The secret to absolutely delicious Masala Aloo

I'd first seen this recipe in a cookery show, Khana Khazana, one of the longest running cooking shows in India by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor. What I remember about this one was that he was cooking some authentic Punjabi dishes with his mum. And what I remember from this recipe was one unique technique which I had never seen or read about before. To know what that is, you will have to go read through the entire post.

Potatoes, who doesn't love them? And you might think it is utterly impossible to mess up a potato dish. But look at these culinary competitions like Masterchef Australia and you realise how much thought and process goes into making a simple dish like mashed potatoes. Potatoes are the sponges of the culinary world. They absorb most flavours beautifully, go with any vegetable most amicably and you need to work really hard to make a potato taste BAD!

I think the make or break in most potato dishes is seasoning. They need adequate salt to taste good, or it's just a bland boiled chunk of a starchy vegetable.

I like to do a little teaser off and on, on my facebook page. If something turns out really delicious from the day's cooking, I'll post an Instagram pic of the dish and depending on the responses I get, it ends up featuring on the blog or not. When I posted the picture of this potato dish yesterday, it got many more oohs and aahs than I expected. This one is a recipe any beginner cook (or bachelor cook) can nail. All you need is to manage to cook the potatoes well in their skins. Pressure cooker works best here, but if you have a phobia to my favourite implement in the kitchen, you need some patience to boil the potatoes whole, in their skins, until they are well cooked right till the middle and then proceed with the recipe [Details on cooking potatoes in pressure cooker and pot given at the end of the post].

You could get more adventurous with this recipe using more spices like amchoor (dried mango powder) or crushed dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) but before you go raid the spice aisle, try making this with the basic spices. I can promise you will be wowed!

For my readers from outside India, if you are new to Indian cooking, and you want to try a simple curry recipe, this is the perfect one for you. Few ingredients, simple technique and superb results :) 

All curries are not with gravies and do not require sautéing of onions-tomatoes-ginger-garlic. In fact, in most South Indian cuisines, a curry is a dry saute of vegetables! Potatoes was one of the first things I cooked as a 10 year old girl. My grandmom would keep boiled potatoes ready and I would make a simple potato roast

Recipe Masala Aloo - Spice coated potatoes
Printable version here
Serves 3-4
Ready in under 30 minutes
Vegetarian / Vegan side 

4-5 medium potatoes
1 tbsp rice flour or corn meal
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Fat pinch of asafoetida (optional, but really elevates the taste)
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 - 1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander leave for garnish


  1. Pressure cook* or boil potatoes until they are well cooked.
  2. Once cool enough to handle, peel the skins and quarter each potato into 4 large pieces.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the pieces in rice flour coating well, and keep aside.
  4. In a large non-stick wok / kadai, heat the oil.
  5. Add asafoetida and cumin seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the coriander powder, cumin powder, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and SALT to the oil.
  6. Stir well so that all the spice powder INCLUDING salt get cooked in oil.
  7. Do this on a low flame so that none of the spices burn. Immediately, throw in the rice flour tossed potato chunks, stirring gently to coat with the spices and oil.
  8. Cook them on a low flame until all the potato chunks get encrusted with spices, around 7-8 minutes, turning occasionally.
  9. Garnish with finely chopped coriander.

This makes an excellent accompaniment to rotis or sliced bread.
Perfect with steamed rice and any dal.
You could easily customize this recipe for kids by omitting the red chilli powder and following all other steps.

One secret to this recipe is the rice flour (easily available in supermarkets in India or Indian stores abroad). If you cannot find this, you could substitute with corn meal or makkai atta. This is a tip used in Tamil style potato roast, where the coarse rice flour gives the final dish a nice crunch.
The second secret is adding the salt to the oil, which was shown in the Khana Khazana cookery show, by Chef Sanjeev Kapoor's mum. It just makes the potatoes taste so much better seasoned!


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How to pressure cook potatoes:
Place scrubbed whole potatoes in a container and place this inside a pressure cooker with an inch high water in the cooker. Do NOT add any water to the container in which the potatoes are kept.
Close pressure cooker lid with the whistle. Keep on high flame and allow two whistles, lower the flame to minimum and let this be on sim for 7 minutes or so. Keep for 10 minutes for bigger sized potatoes, or they will be raw inside.
Once pressure falls, let out excess steam by pulling up the whistle with a pair of tongs and open lid.
Insert a knife inside the potato to check if it is cooked all the way through. Peel when cool enough to handle. Do not wash with water to cool the potatoes quickly, they will become soggy.

No pressure cooker? Read this primer in The Kitchn on how to boil potatoes in a pot.

