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Is Indian Food Vegan?

Estimated time to read 4 minutes

For those who LOVE Indian cuisine, you are not alone! Indian food is widely enjoyed across the globe and features a variety of delicious, nutritious options.

However, those who live a vegan lifestyle may be wondering if Indian food is vegan, and if not, what can be done to make Indian food vegan friendly. Today we’re diving into the wonderful world of Indian cuisine and learning about vegan Indian food!

What is Indian cuisine?

If you’re unfamiliar with Indian cuisine, here’s a quick breakdown. Indian cuisine incorporates a variety of regional and traditional cuisines native to the Indian subcontinent. Because of the diversity in soil, climate, culture, ethnic groups, and occupations, Indian cuisine varies drastically and uses locally available spices, herbs, vegetables, and fruits.

Indian cuisine - Eat Proper Good

Indian food is also influenced by religion, such as Hinduism and Islam, as well as cultural choices and traditions.

What are a few pantry staples used in Indian cuisine?

Indian cuisine often uses a few foundational pantry staples. If you’re just dipping your toe into making Indian food, try stocking up on these pantry items as a starting point!

Coriander

Cilantro and coriander come from the plant species but are named differently in different parts of the world - which can be confusing! In North America, cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks of the plant, and the word “cilantro” is the Spanish name for coriander leaves. Meanwhile, the dried seeds of the plant are called coriander.

Worldwide however, coriander is the name for the leaves and stalks of the plant, while the dried seeds are called coriander seeds. Despite coming from the same plant, cilantro and coriander have different nutrient profiles, tastes and uses! Cilantro leaves have higher levels of vitamins, but lower levels of minerals. In contrast, coriander seeds have lower levels of vitamins, but far more minerals. They’re both delicious and good for you though, so don’t worry!

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that is native to the Caribbean, South America, and Southeast Asia. People have used cinnamon since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt, and it is the second most popular spice in the United States and Europe after black pepper. It is often used in Indian cuisine as a way to add “warmness” to dishes (but not necessarily heat/spice!)

Basmati rice

Basmati rice is a type of rice common in Indian and South Asian cuisine. It is available in both white and brown varieties and is known for having a nutty flavor and pleasant aroma. Overall, each serving of basmati rice is high in carbs and calories, as well as micronutrients like folate, thiamine, and selenium. Basmati rice is low in arsenic, enriched in key nutrients, and is considered a whole grain.

We wrote about the differences between basmati and jasmine rice here

Jaggery

Jaggery is an unrefined natural sweetener. Some people consider it a superfood because it has more vitamins and minerals and a lower sucrose content than sugar. However, since jaggery is still a sugar, it should be enjoyed in moderation. Jaggery is made from concentrating sugar cane juice, where the sugar cane juice is cooked slowly in large iron pans until it thickens. Then it is allowed to cool and solidify.

In Indian cuisine, jaggery is often used in sweeter dishes, like jaggery roti, peanut ladoo, and narkel naru.

Is Indian food vegan?

For many vegetarians or vegans, Indian cuisine stands out among other meat-heavy options. The good news is that Indian food tends to be very vegan-friendly, so those looking for a flavorful plant-based meal don’t need to miss out on enjoying a satisfying meal!

Vegetarian food is easily found in Indian cuisine due to the religious belief shared by many Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists (all popular religions in India). These religions advocate vegetarianism to some extent, and many vegetarian Indians also don’t eat eggs.

Vegan Indian ingredients

Vegan eaters often look for a few ingredients to determine whether a dish is right for them or not, especially when eating out! Western cultures often opt for tofu, potatoes, mushrooms, vegetable medleys, and beans to add weight to meals. 

Within Indian cuisine, you should keep your eye out for the following words, which will clue you in on which ingredients are vegan or not:

  • ​​Aloo=potato
  • Gobi=cauliflower
  • Chana=chickpea
  • Matar=peas
  • Palak=spinach
  • Saag=spinach and mustard greens
  • Paneer=cheese
  • Ghee= clarified butter
  • Korma=a yogurt-based curry (often includes nuts) 
  • Makhani= buttery

Vegan Indian recipes

If you’re looking for vegan Indian recipes but are simply overwhelmed with options … Proper Good has got you covered! Our Indian-inspired meals are not only delicious, and ready in 90-seconds, they’re plant-based, too! 

Proper Good Chana Masala is a scrumptious curry packed with chickpeas, tomatoes and north Indian spices and flavors, like cinnamon, cumin, ginger and garlic. Our Chana Masala also boasts 11 grams of protein, making it a filling meal, indeed! ;)

Chana Masala - Eat Proper Good

Meanwhile, our Golden Lentil Dahl Curry is juuuust as flavorful but completely different than the Chana Masala! This curry features golden lentils, potatoes and coconut milk for creamy texture and flavor. Lemon juice and mustard combine with cumin, turmeric, and garlic for refreshing, tangy goodness. And this dish is plant-based to boot!

Golden lentil dahl - Eat Proper Good

And finally, our Basmati Rice is the nutritious foundation perfect for any Indian-based meal. It’s plant-based in addition to being dairy-free, and you better believe it has zero added sugars! The fluffiest, most comforting base to your vegan Indian-inspired meal.

Basmati Rice - Eat Proper Good

Are you hungry after reading this article? We sure are! We hope you found this post helpful in determining whether Indian food is vegan … and how you can make Indian cuisine in a way that best suits your unique dietary preferences and needs.

If you’re seeking more vegetarian/vegan and/or resources about Indian cuisine, look here:

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