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13 Popular Indian Recipes to Make at Home

Posted on January 28, 2022.

Western perception of Indian restaurants food might be all fiery spice and rich, heavy curries (and the naan, don’t forget the naan), but true Indian cuisine—from Mumbai and Delhi in Northern India to Kerala and Goa in the South—is incredibly nuanced, featuring a wealth of vegetarian dishes and gluten-free and dairy-free options (hello, coconut milk!).

Most people are familiar with the telltale perfume of cumin, or the marigold-hue of turmeric, but a good sense of Indian spices can be always be found in garam masala: a custom, multi-purpose blend that shifts slightly per state, and even household. Other common ingredients vary greatly, from favored spices (curry leaves and asafetida in the South, mustard seeds in the North) to meat preferences (lamb in the North, fish to the West and South), but you’ll likely find flavors of garlic, ginger, and chili are woven consistently through the cuisine.

1. Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken tikka masala takes its cues from the spiced flavors of tandoori chicken, traditionally made in a tandoor, or a clay oven, and prepares it with a tomato and yogurt-based curry sauce.

2. Butter Chicken. Perhaps the most familiar to foreign palates, butter chicken features chicken cooked in a—you guessed it—buttery tomato cream sauce. Like any Indian dish, spice levels can be as mild or intense as you’d like!

3. Chana Masala. Chickpeas are the protein-packed hero of any stew, and chana masala is no exception. Simmer them with garam masala and tomatoes, and watch as they become an all-day meal staple.

4. Fish Curry. Seafood is a massive part of day-to-day life in the Southern half of the subcontinent, and so are ingredients like tamarind and coconut, as seen in this lightly spiced, tropical curry.

5. Palak Paneer. As a favored preparation for paneer, a fresh-pressed cheese (think firm, drained cottage cheese), palak paneer combines fresh spinach with warm heat from green chilies, ginger, and garlic with cream for a hearty, healthy vegetable main.

6. Aloo Gobi. If you’re new to Indian food, aloo gobi is a great place to start. Cauliflower and potatoes come together with a lightly spiced base of tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and turmeric.

7. Dal Makhani. The ultimate Indian comfort food, dal makhani features lentils and kidney beans in a rich, creamy tomato-based sauce.

8. Naan. Whether brushed with a simple sheen of ghee, or sprinkled with cilantro and garlic, naan is a doughy crowd-pleaser. Plus: it’s super easy to make.

9. Papadum. Crisp, crackly, and light as air, papadum is usually served as an appetizer or snack alongside assorted chutneys.

10. Chutney. A well-made chutney adds depth and complexity to any Indian dish; a sweetness to round out sharp spice, warm spices to enliven starches and fried doughs, like samosa. Anything can be chutney with the right foundation.

11. Raita. Everything’s better with raita, a cooling yogurt sauce with cucumber and cumin. Learn how to make a basic rendition, then experiment with other additions like radish and even shredded coconut.

12. Achaar. Indian pickles are bright and pungently spicy-sour in all the best ways. Learn how to make an easy green mango pickle and eat it alongside everything you’d like.

13. Basmati Rice. Once the signature fragrance of basmati rice is locked in your brain, you won’t know how you missed it before. Individual grains of long-grain basmati are the ultimate way to soak up all the leftover sauces, plus it’s even healthier than white rice.

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