If there is one food that stirs up so many childhood memories for me, it is this. I remember our family dinners, helping my mom toast up the pav bread buns while she mashed up the kacha keda (green plantain) to seamlessly turn the traditionally potato-based recipe Jain. Or how we’d savor our last day of our India trips with a scooter ride to the local Pav Bhaji walla, guided by the intoxicating aroma for one last taste of Mumbai.
Pav Bhaji is a flavorful mélange of mashed veggies simmered in fragrant spices to create a bold bhaji (curry), that is scooped up with lightly toasted fluffy pav (bread rolls) smothered in butter. Needless to say, it is one of the most iconic street foods from Mumbai. While it is totally okay to indulge in the street version of Pav Bhaji once in a while, it is so easy to make a healthier version at home that is both vegan and Jain.
An otherwise starchy and carb-heavy dish can be made with less than half the carb content by making some simple, but equally tasty swaps:
- Nutrient density matters! Swap out potatoes and plantains for lower carb & less starchy options like butternut squash or cauliflower:
- For comparison, per 100 g:
- Potatoes: 77 calories, 17.5 g carbs, 2.1 g fiber, 15.3 g starch
- Kacha Keda (Green Plantains): 152 calories, 36.7 g carbs, 2.2 g fiber, 32 g starch
- Butternut Squash: 45 calories, 11.7 g carbs, 2 g fiber
- Cauliflower: 25 calories, 5 g carbs, 2 g fiber
- If you are pre-diabetic, diabetic, or simply watching your carbohydrate intake, the swaps above can help reduce carbohydrate and starch content and while providing a similar texture & consistency. As a reminder, always talk to your physician or registered dietician before making any dietary changes.
- For comparison, per 100 g:
- Diets high in refined starches are linked to a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. Fiber and complex carbs are less processed and digested more slowly than the simple carbs found in processed foods. This means they don’t spike and crash your blood sugar as rapidly and they keep you fuller and more satisfied for longer. In turn, this can help prevent snacking on unhealthy foods. So skip the refined grains and serve up the bhaji with a serving of multigrain rolls, Ezekiel bread, salad greens, or quinoa.
- The more the merrier! Add an abundance of vitamin-rich veggies like bell pepper & zucchini
- A touch of olive or avocado oil adds a rich creaminess without butter. You can also use a vegan butter alternative, like this one by Miyoko’s.
- For added protein, mix in edamame, unflavored pea protein powder, textured vegetable protein, soya chunks, or crumbled tofu into your bhaji.
With these simple swaps, this healthier version of Pav Bhaji comes quite close to the street food version, and can be enjoyed by anyone!
Want to cook together live today?
As part of the Global Compassion Organization and Jaina Diabetes 360 series final lecture, I will be demonstrating this recipe live TODAY, May 16th at 2 PM PST/5 PM EST! If you’d like to hop on for the cooking demo, click here!
Mumbai Pav Bhaji
Vegan, Jain, Nut-free, Diabetes-friendly
- 1 cup chopped butternut squash or cauliflower
- 1 cup green peas
- 3 cups diced tomatoes
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
- 1 stem celery, finely sliced
- 1 small zucchini, diced
- 1 green chili, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp pav bhaji masala
- 2 tsp Kashmiri red chili
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 tsp hing
- 1-2 tsp salt, to taste
- Juice of 1 lemon, to taste
- Small handful cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 tsp avocado or olive oil
- Pressure cook butternut squash and green peas on high for 15 minutes. Remove and use a masher or fork to roughly mash the mixture.
- To a pot, add 2 tsp oil on medium heat. Add cumin seeds, green chili, hing, and temper for 1 minute. Add celery, sauté until translucent.
- Add bell peppers, and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add remaining spices: turmeric, pav bhaji masala, and Kashmiri red chili and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes, zucchini, and 1 tsp salt. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of water, and cover to cook for 7-8 minutes until vegetables are soft and mushy.
- Add mashed butternut squash and peas mixture, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Use a hand blender to roughly blend the bhaji, keeping it slightly coarse.
- Finish with salt to taste and lemon juice. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot along with toasted whole-grain pav, Ezekiel bread, salad, or quinoa.
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In good health and spirits,