Select Page

India’s vast territory means regional variations in food. But some dishes are renowned, including the buttery dal makhani and the smoky tandoori chicken. The country also excels in sweet treats such as milk fudge and rice pudding and coconut desserts. Coconut is a staple in Indian cuisine, being used as a cooking oil and a flavoring. It is also added to savory dishes like curries and pilaus as well as to sweets. In addition, nuts (especially peanuts, almonds and pistachios) are used in many savory dishes throughout India as well as chaat, a fried street snack, and dosa, a thin pancake of fermented lentil and rice flour.

A variety of spices are used in Indian cooking, with ginger, garlic and turmeric being especially common. Peppercorns, cumin, fenugreek, saffron and asafoetida (hing) are also popular ingredients.

Spices aren’t just used for their flavor but have therapeutic properties. They are believed to help prevent illness and boost the immune system. Other spices and herbs commonly used include nutmeg, cardamom, coriander, fennel and cumin. These spices are often paired with vegetables, legumes, grains and meats to create rich and flavorful dishes.

Another popular ingredient in Indian cooking is ghee, a fully clarified butter that adds richness and toasty flavors to food. It is often poured over rice dishes or sprinkled on savory curries to enhance the flavor. It can even be stirred into yoghurt to add a creamy texture and nutty flavor.

While Indians from the north typically eat flat breads such as naan and chapati, those in southern India enjoy rice and a range of vegetable stews and curries. They also use a lot of tamarind, an acidic fruit similar to lemon juice that is often used as a condiment and to give sour foods a more palatable taste.

Most Indian meals are spicy, but the spice level can vary. Those who are sensitive to spice should avoid some dishes. Those who enjoy spicy food should try dishes such as the aloo gobi, which combines potatoes and cauliflower in a makhani sauce. Other tasty options are malai kofta, a dish that features makhani-style sauce but with vegetarian kofta, made from potatoes, mung beans or paneer, the soft Indian cheese.

In addition to spices and herbs, a variety of other ingredients are used in Indian cooking, including yoghurt, milk, coconut and vegetables. Yoghurt is a vital part of the diet for millions of Indians and is added to most meals. Milk is a staple of Indian cuisine, and is used to make dishes such as lassi, kulfi, or gajar halwa, a carrot dessert. The creamy rice pudding kheer, and mango or coconut souffle gulab jamun are also Indian favorites.