Let’s debunk some popular misconceptions today: Vegan diets need not be expensive, lacking in nutrition, boring or hard to follow. Indian cuisine is perfect for vegans in many ways, making the vegan diet even easier to follow.
Indian food is abundant in vegetables, whole grains, legumes, herbs and spices and pack in a flavourful punch—steering far away from animal products. If you are a vegan, Indian dishes are the perfect choice for you!
It’s true that veganism is not widespread in India, but vegetarianism is—Indian vegetarian food is perhaps the most flavourful and most varied in the world. What’s more, quite a few of the Indian vegetarian dishes are already vegan, and those that use dairy products need a few simple adaptations and low and behold—almost any Indian vegetarian dish can be made completely vegan! We are talking of hundreds and hundreds of delicious, nutritious recipes; you will never be bored of a vegan diet.
Sounds too good to be true? Here are some lip smacking reasons (just some, the entire list can fill up a book) that Indian cuisine should be your go-to if you are a vegan who lives to eat!
1) Indian meal plans are brimming with mouth-watering dishes that star nutrient-rich legumes as the hero ingredient: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, and other legumes are common ingredients in an Indian kitchen. The choice is vast—from dishes like rajma chawal (kidney beans gravy with rice) and chole bhature (chickpeas curry with bread) to the long list of daals (lentil based gravies) and breakfast/starters options like idly, vada and dhokla. In fact, did you know that a typical Indian meal or ‘thaali’ is considered incomplete without one of these protein- and nutrient-rich dishes?
2) So many vegetables, so many more dishes: The vegetable dish—or the subzi—is typically the star of the show in an Indian meal. There are a multitude of ways in which Indians cook and relish vegetables. You could opt for the sublime but delicious addition of curry leaves and a few spices in oil as preferred by south Indians, or go for vegetables sizzled with spices and seeds as the eastern Indians cook. Alternatively, you could opt for the more popular north Indian gravies in which orchestrated combinations of vegetables, onions, garlic and ginger are blended with the right amount of spices and herbs to create an explosion of flavour.
3) Laced with nuts and seeds: Indian cuisine is known for its wholesomeness. No wonder nuts and seeds are so integral to these delicacies. Peanuts, sesame seeds, cashews, almonds and raisins make regular appearances at an Indian meal either as gravies, mixed with rice and vegetables, as chutneys or as desserts.
4) A dash of spices and pinch of herbs: Indian recipes call for the abundant use of spices and herbs not just to add pizzazz to bland vegetables but also for the wealth of health benefits each of these ingredients carry. Ancient wisdom considers them medicinal and modern science agrees! Adding herbs like coriander, mint, fenugreek, basil and spices like chilli, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves not only nourishes your body but helps to heal and immunise it too.
5) Options and variety for every meal: We are talking about hundreds of vegan recipes not just for lunch and dinner but also for breakfast and snacks. savour idlis (steamed buns), uttapam (thick fermented pancakes), dosas, upma or vadas with spicy coconut chutney and sambhar for breakfast like the south Indians do. Or choose the northern route with delectable poha (flattened rice with spices), chillas (pancakes made of gram flour) or stuffed parathas (flat bread stuffed with vegetables).
Pack in a vegan punch for your snacks with options like pakoras, bhajiya, samosas and chaat to name just a few of the many options available.
6) Substituting is easy: If you are a teeny bit worried about the Indian vegetarian recipes that use dairy products, I am here with good news: with a few no-effort substitutes, the dishes can be made vegan and taste just as delicious.
For example, if your recipe calls for ghee, replace it with vegetable oil! For paneer use tofu and for cream use almond or cashew paste. Milk is rarely used in savoury dishes but is the key ingredient in many desserts. Simply substitute it with vegan options like almond milk or soy milk and your dessert will taste just as good.
Red Rickshaw have a wide selection of recipes and the largest variety of authentic Asian ingredients available online. Visit their website for more advice on substitutes or recipe ideas.