DIY Food

How to Make Pav Bhaji (Spicy Indian Vegetables with Buttery Bread Rolls)

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: There's no reason to venture through the cold to your local Indian restaurant for pav bhaji. Aysha of The Malabar Tea Room shows us how to make this classic street food at home.

Paav Bhaji

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A popular Indian street food, pav bhaji is surprisingly also suited to colder climates -- it's everything comfort food should be. Bread (pav) fried in butter is served with vegetables (bhaji) cooked with fragrant spices that will make your kitchen smell like an Indian market -- in a good way.  

Although it's customary to mash the vegetables (your potato masher will do the trick), I like to let the vegetables retain some of their shape. When I'm feeling brave enough for an extra kick of flavor, I mince a small onion and sprinkle it on top of the finished dish along with some chopped cilantro. And if I'm feeling extra indulgent, I top the bhaji with a dollop of -- yes, more! -- butter before serving.

Ingredients for Paav Bhaji

If you have access to an Indian grocery store, I suggest you pick up a couple of sticks of Amul butter for this recipe. Amul butter is the most popular brand of butter in India, and any Indian worth his or her salt will tell you that it's the best butter in the world -- French butter be damned. If you don't have access to an Indian grocery store, consider buying the pav bhaji masala online, or follow a recipe (a quick Google will yield a ton of options) to mix the spice blend that makes this dish so distinctive.

The place you can cut corners is with the pav. Because pav is essentially a bun made from white bread, feel free to use hot dog buns cut crosswise or dinner rolls.

Paav Bhaji

Pav Bhaji

Serves 5

For the bhaji:

350 grams cauliflower, chopped into small florets
125 grams carrot, finely chopped
300 grams potato, finely chopped
25 grams butter, plus more for serving if desired (Preferably Amul butter)
tablespoon vegetable oil
150 grams onion, finely chopped
cloves galic, crushed
teaspoon red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
500 grams tomato, finely chopped
teaspoon pav bhaji masala
1/2 teaspoon black salt
Salt to taste
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
Juice from 1 lime

For the pav:

15 hot dog buns cut crosswise or dinner rolls cut through the middle
75 grams butter

Paav Bhaji

In a large pot, add the cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes. Pour enough water in to cover the vegetables by an inch and bring it to a boil. Once the water boils, lower the heat and let the vegetables simmer until they are very soft, about 25 minutes.

 Paav Bhaji Cooking

In a large pan, sauté the onion and garlic in butter and oil for roughly five minutes, then add chili powder and tumeric. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the oil separates, then add the cooked vegetables and mix in the pav bhaji masala and black salt. Mash the vegetables using a heat-proof spatula or potato masher. Let the vegetables cook for another five minutes, adding salt if needed.

While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the pav by generously adding butter to the exposed side of the buns, then fry them buttered side down on a pan over medium flame. When golden brown, flip them over and fry for another two minutes, then set aside.

Paav for Paav Bhaji

Just before serving, add cilantro, a pat of butter (optional but recommended!), and lime juice to the dish. Serve with the warm pav and dig in.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Aysha | The Malabar Tea Room


See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Elina
  • Cecily
  • karmaya
  • chris
  • Kristin Pfeifer
    Kristin Pfeifer
An Indian food-writer with a penchant for cookbooks with obscure ingredients, Aysha spends most of her time adapting recipes from the world over in her small-town south-Indian kitchen with her mother, and recording the successful experiments at When not tinkering about in the kitchen, she can be found reading up on possible Game of Thrones theories that will bring back Jon Snow.


Elina May 15, 2015
Amul Butter! :) Proves that the recipe is authentic.
Cecily February 25, 2015
Where are u located ?
karmaya February 25, 2015
highland park - i had already forgotten about looking for this particular butter.. now i'm reminded, but will have to try to remember next time i'm in one of the many markets i visit.
karmaya January 22, 2015
we live in central NJ near dozens of Indo-Pak grocery stores, restaurants, etc... i've never bought Amul butter but will certainly now get some - thanks for the tip.
Aysha |. January 22, 2015
my pleasure!
chris January 22, 2015
Amazingly, I already have everything on hand, and am going to make this for dinner! I looked at a recipe for pav bhaji masala and am wondering about the "red chili." Could I use cayenne, or crushed red pepper, or paprika? Also, do you make a sandwich, or just eat the bread alongside the warm veg mix?
Aysha |. January 22, 2015
hi chris! i'm sorry, i just saw your comment. cayenne comes closest to what we call red chili powder. the pav bhaji masala calls for dried red chili, but you could use chili powder (or cayenne) instead. let me know how it turned out! and the best way to eat it is to tear of pieces of pav and scoop up the bhaji with it :)
chris January 22, 2015
Thanks for your insights! I used cayenne, scooped with the pav as you mention, and the whole thing was absolutely delicious. So satisfying. This replaces aloo gobi as my favorite cauliflower and potato dish. Thanks for the great post.
Aysha |. January 23, 2015
glad you liked it! thank you for the feedback!
Kristin P. January 22, 2015
How do you make / where do you buy pav bhaji masala?
Aysha |. January 22, 2015
Hi Kristin, an Indian grocery store will definitely carry pav bhaji masala- it's a common spice blend, and most people use the store bought variety. However, if you're feeling adventurous, this looks like a good recipe:
sandy G. January 22, 2015
I have eaten a version of this many times and it will be nice to make it myself so that I can have it anytime that I wish.....It looks very good.....I will try it as soon as I translate the measurements.....
Aysha |. January 22, 2015
thank you! I hope you try it :)
chris January 22, 2015
Sandy, I loosely converted the grams to cups as: 1-1/2 C cauliflower, 1/2 C carrots, 1-1/2 C potato, 3/4 C onion, and 2-1/2 C tomatoes.

jess |. January 22, 2015
I love it!!
Aysha |. January 22, 2015
thank you! and thank you for your lovely email :)