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Recipe: Air Fryer Dahi Baras

Last updated on: March 26, 2024 11:06 IST
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Photograph: Kind courtesy: Dforest/Wikimedia Commons

Our family Holis gained, literally, so much more colour and joy when we moved to India in the late 1970s.

The small medical community, who lived in the pretty sarkari quarters around the central government psychiatric hospital my dad headed, in sleepy, pastoral Kanke, outside Ranchi, got together to celebrate Holi each year.

A happy group of black, pink and green-faced men, some women and children -- who were students, doctors, psychologists, social workers, nursing/administrative staff, neighbours and other hangers on -- would move from house to house, playing a round of vigorous, boisterous but not overzealous Holi in the garden of each home (not too rough, no silver paint or cow dung).

Someone would be carrying a dholak and songs were sung. Much of the cheer was no doubt due, perhaps, to a touch of bhang-laced thandai or edibles, that had probably been consumed somewhere along the way. There were eats to be had at some homes too, I believe, probably barfis, other types of sweets and Dahi Baras (also called dahi bhalle/dahi vada).

Ranchi Holi

IMAGE: Memories of boisterous Kanke Holis. Photograph: Zelda Pande

In the evening, after everyone had done a laborious job of scrubbing off the colour they had collected and bathed -- although a pink ear or two or a green hand was still visible -- they would gather at our home for a night of singing. The furniture had been removed from the drawing room and the rugs were covered in bedsheets. In front of the fireplace Moti had set up his dhol and harmonium.

There was a 100-115 (!)-year-old, bent-over janitor, called Hare Narayan, who had worked in our bungalow since the British had been there (he had a real name, but was called Hare Narayan because he muttered that every two minutes). Moti was his son, who was left blind by a childhood bout of trachoma, if I remember correctly. He had a beautiful, powerful voice.


The evening would begin at around seven and the indefatigable Moti would take off singing every song Bollywood had ever produced, with many joining in. Thande Thande Paani Se Nahana and Khaike Pan Banaraswala were always sung. So were Ramaiya Vastavaiya and Yeh Dosti Hum Nehi Todenge. And after two or three hours of Moti going at it, he had everyone in the room singing, swaying and clapping their hands.

At the end of the sing-a-thon, my mom rustled up a meal of 200-300 puris, or more, served with spicy Raseela Alu and there was something sweet to close the meal and everyone went home with memories tucked away of another good Holi celebrated.

Holi treats are always about thandai, malpua, dahi baras, gujiyas, jalebis and more. Dahi Baras always trump the spread.

The way we make Dahi Baras at home -- my mom always made it for guests -- was with a simple seasoning of jeera powder, green dhaniya and lal mirch in the dahi and it was never sweet, although it was served with imli chutney.

On Instagram I came across recipe from India-raised, Germany-based Mizna, who has a cooking blog called indischwindisch, for baked Dahi Baras, that involved no deep frying. I decided to adapt it a bit and try making it in the air fryer.

After the baras came out of the fryer, I soaked them, the way my mom did, in hot water, but I salted and seasoned the water with a piece of whole hing. Later I added them to dahi, spiced like it was in my home. The lack of frying took nothing away from the dish's taste, I assure you. But the texture is different from fried vadas and works only for Dahi Baras or maybe Dahi Vada Chaat.

IMAGE: The final product -- a bowl of air fryer baras. Photograph: Zelda Pande

Air Fryer Dahi Baras

Serves: 7-8


For the baras

  • ¾ cup white urad dal or white gram
  • ¼ cup yellow mung dal or yellow split mung beans
  • 2 dark green chillies
  • 1½-inch piece ginger
  • ½ tsp jeera or cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp salt + extra for the soaking water
  • Generous pinch baking soda
  • ½ tsp hing or asafoetida powder
  • Water
  • Small piece whole hing
  • Oil for greasing the muffin pan
  • Silicon air fryer muffin pan (available online)

For the dahi

  • 400 ml dahi or yoghurt
  • 1-2 tsp jeera or cumin powder
  • Dash hing or asafoetida powder
  • 1 tsp lal mirch or chilly powder
  • Salt to taste, about 1½ tsp
  • 1 tsp chaat masala
  • 3 tbsp chopped green dhaniya or coriander or cilantro
  • Imli or tamarind chutney

IMAGE: Filling the bara batter in silicon muffin moulds. Photograph: Zelda Pande


  • Soak the urad dal and yellow mung dal together in enough water for 6-7 hours or overnight.
  • In a mixer/blender, grind the dals, without water, with the ginger, green chillies, jeera, salt.
    Turn the ground mixture into a bowl and season with the baking soda and the hing.
    The batter should be fairly salty because after it bakes it, for some reason, tastes less salty.
  • Preheat the air fryer for 5 minutes at 180°C.
    Smear oil into the muffin pan moulds and drop just 1 heaping tsp batter into each muffin mould.
    Don't add extra batter or the baras will become too big.
    Place in the air fryer to bake/fry for 15 minutes at 180°C.
  • While the baras are getting done, heat 3-4 cups water with 1-2 tsp salt and the chunk of crystalline hing in a saucepan over high heat, till it nearly reaches boiling point and keep aside and ready.
  • Halfway through, when the dahi baras have been cooking for 7-8 minutes in the air fryer, drizzle a little oil on top of each bara and return to the air fryer.
    When the baras are done (there is no need to check them) take the muffin pan out of the air fryer carefully and cool them 5 minutes.
    You will get about 12-13 baras.
    Dunk them into the hot salted hing water and let them soak 10-15 minutes.
    Fish the baras out from the water and squeeze the water out of each bara.

IMAGE: Cooked baras coming out of the air fryer. Minimum oil was used. Photograph: Zelda Pande

For the assembly

  • Whip the 400 ml dahi with the salt, chaat masala and refrigerate.
  • Place all the baras at the bottom of a flat glass bowl and pour the chilled dahi mixture over them.
    Then sprinkle the jeera powder, chilly powder and garnish with the dhaniya.
    Dab the top of each bara with ½ tsp imli chutney.
  • Chill in the fridge for half an hour or more and serve.

Happy Holi!

Zelda's Note: If using store-bought dahi, you might like to loosen it with a little water or it will be too thick.
Once the baras soak in the dahi they become very soft, so if you don't plan to have all the baras on a day, keep a few aside in the fridge (or in a ziplock bag in the freezer as per Mizna's advice) and assemble afresh with the dahi.

You might like to use Pankaj Bhadouria's recipe of Imli Chutney.

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