With a wide range of dishes made from a colourful mix of tasty vegetables, fresh herbs and aromatic spices to choose from, South India really is vegan foodie heaven!
India is a brilliant destination for non-meat eaters, as it has the highest population of vegetarians in the world. Many of the vegetarian dishes you’ll find are actually 100% vegan, although you may need to do a little detective work to be on the safe side.
Ordering vegan food
- Explain what you do and don’t eat to be clear, as the term ‘veganism’ may not be understood, especially if you’re talking to someone with limited English.
- Check if vegetable or coconut oil can be used instead of ghee (clarified butter).
- Cream, paneer cheese and yoghurt are regularly used in Indian cookery, so find out if your desired dish contains these.
- Naan bread is often made with yoghurt, so try poppadoms, puri and rotis Ask for chapatti ‘plain’ instead of brushed with butter.
- Most sauces and dips are fine, except Raita which is made with yoghurt.
- Coconut milk is great to add to your coffee.
Top tips for vegans in India
- If you’re eating at a restaurant, call ahead to ask if vegans are catered for
- Don’t be afraid to ask about the ingredients in a dish and ask for little tweaks, such as swapping tofu for meat or cheese
- Stock up! If you find vegan snacks you like, buy a few to keep you going on any long day trips.
- Have fun and try new things!
Our favourite vegan dishes
StartersCauliflower, okra and onion bhajis – a small flat cake or ball of vegetables, fried in batter.
Vegetable pakoras – small, deep fried appetisers.
Vegetable samosas – triangular filo pastry with a potato and pea filling.
Main coursesBaingan Bharta – roasted aubergine mashed with Indian spices (similar to Baba Ganoush).
Balti – A tasty curry served in a metal bowl.
Chana Masala/Chole (Chickpea Curry) – chickpeas and spinach spiced with garam masala.
Rajma – Red kidney beans in a thick sauce with spices, usually served with rice.
Sambar – A lentil-based vegetable stew or chowder cooked with a tamarind broth.
Vegetable Biryani– a mixed rice dish with vegetables.
Vegetable Curry – a medley of vegetables served at different strengths of spiciness.
Veggie Vindaloo – a spicy dish if you like a bit of heat!
Side dishesAloo Gobi – Made with potatoes, cauliflower and Indian spices.
Beetroot Vattom – A dry preparation of beetroot with spices and tapioca. Try the recipe here!
Bombay Potato – Cubed, boiled and fried, and flavored with spices such as chili powder cumin, curry, garam masala, garlic, turmeric, mustard seeds, salt and pepper and turmeric.
Chana Saag – a chickpea curry, with onion, tomato, chillies, coriander seeds, garlic, ginger and dried mango powder.
Daal –any dish made with split pulses such as lentils.
Saag Aloo – Spinach, potato and spices.
DessertsChikki – A sweet and crunchy nut brittle that can be made with peanuts, cashews or almonds.
Ela Ada – A steamed doughnut-like delight, filled with grated coconut and jiggery.
Kuluku Roti – Roti (Indian flatbread) pieces mixed in jaggery and soaked overnight with crushed nuts or sesame seeds.
Petha – Ash gourd (winter melon) in different flavours, cooked in a sugary syrup.
Pori Urundai – Made during Karthikai Deepam ( Festival of Lights). puffed rice (pori) is mixed with cardamom, coconut pieces and jaggery syrup. Check for ghee before buying!
Suzhiyan – Usually prepared for Diwali, battered and fried lentils, coconut, and jaggery with a crunchy coating. Avoid if fried in ghee!
Tilkut/Tilkatri – A crunchy treat made with white sesame seeds and jaggery or sugar.
Do you have a suggestion, or a favourite dish we’ve missed? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org