Vada Curry – Crispy masala vadai simmered in flavorful onion-tomato-coconut gravy! This vadacurry or vadakari is a popular recipe from Tamil Nadu and a perfect accompaniment for idli and dosa. Check out how to make this recipe with detailed step-wise pictures. 

overhead shot of vada kari served in black bowl with some vada and cilantro on the side

I am back with another side dish recipe for idli and dosa, which is quite popular in Tamil Nadu, especially in Chennai. Idli and vada curry and dosa (especially set dosa or kal dosa) and vada curry are very popular combo in the restaurants. Let’s get straight into the recipe details. 

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What is vada curry

As the name indicates, it is a curry with vada or deep-fried lentil patties. (PS – there is a vada curry Tamil movie as well; don’t get confused with that. We are talking about the vada curry or vada kari recipe) This recipe is quite popular in Tamil Nadu, especially Madras/Chennai. You can find many restaurants serving idli and vadacurry or dosa and vadacurry combo. It is a delicious combo, and we enjoy it a lot. 

My version of vada curry

I learned this recipe from our friend, Srinivas, a chef and a restauranteur. I modified the recipe to our taste preference, and here is my version – home-style vadacurry. This gravy is more like a combination of kurma and kuzhambu without any tamarind. The freshly ground coconut masala adds a nice flavor. 

The ingredient list and procedure may sound lengthy, but it’s a straightforward recipe. Trust me; I have made this for parties(atleast 40 people in the party) and potlucks. It’s a bit involved recipe but not a complicated one.

We first prepare the masala vadai and then make the gravy, like kurma kuzhambu and add the vadai to the gravy. There is some soaking time involved for the vadai, so plan. Please check the make-ahead options and substitutions for more details. 

Ingredients required

For the vadai batter, we soak the chana dal (desi split-chickpeas), dry chilies, and grind them. Then add some onion, curry leaves, cilantro, salt, asafoetida, ground turmeric also some crushed fennel seeds, which is the key ingredient that adds so much flavor to this vadai. We also add some rice flour for the crispiness. 

To fry the vada, we need some oil. I used cold-pressed groundnut oil. You can use vegetable oil or corn oil too. 

For the gravy, we prepare freshly ground masala, for which we use whole spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, poppy seeds, and fennel seeds and grind it along with coconut. 

Finally, we need onion, tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste, salt, turmeric powder, and sambar powder to spice up the curry for the gravy base. Also, to temper, we need oil and mustard seeds. 

We use both curry leaves and cilantro for the enhanced flavor, and if you can’t source one, please skip it and don’t look out for any substitutions for these herbs. 

Please find all the ingredients and their measurements on the recipe card. 

How to make vada curry

Prepare the masala vadai

Prepare the vadai batter.

  • Soak the chana dal and dried red chilies in 2 cups or a sufficient amount of water for 2 hours. 
soaking the lentils and chilies for the vadai
  • Drain the water from the chana dal and add it to the mixer jar. Tear the soaked red chilies pieces and add them as well.
adding the drained lentils and chilies to the mixer jar
  • Using pulse mode, grind the batter coarsely. Do not grind it in one go and make it into a smooth batter. If needed, add 1 tbsp of water when grinding but not more than that. Transfer it to a bowl and add the onion, crushed fennel seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, rice flour, salt, cilantro, and curry leaves. Mix well, and the batter is ready. 
adding the other ingredients for the vadai

Fry the vadai.

  • Heat the oil for frying in a kadai. Drop a small piece of vadai batter into the oil. If the oil is hot, the batter will rise immediately and sizzle. 
  • Wet your palms and shake off the excess water. Take a small lime/gooseberry size vadai mixture like below.
taking a small size of the batter
  • And flatten it into a small pattie and slowly and carefully drop it into the oil. 
flattening the batter and forming a pattie
  • Let it fry for 30 to 45 seconds and slowly flip them. 
frying the vadas
  • Fry until the vada turns golden brown over medium to medium-low heat. By this time, the sizzling sound will reduce as well. Depending upon your pan size, you can fry 3 to 4 in one batch. 
golden brown masala vadai
  • Similarly, flatten and fry the vada with the remaining batter. Drain the fried vadai on a kitchen towel. The above measure yields 11 small vadai, and for this gravy, we need 5 to 6 vadai. 
deep fried masala vada

Prepare the vada curry.

Prepare the fresh masala paste.

