SEEMA Cooks: Savory Cabbage Lentil Bites

Image courtesy of Malathy Chandrasekhar

Medu vada is a more popular version of our current recipe for cabbage vada. The first is a savory South Indian doughnut made with lentils, spices and which are deep-fried. As in the case of doughnuts, there are several varieties of vadas. I like savory snacks more than sweet ones, so, given a choice, I’ll go for a vada nine out of 10 times! I’d like to say this is a choice between the frying pan and the fire — both doughnuts and vadas are deep-fried. While doughnuts are loaded with sugar, vadas are not. Some consolation!

Fried Food

Don’t we love fried food?! Why is it that anything you really enjoy is mostly bad for you? Not fair! While I’m pretty good at controlling my fried food urges, I do crave samosas, pakoras, bajjis and other Indian fried food. I have to get my junk food fix occasionally — like, once every other month. Our Indian store has a great chaat outlet that serves delicious spicy, salty, fried Indian food. Chaat is street food in India and is extremely popular. Every one of my friends in India, has their favorite chaat outlet!

Healthy Snacking

While it is OK to indulge occasionally, we all know that fried food is not healthy. It will get you, sooner or later. Therefore, I’m always exploring healthier snack options, so I can enjoy my favorite food and yet not feel guilty. I look at this at two levels. First, the ingredients. Can I add ingredients that enhance the nutritional value? Next, the cooking method. Can I grill, steam, bake, broil, or air fry instead of deep-frying? With some recipes you just have to deep-fry, so leave them out of the discussion. There are so many dishes that can be baked or air-fried. Why not focus on those?

The Cabbage Vada

After my success with banana nuggets, I decided to take a shot at cabbage vada. My mom used to make this on weekends as a special treat. It is crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, somewhat spicy, and enjoyed hot with tomato chutney or coconut chutney. Mmmmm! Just thinking of them makes my mouth water! I called my mom one morning, asked her for the recipe, and told her I was planning to bake them. The only tip she gave me was that the batter should not be runny and that I should make it as thick as possible.

Bake or Air-Fry?

This dish turns out great, baked or air-fried. The downside with baking is that it takes longer (you need to preheat) and occasionally tends to stick to the foil. It needs more time to cool before you pull it off the foil. The upside is that you can bake larger quantities, unlike when you use the air-fryer. What I like the most is that these bites freeze well and can be cooked straight out of the freezer (no thawing required). If you’re having people over, this is a great make-ahead snack. Go ahead and impress your friends!

Why Is This Healthy?

Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C, crucial for maintaining a strong immune system. Urad (black gram lentil) is a very filling food, high in protein, resistant starch and dietary fiber. Flax seeds are rich in fiber, help control cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

The Recipe

Course: Snack

Cuisine: Indian

Special diet: Gluten Free, Grain Free, No Added Sugar, Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

Prep time:15 minutes

Cook time:15 minutes

Soak time and freeze time: 4 hours

Total time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Serves: 5

Calories: 178 kcal


  • 1 cup black gram lentils (urad dal)
  • 2 cups cabbage, fine-cut
  • 1 cup onion, fine-cut
  • 4 Green chili peppers. Or to taste
  • 1 tbsp ginger, fresh, chopped
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds, milled
  • 1/2 cup filtered water
  • 1 pinch baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt. Or to taste
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil, to spray


  1. Make sure you have the following items ready: 1. Black gram lentils washed and soaked for 2 hrs. 2. Fine cut cabbage and onion 3. Ginger and chili pepper 4. Milled flax seeds
  2. Blend ginger and chili peppers. Drain water from urad dal (lentil). Add soaked lentils, flax seeds, salt, baking powder, water and blend to a fine paste. Make sure the batter is as thick as possible.
  3. Add cabbage, onions and blended batter to a bowl and mix well.
  4. Baking:
    Preheat oven to 375F. Spread aluminum foil on a baking container, spray oil and set vada on the foil. Set tray in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Spray oil and set to broil high for 3 minutes. Remove foil from baking container and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes before you peel vada off the foil.
  5. Freezing (a must if you are air-frying):
    Lay aluminum foil on a baking tray and spray avocado oil evenly. With the spoon lay out large nugget sized portions on the tray evenly (you should get about 20 pieces). Set the baking tray in the freezer for about 2 hours. Transfer these frozen bites to 4-piece portions and store in a freezer bag.
  6. Air Frying:
    Spray oil on air fryer tray. Set vada bites on the tray and spray oil on top. Close and set temperature at 375F with a 12-minute timer.
  7. Serve hot with spicy, tangy, tomato chutney or coconut chutney.


*Use organic ingredients wherever possible.

For the full recipe, go here!

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