If you've seen my video on my favorite vegan Indian dish, or read chapter six of my book Veggie Planet, then you know that vegan Indian food is one of my favorite world cuisines.
You've probably heard that India is great for lacto-vegetarian travelers, but did you know that there are also plenty of vegan Indian food items to choose from?
The vegan movement is really taking off in India. But even before veganism was popular, there were already many vegan dishes in Indian cuisine, and even some vegan Indian desserts.
Today's guest post is by Varun Sharma, an Indian travel enthusiast who's here to share eight vegan Indian dishes that you definitely don't want to miss.
Vegan Indian Food: 12 Dishes You Must Try
1. Chana Masala
Chana masala is my favorite vegan Indian dish. Watch the video to learn all about it!
Chana masala is primarily a northern Indian dish, although it is also eaten as a breakfast food in the south of India.
Chana means "chickpea" and masala means "spice", so this dish is a chickpea curry made with tomatoes, garlic, ginger, onion, plenty of spices ... and chickpeas, of course!
It's usually vegan by default. The only non-vegan ingredient that you might find in this dish is ghee - a type of clarified butter that is sometimes used as a cooking fat in India.
If that's the case, you can ask the restaurant staff to replace the ghee with a plant-based oil. Chana masala can be eaten with rice or with a bread such as chapati or naan. Or both!
2. Dal Chaawal
This is a common dish prepared in every household in India. Depending on the region, some families even prepare it three or four times a week.
Dal means “lentil” and chawal means “rice”, so this is a dish of lentils and rice. Indians use different kinds of lentils for making different lentil soups.
I remember there used to be more than 10 types of lentils in my mom’s kitchen. Each kind of soup uses a different combination of spices.
Thus, each of them differs in taste significantly. Indians love to eat lentil soup with rice and sometimes with roti (Indian flatbread). Interestingly, this dish is more popular in homes than in restaurants.
Often Indian families add a little bit of ghee or butter in the serving of lentil soup once it is ready. If you are traveling as a vegan, make sure you let your host or server know that you do not want ghee or butter.
In restaurants, you will probably find two kinds of lentil soups:
Dal Fry or Dal Tadka
This one is mostly prepared with yellow lentils (arhar or toor dal). It is possible that the restaurant staff might add butter or ghee to your serving without consulting you, so be sure to let them know you want a vegan meal.
And of course, to make this a complete dal chaawal (lentils and rice), just order rice as an accompaniment.
This is another popular lentil soup in India. However, the word “makhani” means butter, which is always an ingredient in this dish. For that reason, this type of lentil soup is not easily veganized.
You should either confirm with your server that the restaurant serves a vegan version of it or just order something else.
Kofta actually means “meatball”. However, in India, it is common to see vegetarian and vegan varieties of kofta.
Vegan versions often include kofta made with lentils or potatoes or mixed vegetables. Kofta is usually served with spicy curry or gravy. If you are familiar with Indian cuisine, then you probably know that there are different kinds of gravies in India.
Some gravies may contain butter or cream as an essential ingredient, so confirm with your server which gravy they serve with the kofta. If it’s a creamy gravy, ask if they can swap it out for a vegan one.
4. Kashmiri Dum Aloo
This dum aloo is a traditional dish from Kashmir that is made with small deep-fried potatoes cooked slowly in a spicy gravy. Although the dish originates from the state of Kashmir, it is also very popular in the rest of India.
You will easily find it in most Indian restaurants, both in India and in other countries. When it is prepared at home, it is almost always vegan.
However, some restaurants serve it in a gravy that contains cream or curd (yogurt). Confirm with your server whether they can offer a vegan version of this dish.
5. Vegetable Biryani
The first dish on this list is for all the rice lovers out there! No matter where you are traveling in India, you're never far away from a sumptuous plate of vegetable biryani.This is the Indian version of vegetable fried rice.
The fragrant rice cooked with succulent vegetables and a heaping mix of aromatic spices like nutmeg, pepper mace, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom, coriander, and mint can make your senses go wild. And trust me, you’ll end up craving more.
