Quick, easy, and moreish, these spicy potato fritters are a hugely popular street food in northern India and Pakistan. Our aloo tikkis are fired up with serrano chilies and served with a date and tamarind chutney that’s deliciously hot, sharp, sweet, sour, and seriously simple to make.
Are they an unpretentious city street snack or a classy cocktail party appetizer? Are they best as a light lunch, a tasty supper, a side dish for your favorite curry, a super savory starter, or as a veggie burger’s centerpiece?
Well, you’re spoilt for choice. These little croquettes check all those boxes. They’re natural born multi-taskers, just like the versatile vegetable they principally feature, the potato.
Simple ingredients, stellar results
In Hindi, aloo means potato and tikki means fritter. Ours are a real cinch to make, but I reckon they’re at their very best if you take a little care when choosing and prepping the ingredients.
Floury, starchy potatoes like russets or Idahos are a must because they mash so well and their mild, earthy taste is great for supporting the flavors of the other two key players in your aloo tikkis, sweet red onion, and simple garden peas.
Then there are the essential herbs and spices. Fresh serrano peppers, cilantro, garlic, and ginger root are complimented by ground cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper. Add breadcrumbs, salt, and lemon juice, and your grocery store list is complete.
Some smart cooking makes all the difference
The potatoes get boiled whole in salted water and are then mashed, together with breadcrumbs, skins and all. Yep, skins and all. Handling the potatoes that way means you’ll boost their flavor and add some extra body to your aloo tikkis’ texture. It’s a smart, win-win way with the potatoes, and it strikes me that skin-on probably fits with the waste-not-want-not principles of vendors working from an urban street cart in India.
Once the potatoes are sorted and set aside to cool a little, you can start the simple process of frying the rest of your aloo tikkis’ ingredients.
That means maxing the flavors of the onion, ginger, and garlic by frying them in very little oil until they go a tad beyond the just-softened stage. The trio of onion, garlic, and ginger is one of the foundational flavor combos in Indian cuisine. And this threesome really benefits from being carefully fried until lightly golden and just a touch crispy.
The important business of highlighting flavors continues with the serrano peppers, peas, chopped cilantro, and lemon juice. To emphasize their fresh tastes, they’re only added to the essential trinity for a couple of minutes’ low heat frying. This final bit of minimal cooking nurtures the fresh bite of the chilies, the bright tang of the lemon juice, and the aromatic hit of the cilantro.
During that last stage, the peas also get some special attention. They’re given a bit of mashing so you get a 50/50 mix of crushed and whole peas. This looks great in your finished tikkis and adds even more variety to their texture.
The whole spicy mix is then combined with the potatoes and formed into rounds before heading to a big skillet for some hot-and-fast sizzling in a little butter and sunflower oil.
Now, sometimes these tikkis are made by forming the mashed potato around the spiced pea mix so you get a sort of stuffed tikki, but we’re keeping things really simple here, and forming everything into neat, two-bite patties ready for frying.
These are definitely best eaten hot, with your fingers, and with their most favored relish – date and tamarind chutney.
The date and tamarind chutney
Called khajur imli (date, tamarind) this is the very easily made chutney that traditionally accompanies aloo tikki. Easily made? For sure. Start to finish, you can have this done in under ten minutes.
Not surprisingly, the key flavors here come from coarsely chopped fresh dates and tamarind paste.
The dates have a rich, caramel sweetness combined with a fruitiness a bit like raisins and sultanas. Those flavors are underlined by muscovado sugar which adds an underlying layer of smoky molasses.
In complete contrast to all that sugary depth, there’s the intensely sharp and sour tamarind paste which brings in a balancing potency all of its own. That’s because nothing else tastes quite like this thick, compressed, dark paste. It has a lingering, acid bite that’s akin to fresh lime juice mixed with a little salt, a hint of sugar and a dash of vinegar. You’ll probably be familiar with that sort of taste combo in Worcestershire sauce – tamarind is one of its keynote flavors.
Cumin and ginger add a smoldering warmth that’s boosted in our recipe by the spark of very obvious heat from fresh bird’s eye chilies. You could go milder or hotter with your choice of chili pepper, but the power of the dates and tamarind handles some pretty high heat exceptionally well.
And you could serve your aloo tikis with a duo of relishes. Several Indian food writers I checked out have a deep fondness for enjoying their tikkis with tomato ketchup. Certainly gets the thumbs-up from me.
Like this recipe? You’ll like these too:
- Aloo Gobi Curry With Buttery Basmati Rice: Simply, this is a delicious potato and cauliflower curry.
- Spicy Indian Lentil Dhal: A delicious lentil appetizer, buttery and earthy, made perfect with a side of pita.
- Indonesian Braised Beef With Spiced Rice: Boldly spiced braised beef is paired with Thai chilies for most-certain spiciness.
Aloo Tikki With Date And Tamarind Chutney
For the aloo tikkis – makes about 12, two-inch wide tikkis
- 1 serrano pepper green, sliced into very thin discs, seeds and all. The one I used was about 2 ½ inches long.
- 1 pound floury potatoes left whole and unpeeled. Russets or Idahos would both be good choices.