  • Soak the poppy seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds in ¼ cup of water for about 10 minutes. I don’t discard the water and soak it directly in the mixer jar.
soaking the whole spices
  • Add the grated coconut and grind it into a smooth paste by adding ½ cup of water and set it aside.

Prepare the gravy

  • Heat a pan and add two tsps of oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then add the chopped onion, curry leaves, and ginger-garlic paste. Cook until the onion turns soft and translucent. 
cooking onions, ginger garlic paste and curry leaves
  • Now add the chopped tomatoes, ground turmeric, and salt. Add ¼ cup water, cover, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and mushy for about 8 minutes.
adding the chopped tomatoes and cooking
  • Add the sambar powder and mix well. Cook the gravy for three more minutes
adding the sambar powder
  • Add the ground coconut paste.
adding the ground masala
  • Add ½ cup of water and simmer the gravy for 5 minutes.
gravy mixed with ground masala
  • In parallel, take 5 to 6 vada and chop them into four pieces or big chunks. Add this vada to the gravy. 
adding the vada to the gravy
  • Add ¾ to 1 cup of water and mix well. Simmer the gravy again for 5 minutes. Finally, add the cilantro and turn off the heat. Vadacurry is ready, and serve it with idli or dosa. 
vada curry simmering

Dietary specifications

This vadacurry is naturally vegan and nut-free. For a gluten-free version, use gluten-free asafoetida or skip the asafoetida. 

If you can’t source poppy seeds, you can skip them. 

Make ahead options and storing

You can make the masala vadai ahead and if you are doing it the day before, let the vadai cool before storing it in the refrigerator. Also, bring it to room temperature before adding it to the gravy.

If you plan to make the vada curry for a party or plan to make it ahead, prepare the vada and the gravy separately. Do not add the vada to the gravy if you are not planning to serve it immediately, as the vada absorbs all the liquid in the gravy. So add the vada to the gravy and microwave it or simmer it for 5 minutes before serving. 

Alternatively, you can a minimal amount of gravy to the chopped vada and store it separately. And when needed, add the vada to the gravy and simmer it. In this way, the vada would have absorbed some of the flavors from the gravy. 

close up shot of vada curry served in black bowl placed on a green mat

Substitutions and variations

You can try this vada curry with masala vadai or thavala vadai too. The medu vadai, prepared with urad dal, won’t work. 

Instead of deep-frying the vada, you can also steam them, but in that case, it will be more like paruppu urundai kurma kuzhambu. But hey, if you have dietary restrictions, go for it. Health is always the priority. 

You can also try it with frozen and thawed falafels. It might sound odd, but it works. The parsley in the falafel alters the taste a bit, but if you are not keen on deep-frying at home, you can try the falafels or buy the masala vadai from the restaurant. 🙂 

VVK tips & recipe notes

  • Adjust the salt and spices for the vadai batter and the gravy according to your preference.
  • Don’t grind the vadai batter too smooth or too coarse. While grinding, carefully add water. Add the water only if required.
  • Always fry the vada in medium to medium-low heat for even cooking. Don’t overcrowd your pan with too many vadas. 
  • If the vadai batter becomes runny/watery, add a little chickpea flour/kadalai maavu or rice flour and thicken it. 
  • The crushed fennel seeds add flavor to the vadai, so do not skip them. You can crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and pulse them coarsely in a mixer jar. 
  • You will need approx 2 cups of water for the gravy. Adjust it according to the consistency preference. The vadai absorbs all the liquid as the gravy rests, so serve it immediately or add the vada before serving. 
  • We are not adding any green chilies, and the spice comes only from the sambar powder. I used my homemade sambar powder. You can use a store-bought one too. Add as per your spice preference. You can reduce the sambar powder quantity and add red chili powder or add one or two green chilies while grinding the masala. 
  • Please refer to the substitution and make ahead details sections for the variations and storing suggestions. 
vadakari in black bowl with some vada and cilantro on the side placed on green mat

Explore other South Indian Curries

PS If you try this vadakari , please don’t forget to comment and rate this recipe. If you have any questions, please leave a comment, and I will get to it ASAP. Follow me on my Pinterest for more healthy and delicious ideas! Follow me on Instagram or join my Facebook Group for more recipe updates! You can also sign-up for my newsletter for weekly updates.