Rajma is a popular vegan Indian dish made of red kidney beans cooked with many Indian whole spices in a thick gravy. It’s usually served with roti (an Indian flatbread) and steaming hot rice. Even though the kidney bean is not of Indian origin, it’s still an integral part of the typical diet in Northern India.
7. Masala Dosa
Made from fermented rice and dal (lentils), masala dosa is a super-thin, crispy, savory pancake wrapped around a mix of curried potatoes, onions and spices. It's popular mainly in South India, and also in neighboring Sri Lanka.
This scrumptious dish is served with chutney and sambar and is best suited for breakfast or lunch. The southern city of Bangalore is particularly famous for its many dosa joints, and it was also recently named India’s most vegan-friendly city.
Just be aware that some chefs will use yogurt (curd) in the fermentation process when making the batter.
8. Hara Bhara Kabab
If you enjoy munching on snacks but still want to get all the nutrients your body needs, then Hara Bhara Kabab is the perfect snack food for you.
These little round patties look similar to falafel but are made from potatoes, green peas and spinach. They are a tasty alternative to the typical meat kabab.
9. Baingan Bharta
Baingan Bharta is a smoked eggplant curry, somewhat like a warm version of the baba ghanoush that is eaten as a cold dip in Middle Eastern countries.
Baingan Bharta is a simple combination of spices and herbs with chargrilled eggplant (known as “brinjals” in India). It is a flavorful dish that is easy to whip up and is healthy and tasty to boot.
10. Aloo Puri
The next vegan Indian food item on this list is a bit of a decadent treat but is worth every calorie. An essential part of North Indian cuisine, puri bhaji is a must-try dish for those who like their food on the spicy side. Puri refers to the delicious, crispy deep-fried, puffed bread that is served with a delectable spicy gravy made of aloo (potato).
If you’re traveling by train (a quintessential Indian experience in itself), you’ll find vendors selling Aloo Puri at almost every station. For hygiene reasons, though, it’s best to stick to government-authorized vendors or the one that you get with your official IRCTC ticket.
When it comes to vegan Indian food, pakoras are undoubtedly the perfect snack! They are basically Indian fritters made of besan (chickpea flour) with added vegetables like potato, bell peppers, cabbage, and spices. This item is usually served with a delicious mint or coriander chutney.
12. Chole Bathure
A guaranteed crowd-pleasing vegan Indian food item, chole is enjoyed by people of all ages. This chickpea-based curry not only tastes good but is also packed with lots of healthy ingredients. The spicy, mouthwatering dish is accompanied by puris or bhatura (fried Indian bread).
These 12 vegan Indian food items should all be on your must-eat list while traveling in India. Happy travels!
About the Author
Varun is a travel enthusiast from India and writes for ixigo.com. He loves to visit new places and try new cuisines. When he's not traveling, he can be seen watching soccer matches and videos from WWE.
Kashmiri Dum Aloo - By Miansari66 - Own work, CC0
Dal Chawal - By Monali.mishra [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Kofta - By Barthateslisa - Own work, [CC BY-SA 4.0].
These are some of my favorite Indian dishes actually! It’s so good.
They are some of my favorites, too! But Varun also introduced me to a couple that I hadn’t heard of before. I look forward to trying them out!
I was kind of expecting a list of actual vegan foods, rather than ones that could maybe be made vegan, but it still made my mouth water! India is one of the places I’d like to settle into for a while. Several months at least.
(You might be losing comments due to a bug in your contact form. It kept asking me for a url when one was already there)I had to type the http:// which most people won’t know.
Thanks for your feedback! The thing about Indian food is that there are lots of dishes that can be vegan and sometimes are, but it’s always best to check to be sure. This applies mostly to the use of dairy products, and especially ghee, which might be hiding in a dish that appears to be vegan. But most restaurants will be happy to use oil instead of ghee if you ask.
And cheers for the heads up about the comments issue; I’ll look into it.
My kind of post! I’m new to your blog and LOVING it! Mind if I link you on my sidebar? Can’t wait to see more posts! In the meantime I will be thumbing thru your previous ones!
I’m so glad to hear that you like my blog! I look forward to checking yours out as well, and I’d be honoured if you linked to mine from your sidebar.
