No Guyanese gathering is complete without a platter of pholourie. These savory split pea fritters are a delicious crowd-pleasing snack or appetizer. They’re mildly spiced and also vegan, appealing to a wide range of tastes and diets. Serve alongside a bowl of tamarind chutney or mango sour—a spicy and sour condiment. You’ll keep going back for seconds and thirds.
Celebrate Holidays With Pholourie
I grew up in an interfaith home, where we celebrated both Christian and Hindu holidays. We made pholourie especially during Hindu holidays like Holi and Diwali as well as for Christmas. For Holi, we made a lot of sweeter snacks, but this savory item was always included. They were the perfect balance of flavors and texture—airy with a crisp outer layer and fluffy on the inside with prominent cumin and split pea flavor.
What I love most about pholourie (besides the taste) is how great it is for entertaining. It can stay out on a buffet table for hours and still taste great piping hot or at room temperature. Your guests can have it on its own or as a part of a meal.
Pholourie is the perfect appetizer for various occasions. Aside from it being a must-have on your holiday spread, it’s great as an in-between snack. On the weekends when we would do our grocery shopping, we’d often stop by a roti shop, buy a bag of pholourie, and wash them down with cream sodas to hold us over until lunch time! Other times when visitors would plan to stop by our home, my Mom would whip up the batter in no time and fry them once our guests arrived.
What Is Guyanese Pholourie?
Guyanese pholourie is a yellow split pea-based appetizer or snack seasoned with geera (ground roasted cumin), turmeric, salt, hot pepper, and garlic along with enough salt to bring out the flavors. It is a contribution to West Indian cuisine from Indian indentured laborers who came to the West Indies in the 1800s.
Geera—roasted ground cumin is a prominent ingredient in the batter. You can purchase this online, or make your own by toasting whole cumin seeds for a couple of minutes on low heat until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder and pulse until fine. Use what you need for this recipe and store the rest in a small glass jar.
The batter is dropped by dollops into hot oil and fried until golden brown.
Toasting the Cumin
A hallmark flavor of Guyanese pholourie is the geera flavor. Geera is roasted cumin seed, which is much darker than regular cumin in color and has a deeper flavor.
If you cannot source roasted cumin seeds, feel free to toast regular cumin seeds at home. Toast the spice in a non-stick skillet, shaking occasionally, for a couple of minutes until the color is dark brown. Put it into a spice grinder and pulse until finely ground and powdery.
Traditional Guyanese pholourie uses dried yellow split peas which are soaked overnight then blended with water until smooth. All-purpose flour and seasonings are then added to make a batter. Many other Guyanese versions use split pea flour in place of dried split peas (which is the version you’ll be making here). Some are denser while others are airier. It’s all a matter of preference.
Pholourie recipes vary with each West Indian household. Some use baking powder while others use yeast. Some contain ground split peas while others omit it all together.
The Trinidadian version of pholourie tends to contain a bit of green seasoning and/or split pea flour. Their pholourie are typically larger in size and very fluffy and similarly must be served with a tamarind sauce/chutney.
How to Make Guyanese Pholourie
The process of making pholourie is straightforward. Dry ingredients include all-purpose flour, split pea flour, and spices, and that is mixed with water and active dry yeast and it’s left to rise.
I typically use ground dried yellow split pea flour which can be found in West Indian markets or online. I love using Bedessee yellow split pea flour, but you can use other brands that you find as long as ground yellow split pea is the only ingredient listed.
Once the batter is ready, heat a pot with oil and drop the batter in and fry. Drain on paper towels and enjoy warm.
How to Fry Pholourie
I recommend using a deep pot such as a Dutch oven for frying. When dropping batter into the oil you want to have enough depth so the pholourie can fry evenly. If you do a shallow fry here, meaning a wider pot with less oil, the pholourie will be flat on one side.
When frying, keep the oil right around 350°F and use a slotted spoon to frequently turn the pholourie so it gets even browning. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.
Tips and Tricks for Making Pholourie
To make this recipe successfully make sure you carve out enough time for the batter to rise. It takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour for the batter to rise.
