Zucchini and Paneer Fritters

By Published On: 17 Jul '23Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

Rustic and flavoursome, these Zucchini and Paneer fritters make an indulgent breakfast, brunch or finger food. Serve them on their own or with a dollop of sour cream!

Don’t you just love the look of this stack of Zucchini and Paneer fritters? The best news is that, they are super easy to make at home and your family will thank you for them.

Growing up as a teen in India ‘bhajiyas’, ‘fritters’ or ‘pakodas’ of any kind are nostalgic. They remind me of monsoons that follow the hot summer season and heavy rainfall for days at end.

The rain is a relief from the heat of summer and for farmers it is a blessing. A good monsoon boosts agriculture and results in a good yield of crops, as agriculture in India is mostly dependent on the monsoon rain.

Monsoons in India last for four months from June to September. It’s also the season for bhajiyas or fried food of all kinds. In English we call them ‘fritters’ but ‘bhajiyas’ is what I call them even today, just as all the Mangaloreans call them. They are called as ‘pakodas’ in Hindi.

‘Bhajiyas’, ‘fritters’ or ‘pakodas’ are portions of food – fruit, vegetables and seafood coated in seasoned batter and fried (deep fried or shallow fried). They are crispy mouthfuls of joy!!

Also, in India bhajiyas are not limited to just monsoons but enjoyed throughout the year as an indulgent breakfast, an all day snack or a tea-time treat. The scorchy heat does not stop the Indians from enjoying their best plate of fried food!

Back in the day, in Udupi (small coastal town on the west coast of India), there was no street food of any kind, but fritters could be bought in any little corner shops known as ‘hotels’. Any firm vegetables were turned into ‘bhajiyas’ (fritters) ranging from onions, potatoes, brinjal (matti gulla), sweet potatoes.

In addition, vada (fritters made with ground lentils), aloo bonda/batata vada (fritters made with mashed potatoes) and chattambades (fritters made with a variety of ground dried lentils) were also very popular snacks.

Unlike in India, here in Sydney, fritters cannot be bought in any corner shop around where I live. In fact, the other day, we drove for 40 minutes to buy a plate of vada and chattambades. I did not mind at all, as the vadas were massive and tasted heavenly! They did not even make it home, as we sat in the car and devoured them before they became soggy!!

These delicious fritters are made with fresh zucchini and paneer (soft Indian cheese). They are golden on the outside and soft and slightly creamy on the inside. You can have them for breakfast with an egg or two. They also make a great snack, appetizer, a light meal, or a part of the grazing platter. You can even serve them for dinner with a steak.

zucchinis bring out sweetness when cooking and there’s gentle spicing from the fresh green chilli and nigella seeds. A tiny amount of Parmesan cheese significantly boosts the flavour and produces the umami taste. Once you have got the hang of making these fritters, play around with the ingredients you use and customize to your taste.

They are perfect to make at home and you won’t need to spend a fortune to eat them at a café.

INGREDIENTS for the fritters

Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients. Once you eat these fritters, you will enjoy their taste, as each ingredient will contribute to the taste, flavour and deliciousness in a very unique way. The umami from the parmesan cheese lingers on every bite!!

If you decide to make these juicy, mouth-watering Zucchini and Paneer fritters, add paneer, parmesan cheese and gram flour (besan) to your shopping list, the next time you go grocery shopping. Although paneer and parmesan cheese are easily accessible in most large supermarkets, I know for sure, gram flour is sold in supermarkets in the large shopping centres only.

If gram flour is not sold at your local Woolworths or Coles supermarkets, you will find at your local Indian grocery stores. Ditto with Nigella seeds (kalonji). The small black seeds add a lovely nutty tone, however, it is an unusual spice and you will find at your local Indian grocers only.

