5 Best Vegetarian Indian Dishes

Bowl of lentil dal with side of naan bread and lime wedges

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If you are looking to enjoy more plant-based or vegetarian meals, these Indian cuisines can make your efforts a lot easier. Many regional dishes across India and the Indian diaspora do not rely on meat, making this a very vegetarian-friendly cuisine. Not only that, but the dishes are full of rich flavors that make nutritious eating delicious.

Going to Indian restaurants is a great way to try new dishes and support local businesses, but there is nothing like a home-cooked meal. These vegetarian Indian dishes are full of nutrients, nutritious foods, and flavor, so give them a try.

About Indian Cuisine

Food is a big part of Indian culture. It dates back thousands of years and was heavily influenced by Hindu and Muslim religions. Both the foods themselves and how they are served are important in Indian cuisine.

There also is a social element of enjoying Indian food, so the food is usually served on a large tray all at once. The culture encourages sharing with others, so everyone gathers around the table and shares food from the tray. Sometimes there will be smaller plates for transferring food onto.

Common spices include cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala, cayenne pepper, and more. Many Indian dishes are served with rice, meat, and vegetables, though other grains and legumes are also staples. Popular Indian dishes include chana masala, curry, aloo gobi, tikka masala, and many more.

Indian Food and Nutrition

Indian food is not only tasty, but it can also be a nutritious way of eating. It is associated with many health benefits related to the nutritional components of the ingredients.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends multiple servings of protein, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables. Indian dishes are a great source of these vital food groups.

Many Indian meals are balanced with carbohydrates, protein, and fat. They are also an excellent source of nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Traditional Indian cuisine is full of antioxidants, fiber, and probiotics.

Indian spices are known for their health benefits. Turmeric combined with black pepper, for example, exhibits anti-inflammatory properties that may play a role in the management of arthritis, metabolic syndrome, anxiety, and high cholesterol. Many Indian dishes, such as curries and dals, rely on turmeric for spice and flavor.

5 Vegetarian Indian Dishes

In Indian cuisine, protein sources include legumes, grains, soy, vegetables, and more in addition to meat. While meat is still part of Indian cuisine, many recipes are vegetarian-friendly or can be modified to suit the vegetarian diet. Here are some delicious vegetarian dishes to try.

Indian Potato and Lentil Stew

Lentils and potatoes are staples in Indian food, and this Indian potato and lentil stew perfectly marry the two. It features classic Indian flavors from ginger, garam masala, and curry powder.

For those following a low-FODMAP diet, this recipe is compliant. It contains plenty of vegetables and legumes, so it’s likely to be a great source of dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Although it does not contain meat, it is not lacking protein with the presence of lentils and green beans.

Trinidad Style Curried Channa

This curried channa recipe gets its protein punch from chickpeas (garbanzo beans). It only requires 15 minutes of prep time and contains a short list of ingredients. Serve these curried chickpeas over a bed of brown rice or quinoa for an added serving of whole grains and a side of vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, and eggplant for a boost of fiber.

Yellow Dal With Quinoa

Dal is a classic Indian recipe that’s made with split peas or lentils. They give the recipe a creamy texture and protein-rich nutritional profile. 

Overall, this dal with quinoa recipe is a healthy take on the Indian classic. It is flavored with spices like coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, and garlic as well as herbs like basil or cilantro. It also contains vegetables like onions and tomatoes for added micronutrients.

Vegetarian Biryani

If you are new to cooking, this vegetarian biryani recipe is great for beginners. It is a quick and easy recipe that is perfect for weeknight dinners and meal prepping.

Biryani is an Indian dish that contains rice and a blend of Indian spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, and garam masala. It calls for long-grain rice, such as basmati rice, and a source of protein.

In this recipe, opt for urad dal or split black lentils for a vegetarian source of protein. The result is a warming dish that can stand as a meal on its own or as a side dish.

Chickpea, Coconut, and Cashew Curry

Curries are a popular Indian cuisine and are usually a safe option for vegetarians. This coconut and cashew curry recipe only takes 30 minutes from start to finish. It uses nine spices to bring out the flavors and intense aromas of the dish as well as fresh herbs.

Because this recipe uses coconut milk to add a creamy consistency, this recipe is fully plant-based and vegan. Chickpeas are an excellent source of protein and fiber while spinach leaves, cashews, and fresh ginger offer a variety of nutrients. Serve over a bed of rice and naan bread for a satisfying meal that is better than takeout. 

A Word From Verywell

While it may be difficult to perfectly replicate traditional Indian food at home, it is worth a try. Indian food is warming and comforting. It not only soothes the soul but also satisfies many nutritional requirements for protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. And common spices like turmeric offer additional health benefits like reduced inflammation.

A large portion of the Indian population enjoys meatless meals, so it is no surprise that Indian cuisine is very vegetarian-friendly. These vegetarian Indian dishes are perfect for weeknight dinners and meal prepping.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.

  2. Sarkar P, et al. Traditional and ayurvedic foods of Indian origin. Journal of Ethnic Foods. 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jef.2015.08.003

  3. Hewlings SJ, Kalman DS. Curcumin: A review of its effects on human health. Foods. 2017;6(10):92. Published 2017 Oct 22. doi:10.3390/foods6100092

By Lacey Muinos
Lacey Muinos is a professional writer who specializes in fitness, nutrition, and health.