale. This gives the perfect vada shape and the distribution of heat as well. It also gives the batter some kind of wall support to climb on to.
You could also use the donut holes pan if you have one. The time needed for baking will vary with each style. (See minor time differences listed for the 2 styles I used in the Recipe section).
But, if you are like, “I am so not buying something based on a blog post by a random lady,” trust me, I can understand that. You can experiment with a pan you already have, but unfortunately, I cannot predict the outcome. I have been satisfied with the donut and donut holes pan.
P.S. – Donut pan and mini-donut pan are different. If you use a mini-donut pan, the timing will vary, because it takes a lot less batter.
Savory donuts (Vadas, Garelu) made without frying
- 1 cup Urad Dal (soaked in water overnight)
- 1-2 Green Chilli deseeded and cut (I used Jalapenos)
- Salt (to taste)
Soak Urad dal in water anywhere between 2 hours to overnight.
Next day (or after 2 hours) - Set oven to 450F
Drain the water out. Add urad dal to high speed blender. Add green chili pieces.
Start the blender. Using the top insert, add fresh water just enough to get the batter thoroughly grind into a smooth batter.
Add the batter and salt to a stand mixer and let it whip for 2-3 minutes (Use hand-held appliance or a whisk alternatively).
Using a silicone brush (or your hands), apply oil to the donut holes pan. Add batter to the pan
Place pan in the oven for 15 minutes
Once 15 minutes is up, remove pan from oven. Set oven to broil mode.
Brush oil to the top of vadas
Place pan under broiler for 1 minute. Take pan out and let it cool for a few minutes before eating.
If you are using the donut holes pan, bake time is 14 minutes and broil time is just under 2 minutes.
Make sure you set one oven rack close to broiler before getting started. Otherwise, the high heat will make it very challenging to pull out and rearrange trays right after baking.
Now that you have made your vada, have them hot. My favorite side dish is to dip it into Sambar..
and munch, munch, munch!!…
My youngest is a huge vada lover. When she was 4 years old, one time she literally ate 7-8 vadas, no kidding!! She skips meals to satisfy her vada craving. But inevitably, she ends up with stomach pain or throat pain after all this indulgence.
With baked vadas, for the first time, I am able to give her her favorite food without worrying about next-day repercussions. I hope you try this recipe, be it for health reasons or just out of curiosity. Please post your feedback down below in the comments or in my blog’s Facebook page. I always love to hear from my readers. Have a great day!!