  • Zucchini/courgette/summer squash – It is a nutrient rich vegetable however, the vegetable is 90% water. Important: It is most important to prep the zucchini first to get rid of any excess moisture. Grate diagonally directly into a bowl lined with muslin cloth, on the coarse side of a box grater, so you get long strands. To remove excess water, rest for 20 minutes, while you prep the other ingredients. No need to add salt, as we are adding salt and parmesan cheese later. Squeeze out any excess water. I got about 65mL water after resting. Do not skip this step, as we want the fritters to be crisp on the outside and moist inside.
  • Paneer – A variety of Indian soft cheese and very mild, as it has no salt content – adds texture, taste and protein. Grate on the coarse side of the box grater and add when called for in the recipe. Lemnos paneer works well as it is mild and non-melting. Find at: any large supermarkets such as Woolworths or Coles.
  • Onion – Added for the savoury taste. Use chopped brown or white onion.
  • Egg – used as a binder so the fritter does not fall apart. Lightly whisk the egg, as too much liquid will make the fritters soggy.
  • Coriander and mint leaves – Two of my all time favourite herbs and work well in any Indian snacks. Combination of curry leaves and coriander leaves also works well. If you are not a fan of coriander and curry leaves, then substitute with 2 tbsp. of freshly chopped continental parsley.
  • Grated parmesan cheese – It binds the ingredients and adds a fabulous whack of umami. Perfect Italiano extra sharp grated parmesan cheese works well (125g pack). My personal favourite is Millel Extra Sharp Parmesan & Pecorino cheese (170g pack). Find at: Your local supermarket such as, Woolworths and Coles.
  • Fresh green chilli and fresh garlic – Green chilli adds a bit of spice/hotness and garlic makes it beautifully savoury. You may omit green chilli if you are not a fan or scoop the seeds and add only the chopped skin. Garlic substitute: Add 2 tsp. of garlic powder or 1-2 tsp. garlic salt. If you adding garlic salt, decrease the salt from the recipe to suit taste.
  • Bicarb-of-soda (aka baking soda) – Added to many Indian snack batters as they make the exterior of the snacks crisp.
  • Nigella seeds/kalonji – Black in colour with a tiny teardrop shape, they add a distinct nutty, smoky aroma and pair well with these fritters. Omit them if you do not have them. Alternative: 1/2 tsp. – 1 tsp. cumin seeds if you have them handy. Important: They are not black sesame seeds or black onion seeds or caraway seeds. Do not substitute them with black sesame seeds or black onion seeds or caraway seeds.
  • Gram flour/besan – A common superfine gluten free – flour made with chickpeas, found in most Indian pantries and is used for making batter for fritters, breads and burfi. It is used as an alternative to wheat flour. In this recipe, besan is added as a binder to bind the zucchini with other ingredients. Find at: Some large supermarkets (Woolworths or Coles) or your local Indian grocery store. Look for the fine variety on the label.

a quick video

Watch this quick video, before you start frying the fritters.

Heat a medium to large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Take an ice cream scoopful and drop it into the pan with oil on medium heat. Flatten lightly with slotted spoon. Fry them for 4-5 minutes flipping once in between (adjust the temperature of oil, if the fritters are browning too quickly).

Fry in batches of 3 or 4 depending on the size of your frying pan. Overcrowding will decrease the temperature of the oil.

Repeat until all batter is exhausted.

If in doubt, watch video below. The fritters will be crisp and golden on the outside as soon as they are fried but will be a bit softer after 10 minutes of frying.

They are best served when they are straight off the pan, like most fritters!

EASY six STEP FRITTERS

Gather the ingredients before you start cooking. Since zucchini has a very high water content, it will get soggy during cooking, therefore prep the zucchini before cooking. To prep them, grate them and leave them to rest for 20 minutes. I prefer not to add salt at this stage, as we are adding salt and parmesan cheese in the recipe. After 20 minutes, squeeze all excess moisture and then combine with other ingredients.

Also, please do not leave the batter on the bench once you have combined all the ingredients, as the zucchini will continue to release some more water once it comes in contact with the salt. Fry them promptly in a large frying pan on medium-high heat, adjusting the heat, if they turn brown quickly. Fry them for approx. 4-6 minutes, ensuring you flip them half way through. Check if both sides are golden and cooked through. If in doubt, test one for taste and doneness.

These zucchini and paneer fritters are crisp on the outside and soft in the inside. They are best served hot straight from the pan, as the scraggly bits around the edges are crisp when hot.

You will find full instructions and measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of this post. This is the summary of the process to go along with the process photos.

Grate Zucchini diagonally on the coarse side of a box grater directly over a bowl lined with cheese cloth or muslin cloth.

Rest for 20 minutes. Do not add salt.

Using your hands, squeeze out excess water. You should get approx. 65mL-75mL liquid out. Discard water and wipe the bowl.

Place grated zucchini, grated paneer and onion into the bowl. Combine.

Make a well in the centre and add lightly beaten egg.

Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Do not overmix the batter. Taste and season, if required.

Important: Shallow fry immediately as the zucchini tends to release more water once it comes in contact with salt!

Shallow fry one ice cream scoopful, on medium heat for 4-5 minutes, until golden and cooked, turning once in between.

Fry in batches of 3 or 4. Do not overcrowd the frying pan.

serving suggestions

  • Serve immediately on their own as it pairs well with a cup of tea or coffee.
  • Serve with a dollop of sour cream and you have your snacks sorted for your next game of cricket or world cup in your own lounge room TV.
  • Serve with home made garlic cream, garnished with a good sprinkle of coriander and mint leaves.

