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Vegetarian Food in India


The majority of India’s population are vegetarians. However, whenever you are in doubt, you can always ask your host, restaurant and your travel consultant. Vegan dishes in India are easily available in most of the Indian restaurants, hotels or even street-side stalls. Your best bet to find vegetarian food is to eat at places labelled ‘Pure Vegetarian’.

A simple, but delectable, meal of fresh seasonal vegetables, dal or lentil curry, a wide choice of rotis and rice preparations can be enjoyed anywhere. You should try sampling some of the most famous vegetarian dishes such as Malai Kofta, Pakoras, and Mutter Paneer.

Quick Facts

  • Most Indians are vegetarians, as most are Hindus, and Hindus advocate vegetarianism.
  • The thali is a sample platter that serves many small dishes.
  • Indian vegetarian food usually incorporates a balance of 6 tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, sharp and pungent.
  • Indian marrow (lauki or white gourd) and ribbed gourd (turia) are a couple of common vegetables used in Indian dishes.
  • Malai kofta is the delicious vegetarian alternative to meatballs.

Vegetarian Food is Popular in India

Religion plays an important role in the number of vegetarians in India. Hindus, Jains and Taoists all advocate vegetarianism to some extent. Millions of Hindus worship cows as a sacred animal, so beef is scarcely on the menu in any Indian restaurant and in street food.

Vegetarianism has spread widely throughout the subcontinent, therefore to find vegetarian food in India is very convenient. The majority of the dishes in India come vegetarian first, and meat is added only for the tourists and the select few eating chicken or red meat. The recommended introduction to vegetarian food in the country is the Indian thali.

Thali can be served in a variety of ways, depended upon the region you are visiting. It is served on a large tray with several small single sized dishes. A variety of dishes may include - dhal, a paneer dish, chickpea dish, along with a potato dish. Condiments are accompanied with the dishes, such as onions, rice, and a chapatti.

Samosa is another popular option. Originally from the Middle East the Indians quickly adapted it as part of their local culture. It is made with a flakey crust and is filled with mashed potatoes, green peas, and spices. This deep-fried snack is served with tamarind or mint chutney.

Clear food-labelling laws in India make things a little easier for vegetarian and vegan travelers. Packaged food products sold in India must be marked to indicate whether it is lacto-vegetarian or non-lacto vegetarian. It is so easy to avoid meat completely when travelling to India, as the vegetarian food is delicious.

Indian Vegetarian Food

Indian cuisine is all about the aromas, vibrant colors and mouth-watering textures that tingles the taste buds.

There are a variety of dishes to choose from, due to its regions and languages. The best thing about this cuisine is that it is loved by every tongue from different nations.

Flavors of vegetarian food

The Indian vegetarian food is recognized in the culinary scene around world. This is due to the aroma of spices and fresh healthy ingredients like leafy seasonal vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains.

Indian vegetarian food has a combination of 6 tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, sharp and pungent.. This is evident in Northern India, that incorporates all these flavors.

Indian vegetables and other ingredients

Common vegetables used in Indian dishes are Indian marrow and ribbed gourd. Bitter melon, a tropical plant has an extremely bitter taste. Curry leaves are used for flavorings in all Indian cookery. They can be used whole – fresh or dried.

Indian vegetarian cuisine incorporates a lot of potatoes, chickpeas, and lentils along with other types of beans as main ingredients in their dishes. Fermented rice, onions, eggplants, tofu, broccoli, and cauliflower are also common ingredients.

How to cook vegetarian food

To cook Indian vegetarian food, the cooking methods involved frying, boiling, sautéing, and grilling. The tandoor, contrary to common belief, that tandoori refers to a recipe, yet it is better described as a cooking method. The tandoor a clay oven, a large clay pit large enough to hold a small fire created by slow burning wood charcoal.

Another unique cooking technique is called the Dum. This is carried out in an enclosed container, where the steam is not allowed to escape. The heat is applied from top and bottom by putting charcoals on top of the lid. Vegetarian curries such as dum aloo are cooked by this method.

