Indian food is arguably the most flavorsome of all cuisines, the depth of flavor is out of this world. It can have spice, but the best Indian dishes have a kick of spice just to complement the flavor. Once the chili gets too hot, you stop being able to taste the spices.
The most common spices used in Indian cooking include garam masala, cumin, paprika, turmeric, cilantro (coriander), cardamom, and ginger. Of course, different areas of India use different flavors. For example, in Southern India, you’ll find more recipes including tamarind.
Indian food isn’t just for meat-eaters though, there are actually an incredible amount of vegetarian dishes. Dahl is a lentil-based curry, Sag Aloo uses potatoes and spinach, Bombay potatoes are a common side dish, and eggplant is a very common vegetable choice for vegetarian curries. Paneer dishes are also very popular, this is a type of cheese that is cubed and used frequently in curries.
Okay, so it’s clear there are so many vegetarian Indian recipes! Where to start? Here are 24 to keep you busy:
Of course, tofu is an obvious meat substitute. It’s readily available, cheap, and a fantastic source of protein. This recipe uses coconut yogurt instead of cream, making it a bit more healthy than the traditional method of making this creamy sauce. Steamed rice or naan bread make good sides for soaking up all the sauce.
This is an eggplant-based curry, or aubergine as it is also known. Vegan Cocette suggests air frying the eggplant first, though it can be roasted in the oven if you don’t have an air fryer. This is a mild curry, so great for kids or curry beginners! Don’t forget to sprinkle the dish with fresh cilantro before serving, this makes all the difference to the flavor.
Another eggplant dish, but this time it’s more of a ‘mash’ than crispy chunks. The texture is more akin to a lentil dahl. Cook With Manali stresses the most important part of this dish is to fire roast the eggplant. This means to literally cook it directly on an open flame. It can be done in the kitchen on a gas stove, but it gives this smoky flavor that isn’t achievable with any other method of cooking.
This is a smoky and creamy eggplant curry, but no need for an open flame for this one. The eggplant is cooked in an oily dish in chunks, and Curry Trail stresses the importance of not substituting curry leaves or mustard seeds. Indian cooking is very specific, and when you start subbing out ingredients, you end up with a different flavor completely.
5. Dahi Baingan
My Dainty Kitchen shares a northern Indian curry recipe where you are cooking fried brinjals in curd. What does this even mean? Well, the brinjals part is eggplant, and curd is basically curdled cheese. Cheese sounds like a strange ingredient for curry, but it’s actually very common in India.
The Fiery Kitchen gives us a famous Indian side dish recipe. This is one most people would have heard, and there are many variations of it. Sometimes it’s dry (which is traditionally correct), but other recipes will make it wetter and more tomatoey. This recipe is somewhere in the middle, it’s not as dry as it would be in India but the slight and thick tomatoey sauce is delicious.
7. Aloo Tikka
Aloo Tikka is a very popular street food throughout India and Pakistan. It’s not a curry, but a potato patty. Something in the Western world we might eat on a side of a curry, but is traditionally a snack. I Knead To Eat shows how to cook and mash the potatoes so they are mouldable, and the spices used are ones like cumin, chili powder, and coriander.
Indian food is often a labor of love, the whole day spent in the kitchen slaving over a fabulous onslaught of curries and sides. So it’s a lovely surprise to find a 20 minutes recipe from Veenaaz Manov. This dish can be eaten as a main or a side, is a dry dish, and uses black mustard seeds for a pop of flavor.
Potato, cauliflower, and pea curry is a common vegetarian Indian dish. The potato fills you up, the peas add protein and the cauliflower adds bulk. Vegan Cocette suggests teaming it with rice or roti (a broad term for a range of Indian flatbreads).
10. Saag Aloo
This is a potato and spinach curry, which again can range in levels of sauce. This is a drier version, and as a result, is best eaten with a nice piece of naan. Rice works too but might be a little dry without sauce. Kitchen Sanctuary uses cumin and mustard seeds, which definitely can’t be subbed out as they are fried until they pop, which is a flavor unique to them.
11. Aloo Patak
Healthier Steps shares a much saucier and spinach-heavy dish here. It’s similar to Saag Aloo in that it’s potato and spinach-based, but Aloo Patak has its differences. A fun fact about potatoes being an ingredient in so many Indian dishes: You’d think it’s because it’s an easy and cheap vegetable, but it’s used to treat stomach problems and diarrhea! So if you think you better steer clear of curry on an upset stomach, tuck right into this instead.