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Zucchini and Paneer Fritters

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
Rustic and elegant, but really flavoursome, these stunning Zucchini and Paneer fritters make an indulgent breakfast, brunch or finger food for your next party. The umami from the parmesan cheese makes them utterly moreish, while the gentle spice from green chilli and Nigella seeds makes them deliciously Indian!  Serve them on their own or with a dollop of sour cream!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Accompaniment, Afternoon tea, All day snack, Appetizer, Grazing platter, Light meal
Cuisine Australian, Fusion, Indian fusion, Indian, Mangalorean, South Indian
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 500 g zucchini unpeeled and trimmed
  • 200 g mild paneer (see NOTE 1) non-melting, grated
  • 1 brown onion chopped (160g-180g)
  • 1 egg lightly whisked (75g)
  • 3 tbsp. combination of coriander and mint leaves finely chopped
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese (see NOTE 2) (35g)
  • 1 green chilli finely chopped or to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove finely chopped
  • ½ - 1 tsp. salt or to taste
  • ¼ tsp. bicarb-of-soda (2g)
  • 1 tsp. nigella/kalonji seeds (2g) (optional)
  • 1 cup gram flour/besan sifted (110g)
  • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Grate zucchini on the coarse side of a box grater, directly over a bowl, lined with a muslin cloth. Do not add salt. Rest for 20 minutes. With clean hands, gather the ends of the muslin cloth together and squeeze grated zucchini to remove excess water. Discard the water.
  • Place zucchini, grated paneer (grate on the coarse side of a box grater) and onion in a large bowl. Combine.
  • Make a well in the centre and add egg. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Season to taste, if required. (see NOTE 4)
  • Heat enough oil in a medium to large non-stick frying pan on medium-high heat. Scoop the mixture with an ice cream scoop into the hot pan and flatten gently with the slotted spoon. Shallow-fry in batches of 4, for 4-6 minutes, turning once during cooking or until cooked through and golden on both sides. Do not overcrowd the pan, as the temperature of the oil will drop. Drain on paper towel.
  • Transfer the fritters to a serving platter. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately on its own or with a scoopful of garlic sour cream.

For the Garlic Cream

  • Combine ½ cup sour cream with ½ cup thickened cream, 1 large chopped garlic clove, 1 tbsp. finely chopped coriander leaves, 1 tbsp. finely chopped continental parsley and a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice in a small bowl. Serve chilled on the side.

Notes

  1. I use Lemnos Paneer Mild Non-melting (sold in 200g packets) in your local supermarket.  It has a mild flavour and complements the parmesan cheese beautifully. 
  2. You may use Perfect Italiano grated Parmesan cheese (sold in 125g packets) or Perfect Italiano extra sharp grated Parmesan cheese (sold in 125g packets). My personal favourite is Millel Extra Sharp grated Parmesan & Pecorino (comes in 170g packets).  Pecorino cheese is made from sheep's milk and adds a delicious earthy flavour to complement the mild paneer.   
  3. To enrich the flavour of fritters, I add 1 tsp. Nigella seeds (kalonji).  This is optional.  
  4. Do not let the zucchini mixture sit on bench top once all ingredients are combined.  Fry the fritters immediately, as the zucchini will release more water when it comes in contact with salt, rendering the mixture very wet.  If the mixture becomes wet, sprinkle besan (gram flour) 2 tbsp. at a time and combine.  Fry immediately.  
Keyword bhajjeas, Fritters, pakodas
Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!

2 Comments

  1. Astria Bothello July 22, 2023 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    5 stars
    As always, enjoyed this one from you as well. The addition of paneer and cheese added quite the flavor. I think with zucchini, after adding salt and seasoning, it tends to release water. So I tried to squeeze out the water and round it with my palm before dropping it into the pan. That worked well. All in all a lovely and deliciously indian recipe ????

  2. Catherine Lavina Mendonsa July 23, 2023 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Good morning Astria

    Thank you for trying out my recipe and your feedback. Glad you liked the umami from the parmesan cheese. I am sorry to hear that the zucchini was releasing water during the frying process. The recipe calls for not adding salt in Step 1 and the removal of excess moisture using the muslin cloth. By doing this in Step 1, you can get rid of 70mL excess liquid from the zucchini. Also, if you find that the mixture is getting runny when frying, sift besan (gram flour) over the mixture, a couple of tablespoon at a time. This helps to bring the mixture together again. Further, you can also mix the remaining ingredients in Step 3, after you start your fire on.

    It was good to hear that you found an on the spot solution of squeezing out the water and round the mixture on your palm before adding the fritter to the hot oil. My only fear is, you may loose some of the umami taste by doing this.

    The best trick of all is, to mix and fry immediately! Hope this helps!

    Thank you again, much appreciate your comments!

Leave A Comment

Recipe Rating