Ethnically-inspired dishes are a great way to experiment with new foods, spices, and flavors, and to shake up your meal routine.
Indian dishes, in particular, are known for their intoxicating blend of spices and hearty ingredients, making them a great choice for cooking novices and culinary experts alike.
Another great thing about Indian cuisine is that it features some of the most plant-powered dishes around! With staples like lentils, chickpeas, potatoes, cauliflower, and other vegetables, some of your favorite Indian dishes are probably already vegetarian, if not vegan/dairy-free.
Aside from meat-based dishes, the main ingredients to watch out for, both in Indian restaurants and in your own cooking, are ghee and cream. When cooking at home, simply substitute a vegan margarine or plant-based oil (e.g. olive or canola) for ghee in recipes. When dining out, be sure to ask your server what type of oil or butter is used in preparation.
Likewise, watch out for dishes with creamy sauces (e.g. Masala and Curry), which may sometimes be made with cream or other dairy-based ingredients. Again, the best way to be sure of ingredients in a restaurant is to ask your server. At home, it’s relatively easy to substitute a soy or coconut-based creamer (or full fat coconut milk) for the cream in your recipes.
We’ve put together quite a diverse collection of Indian-inspired recipes. From dips and breads to entrees and desserts, you’re sure to find a new favorite in the mix. Click next to see the recipes!
The preferred Indian radish is the white daikon, but this lovely red and simple radish wooed and converted me a long time ago. It pretty red tones made quite a believer of this non-radish eating girl. This year in fact, the kids have been growing radishes in their little patch.
South Indian food (Tamilian food) is also the lightest, healthiest and most colorful cuisine. The most traditional menus are a healthy combination of lots of vegetables with thick stews of lentils and coconut, rice and spicy lentil broths accompanied by chutneys and pickles. A Tamilian meal is supposed to have all the six tastes according to Ayurveda. They are sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty and pungent. This stew is made on a weekly basis in most Tamilian homes. It is a thick, yet light stew that can be easily made with any imaginable vegetable or a combination of them. It is quick and easy to make and extremely satisfying. It is mostly eaten with rice, but could go easily even as a tortilla filling or with some bread.
Mung beans are an Indian staple and are great for the liver, gall bladder and for detoxing the body. Therapeutically, they are considered one of the most important beans. They have the capacity to cleanse the heart and vascular system and to reduce toxicity. You can most likely find sprouted mung beans at your grocery store and are great to throw on salads and may be easier to digest then the cooked kind. If you’re looking for a warm, grounding and hearty dish during the winter months, whip out those Indian spices and get to work!
Sweet Potato is very different looking in India – it has a pretty pink skin and a slight yellowish white flesh inside. They still taste sweet and melt in your mouth. If you have never tried Indian flavors on sweet potato, please give this recipe a shot. The resulting dish tastes fabulous! Spicy, sweet and full of flavor. Retain the skin for its color and nutrition and reduce the number of green chilies (or skip altogether if you don’t like spicy foods), serve warm.
Serve this as a side dish with rice and curry lunch or pair it with Chapatti/Roti, Indian flat bread. These potatoes can also be used in sandwiches and wraps.
5. Missy Roti
We often marvel at some of the creative ways, Indian cuisine introduces protein into vegetarian dishes. One of the most common ingredients is through the use of chickpea flour or “besan”, in lieu of regular whole wheat or all purpose white flour. It is a kitchen staple in most Indian homes and is used in almost everything from thickening sauces to batters, crepes and breads.
These golden yellow flatbreads called Missy Roti, are a traditional recipe from the North Indian state of Punjab. Warm and brushed with a fruity olive oil, just before serving in lieu of the clarified butter, you have a healthy and comforting treat that can be a complete meal with some Indian pickles or lentils depending on what you want to eat it with.
The beauty of root vegetables, such as beetroot and carrots, are celebrated in many sweet and savory ways in India. The most common of the sweets using carrots or beetroots are called halwas or puddings. Gajar Halwa is a traditional carrot fudge pudding that is enjoyed in the winter months. This dairy-free (vegan) version needs less attention than the traditional version and tastes just as delectable.
Tikka masala is a popular North Indian entrée that is usually served with naan and basmati rice. The most popular of tikka masalas is chicken tikka masala, so much so it is the national dish of Britain. But, here’s an equally tasty, healthy and authentic tofu tikka masala for you, we promise you won’t miss the chicken or paneer. Paneer is Indian cottage cheese which doesn’t melt at high temperature and extra firm tofu replaces paneer beautifully in this vegan recipe.
Don’t get intimidated by the list of spices, the beauty and flavor of authentic Indian food is in the variety of fragrant spices. Also here’s a tip for beginners, buy the spices from the bulk section of your local grocery stores. Some of them even carry organic spices in bulk, it’s cheaper, fresher and is not going to clutter your pantry. Enjoy this Tofu tikka masala with a side of naan and fragrant basmati rice, make sure to stock on enough Malbec to wash it all down.
“Do Pyaaza” literally means double onion. This Indian curry is a popular curry used in meat preparations. The earthy spices and the onions will remind most Indians of the roadside small shops serving greasy chicken or lamb curries. This recipe replaces that meaty memory with a vegan/dairy-free version, that is even more yummy and heavenly! Each bite tingles the tongue with a different spice. The tempeh can be replaced with seitan, tofu, mushrooms or vegetables like potato, cauliflower. Serve hot with any Indian Flat Bread (Roti, Chapati, Naan) or Basmati Rice!
9. Mango Lassi
Traditionally, this North Indian drink is made with yogurt, but you can still enjoy this tasty cross between a smoothie and a milkshake by subbing coconut milk kefir for yogurt. Coconut milk kefir contains healthful probiotics that help keep the friendly bacteria in our guts flourishing. Kefir has been around for over 2,000 years and has been said to help improve immunity, aid in digestion, treat candida and yeast overgrowth, lower cholesterol and prevent cancer. The sour taste of the kefir mixed with the sweet of the mango makes this drink a sweet and sour treat.
This cauliflower dish blends Asian and Indian flavors beautifully. It has a rich and complex flavor, but is slightly sweet and also a little spicy. I like to serve this as a side dish, but you can turn it into a full meal by doubling the sauce and tossing it with chickpeas and 2 cups of peas. Then serve it over brown rice.
For more great ethnically-inspired recipes, check out 11 Delicious Asian-Inspired Vegan Recipes!
Got a tasty Indian-inspired recipe? Share it with us!