A different take on Aloo Tikka, this recipe from Cherry on My Sundae uses sweet potatoes in the patties. Eaten as a snack, appetizer, or on the side of a curry, this delicious patty has minced jalapenos mixed directly into the potato giving it a tasty spice.
Chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are another common vegetarian curry ingredient used in Indian cooking. When Plated it offers up a very colorful curry, with the yellow hues coming from the curry powder. Pop on an apron when cooking with curry or turmeric as it stains!
Scrambled Chefs brings us a recipe for a north Indian street food, unlike anything you’re likely to have tasted at a western Indian eatery. This is the kind of food you’d pick up for breakfast or lunch from a stall by the side of the road, from someone who has perfected the art of flavor. You’ll need to make the paratha which is a flatbread (but so much more delicious than that), and then stuff it with the spice mashed potato.
Samosas. We all know this one. Foodess shows us how to cook them ourselves at home. Indian food can be incredibly fattening, so cooking these types of snacks at home means you can control the saturated fat levels a bit more. For example, try baking or air frying samosas instead of deep frying or pan frying to reduce the fat.
16. Chana Masala
This is a classic chickpea curry. Roughly translated it means chickpeas in a gravy masala. Dinner Then Dessert shows us how to whip up a deliciously creamy yet tomatoey sauce for these protein and fiber-packed beans.
This is similar to Chana Masala but this recipe from Watch What U Eat has a lot more sauce. So pick which recipe you prefer, if don’t like so much sauce on your food, try out the one above first. This sauce is rich and works well with naan bread or rice.
Adding spinach to the chickpeas bulks out the protein and iron content, which is only a good thing. It’s also known as Chana Palek Masala and is less creamy and has more of a tomato-onion base to the sauce. The Fiery Vegetarian shows us how to make it in less than 30 minutes.
Korma is the mildest curry you can find on an Indian menu, both in spice level and flavor, making it an excellent gateway curry for children and curry virgins. It’s not a tomato-based sauce but instead is overly creamy. Vegan Cocette shows you how to add onions, garlic, and ginger to pull off this mild taste.
The Almond Eater shares a 30-minute one-pot meal, making it an easy dish for weeknights. It’s very healthy too because of the use of chickpeas and cauliflower. The coconut milk and coconut oil give the dish an excellent flavor too.
Dahl is a very well-known vegetarian Indian dish. Nora Cooks shows us how to prepare this red lentil dahl, which can be eaten as a side dish or the main meal. Red lentils cook very quickly, meaning it’s not time-consuming to make. Lentils are also a wonderful source of fiber and protein, so it’s healthy to boot!
22. Mung Daal
There are many different types of daal in Indian cuisine, because of the variety of lentils available. A Spicy Perspective uses yellow mung daal and red lentils (or split peas) in this recipe, both of which cook very quickly. Cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cardamom give a great flavor, and cooking it in vegetable broth instead of water helps deepen the flavor.
While black dahl is certainly not as common, it’s always fun to try something different. There is also something exciting and exotic about cooking with black ingredients, they look so unusual and bold. Instant Pot Eats shows us how to create this dish in an Instant Pot, alternatively, you could use a crock pot.
Ela Vegan shares a very saucy dahl recipe, which is packed with vegetables as well as green lentils. Garlic, onion, and ginger form the base of the flavor. They are all fried first, then the spices are added before the lentils are mixed in. This recipe includes coconut milk, which is why it’s so saucy. Other recipes use just enough broth for the lentils to cook, resulting in drier dahl. So have a play around and customize your curry to your preferences!
Tofu Tikka Masala
For the Tofu Tikka:
For the Masala:
- ½ cup coconut yogurt
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Drain the tofu and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut the tofu into cubes.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the garam masala, paprika, turmeric, black pepper, salt, and lemon juice. Mix well. Add the tofu cubes to the bowl and toss to coat them with the spice mixture. Let it marinate for about 30 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the tofu cubes on the sheet. Lightly spray tofu cubes with cooking oil and toss to coat.
- Bake the tofu for 20 minutes, or until crispy on the outside.
- In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.
- Add the minced garlic and grated ginger to the skillet and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add the remaining masala ingredients to the skillet and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Add the coconut yogurt to the skillet and stir well. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
- Add the baked tofu to the skillet and stir gently to coat it with the sauce. Cook for another 1 minute to heat the tofu through.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, lemon slices, and chili peppers; serve hot with steamed rice or naan bread. Enjoy!