One the best parts about travelling is exploring a country’s cuisine, and India’s is one of the best in the world. But how difficult is it as a vegan or vegetarian to find authentic food in the land of rich curries and creamy lassis. Keep reading for our in-depth guide of all the vegan and veggie options on offer around India.
There is an abundance of vegetarian dishes in Indian cuisine, so it’s one of the easiest places to eat veggie. In fact, a lot of travellers choose to be vegetarian while backpacking in India, as there is less risk of an upset tummy from vegetables than meat! Travelling as a vegan is also relatively easy, although it requires slightly more effort. Here are our general tips for ensuring the food you order is suited for you.
• Vegans and veggies all over the world are probably used to this, but always ask your server the ingredients of a dish before you order if you are unsure
• Many meat dishes can be made vegetarian by asking for the meat to be taken out, and many vegetarian dishes can be made vegan by asking for the milk or butter by-products to be substituted – just ask!
• Indian food is commonly cooked using ghee (clarified butter), ask your server if it can be substituted for vegetable or coconut oil instead
• Paneer (milk curd) is a common ingredient in Indian dishes, ask if it can be swapped for tofu, or taken out to make it vegan
• In coastal regions like Kochi/Kerala where fish is widely eaten, double check what kind of oil your dish is cooked in, as fish oil is commonly used there. Ask if your dish can be cooked using vegetable oil instead
Useful Hindi phrases:
• I am a vegetarian – Main shakahari hoon
• Is it vegetarian food? – Kya ye shakahari bhojan hai?
Unfortunately, there is no direct translation for the word ‘vegan’ so it’s best to specify what you can’t eat. We would suggest using the translation for ‘I am vegetarian’, and adding more details using the phrase below:
• I don’t eat ____ – Naan ____ saapiduvathu illai
◦ Fish – meen
◦ Chicken – murgha
◦ Pork – suar ka maans
◦ Eggs – anda
◦ Milk – paai
◦ Butter – makkhan/ghee
Below you can find our top vegetarian dishes that are a must try during your trip to India. You can, of course, enjoy all the dishes in our vegan list too – lucky you! Jump to the next section to find our top picks of vegan dishes.
Top vegetarian dishes:
• Vegetable Thali – platter style meal served on a metal tray, consisting of small portions of rice, dal, vegetables, roti, dahi (yoghurt), chutney or pickle. Each region has its own unique variation
• Malai Kofta – thick, creamy curry with fried dumpling balls made of mashed potatoes, vegetables and paneer
• Rajma – kidney beans served in a thick curried gravy made from fragrant traditional spices
• Dal – split lentils or dried legumes thoroughly cooked and soften, blended with spices to create a creamy curry
• Palak Paneer – paneer served in a creamy, puréed spinach gravy, typically served with naans, rotis, parathas or rice
• Hara Bhara Kabab – popular snack made of spinach, potatoes and green peas and fried in small patties
• Naan bread – oven-baked leavened flatbread, often with garlic or butter seasoning, stuffed with sweet coconut (Peshwari), paneer, gobi or veg keema
• Lassis – refreshing yoghurt-based drink with both sweet and savoury options, the most popular flavour being mango
Here are the best vegan dishes to try in India! Remember, don’t forget to check with your server about the use of ghee in each dish and ask if it can be substituted for vegetable oil. Let’s be honest, you know the drill!
Top vegan dishes:
• Vegetable Samosas – pyramid-shaped pastry stuffed with potatoes or ground meat
• Vegetable Biriyani – rice dish using spices including nutmeg, cloves, coriander and mint
• Aloo Puri – spicy potatoes with gravy and puffed whole wheat bread
• Masala Dosa – thin, crispy, savoury pancake made wrapped around a mix of curried potatoes, onions and spices, served with dipping chutney and sambar or a curry gravy.
• Pakoras – fritters of onion, potato, eggplant, shredded mixed vegetables or cauliflower dipped in chickpea flour and deep fried
• Idli – steamed savoury rice cakes
• Aloo Gobi – dry curry made with potatoes and cauliflower, spiced with curry leaves and turmeric
• Dal Tadka – lentil curry with a distinct yellow hue, made from onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric
• Channa Masala – chickpea curry cooked in a spicy and tangy tomato-based sauce
• Pani Puri – round, hollow unleavened bread, fried crisp and filled with a mixture of flavoured water, chutney, chilli, chaat masala spices, potato, onion and chickpeas
• Paratha (plain or stuffed) – flat-bread made of whole-wheat flour, often stuffed with spiced aloo (potato), gobi (cauliflower), mooli (radish) or pyaaz (onion) fillings
• Momos – steamed dumplings stuffed with vegetables and tofu, served with a spicy tangy sauce
Best apps to download:
• HappyCow – This website is great for finding recommended vegetarian and vegan restaurants in your city. It has suggestions for all over the world, including India!
• Google Translate app – Downloading the app (Apple and Android) to your phone allows you to use the camera translation tool. You can take a picture of any label, menu or sign and have it translated, so it saves you typing it all in.
Have we got your stomachs grumbling and left you with a desire to experience the wonders of Indian cuisine? Check out our brand-new complete India adventure, or get in contact for more details.