Inexpensive, easy-to-make fritters start with two base ingredients and make an endlessly customizable, protein-rich side or vegan entree.
Two main ingredients get you started with these healthy fritters, and then you can experiment with all sorts of combinations.
Adding to the appeal, the easy-to-make recipe will pull double duty as a crowd-pleasing side or vegan entree thanks to its great taste and novel, protein-rich base.
Years ago, my friend, Betsy, made corn fritters that I considered rather unique at the time. Instead of binding them with the traditional flour and eggs, she used chickpea flour.
I was reminded of these hearty fritters when I saw a Kitchn post, where Sheela Prakash described an Indian street food called pakoras. Traditionally deep fried, pakoras are fritters made with a variety of shredded or finely chopped vegetables. Like Betsy’s corn fritters, pakoras rely on chickpea flour as a binder.
Chickpea flour, also called garbanzo flour, is made of dried white chickpeas that are ground into a flour. The upside of this mild-tasting flour is that it is protein- and fiber-rich, naturally gluten-free, and inexpensive.
Because the use of this flour will bind the fritters without the need for eggs or cheese, it provides an excellent vegan alternative as well.
Of course, what good is a recipe that’s easy, healthy, economical, and conforms to a variety of dietary restrictions if it doesn’t taste great?
My family of meat-loving, sometimes picky guys adore these healthy fritters, so rest assured they have wide appeal!
I appreciate the fritters as a simple way to use an abundance of vegetables in a way that everyone enjoys. As an added convenience, the recipe can be made ahead and freezes well.
Using the traditional Indian street food as an inspiration, feel free to experiment with other shredded raw vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and regular potatoes. You could mix in some grated onion, finely chopped bell pepper, or fresh or frozen (and thawed) corn as well. While moisture-rich zucchini and summer squash benefit from squeezing out the excess liquid, these vegetables have a lower moisture content and may be used as is.
Fresh dark, leafy greens and broccoli are also fair game. For these, it’s best to chop, blanch, and squeeze out the excess moisture. Alternatively, frozen and thawed chopped greens could be used and still need to be squeezed.
Note that when using vegetables that do not require squeezing out the excess liquid, you will want to add about 2 tablespoons of water for every 2 cups of prepared veggies and ½ cup of chickpea flour.
Because zucchinis vary widely in size, I mention weights in the following recipe for those who use a kitchen scale. For those who don’t, a good rule of thumb is 2 cups of prepared vegetables (that means measuring after squeezing out the liquid) to ½ cup of chickpea flour. This will yield 8 fritters, or 6 if you scoop generously as I sometimes do. You may absolutely double the recipe. In that case, I do find it more effective to remove the excess liquid in batches. (I like to use a tea towel to literally wring it out.)
When cooking in batches, you may keep the fritters warm in a low oven (about 200℉) or simply return the cooked fritters to the skillet to warm at the end. As an added bonus, the fritters taste fantastic as leftovers and can be warmed in the microwave, the oven, or on the stovetop. I really like them cold, too.
Though delicious on their own, the fritters may be paired with a sauce. Anything from Greek yogurt or tzatziki to sriracha mayo and hummus work well. I love the way tomatoes complement zucchini, so I sometimes make Speedy Cherry Tomato Sauce to serve alongside. It’s a winning combination that, together, will hold their own as a complete meal.
Additional ways to serve these fritters:
- Stuff the fritters into a pita along with sliced tomato, greens or thinly sliced cucumbers, and a yogurt sauce or hummus. Sliced avocado offers another lovely addition.
- If you enjoy a savory breakfast, I recommend giving these a try. For more protein, you could top the fritters with a fried egg.
- Serve as a veggie burger.
- Mix things up even more by making smaller fritters and serving as an appetizer or snack. And don’t forget the make-ahead convenience.
- Those who have an air fryer would likely find success cooking these fritters that way.
What to buy? If you’ve never purchased chickpea flour (also called garbanzo flour) and would like a visual, here is one example, and here is another (although I have bought other brands as available). It may be located in the international aisle or, in the case of a Bob’s Red Mill product, clustered with that company’s other offerings.
While chickpea flour is ground up white chickpeas, there are similar flours called besan or gram flour, which are flours made of split peas or brown chickpeas. For consistent results, I recommend the chickpea flour. If you branch out, however, you will likely have success and may simply need to add a little more water.
- 2 large or 3 medium zucchini and/or summer squash*
- ½ cup (60g) chickpea flour
- Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
- Olive oil for the pan (about 2 tablespoons total)
- Optional: ½ teaspoon spices like smoked paprika or ground cumin; 2-3 tablespoons grated red onion; 2-ish tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like dill or chives**
Slice off the stem end of the zucchini and grate with a box or similar handheld grater or with the shredding disk of a food processor. Toss the shredded zucchini with ½ teaspoon salt and place in a colander and let drain for at least 10 minutes and up to 30 or so. Squeeze the excess moisture out and transfer to a mixing bowl. (Tip: I like to wring the shredded zucchini out in a tea towel to remove the bulk of the excess liquid easily, but you could ball it up and squeeze with the aid of paper towels instead. See notes for more hints.)
Stir the chickpea flour, ½ teaspoon salt, and fresh pepper to taste (I use about ¼ teaspoon of pepper) into the drained zucchini along with the fresh herbs and spices if using. (My go-to is a ½ teaspoon of ground cumin or smoked paprika. A little red onion is nice, too; just grate it as you do the zucchini. Remember that you can taste the batter to check for seasoning if you’d like to add more, as there are no eggs.)
Check to see if you can form a patty in your hands. If the mixture seems wet and runny, you’ll want to add a little more flour (and try to squeeze out a little more moisture next time). If it’s too dry, add a tablespoon or two of water (and pat yourself on the back for strong hands!).
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. (I use my 12-inch cast iron skillet.) You can eyeball this—you want enough oil to nicely coat the bottom of the pan. When the skillet is hot, drop in ¼ cup of batter (I either use my ¼ cup measure as a scoop or roll the mixture into equal-size patties first), and lightly flatten with a spatula. Repeat, leaving space between each fritter. (I cook four per batch.) Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Flip and cook 2-3 minutes to brown the other side. Remove to a plate, add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and repeat with the remaining batter. If the fritters are browning too quickly at any point, reduce the heat to medium.
Fritters can be made in advance and reheated in a 325℉ oven until warm. I often microwave leftovers or warm them in a low skillet—or even eat as cold finger food, as they are quite good that way. The fritters will keep for 5-7 days in the fridge and may be frozen.
*The size of zucchini and summer squash varies greatly. For this recipe, I use about 20-22 ounces of grated zucchini and end up squeezing out about 8 ounces liquid, ending up with 12-14 ounces of shredded vegetable. Figure on two packed cups once the moisture has been removed. This is not an exact science, so feel free to adjust with a little less or more chickpea flour. You want a patty that holds together easily and is a little sticky but not wet.
**Feel free to experiment with a mix of other herbs and spices. A small amount of fresh mint or basil would likely nice, as would some dried chili powder, sumac, and a little onion and/or garlic powder.