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vada curry gravy served on black bowl placed on a green mat

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Vada Curry | South Indian Vada Curry Recipe

Vada Curry-Crispy masala vadai simmered in flavorful onion-tomato-coconut gravy! This vadacurry or vadakari is a popular recipe from Tamil Nadu and a perfect accompaniment for idli and dosa.

Prep Time15 mins

Cook Time50 mins

Soaking Time2 hrs

Total Time3 hrs 5 mins

Course: Entree

Cuisine: Tamil Nadu

Servings: 6

Calories: 626kcal

Ingredients

Measurement Details: 1 cup=240ml; 1 tbsp = 15ml; 1 tsp = 5ml;

Instructions

Prepare the vadai batter.

  • Soak the chana dal and dried red chilies in 2 cups or a sufficient amount of water for 2 hours.
  • Drain the water from the chana dal and add it to the mixer jar. Tear the soaked red chilies pieces and add them as well.
  • Using pulse mode, grind the batter coarsely. Do not grind it in one go and make it into a smooth batter. If needed, add 1 tbsp of water when grinding but not more than that. Transfer it to a bowl and add the onion, crushed fennel seeds, asafoetida, turmeric, rice flour, salt, cilantro, and curry leaves. Mix well, and the batter is ready.

Fry the vadai.

  • Heat the oil for frying in a kadai. Drop a small piece of vadai batter into the oil. If the oil is hot, the batter will rise immediately and sizzle.
  • Wet your palms and shake off the excess water. Take a small lime/gooseberry size vadai mixture like below.
  • And flatten it into a small pattie and slowly and carefully drop it into the oil.
  • Let it fry for 30 to 45 seconds and slowly flip them.
  • Fry until the vada turns golden brown over medium to medium-low heat. By this time, the sizzling sound will reduce as well. Depending upon your pan size, you can fry 3 to 4 in one batch.
  • Similarly, flatten and fry the vada with the remaining batter. Drain the fried vadai on a kitchen towel. The above measure yields 11 small vadai, and for this gravy, we need 5 to 6 vadai.

Prepare the fresh masala paste.

  • Soak the poppy seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and fennel seeds in ¼ cup of water for about 10 minutes. I don’t discard the water and soak it directly in the mixer jar. Add the grated coconut and grind it into a smooth paste by adding ½ cup of water and set it aside.

Prepare the gravy

  • Heat a pan and add two tsps of oil. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Then add the chopped onion, curry leaves, and ginger-garlic paste. Cook until the onion turns soft and translucent.
  • Now add the chopped tomatoes, ground turmeric, and salt. Add ¼ cup water, cover, and cook until the tomatoes are soft and mushy for about 8 minutes.
  • Add the sambar powder and mix well. Cook the gravy for three more minutes
  • Add the ground coconut paste. Add ½ cup of water and simmer the gravy for 5 minutes.
  • Parallelly, take 5 to 6 vada and chop them into four pieces or big chunks. Add this vada to the gravy.
  • Add ¾ to 1 cup of water and mix well. Simmer the gravy again for 5 minutes. Finally, add the cilantro and turn off the heat. Vadacurry is ready, and serve it with idli or dosa.

Notes

  • Adjust the salt and spices for the vadai batter and the gravy according to your preference.
  • Don’t grind the vadai batter too smooth or too coarse. While grinding, carefully add water. Add the water only if required.
  • Always fry the vada in medium to medium-low heat for even cooking. Don’t overcrowd your pan with too many vadas. 
  • If the vadai batter becomes runny/watery, add a little chickpea flour/kadalai maavu or rice flour and thicken it. 
  • The crushed fennel seeds add flavor to the vadai, so do not skip them. You can crush the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and pulse them coarsely in a mixer jar. 
  • You will need approx 2 cups of water for the gravy. Adjust it according to the consistency preference. The vadai absorbs all the liquid as the gravy rests, so serve it immediately or add the vada before serving. 
  • We are not adding any green chilies, and the spice comes only from the sambar powder. I used my homemade sambar powder. You can use a store-bought one too. Add as per your spice preference. You can reduce the sambar powder quantity and add red chili powder or add one or two green chilies while grinding the masala. 
  • Please refer to the substitution and make ahead details sections for the variations and storing suggestions. 

 

Nutrition

Calories: 626kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 61g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Monounsaturated Fat: 37g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 885mg | Potassium: 260mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 621IU | Vitamin C: 97mg | Calcium: 85mg | Iron: 2mg

I am not a nutritionist. The nutritional information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. It varies depending upon the product types or brands.

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