Consider catering to curries and stews over the stove a thing of the past!

cauliflower pakora on plate with chutney
Annabelle Breakey

We all know how exhausting it can be to stand over the stove, giving a dish that needs a little extra nurturing occasional stirs and frequent heat adjustments. But modern appliances like air fryers and Instant Pots can help to take some of the grunt work out of labor-intensive meals. To expand our repertoire of air fryer and Instant Pot recipes beyond the common wings and fries, we got a couple of Indian-inspired recipes from Nakul and Arjun Mahendro, owners of Badmaash in Los Angeles. 

At the Indian eatery, the pair of brothers combine their Canadian upbringing with the southeast Asian flavors their parents cooked for them at home, in dishes like chicken tikka poutine and chili cheese naan. At Badmaash, Nakul tells us they aim to “give people the feeling of what Arjun and I had as kids on Sundays when all of our friends would come over and have Indian food for the first time.”

nakul and arjun mahendro badmaash los angeles
Nakul and Arjan Mahendro, co-owners of Badmaash in Los Angeles, at their Fairfax location.

Badmaash

For poutine at home, Nakul uses an air fryer to make the fries before tossing them with paprika, salt, and pepper, and topping them with cheese curds, gravy, and chicken tikka pieces—no need to bother with hot oil. He also shared tips for making a classic comfort dish (a favorite of Arjun’s) in an Instant Pot for easy sautéing and quicker cooking.

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With so many of us cooking for crowds these days and taking advantage of meal prepping, these recipes and tips will have you adding more Indian flavors into your recipe rotation. 

Toss It All into an Instant Pot

Instant Pots are an easy way to skip a few steps when cooking Indian food. “It’s going to maintain temperature, not have a hot spot on one side, and if you don’t have a nice big stove, this is an amazing way to make something delicious. All you need to be able to do is plug it in,” Nakul tells us. The different settings on Instant Pots allow for it to do more than just slow cook. 

In a rajma chaawl recipe from Nakul, he preps the base for the beans by combining onions, ginger, garlic, spices, tomatoes, and tomato paste in the pot on the sauté setting. Once the flavors have melded together, he adds soaked beans and pops on the lid before switching the setting to pressure cook.

Thirty minutes later, the beans are cooked, the tomatoes have broken down completely, and the flavor of the rajma is as deep as if it had been cooking for hours (and you only have one pot to clean). “Normally you would bloom spices in a separate pan from the beans, but in the Instant pot you can do everything in one place,” Nakul boasts. 

While this vegetarian recipe is a great jumping-off point for trying out a new dish in your Instant Pot, it’s easy to take other go-to Indian recipes from the stove to the pot with a few adjustments. “Just go slow and low,” Nakul suggests when converting recipes. “Get comfortable with a recipe on the stove first and adjust the flavors to your liking and then apply those steps to your Instant Pot settings,” Nakul adds.

If a recipe calls for sautéing onions until translucent, do that step on sauté mode. Instructions call for a low simmer uncovered? Just keep the lid off of the Instant Pot and, if it has a long cook time, pressure cook it once it reaches a simmer. Nakul also suggests letting things cool a bit before serving to let the flavors further marry together. 

All About Air Fryers

“Everything that should be deep fried, we’re making it in the air fryer,” says Nakul. The way an air fryer can crisp just about anything up in a matter of minutes and without a gallon of oil never ceases to amaze me.

Nakul tells me that he only got an air fryer because his son loves French fries; Nakul and his wife wanted to make him healthier ones at home. But while making them, Nakul thought to use the appliance when making poutine, a popular dish on Badmaash’s menu. 

The chicken tikka poutine from Badmaash in Los Angeles.

Badmaash

The base of his chicken tikka poutine is french fries straight from the air fryer, which he urges folks to shake about halfway through frying to ensure even crispiness, tossed in a spice blend. The chicken that tops the fries comes together easily (though not in the air fryer) by baking in chunks after an overnight marinade in yogurt and spices.

This recipe is a great show of how you can transform a simple side, like fries, into a hearty dish that showcases multiple cultural influences. Nakul and Arjun grew up in Canada—the home of poutine—and the pair have put their Indian twist on the dish to show its versatility. 

Samosas and spiced shrimp can come together with ease in the air fryer as well. Simply add wrapped samosas or seasoned shrimp to the basket of your air fryer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until evenly browned. Since shrimp is such a quick-cooking protein, an air fryer creates nice crispiness on the outside without overcooking. 

Recipes to Get You Instant Potting and Air Frying

When experimenting with Indian flavors and converting recipes from the stove to an air fryer or Instant Pot, Nakul says “Indian food is about adjusting, knowing the basics, and how things react with each other.” 

He has a few simple troubleshooting tips to keep in mind when making Indian food at home, “If a curry or stew has too much water or the flavors aren’t intense enough, keep it on a medium simmer with no lid to reduce the liquid. If you need to lighten the flavor of something, add in cream, butter, or yogurt. Lemon or sugar will help neutralize the burn of spice on your palate, which are used in a lot of Indian dishes as well.”

With these tips and the Badmaash team’s recipes to get you started cooking more in your air fryer or Instant Pot (or both), we’ve gathered a handful of other dishes below to continue expanding your spread. 


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