A modern spin on the classic Indian turnovers with fresh peas and coconut filling, Matar Karanji or Gujiya. It’s an easy recipe with a store-bought shortcut with the refrigerated pie crust used for the dough. Furthermore, my recipe is healthier since I bake the pastries in the oven instead of deep frying them.
Hello Spring… I didn’t even realize when the spring blossoms came and went amidst the several atmospheric river storms we got hit with over the first three months of the year in the Bay Area! I can’t believe it’s already April, and while it’s still pretty chilly, we’re at least seeing the sun come out more than ever in the last few weeks. I couldn’t be more ready to bid farewell to cold, rainy winter days and embrace the spring season. I’m even more excited to enjoy the bounty of the spring season and indulge in my favorite vegetables like asparagus, colorful baby carrots, radishes, strawberries, and the spring peas. I particularly savor the fresh spring peas as they are at their sweetest during this season.
As I picked up a bag of shelled spring peas from the produce section of my local grocery store, nostalgia washed over me! I was transported back to the delectable memories of my childhood when my mom would craft these crispy, deep-fried, golden, half-moon-shaped turnovers stuffed with delicately spiced fresh peas and coconut filling. These are a highly popular Indian snack known as Matar Karanji or Matar Gujiya, as they are referred to in Hindi. Think of them as the Indian counterparts of the Mexican empanadas, native to my home state, Maharashtra.
That very night, I called my mom and acquired her recipe!
Mom’s Matar Karanji Recipe
As Mom explained, the karanjis are made with a simple dough of all-purpose or whole wheat flour that is rolled out into approximately 4-inch round circles or discs. These discs are then filled with a mildly spiced mixture consisting of blanched peas combined with coconut, green chilies, cilantro or coriander leaves, and cumin seeds. Afterward, the discs are folded over into half-moons and sealed securely before being deep-fried to a golden and flaky perfection. While Mom was sharing the recipe details with me, it struck me that they sounded very much like the Mexican empanadas that I’ve seen on Foodnetwork!
My Modern Spin on the Traditional Recipe
When I realized the similarities between the karanji and the empanadas, I was super excited to give the traditional recipe a modern twist! I opted for the baking technique more commonly used for making empanadas. Personally, I’m not a fan of deep-frying foods and am always on the lookout forsmarter, healthier options. Baking also seemed to be an easier, fuss-free choice for preparing karanjis, especially considering there’s a hack or shortcut for making baked empanadas – usingstore-bought, refrigerated pie crusts!
A Quick and Easy Shortcut for making Karanji/Gujiya
I was all set and super excited to dive right in! Thanks to the pie crust shortcut, the prep took me less than 30 minutes, and then there was an additional 20 minutes of waiting time while the oven did the work. Of course, you can make it even quicker by taking another shortcut and simply dumping the peas and coconut filling onto the rolled-out pie crust to make a galette!
Serving Suggestions for Matar Karanji/Gujiya
While the pastries baked in the oven, I whipped up a quickcilantro-mint chutney that I usually prepare, just without the yogurt this time! Peas and mint are a well known pairing and I thought the cilantro-mint chutney would be a refreshing dip for the pastries with the peas-coconut filling.
I made a dozen 2-inch-sized mini karanjis and served them for a late afternoon snack, just as my husband and daughter arrived home. They paired perfectly with a hot cup of chai that my husband brewed for us. I also prepared another batch using the leftover filling and the second pie crust from the package over the weekend, serving them as appetizers alongside a crisp, aromatic white wine, Sauvignon Blanc, which paired exceptionally well with its herbaceous, grassy notes.
I was delighted to make the most of the spring season’s bounty and create one of my childhood favorite savory treats. I hope you give them a try soon, preferably before the spring season comes to an end! I’ve linked a short video below that I put together for you that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.
2 cups fresh shelled green peas (alternatively, you can use thawed frozen peas as well that are available all year round)
salt, to taste
1 tsp turbinado sugar
1 cup of grated fresh or thawed frozen coconut
1–2 Thai green chilies, broken into two pieces (optional/use less for less heat)
8–10 sprigs of cilantro, torn
1 tsp cumin seeds
¼ cup water
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200 °C)
Making the Filling
Start by boiling the water in a pot over the stove or in a kettle. Transfer the peas to a medium bowl and add the boiling water to it. Cover and let it sit for about 10 minutes till the peas soften up.
In the meantime, make the herbed paste for the filling. In a mini food processor or a grinder, add all the ingredients for the paste and process until smooth and well combined.
Drain the water from the bowl completely and add the herbed paste to the peas. Toss well to combine. Season with salt and sugar and set aside.
Making the Pastries
Sprinkle flour onto a work surface. Unroll pie crusts and use a rolling pin to spread out edges. Cut out circles into each pie crust using a 2-inch biscuit or cookie cutter.
Gather the leftover pie crust after cutting the circles and save it to make a galette along with the leftover filling.
Spoon each round of the pie crust with about ½ tablespoon. of the prepared filling in the center.
Fold over to form a half circle to cover the filling and press to seal the edges.
Use a fork to press the edges together or pinch the edges in between your fingers and twist together to give it a pretty ruffled look.
Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. At this point, you can pop the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze the prepared turnovers for a later time. After about 3 hours, you can transfer the frozen pastries in a plastic freezer bag or freezer-safe food-storage container with tight-fitting lid baking them later. They will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Baking the Pastries
Bake the pastries in the preheated oven for 20-22 minutes until golden brown at the edges. If baking frozen, do not thaw. Bake the frozen pastries directly in the preheated oven.
When baking is complete, take the sheet out of the oven and let the pastries cool on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a serving platter.
Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.