I’m from the South, so you can imagine the types of foods I grew up eating – chicken, biscuits, macaroni, butter on everything, and if I was lucky, green beans and peas. It’s funny to look back on the way I used to eat as a child and then look at what I eat now. Typically, I stick to foods like smoothies, salads, soups, and roasted or raw vegetables, but occasionally, I like to add some flair with Indian cooking. Not many people around here cook their veggies Indian-style, my family included. They still don’t understand why our sinks have an orange tinge from all the turmeric tea I make!
Despite where I live or where you live, cooking veggies Indian-style is not only the perfect way to get out of a veggie rut, but it can also give you some extra nutrition and culinary skills. Indian spices are full of health benefits, not to mention, they have an incredible smell and taste. Cooking Indian-style also offers a nice change of pace to more traditional methods like baking, broiling, or steaming like we tend to use here in America.
To get started, try some things that worked for me when I first learned to cook veggies Indian-style. If these tips can work for this Southern gal, I promise they’ll work for you too!
1. Start With the Basics
When first starting out, don’t get too ahead of yourself and try to take on tandooris and especially fancy curries your first few tries. While those dishes are great, you don’t have to prepare your vegetables especially fancy for them to taste good. I like to keep things simple with Indian-style veggies by selecting some of the most delicious, yet simplistic Indian spices and flavors. I suggest using these choices to start with:
Herbs and Spices
- Curry Powder
- Garam Masala
- Black Pepper
- Coconut Milk
- Yogurt (coconut or soy)
- Vegetable Oil (olive, coconut, or canola)
- Garlic cloves
Pick a couple to start with and experiment with different flavors each time. Remember that Indian spices and flavors are very rich and aromatic. If you’re not used to this type of cooking, be sure to start with a minimal amount of spices and increase as you become more accustomed to the flavor.
2. Pick the Best Vegetables
Though you can cook any types of vegetables you want Indian-style, I suggest starting with some of the best if you’re new to Indian cooking. By the best, I mean vegetables that take on the best flavor when combined with the spices and flavors above. I find that the sweeter vegetables seem to taste better, so try potatoes, squashes, peas, carrots, onions, tomato, and yams to start with. You can of course cook broccoli, asparagus, celery, kohlrabi, cabbage, mushrooms, greens, or any other vegetable you like Indian-style. But again, the sweeter veggies seem to taste the best when you’re just starting out. They also compliment many of the flavors used in Indian cooking without much extra preparation at all.
3. Cook Slowly
Indian-style vegetables are typically cooked in one dish, which makes them incredibly easy and very flavorful. They’re also cooked long and slow versus fast such as boiling or worse – microwaving, which we do a lot of here in America. Most of the time, vegetables are cooked in a large rounded pan on the stove-top such as a wok, skillet, or what is used in India that is known as a kadai. The rounded edges of the pan allow for the most room and to ensure that the vegetables release water during cooking, which helps them cook more evenly. Vegetables should be allowed to simmer to develop the optimal flavor level and cooked anywhere from 20 – 45 minutes. They may be cooked with water, coconut milk, or even soy or coconut yogurt for a richer flavor, such as in Tikka Masala, where the complexity of the flavor is what creates the best dish.
Just be sure to chop your vegetables roughly around the same size before preparing them so they cook as evenly as possible. Also note that some vegetables will take longer to cook than others, so take a peek at this guide if you’re not familiar with cooking veggies Indian-style or with the varying times that vegetables take to prepare.
4. Add Salt Last
Salt is heavily used here in the United States, especially in the South, but not so much in Indian cooking. When using salt, it’s best to add just a tiny bit at the very end. This will help keep the vegetables from breaking down and releasing too much water during cooking, which might make them mushy in texture. Indian cuisine is all about letting the spices and aromatics do the talking- not the salt. As a bonus, your blood pressure will be much healthier too!
5. Serve Them Simple
Though Indian flavors are beautifully complex, serving them doesn’t have to be. In fact, most Indian dishes are served with simple beans or rice, or with a mix of the two. Chickpeas, Chana Dal beans, and white rice are common sides that Indian-style vegetables are served over or alongside of.
One of my favorite things about cooking veggies Indian-style is the vibrancy of color they offer! They’re absolutely beautiful to look at and are a joy to eat.
Need vegan Indian recipes? No problem! Try these to get you started right now: Stir Fried Brussels Sprouts with Ginger and Curry Leaves, Spicy Mushroom Stir Fry with Garlic, Black Pepper, and Chives, Amazing Indian Onion and Kale Fritters, Indian Chinese Broccoli Manchurian Stir Fry, and The Yummiest Mango Curry You Will Ever Taste.
Do you have a favorite Indian recipe? Feel free to leave a link or share your tips!