This achari dahi bhindi is a mouth watering tangy dish that will convert even the okra haters! This saucy, spicy gravy is easy to make and can be made vegan with a simple swap.Pair it with roti, naan or rice to make a complete meal.
Achar = Indian Pickles + Dahi = Yoghurt + Bhindi = Okra
“Achari” basically means pickled in Hindi and Punjabi . This thick gravy is primarily spiced using the same spices that goes into making pickles in certain parts of India. Different parts of India prepare pickles differently. You will basically find pickles made with everything from young mangoes, limes to indigenous root vegetables.
The spicy flavors of the pickling spices are complemented by the tanginess of whisked yoghurt and okra here acts as a perfect base to absorb all of these delicious flavors.
Tips for the Okra novice
Okra goes by the name of “Lady’s Fingers” in India and happens to be my favorite vegetable. I don’t always get fresh okra at the local Indian store but you can bet when I find good ones, they are coming home with me. I worked with a colleague who loves Indian food but was hesitant to try an okra dish. She recalled trying okra and it being all slimy which had put her off trying it again. I don’t really blame her for not wanting to since I have heard many people claim they don’t like vegetables because they grew up eating BBB( boiled beyond belief) vegetables. However she tried the Indian okra dish and she fell in love with it.
- The first tip is to get fresh ones which are fairly long and young. Avoid the short stubby ones since I personally feel they don’t do well in Indian cooking.
- Try lightly pressing against the tip of the base. If you feel its too hard or too soft, avoid picking those ones. They should snap off easily. The best okra I have found is in Indian stores. So look around and feel them before buying them.
- If there are no fresh ones available, then try frozen ones. I would suggest not letting it thaw and directly frying them since they will get soggy otherwise.
If you have been avoiding okra as well, I suggest giving this achari bhindi a try. I sincerely believe this will change your mind
Pickling spices – Achari masala
The pickling spices used in this achari dahi bhindi is a combination of spices. This includes mustard, nigella seeds(onion seeds) , fenugreek, coriander, cumin, fennel and dry red chillies.
We will now dry roast the spices on a medium low heat until toasted. Don’t skip this step because this is what brings out the flavor of these spices. The best way to find out if it done is the fragrance they will release once heated. Keep roasting until you can see the color go brown on certain spots on the red chili. This is difficult to see on the other spices. Turn off the heat and let the spices cool down. Now put them in a spice blender or a mortar & pestle. Grind all the spices well but don’t grind it smooth since a little bit of texture is better . Store this cooled down spice mix in a jar. You can use this for multiple dishes including
- Achari Aloo ( Roasted potatoes flavored with this spice mix)
- Achari Paneer or Tofu ( Use it to marinade tofu or paneer before cooking it)
- Sprinkle on vegetables before grilling or roasting them
This mixture will easily last in your pantry unrefrigerated for 3-4 months. So you can make a little bit extra and use in multiple dishes.
Making the achari bhindi
Cooking the okra right is the most important past of the dish. Get this right and half the work is done. We will start off with rinsing the okra well. We will then wipe it dry with a towel. Cut the top off and chop the okra in to 1/2 ” or 3/4″ pieces. Heat a pan or kadai to medium and add 3 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, slowly add the okra pieces and saute them until slightly crisp. While sautéing it, you will see the slime cut down by the heat and that’s why its important to saute them beforehand. Keep aside.
In the same pan, add a couple of tablespoon of oil. Now add chopped onions and saute till translucent. Add some chopped ginger and mix well. Follow this chopped tomatoes. Then add other spices including turmeric, coriander, cumin , red chilli powder and mix well. Now add the achaari masala and mix.
In a small bowl, whisk together yoghurt(use vegan yoghurt if you prefer) and a spoon of chickpea flour. Add the whisked mixture to the pan and mix well. Now add the fried okra and season to taste. Top off with chopped cilantro and enjoy with rice or any flat bread.
Want to check out more Indian food? Take a look at these recipes
Achari Dahi Bhindi
- 1 lb Fresh Okra washed and cut into 1/2" or 3/4"
- 1 Onion medium sized finely chopped
- 2 Tomatoes medium sized finely chopped
- 1 cup Vegan Yoghurt
- 2 tbsp Chickpea Flour remove lumps before adding
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 2 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder
- 1 tbsp Coriander Powder
- 1 tbsp Cumin Powder
- 1 inch Fresh Ginger finely chopped
- 1/2 cup Cilantro chopped
- Salt to taste
- 5 tbsp Avocado Oil
- 1 tsp Nigella Seeds
- 1 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- 1 tbsp Black Mustard Seeds
- 1 tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tbsp Fennel Seeds
- 1-2 Dry Red Chillis
To make achari masala mix
- Heat a pan at medium low heat. Add all the ingredients to the pan and let it dry roast. Ensure you are constantly stirring all the spices to ensure nothing gets burnt.
- Once you notice the spices getting more fragrant, continue slowly roasting for another 4-5 minutes till nicely toasted. Turn off the stove and let the spices cool down.
- Place these whole spices in a spice grinder or a mortar & pestle. Grind them till there are tiny pieces of spices (not ground completely smooth) to ensure there is some texture. Store in a metal or glass jar.
To make achari dahi bhindi
- Heat a large pan or kadai(Indian wok) at medium heat. Add 3 tbsp of neutral oil and slowly add the okra pieces once the oil is hot
- Saute until the okra is slightly browned and crispy. Make sure not to add salt at this point since this would release moisture and make the okra soggy. Remove and keep aside.
- In the same pan, add 2 tbsp of oil and add the chopped onion. Saute until translucent and then add the ginger. Let it cook for a minute more.
- Now add the chopped tomatoes and the spices besides the achaari masala. Stir well and let cook for 4-5 minutes. Now add 3-4 tsp of achari masala. Season to taste.
- Whisk together the yoghurt and chickpea flour(see recipe notes) and add to the onion- tomato mixture. Cook for a minute and add the okra. Mix well and season more if required.
- Top with chopped cilantro and serve hot with flatbread or rice.
- If you don’t have yoghurt or prefer not to use, skip it altogether and just add a cup of water instead. It will still turn out delicious!
- Yoghurt is whisked with chickpea flour before adding it to the pan to prevent it from splitting.
- Make extra of the Achari Masala to use with other vegetables like potatoes or non melting cheese like paneer. Use it as a marinade for tofu before cooking it.
- Frying or sautéing okra separately is key to ensuring it does not get soggy and “snotty”. Always add the fired okra black in the end just before tuning off the stove in a gravy like dish.
- Nigella seeds are also called onion seeds and are usually available at an Indian store. They look like matte black sesame seeds.