These all look delicious. I have ate Pakoras before and loved them. I am always looking for new vegan foods to make so I will try these. Beautiful pictures too that have my mouth watering!
I love pakoras too! I think masala dosa is probably my favorite of all the dishes on this list. If you’re ever in India or in an Indian restaurant that serves southern Indian food, be sure to give it a try.
All dishes look delicious. I always try to get new vegan foods to eat, whenever we get Indian restaurant. It’s so good. You know I like Masala Dosa very much.
I’m glad to hear that you enjoy trying new vegan foods, Sebastian! Does the 107 Steak and Bar serve any vegan dishes?
No, Wendy Werneth we serve only non-veg dishes.
Ah, that’s too bad. I hope you’ll consider adding some vegan items to the menu.
Those recipes look really good. I’m rookie to Indian food but kinda already in love with it.
Indian food is certainly easy to fall in love with! It’s one of my favorite world cuisines.
I appreciate your post, Indian cuisine is known for its large assortment of dishes. The cooking style varies from region to region and is largely divided into South Indian & North Indian cuisine.
Yes, that is very true! I like both North Indian and South Indian cuisine. The South is more vegan-friendly because they tend to use coconut milk there rather than cow’s milk, but some of my favorite dishes are from the cuisine of the North.
Beautiful food. Kind of stuff we eat 3 to 4 times a week 🙂 But nice to get a variety in from other cultures too as prep for some of the Indian dishes listed here can get tiring and long winded. We are encouraging my mother-in-law to write a vegan recipe book as she is a fab cook and a super talent to the culinary industry. So far… it’s slow going 😉
That would be wonderful if your mother-in-law wrote a vegan recipe book! If she ever does, be sure to send me the link and I’ll check it out.
Hey Wendy, of course, would love to share it with you if we can encourage her to take the next step. She keeps saying, “I just love cooking and feeding others and that’s all”, but we’re urging her on 🙂
my favorite Indian dishes actually! It’s so good.
I’m so glad you liked the post! Indian food is fabulous.
There can be 100 more vegan dishes from India! I am happy that India has a huge variety of vegan and vegetarian food! There was one time when I took my friends to an Indian restaurant in the US. Somehow my order got switched with another friend. He finished my entire vegan order thinking it was chicken! Only when I looked at my food we realized there was a mismatch. He told me it was so delicious that he never questioned that it was not chicken. What I want to say is that the argument of vegan food not being delicious is invalid. 🙂
Ha ha, that’s a great story, Sanskar! You’re absolutely right; choosing vegan options does not mean that you have to compromise on taste.
Hello, yummy and fattening just to look at… but… how about passing on the recipes? :)))) Thank you !
I’m glad you enjoyed the post! The recipes aren’t mine to share, but I’m sure if you google the names of the dishes you will find recipes for them pretty easily.
Naan is not vegan, it is made with yoghurt.
Well, it depends. It’s true that naan often contains yoghurt, but I’ve definitely come across Indian restaurants that make vegan naan. It’s always worth asking!
I have yet to come across any. They all used yogurt in their naan.
Lovely post with a happy and delightful array of options. You are absolutely right that there are many vegan naan options without yoghurt. We actually serve them at our place in Oxford. http://www.veganpunjabi.delivery
Thanks Bal, that’s good to know! I’ll be sure to drop by if I’m ever in Oxford.
Thanks for sharing this lovely and informative post on popular indian vegetarian food. Thanks for sharing.
Hello …BHATURE and pooris are deep fried ?
Yes, that’s right, they are.
Thank you for posting this! I tried kofta and aloo puri and I really liked it=) India is a paradise for vegans.
Wow, all food look delicious and mouth-watering. I have made Chole Bathura and loved them. I am always looking for new Indian foods to make so I will try these. Thank you for an informative post I love it so much keep it up.
That’s really cool that you have made Chole Bathura! I hope this post has inspired you to try your hand at making a few more of these vegan Indian dishes.
Amazing recipes. I am glad that I found your blog as I got new snack ideas from it. My daughter always wants new snacks in her tiffin and now I can make it for her. Keep sharing such tasty recipes with the foodies.
I´m a vegetarian and so happy to see these recipes! Thank you 🙂