How do we keep the medu vada batter fluffy without adding baking soda?

I would like to use it less, hence trying to find a substitute for the ingredient, or better if the technique for cooking medu vada can be changed so that I don't need to use a substitute either.

  • 1
    Discussing the health of an ingredient is not allowed here. That being said, I've never heard anyone ever say that there's anything wrong with baking soda.
    – Catija
    Nov 4 '15 at 6:15
  • Hello and welcome to cooking stack exchange! I hope you don't mind the edits I made to remove the health part of the question.
    – NadjaCS
    Nov 5 '15 at 0:38

I believe baking soda was a recent addition to medu vada and is not a required or traditional ingredient. It helps to make the vadas fluffier and it might make it easier to have a good result if your batter consistency is to not quite right, but it isn't required. Personally I find that it affects the flavor so I don't like to add it.

I think you can just leave it out entirely.

The keys to having fluffy vada without extra leavening would be oil temperature in frying and the amount of water in your vada batter. Also, whip the batter again after adding the seasonings so there is a lot of air in the batter to begin with.

The oil should be hot enough that when you drop a bit of the batter in, it immediately puffs up and floats to the top and starts cooking. If it immediately starts turning color, the oil is too hot. If it doesn't float, the oil is too cool.

If the oil is too cool, the vada will soak up a lot of oil and it will be soggy and dense and won't rise. If the oil is too hot, the outside will burn before the inside is cooked.

The batter should be almost like a very soft dough. If you hold a clump of it in your palm you should be able to hold it and not have it run out between your fingers, and it should hold the shape you give it. You should also see that it is a bit lighter and fluffier when you whip it. If it has too little water, it will tend to stay clumpy when you whip it up.

If the batter has too much water, it will not hold its shape and won't support the rising action and will be soggy. If there is not enough water it will be too dense and not rise well, so it can be hard after cooking.

It is easier to add more water if the first one is too firm, though, so err on having too little water if you aren't sure and test the first one you make.

Here's a recipe with a video so you can see how the proper texture looks. I really like Manjula-ji's recipes and demonstrations, they are very clear and easy to follow, so hopefully this video can help with the batter.

  • Nice! I didn't realize that medu vada are such an edge case, and gave an answer which covers most (but not all) soda-containing baked goods. I'll leave it there in case somebody wants to try an alternative leavener, but yours is much more specific.
    – rumtscho
    Nov 5 '15 at 9:19
  • Yes, you answered for substitution and I answered for vada technique. Together we have a full answer either way.:-)
    – NadjaCS
    Nov 5 '15 at 15:36

For me the secret to get nice fluffy medu wadas is correctly soaking the dal!!

You should soak the udat dal for ample of time in good amount of water till the soaked dal size doubles.
Grind the dal to make a smooth batter.

Oil temperature and frying technique are also important factors to get good wadas.

What I do is that I add 2 spoons of toor dal (pigeon pea) along with udat dal for soaking.
This gives me wadas which are soft inside and crispy at the outside.


It depends only on the batter. See medu vada from restaurants are always fluffy and crisp. The reason for that is they use a wet grinder to make the batter. And if you are using a mixer grinder (blender) to make the batter, you should follow some tips.....

  1. Soak the dal for at least 3 – 4 hours or overnight.

  2. Use ice-cold water and pour 2 – 3 teaspoons after every 3 – 4 spins.

  3. After making the batter beat in one direction either clockwise or anti-clockwise for 1 minute. This will infuse some air into the batter.

  4. Fry them on medium hot oil. Here is a recipe you can read for more details: Medu vada recipe.

    A plate of medu vada fritters next to two small bowls of sambar stew and coconut chutney


Your only possible choice is ammonium carbonate. The class of leaveners which can be substituted for baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) consists of

  • baking powder, which contains baking soda
  • potash, which is an inconvenient old-fashioned ingredient containing potassium carbonate. It is almost the same thing as baking soda, but as far as I know, it isn't sold nowadays.
  • ammonium carbonate

Ammonium carbonate has its drawbacks. It gives baked goods an off taste which I personally dislike. It is also harder to obtain, and more expensive. And finally, it's chemically very close to baking soda. Depending on why you believe baking soda to be unhealthy, the restriction may cover ammonium carbonate too.

If you can't or don't want to use ammonium carbonate, there is nothing you can do. You have to give up medu vada, and most other baked goods such as cakes and cookies.

  • Potash ("Pottasche") and ammonium (bi)carbonate ("Hirschhornsalz") are sold here in the winter season in many grocery stores because they are still commonly used for making some traditional christmas sweets (gingerbreads etc), so it is definitely still produced and marketed (maybe not worldwide) as a food grade ingredient. Nov 4 '15 at 9:29
  • No leavening agent is ever added to medu wada. Advice in Zeba and Mobasir’s answers with some practice should give you the fluffiness that you need. Aug 29 '20 at 11:04

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