Vegan Indian food

For many vegetarians, Indian restaurants stand out among the often times meat-heavy restaurant options. The good news is, Indian restaurants tend to be extremely vegan-friendly, so for those looking for a flavorful plant-based meal, you need not miss out on enjoying a satisfying meal when dining out.

Although ghee is widely used in Indian cooking, oils such as mustard and coconut are also in abundance and are an easy vegan replacement.

Many meals are simply referred to as being vegetarian, while they are actually 100% vegan and uncompromisingly delicious. Veganizing many non-vegan dishes in India is also very common.

Popular Indian Vegetarian Dishes

Indian cuisine is favored by vegetarians due to the many varied and tasty options, from a chickpea curry to garlic-tinged lentils to paneer cheese in a rich sauce.

Here are some examples of the most popular vegetarian dishes in India.

Malai Kofta

A dish for special occasions, Malai kofta is the delicious vegetarian alternative to meatballs.

The dish is made by combining potatoes, a mixture of vegetables, paneer cheese, heavy cream, and spices, forming them into balls. They are stuffed with chopped nuts and raisins. The koftas are then deep-fried and served in well-seasoned gravy.

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer is made with cubes of paneer cheese which are pan-fried and then simmered in spinach-based gravy. Flavored with fenugreek leaves, onion, garlic, tomato, and Indian spices, this dish is a nutritious meal that will also satisfy the taste buds.

Palak Paneer is typically served with rotis, naan, parathas or rice.

Mutter Paneer

Mutter means peas, and paneer is a solid cottage cheese. The mutter paneer dish combines the two in rich tomato-based gravy with a touch of cream.

This dish incorporates traditional Indian spices such as coriander, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala. Mutter Paneer is usually served with naan, roti, chapati and paratha.


Pakoras are, essentially, fritters, of a type found throughout India, making it the perfect vegan snack. They are generally made with onion, potato, eggplant, cauliflower and shredded mixed vegetables that’s been dipped in chickpea flour and deep fried.

They’re a popular appetizer and snack.

Vegetable biryani

There are many varieties of biryani available in India. The vegetable biryani is cooked in oil, not clarified butter. The rice dish is absolutely divine.

It is made with an abundance of spices including nutmeg, mace, pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaves, coriander and mint.

Aloo Paratha

Aloo paratha is a flatbread stuffed with a richly seasoned mashed potato. The coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, and ginger bring a nice savory flavor that is complemented by with chilled yogurt, and pickle or chutney on the side.

Compliment this with a fresh, thick cream or a sliver of unsalted, homemade butter.

Aloo Gobi

This dish is a savory dry curry typically spiced with turmeric, curry leaves and sometimes kalonji. The turmeric gives the dish its yellowish hue, while garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, tomatoes, peas and cumin round off its flavor and add to its robust aroma.

Aloo Gobi is best eaten with a plain naan bread or chapatti.

Masala Dosa

Masala Dosa is typically served for breakfast or lunch and it is completely vegan as long as you confirm that they don’t use ghee to fry it.

The thin, crispy, savory pancake is made from fermented rice and dal or lentil, wrapped around a mix of curried potatoes, onions and spices.

Hara Bhara Kabab

In Indian cuisine, kababs are a wide variety of grilled meat, with some that are mixtures of ground meat and seasonings. Hara Bhara Kabab utilizes vegetables to achieve the same texture and gets its name and green color from the healthy spinach, peas, and fresh coriander leaves.

This dish is particularly popular in northern India.

Indian Vegetarian Recipes

Indian vegetarian dishes incorporate many different items but are fairly easy to prepare and cook. Some are perfect for weeknights; others are best saved for a weekend. Here are some Indian vegetarian recipes that you can follow.

Rajma Daal

Rajma daal is a red kidney bean curry that is a popular dish in northern India, though it is enjoyed throughout the country. The beans are cooked to a spicy masala paste with ginger, garlic, chilies, and tomatoes for seasoning.

This recipe can be prepared under 30 minutes and uses just one pan. Onions, garlic, and spices are fried until aromatic. The beans and water are then added and cooked until soft. Then, mash some of the beans to thicken the sauce.

