With so many delicious, warming spices and rich stews, Indian cuisine is a favorite, especially for those who choose to eat with compassion. Many Indian dishes are vegan-friendly, but you should be aware of a few things before checking out that new Indian restaurant that you’ve been eyeing.
Here are our top four tips to become a master at ordering or shopping for vegan Indian food:
1. Avoid Ghee ❌
Ghee—or clarified butter—is butter that has been simmered and strained, leaving only the clear, fatty liquid. In other words, it’s pretty much pure butterfat. If you’re looking to eat out as a vegan, it should be avoided. However, it’s one of the most popular ingredients in Indian cooking: Traditionally, most curries include ghee. It can also sometimes be found in popular soups, such as dal, a super-delish blend of lentils and fragrant spices (called tadka).
While some restaurants use vegetable-based oils instead of ghee, it’s best to ask your waiter politely if any soup or curry that you’re eyeing is vegan.
2. Exchange Naan (and Chapati) ❌ for Papadams ✅
Naan and chapati (also known as roti) are flatbreads often found in Indian cuisine. They have a lovely pillowy texture and are sometimes served with delicious savory fillings, such as potatoes and onions. However, both breads are sometimes made with dairy “products” like yogurt. ☹
You don’t have to go without bread, though! Papadams are thin, crispy wafers made with lentils, and they’re oh-so-delish. So if the naan or chapati served at your fave Indian restaurant isn’t vegan, ask for a yummy tray of papadams (without any butter brushed on top).
3. Paneer, Get Outta Here! ❌
Paneer is fresh cheese, and it’s pretty common in Indian and other South Asian cuisines. So when you’re scanning the menu for a yummy curry to go with your basmati rice, be sure to avoid any that contain paneer, unless you’re at a fully vegan restaurant. Dishes featuring this ingredient normally have it in the title—like palak paneer or paneer pasnada—but you should always read the ingredients for the dishes you want to try to ensure that they don’t include it.
Paneer Masala I made today in class. Sautéd yellow onion, garlic, and fresh ginger. Then I freshly ground each individual spice in the masala, then added it to the freshly cooked and puréed butternut squash and sweet potato combo. This recipe was vegan, so the paneer is not cheese but tofu. Mango powder made it in there somewhere too. Garnished with fresh cilantro. Was pretty delicious! It disappeared quite quickly from happy eaters!! #itswhatsfordinner #yummy #Vegan #ayurveda #tofu #paneer #veganpaneer #paneermasala #veganpaneermasala #butternutsquash #Sweetpotato #naturalepicurean #cilantro
If any do, your server may be able to adjust the dish to your liking by removing the cheese, so asking is always the best way to go.
4. Know Your Vegan Options
It’s always good to know the vegan staples in any cuisine. When it comes to Indian food, here are some common vegan appetizers and curries:
Vegetable (Onion, Cauliflower, and Okra) Bhaji ✅
Who could do with a plate of freshly cooked onion bhajis right now ??♀️ . Did you know that Punjabi onion bhajis differ from other onion bhajis, as we use some additional vegetables in ours, which add amazing taste and texture. They are best eaten straight from being cooked, when they are hot and crispy! Fancy giving these a go? Our Punjabi Onion Bhaji Sachet comes in our Meal Boxes (it comes in the Traditional Box, Plant-based Box, Gluten-Free Box, Gluten-free Plant-based Box, Dairy-free Box and Dairy-free vegetarian Box). Click the link in our bio for more info in our Meal Box Range ? @kit_fanner #food #punjabi #indian #curry #bhaji #pakore #onionbhaji #spices #pulses #chickpeas #vegan #plantbased #dairyfree #glutenfree #mealprep #mealbox #madefromscratch #cook #cooking #cookathome #mealplanning #meatfree
Vegetable Samosas ✅
finally(!) cooking my way through the cookbooks i got for christmas and made these baked leek/pea/mint samosas from @meerasodha's 'fresh india'. omg trying to make these things in filo pastry totally stressed me out, but, oh man, the crispy, flaky exterior is FAB once it's baked. ?? definitely worth the effort. . . . . #samosa #vegetarian
Vegetable Pakoras ✅
Lunching on crispy, seasonal red cabbage & leek pakora with quick, hot, fresh & tasty coriander chutney . . #lunch #pakora #seasonal #winter #veg #coriander #chutney #spice #herbs #organic #biodynamic #colour #nourish #plantbased #vegan #veganuary #goodmoodfood #indianfood #gramflour #batter #home #family #homecooking #friday #balance @willwilliamsmeditation
Chana Masala ✅
Masala Dosa ✅
You can still politely ask your server about these options, just in case they happen to contain an animal-derived ingredient. You don’t have to be shy when it comes to ensuring that you’re not accidentally consuming animal “products.”