Are Indian meals vegan?

Indian cuisine naturally caters to a vegan diet. India has the world's highest number of vegetarians meaning plant-based Indian food is easy to find. 

The frequent use of vegetables in Indian cuisine is also a source of inspiration for many vegan brands. This means you will find many vegan cookbooks, ready meals, or brands that have Indian-inspired recipes! 

Is vegan Indian food healthy? 

‘Healthy’ means something different to everyone. It’s all about deciding what works for you to keep happy and energized. However, on the whole, Indian food is widely considered a healthy cuisine. 

Indian food is varied, rich in vegetables, and loaded with whole oils and grains. The spices in Indian food are also linked to aiding digestion and reducing inflammation. 

Are Indian dishes plant-based?

Yes! Many staple Indian dishes are plant-based or easily be amended to plant-based recipes. Common plant-based Indian dishes include: 

  1. Tikka masala. While traditionally made with chicken, vegan tikka masala is made vegan with cauliflower, chickpeas, or tofu. There is no standard recipe for masala sauce, but tomatoes and cilantro are popular choices (just like in Maya Kaimal’s delicious Indian Simmer Sauce for Vegan Tikka Masala)
  1. Vindaloo. A quick, easy, and spicy curry with a tangy vinegar sauce. Traditional vindaloo uses pork, however, an array of heavenly vegetable-based recipes are available. 
  1. Korma. A thick, savory curry traditionally made with meat, but now frequently made with plant-based recipes. Vegetables are simmered with spices, yogurt, and cream! (of course, dairy-free yogurt and cream can be used too!) 
  1. Biryani. A mixed rice dish that is easily made vegan or vegetarian. Biryani is made in a variety of ways across countries, but its delicious and warming flavor stays consistent!
  1. Aloo gobi. Crispy, golden potatoes, and cauliflower. A divine yellow vegan dish often made with turmeric, kalonji, curry leaves, garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, tomatoes, peas, and cumin. 
  1. Chana masala. A flavorful stew made with chickpeas. Chana masala is usually quite dry and spicy with citrusy undertones. The striking flavor tends to be achieved with coriander and onion.
  1. Palak paneer. Divine spinach curry with fresh cheese. It is easily made vegan with dairy-free cheese alternatives or tofu!

Other common vegan Indian foods consist of naan (a doughy and delicious flatbread), crispy papadums (for a truly satisfying dunk and crunch), pakoras (divinely spiced fritters made from such as potatoes and onions), and kebabs (a classic!). 

Frequently Asked Questions:

How does vegan Indian food taste? 

Indian cuisine is rich, colorful, and aromatic. Indian food is spiced, warm, and flavourful. Indian recipes contain mouth-watering mixtures of spices that create dishes rich in flavor, aroma, and color. Vegan Indian food retains all of this flavor but relies on vegetables and plants instead of meat. 

What do I need to cook vegan Indian food?

Wherever you shop, the core vegan staples of Indian cuisine are easy to find. For instance, aromatic rice, barja, atta flour, lentils (most often red lentils), pigeon peas, black gram, and mung beans are readily available in most places. Split lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and black-eyed peas are also common, and coconut milk is a must-have. 

If you shop online, there is a wider variety! For instance delicious pre-made vegan Indian sauces such as Maya Kaimal’s Indian Simmer Sauce for Vegan Madras, Kashmiri or Jalfreezi curry, or easy ready meals such as Aahana's Bombay Masala Rice & Lentil Bowl.

What spices do I need for Indian food? 

Indian food packs flavor, but what spices are used to achieve such mouthwatering sensations? Of course, the standard spice kit is used - chili peppers, garlic, and ginger. However, mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, and garam masala are very common additions used to achieve the Indian flavors we all love.

If you want to learn more about spice, take a look at this handy Complete Spice Guide For Vegan Cooking.

Is Indian food spicy?

Indian food has a reputation for being on the fiery side, especially for those not familiar with spice, however, this reputation is not 100% accurate. 

‘Spicy’ simply means seasoned with spices. By this definition, almost all Indian food is spicy. However, in terms of ‘fiery’ spice, numerous Indian dishes contain zero chilies or pepper and are flavored with mixtures of mild spices. 

However, there is no reason scared of hot spice! Hot spices can intensely enhance the flavor of dishes and have also been linked with aiding digestion and reducing anti-inflammatory properties. So, if you are partial to those hotter flavors, devour away!

Will Indian food work with my diet?

Humans are complex. We are unique and have many different dietary requirements. This can make it hard to find a cuisine that keeps everyone around the table full and happy. Luckily, Indian cuisine is one of the most allergen-friendly cuisines going. With an array of vegan Indian food, gluten-free Indian food, and keto-friendly Indian food available - It caters to many people.

Vegan and Vegetarian Indian Food:  Instead of ‘replacement’ options for vegans, Indian food naturally caters to a plant-based diet. We recommend tucking into a Chana Masalas or Lentil Dal (as long as it is prepared and served without Ghee!) 

Gluten-free Indian Food: With staples including rice, vegetables, lentils, chickpeas, beans, and legumes, most Indian food is naturally gluten-free. Vegetable Biryani or vegetable curries are great dishes for gluten-free dieters to tuck into!

Keto-Friendly Indian Food: Indian food has many great options for those following a keto-friendly diet. We recommend opting for a Palek Paneer, a Baigan ka bharta, or Sarso Ka Saag. All of these are low in carbohydrates and keto-friendly.