Finally, garnish with coriander and serve hot with rice or Kachumbar salad.

Kaali Daal

Kaali daal is also known as ma ki daal which means "mom's lentils", due to it being wholesome, comforting, and delicious. Before you start cooking this dish, the lentils will need to be soaked in water overnight, so plan accordingly.

They are then cooked along with onions, green chilis, and asafetida (a plant of the parsley family) until tender. The lentils are then added to the tomato gravy, seasoned with Indian spices, and a touch of cream, and then cumin seeds toasted in ghee are stirred in before serving.

Daal-Palak Ka Shorba (Lentil and Spinach Soup)

This soup is not only ideal for vegetarians but is healthy for everyone to enjoy.

There are two kinds of lentils used in this soup. They are moong daal and toor or arhar daal, along with spinach, and plenty of flavors. This dish will really warm you up when the weather is cold.

Cumin seeds are fried in oil along with red chilies and garlic. Asafetida is then added to the mixture before it is pureed.

The daal-palak ka shorba soup is garnished with a squeeze of lime and a dollop of cream. It can be served with breadsticks, crusty bread, or just on its own.

Indian Vegetarian Restaurants

If there is one prominent diet-trend that has taken the world by storm is the increase of people turning towards vegetarianism globally.

Vegetarian diet has been a very integral part of Indian culture. Here are some recommended vegetarian restaurants located across major cities in India.

Carnatic Cafe (Delhi)

Carnatic Café brings you some friendly South Indian dishes. Aside from the regular favorites like Mysore Masala Dosa and Rava Masala Dosa, it offers a wide array of special Dosas like Bombat Dosa and Mallesharam 18th Cross, named after the famous street in Bangalore.

Budget: a meal for two will cost around US$10.

Address: M-21, M Block Market, Greater Kailash (GK) 2, New Delhi

Tuskers (Mumbai)

If you want a fine dining experience, Tuskers is the perfect place. Serving authentic Gujarati and Rajasthani dishes, this restaurant is bound to make you fall in love with Indian food.

The menu has an array of regional dishes ranging from Gatte ki Sabzi, Dal Ka Halwa to desserts like Paan Kulfi along with a lavish Gujarati Thali.

Budget: a meal for two will cost around US$40.

Address: Sofitel Hotel, C 57, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai

Hamsa (Chennai)

Hamsa is a rare fine dining vegetarian venue in the city that is perfect for a romantic candle-lit meal. The décor features some elegant touches like hand embroidered wall panels.

The menu is dominated by North Indian signatures but the few South Indian dishes like the Gongura Annam also make their mark.

Budget: a meal for two will cost around US$25.

Address: B. Ramachandra Adithanar Road, Gandhi Nagar

The Higher Taste (Bangalore)

This restaurant serves numerous dishes with exotic flavors. There are some more familiar dishes like the Gobi Kempu Bezule, a Mangalore-style crisp-fried cauliflower.

A favorite is the Vazhaipoo Mulungai Kolambu, a coconut-based gravy with drumsticks and banana flowers. For something similar and yet decadent, you must try the Bukhare ki Dal and butter naan.

Budget: a meal for two will cost around US$17.

Address: SKCON Temple Complex, Hare Krishna Hill, Chord Road, Rajajinagar

Etiquette for Dining

Eating with the fingers is preferred in India. Indians do not encourage the use of a knife as cutlery because the food prepared here is generally bite-sized.

Always use your right hand, even if you are left-handed, as Indians consider the use of the left hand to be unclean and offensive.

You must not leave anything on your plate as leftovers. You must also keep in mind to eat your food at a medium pace, as it might seem rude if you eat your food too quickly or, it may imply that you don’t like the food if you eat too slowly.

Explore India’s Vegetarian Food with Asia Highlights

India is the world’s largest caterer for vegetarian food. There are many choices of dishes and restaurants to choose from across the country. Go with Asia Highlights and get to enjoy some of the best vegetarian dishes India has to offer.

At Asia Highlights, we can make sure your trip to India will be a fun and memorable one.

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