- 4 ½ ounces garden peas frozen and defrosted are just fine
- 1 red onion medium-sized, peeled, and finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 3 heaped tablespoons breadcrumbs I used Japanese panko crumbs that were already sitting in the kitchen cupboard.
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger root finely chopped, skin and all
- ½ ounce fresh cilantro roughly chopped, stalks and all
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground sea salt
- 3 tablespoons sunflower oil or a similar, neutral cooking oil
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the date and tamarind chutney – khajur imli
- 1 red bird’s eye chili fresh, finely chopped, seeds and all. The one I used was almost two inches long.
- 10 ounces fresh dates pitted and roughly chopped
- 1 ½ ounces tamarind paste
- 1 heaped teaspoon ginger root finely chopped, skin and all
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 6 cloves finely ground
- 2 heaped tablespoons muscovado sugar alternatively demerara sugar will just fine
- 1 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 2/3 cup boiling water
Making the khajur imli chutney
- I’d start by making the date and tamarind chutney. It’s quick and can be left to cool to room temperature while you’re making your aloo tikkis.
- Add the tamarind paste to a heatproof jug and pour over the boiling water. Now use a wooden spoon to break the paste apart. Then keep stirring until it dissolves. This can take a few minutes since the paste is quite sticky and needs a bit of encouragement to dissolve in the hot water.
- Pour the lot into a small saucepan set on a medium heat, and thoroughly stir in all the other ingredients. As soon as the pan starts to bubble, drop the heat to low. Let it simmer very gently on that low heat – with a few stirs – for 5 minutes. Done. Remove from the heat and let it cool.
Cooking the potatoes
- We’ll start with the potatoes because they take longest to cook – and while that’s happening you can sort out the other ingredients for your aloo tikkis.
- Add the whole, unpeeled potatoes to a medium size pan, add 1 level teaspoon salt and enough water just to cover the potatoes. Cover the pan and bring it the boil on a medium-high heat. Then drop the heat to low so the covered pan can run at a slow simmer for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.
- Thoroughly drain the potatoes and return them to their pan. Roughly break them apart with a fork – skin and all, stir in the breadcrumbs and 1 level teaspoon salt.
- Now mash the lot with a potato masher. You want to mash them more coarsely than you would for smoothly mashed potatoes, and leave them with a little more body to create your tikkis’ slightly crumbly texture. Good. The potatoes can now sit and cool while you cook the spiced pea mix.
Cooking the spiced pea mix and prepping the filling
- For this, I used a big, heavy-bottomed 12-inch skillet. That’s a grand size for frying the spiced pea mix, and then for cooking your aloo tikkis.
- Add 2 tablespoons sunflower oil to your skillet and set it on a medium heat. Swirl the oil around so it coats the bottom of the skillet and then stir in the onions. There’s not a lot of oil here, so stir well so the onions get coated with it. (By only using that small amount of oil, you’ll stop your tikkis from being greasy.)
- As soon as the onions are oil-coated, drop the heat to low-medium and stir fry the onions for about 3 minutes until they start to soften and begin to pick up a little pale golden color. Now stir in the garlic and ginger and keep stir frying on that low-medium heat for another 2 minutes or so. You want the onions to turn a little darker and just start to crisp a little around their edges.
- Drop the heat to low and stir in the ground spices – cumin, cilantro, turmeric, cinnamon – and the black pepper.
- Continue stir frying for another minute then add the fresh cilantro, serrano peppers, peas, and lemon juice. Give everything a thorough stirring and turn off the heat. Time now for a little crushing of the peas in the skillet.
- Use a potato masher to crush the peas – in the skillet – so you get a roughly 50/50 mix of whole peas and crushed peas. That’s it. The spiced pea mix is done and ready to be mixed with the mashed potatoes.
- Add all the spiced pea mix to your pan of mashed potatoes. Use a wooden spoon to slowly mix everything together. I say slowly because if you stir too vigorously, you’ll lose the coarse-ish texture of the potatoes and break up the peas more than you need to. Probably took me about two minutes to slowly get the lot mixed evenly together.
Shaping and cooking your aloo tikkis
- To shape each aloo tikki, use your hands to form the mixture into a ball about 1 ½ times the size of a golf ball. Now gently flatten the ball into a disc about ½-inch thick and 2 inches wide. The thickness is more important than the width, so that’s the dimension you want to focus on. Set the formed tikki onto a plate and repeat the process until all the tikkis are formed.
- I ended up with 12 tikkis. That was neat because that was the max number that I could fry all at once in that 12-inch skillet.
- Now set your big skillet back onto a high heat and add a level tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of sunflower oil. Swirl the buttery oil all over the bottom of the skillet. As soon it starts foaming, carefully add all the tikkis in a single, evenly spaced layer, and drop the heat to medium-high. Do not be tempted to move the tikkis about the skillet. Just lay them then all in carefully so they keep their shape and can sizzle away – untouched – for about three minutes.
- That should be enough time to give their undersides a dark golden color and a lovely crispness. Then carefully turn the tikkis over and let them sizzle on that medium-high heat for another three minutes – untouched. They’re done and ready to be neatly arranged on a serving dish with your khajur imli chutney alongside.
The recipe calls for ground cilantro. Never heard of it nor is it available locally. So, I assume you mean ground coriander, which is available. So, I’m going to make a substitution.