Details on my debut TV appearance in Twist of Taste / Fox Traveller this weekend here


chinmayie @ love food eat said...

Great tip! I'll try this recipe very soon. Potato sabji is always a winner at home.

sachita said...

But Potatoes develop a nice crunch even without the rice flour, no?

I am going to try the salt tip for sure. Would it work in general for all our usual stir frys?

Sathy Joseph said...

Forgive me for this extremely beginner's question (Very reluctant cook here), but rice flour is not maida, is it? I just look for a packet called rice flour in the store?

Deepa said...

Hi Sathy

No its not maida - it should be available as rice flour. Welcome to cooking. I remember back when i was in the same boat! you'll grow to love it!

Suma Rowjee said...

Great recipe, great post! Just the kind of dish I would like to make with rice and dal on a weekend...congrats on your first appearance on television!

Cynthia said...

Ummm, that spice flavour combo sounds heavenly. The crust.... ummm. Here in the Caribbean when we make this, we actually cook the potatoes with the masala - no water. Once everything is "fried up" the heat is turned low and the pan covered so the potatoes can cook through and absorb more of the flavor.

Sowmya Chandrasekaran said...

That is so tempting and am drooling here!!!

Ongoing Event - CWF - Whole Wheat Flour
Ongoing Event - Let's Party - Eggless Bakes and Treats

chitra said...

Bookmarked. will try for sure :)

saffrontrail said...

Do let me know how this turns out for you, Chitra.

saffrontrail said...

Cynthia, so happy to hear your comments. Yes, putting the potatoes in raw is a technique used here too, but using boiled potatoes makes this extremely quick for us, as most indian homes use pressure cooker everyday with separators to cook dal, rice and vegetables together.

saffrontrail said...

Thanks Suma!

saffrontrail said...

Like Deepa has already replied to you, rice flour is ground rice, easily available as RICE FLOUR in all supermarkets. It is very useful to thicken sambars and other gravies and also for a variety of snacks.

saffrontrail said...

That is true, but adding rice flour hastens the process and you dont need as much oil for this. Try it sometime.

saffrontrail said...

like i said, who in their right minds doesn't like potato curry :) said...

i could hold your hand and weep, and sob my gratitude-filled thanks.

the dish turned out fantastic, and as of this morning, i have wiped out the general opinion that i am a bit of a "potato-duh"

ma famille, well, they thought i could only fry the potatoes.

to them today i can say, "pip pip" i can pressure cook too:-)

Maya said...

Its was amazing. Thanks for sharing this. It became hit with my inlaws. :)

Saffrontrail said...

Hello! So glad to hear that this was of use to you! See you around :)

saffron said...

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Sia Krishna said...

Nandita, I made this dish twice in one week on popular demand by my two boys at home :) Only changes to the recipe was I added curry leaves to the tadka and left out coriander leaves. It turned out fantastic and I will be making some more with few tweaks to the
spice powders. Thank you for posting this lovely recipe :)

chatkhor said...

I tried one of ur tips, adding the salt while frying, and used it in a achaari aloo i made recently and it did make a difference. Thanks for those tips.

sudhanshuo ojha said...

Amazing recipe my wife just loved it.. Its a super hit

Shoba Shrinivasan said...

Lovely post nandita. I normally use the rice flour method for the Arbi Fry that I don`t regularly make and It does a great job of providing an amazing crust not to mention the oil free Calphalon sear pan that I use! The Aloo Masala click is a killer.You always always have a winner in them! Happy New Year to you and your family. My sister loves to cook off your blog!!!

Sanjana said...

Hi Nandita. I tried this recipe this afternoon and it was an instant winner, just like the 2 noodles minute-Maggi that ad moms make! I didn't have rice flour so I subbed gunpowder (menthyadahittu in kannada) instead. What I thought might be a disaster turned out great! Thanks for such a quick, versatile and super delicious recipe, my very happy tummy owes you. :-)

Elsbeth said...

Hello Nandita, I tried your Masala Aloo yesterday and it was an instant succes with my family! Great combination of spices and wonderful crunchy crust. Will make it for guests soon. Greetings from the sunny Caribbean!

Nitin Joshi said...

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Shanthi said...

Lovely post Nandita. A small question. Do I need to close the container with the potatoes with a lid or keep it open when cooking in a pressure cooker?

potato powder said...

Thanks for sharing. potato powder is the best for giving differnt taste to your food. use potato powder in your cooking and make your food delicious,

anupriya said...

Best Recipe. I loved it. Thanks for sharing the wonderful recipe with us. Spices Online

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