From the beginning of time, when humans discovered fire and the very concept of cooking itself, fritters have bubbled up across all cultures. Defined primarily as battered and fried morsels, the specifics that flavor these nuggets are limitless. Vegetables, fruits, or proteins could be the main feature, or a combination, or none of the above. The dough could be raised by yeast or baking soda or eggs, or left unleavened altogether. Served at any meal from day break to nightfall and in between, fritters can be sweet or savory, spicy or mild, served hot or cold. When you start trying to pin down exactly what a fritter is, it might be easier to describe what it isn’t instead.
Most Americans are familiar with simple, comforting fritters born primarily in the south; apple fritters are a staple lining in any decent pink doughnut shop box, while corn fritters are essential summer snacks. The French have beignets, while Italians call them bigne. Pakora hail from India, binding together bits of onion, potatoes, cauliflower or other vegetables in savory, seasoned chickpea flour.
While I could write a whole dissertation about the diverse world of fritters, I’d like to draw attention to a less celebrated sort today: the black eyed pea fritter. Known also as accara, this legume-based variant is primarily found in Africa. You could almost think of them as falafel from another motherland. Dried pulses blended coarsely with spices, fried until golden and crisp, they’re irresistible eaten out of hand as a snack, but work well in everything from sandwiches to salads.
This recipe comes from Chef Philip Gelb, who in turn adapted it from Bryant Terry. I was fortunate enough to first taste this beloved street food first hand, at one of his cooking classes eons ago. They were part of a lavish Jamaican spread including jerk cauliflower, calaloo, run down stew, and peas and rice, but I daresay they stole the show. Paired with a tart, tangy, sweet, and spicy tamarind chutney, I have a feeling you’ll fall in love with them, too.
Black Eyed Pea Fritters:
- 1 Cup Dried Black Eyed Peas, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
- 1/2 Cup Raw Peanuts
- 5 Pods Fresh Okra
- 1 Tablespoon Yellow Cornmeal
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
- 1/4 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 6 Tablespoons Water
- 1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- Neutral Oil, for Frying
- 1 Cup Water
- 1/4 Cup Tamarind Concentrate
- 1 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
- 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- After draining and rinsing the black eyed peas, place them in a large bowl and cover with fresh water. Massage them between your fingers to crack the peas while removing their papery skins. Skim the loosened skins off the top of the water and discard. No need to get every last one, but be as thorough as possible. Rinse and drain the beans well before proceeding.
- Transfer the beans along with all the remaining ingredients for the fritters into a food processor and pulse until well combined, but not completely smooth. Place the mixture in your fridge and chill for 30 - 60 minutes, to help thicken the coarse paste.
- Meanwhile, to prepare the chutney, place all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to simmer over medium heat. Cover, stirring often, for 20 minutes, until slightly thickened. Let cool completely.
- When you're ready to cook the fritters, heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan to 375 degrees. Scoop out small balls, about 1 heaping tablespoon each, and deep fry until deeply browned and crispy on the outside, and cooked all the way through; about 3 - 4 minutes.
- Serve immediately while piping hot.
The tamarind chutney can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge, stored in an airtight container, for up to three weeks. I prefer serving it thoroughly chilled to contrast with the hot fritters, but it can be enjoyed right away, fresh off the stove.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 364Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 549mgCarbohydrates: 63gFiber: 8gSugar: 41gProtein: 13g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.