Gluten Free Recipes

Pen Bhaji

Pen Bhaji
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“Pen Bhaji” a simple, rustic and gluten-free dish I adore! 

There are so many dishes I ate growing up, and most of them, especially cooked by my mother were my absolute favourites, like this Pen Bhaji. Often I would yearn for this delicious Pen Bhaji with a hot Bhakri ( Sorghum flour flatbreads), but I wouldn’t find the ingredients for it. So when mum and dad visited us last October, she brought some of the ingredients with her to make these dishes. Talk about mother love, right! 

Pen Bhaji is that quintessential dish from South-Western part of Maharashtra-Karnataka border, where we are originally from.

It is usually made in the evenings and often when you don’t have vegetables at home or have tough cluster beans. And the ingredient which gives that unique flavour is, Karal or Niger Seeds. Just writing about this makes my mouth water; it is such a simple dish but packed with immense flavours. 

Substitutes for some of the ingredients for making Pen Bhaji:

Now the question a lot of people asked me, what is the substitute for niger seeds. My go-to alternative is roasted black sesame seeds and roasted brown flaxseeds (linseeds). It won’t give you the same flavour, but the dish will still be delicious. 

I like to serve my Pen Bhaji with a spicy chutney, bhakris and raw onion. So do give this recipe a try!


Pen Bhaji
Pen Bhaji
Pen Bhaji
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4.75 from 8 votes

Pen Bhaji

A gluten-free, vegan dish from Maharashtra-Karnataka
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian, Maharashtrian, South Indian
Keyword Gluten-Free, Vegan
Servings 4
Author Gayatri Singh


  • 1 cup pigeon peas Toor dal
  • 1 big onion large diced
  • 6 cloves garlic crushed
  • 3/4 cup cluster beans (gavar) cut in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp raw groundnut (peanut) powder
  • 4 tbsp Niger seeds powder (karal seeds)
  • 3 nos or to taste green chillies chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp or to taste red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 10 curry leaves
  • Water to cook
  • 3 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander to garnish
  • Salt to taste


  • Add 2 cups of water to the pigeon peas with water and salt. Keep it on a low medium flame. Once it is halfway cooked add in the cluster beans and cook till the pigeon peas are al dente. Cooked but holds its shape and dry, if it is too watery then strain it.
  • In a heavy pan heat oil, add in the mustard seeds and asafoetida. Add curry leaves.
  • Add in the garlic, saute for 30 seconds. Add in the onion and fry for 2-3 minutes till it is golden in colour.
  • Add in the spice powders and green chilli. Mix well and add in the salt, groundnut and niger seeds powder. Fry for 1 minute.
  • Add in the cooked dal and cluster beans mixture. Mix it well. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium flame
  • Adjust the seasoning. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot with bhakris.

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