7 Healthy Vegan Indian Dishes
Indian culture contains some aspects that are very close to the ethical foundation of veganism, such as ahimsa—an ancient Indian philosophy that implies applying pacifism to all living beings, including animals.
India is also the birthplace of yoga. Yoga has become one of the most popular forms of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being across the whole world.
But what interests us most in this article is the Indian food. Rich with a variety of spices and vegetables, most of the famous Indian dishes are unique, delicious, and healthy.
Indian traditional cuisine contains a lot of vegetarian ingredients. Thanks to so many meatless recipes, it is easily possible to veganize so many of the traditionally vegetarian Indian dishes.
Read along to learn how to make healthy traditional dishes and have a taste of India from the comfort of your home.
Vegan Indian Food
Since there are so many vegan Indian dishes, as well as non-vegan that can easily be veganized, we will cover only some of them in this article.
But don’t forget there is an abundance of Indian food that you can be creative with and experiment with veganizing them.
1. Pumpkin Curry with Tofu
Curry is a popular choice among those who nurture a plant-based and whole-foods diet. And since it is autumn, and pumpkin season, we will start with pumpkin curry.
Besides pumpkin, this dish contains tofu as your main protein source, coconut milk (or a healthier plant-based alternative for curries), onion, ginger, garlic, and Indian spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon to enrich the taste.
You can also use Garam Masala (an Indian spice mix) instead of adding every spice separately.
Add some green veggies like green beans if you wish to make your meal more colorful and nutritionally dense.
This is a perfect home-cooked fall meal that allows you to be creative with the ingredients and make the most of pumpkin season.
And most importantly, pumpkin curry with tofu will provide you with almost all the nutrients your body requires and keep you full for quite some time.
2. Chana Masala
Chana Masala is one of the most famous Indian curries.
It translates as Chickpea Spice, so the main ingredient is obvious.
Just like any other legume, chickpeas are high in protein and a favorite base for a lot of vegan dishes.
Chopped tomatoes or tomato paste are also important ingredients for this meal. You can add spinach and make Palak Chana (a curry with chickpeas and spinach).
You may also add potatoes or experiment with any other vegetable that would be a tasty addition to the chickpeas.
And, of course, enrich your meal with all the Indian spices you like.
This curry can be served with rice. Rice is a common addition to Indian curries, and it is a good source of carbohydrates. However, avoid fried rice, and always choose wild or brown rice when possible.
If you are ordering or buying Chana Masala, and not making it at home, you should check the ingredients that are used.
Sometimes this dish contains Ghee—a type of clarified butter made of cow milk butter, that is not vegan.
Ghee is very common in Middle Eastern cuisines, but don’t worry, it can easily be replaced with any kind of vegetable oil. This will not change the creamy texture, exotic taste, and nutritional value of your Chana Masala.
3. Tofu or Vegetable Tikka Masala
If this sounds vaguely familiar, it is because this is the vegan version of the famous Chicken Tikka Masala.
Chicken can be substituted with tofu or cauliflower. Tofu is high in protein, and cauliflower is low in calories and a good source of antioxidants. You can choose whichever you prefer.
Besides the chicken, another non-vegan food used for cooking the traditional Tikka Masala is dairy yogurt.
This ingredient can be as easily replaced as the chicken—just use plant yogurt or plant milk (coconut milk is most commonly used, but it is high in saturated fat so any other plant milk is a better option).
Vegan Tikka Masala is creamy and spicy at the same time, it contains healthy and nutritious ingredients and can be served with rice or naan (more about this popular Indian flatbread later).
This recipe is a perfect example of an easily veganized dish that is traditionally not solely plant-based.
4. Vegan Palak or Mattar Paneer
Paneer is a type of cottage cheese. It is an adequate source of protein for vegetarians and is often used in Indian cuisine.
Palak translates to spinach and Mattar means peas. Both are a delicious and nutritious addition to tofu (or any other paneer alternative).
Peas are a popular vegan protein source that works well in almost any type of dish. Split peas are even higher in nutrients since they are dried and pealed.
So no matter what you choose—spinach or peas, the result will be tasty and nutritious.
The same goes for tofu. You can boil it if you want a texture that resembles the one of paneer, or you can use baked tofu if you prefer it to be crispy.
And, of course, any other paneer substitute will do the trick and make your meal protein-rich and delicious.
Just like Tikka Masala, Palak and Mattar Paneer are traditionally vegetarian dishes that can easily be made vegan.
5. Red Lentil Dal
Dal is a type of stew that is usually made from some kind of legume.
You can add more vegetables to the Dal, for example, pumpkin. Also, add some leafy greens such as spinach before serving to decorate and enrich your plate.
The spices are the crucial final touch to your stew so add turmeric, cumin, and coriander as well as a dash of fresh ginger.
Masoor Dal, as it is called in India, can be served with rice or naan, but is also as tasty when eaten with no additions.
6. Vegan Naan
All these delicious Indian curries and stews require some kind of bread to scoop up and leave no leftovers on your plate.
Naan is the most popular Indian type of bread in the West. It is fluffy, chewy, and extremely tasty.
Unfortunately, the original recipe is not vegan. It contains dairy yogurt (or sometimes milk), and often butter or traces of eggs.
Luckily, it can be made vegan without altering the amazing taste.
Dairy yogurt and milk can be substituted with their plant-based alternatives, for example, with soy milk or yogurt. Some vegan naan recipes don’t include any type of yogurt/milk and the result is still delicious with a soft and fluffy texture.
Most naans in restaurants and stores are not vegan, so the safest option is to make your own at home.
The yeast needs some time to activate, and the dough requires time to rise, but the active part of the bread-making is not long, and the result is absolutely worth it.
Apart from the spices usually used in Indian cuisine, you can add some jalapeño pepper to the naan if you don’t mind the spicy taste.
Like any other type of bread, naan is a source of carbohydrates, so eat it in moderation and combine it with a balanced and healthy vegan Indian dish.
7. Vegan Kheer
Cashew and soy milk are also quite creamy and can do the trick in veganizing the pudding.
Instead of sugar, use a natural healthy sweetener such as maple, agave, or date syrup. The color of your dessert might be slightly darker, but the taste will stay the same.
Add some cardamom to enrich the taste and decorate with pistachios and raisins.
This is a great vegan dessert recipe since it is easy to make, it doesn’t require a lot of ingredients and it is healthy, vegan, and gluten-free.
If you are allergic to nuts, just skip the pistachios and the nut milk. This will not alter the delicious taste, and the dessert will still be healthy and easy to make.
Indian cuisine is extremely popular among vegans.
Most traditional Indian dishes are vegan per se, and those that are not can easily be veganized.
There is a variety of curries, and most of them are plant-based. Even if the original recipe is not vegan, it can easily be modified.
Some foods like chicken Tikka Masala, Naan, or Kheer include animal products, but their vegan equivalent is as delicious as the original, and, of course, quite healthier.
So, get ready to visit India through your diet. Healthy recipes have never tasted better and more exotic.
All you need is rice, some tofu, and a lot of vegetables. Choose your favorite plant milk to substitute dairy milk from the traditional recipes.
And don’t forget the main thing for your Indian dishes—spice them up.
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