I also believe the active dry yeast makes a difference. If your yeast is old, it will not rise properly in the batter which would result in dense pholourie. To test if the yeast is good—bloom (proof) it first. Blooming yeast is a process used to activate or check if the yeast is “alive” and in good condition to use. If it swells nicely then it’s good to go. If 15 minutes have passed and it’s barely swelling, then do not use that yeast. I prefer using Red Star Platinum brand yeast for this recipe because it doesn’t have a strong yeasty smell and blooms beautifully every time.
Pholourie batter is typically picked up by hand and dropped evenly into the oil, but if you are nervous about getting your hands close to hot oil, using a 1 tablespoon sized cookie scoop will be your savior!
Adding a Little Color
Guyanese pholourie usually has a little yellow food coloring added to it to make it visually appealing. The batter does contain turmeric which adds some color, along with flavor, but the food coloring provides just the right amount to brighten the batter.
Adding food coloring is still completely optional and omitting will not affect the taste. If you’re using gel food coloring, just a bit on a toothpick is enough. I use regular food coloring from my local grocery store, such as McCormick.
Best Dipping Sauces
Pholourie is usually served with tamarind sauce or mango sour. Tamarind sauce is spicy, sweet, sour, and tangy and flavored with roasted geera. Some are a little thick while others have a more watery consistency—perfect for dipping.
For mango sour, unripened green mangoes are chopped and simmered on low heat with garlic, salt, and hot scotch bonnet or wiri wiri peppers. It’s sour and spicy and so good you’ll want to lick your fingers!
Some people of course just love these fritters all on their own without any dipping sauces. You’ll be happy either way!
Make Ahead and Storage Instructions
The batter for pholourie can be made up to two hours in advance. I do not recommend keeping this in the fridge overnight as the garlic will start to “sour” or make the batter taste spoiled. After you make the batter and leave it to rise, it can stay on your counter and be totally fine and ready to fry when you are.
After cooking, leave pholourie to cool in a dish with just a lightly fitted piece of foil covering it. Do not store right away in an airtight container because it will cause the pholourie to get soggy from the steam.
Pholourie doesn’t seem to freeze well, the airy and fluffiness tends to subside once reheated. These are truly best enjoyed the same day they are made or reheated in the microwave the next day.
1/2 teaspoon (2g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (4g) active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup (160g) split pea flour (see Recipe Note)
1 1/4 cup (150g) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2g) baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon (6g) geera (roasted ground cumin, see Recipe Note)
1/2 teaspoon (2g) turmeric powder
2 teaspoons (4g) salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 small habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper, minced
6 drops yellow food coloring
2 cups neutral oil, for frying such as canola or vegetable oil
Bloom the yeast:
In a small bowl, add sugar, yeast and 1/4 cup luke warm water. Stir and let the yeast bloom for about 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when it looks fluffy and frothy and doubled in amount.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the split pea flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, geera, turmeric, and salt.
Add the bloomed yeast to the dry ingredients:
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the 1 1/2 cups warm water, bloomed yeast, garlic, habanero pepper, and food coloring. Stir to combine with a rubber spatula. The batter should look like a thick pancake batter at this point.
Let the batter rest:
Cover the bowl with a piece of foil. Let the mixture rest for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. You’ll know it’s ready when the batter has little bubbles on the surface and looks airy. The batter should be able to hold its shape in a cookie scoop.
Heat the oil in heavy bottomed pot:
Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F. Have a plate lined with paper towels nearby.
Fry the pholourie:
Scoop out the batter using a tablespoon-size cookie scoop and carefully drop it into the oil. Try to get as close as possible to the oil so that the batter doesn’t make a splash (hot oil pitching out the pan!).
Try to do this quickly so you can have a few pieces of pholourie in the oil at the same time. Scoop and drop a few pieces at a time, being sure not to overcrowd the pot, and fry about 1 minute, until they puff up and start to get golden brown. Be sure to turn the pholourie frequently for even browning. Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on the paper towel-lined plate.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||17%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||5%|
|Total Carbohydrate 42g||15%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||23%|
|Total Sugars 3g|
|Vitamin C 17mg||83%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|