Call me biased, but I think Indian food is one of the world’s great cuisines. From sumptuous curries to airy yet chewy breads to zingy chutneys, Indian food has a depth and complexity of flavor that you can’t find anywhere else.
Indian food has a reputation for being complicated and difficult, but once you understand some basics, it’s actually pretty straightforward. Sure, there are some recipes that can take 3 hours (like this vegan dal makhani – so worth it, by the way), but there are many others that be made in under 45 minutes (like my red lentil curry).
Below I’ve rounded up over 40 fantastic vegan Indian recipes from yours truly and other fabulous South Asian bloggers, along with a few tips you can use to veganize almost any Indian dish.
How to Veganize Indian Recipes
Many Indian recipes are naturally vegetarian, so making veganized versions is often easy. With a few ingredient substitutions, you’ll be on your way to veganizing many of your favorite Indian dishes.
Substitute Ghee with Vegan Butter. Ghee is a type of clarified butter that originated in India (and is used frequently in Indian cuisine). I’ve substituted vegan butter for ghee in many recipes, always with good results. And some Indian home cooks, like my mom, often just use oil instead of ghee, depending on the recipe.
Substitute Meat with Pulses. Pulses are a huge part of Indian cuisine (think lentils, chickpeas, beans, split peas), and are a great substitution for meat in curries, dals, soups, and even appetizers.
Substitute Cow’s Milk Yogurt with Plant-Based Yogurt. Plant-Based Yogurt is widely available these days and is a great substitute in most recipes that call for yogurt. Where yogurt is used as a sauce or condiment (think raita) or just used as an accompaniment to a spicy dish, substituting with a plain, unsweetened plant-based yogurt is super easy.
If the recipe itself requires yogurt (e.g., naan or dhokla), some experimentation might be necessary to see which yogurt works the best. In my experience, a tangy coconut yogurt is usually the best option. My favorite brands include Culina, CocoJune, GT’s CocoYo, Kite Hill Foods, and Coconut Collaborative (available in the UK).
Substitute Cream with Cashews or Coconut Milk. When an Indian dish calls for cream, blended raw cashews (i.e., cashew cream) usually work amazingly well. That’s what I do in my Dal Makhani, Vegan Palak Paneer, and Malai Kofta, all with spectacular results! Blended cashews are commonly used in Indian cooking so it’s a harmonious substitution.
Full-fat coconut milk or cream is often a good substitute for milk or cream because most Indian dishes are boldly flavored enough to mask any taste of coconut.
If a dessert calls for condensed milk, you can try sweetened condensed coconut milk, available at many grocery stores these days.
Substitute Honey with Maple Syrup or Agave. If a dessert uses honey, try agave nectar (it has a somewhat similar thick and viscous texture) or maple syrup.
Raita is made with unsweetened full-fat yogurt (if you try using Greek yogurt in raita, every Indian aunty I know will give you a disapproving glance). Of course, my version is vegan and uses a plant-based yogurt!
Homemade Cilantro Chutney by Eva of The Curious Chickpea tastes so fresh and amazing! Enjoy with any Indian dish—Eva’s favorite ways include with samosas and pakoras.
Here’s a delicious and easy recipe for sweet and spicy lemon pickles made in the Instant Pot by Vidhya’s Vegetarian Kitchen. This recipe makes lip-smacking lemon pickles made with Meyer and Persian lemons that’s perfect with both rice and paratha.
This Spicy Walnut Chutney by Sophie of My Dainty Soul Curry goes well with Indian rice crepes or dosas, fritters, and even idlis. And this versatile chutney can be used as a spread on pitas, sandwiches and wraps.
Soups, Appetizers and Side Dishes
Note: This recipe is the second in my blog post!
This healthy and satisfying Kachumber Salad by Meeta of Piping Pot Curry is incredibly refreshing. It’s made with chopped veggies & seasoned with spices and can be served with any Indian food. It’s vegan, oil-free, and gluten-free.
Make these crispy and flaky vegan samosas with melt-in-your-mouth filling at home any time of the year by following this simple samosa recipe by Kushi of Cook with Kushi. These samosas can be served as an appetizer or snack with chutney or tomato ketchup/sauce.
This is a hot & spicy Indian masala fries recipe in restaurant-style Jalfrezi sauce by Sanjana Feasts. They make for an extremely tasty side for fry lovers!
Pakora are an Indian crisp fried snack, and this recipe from Swasthi’s Recipes is super quick to make. They’re deep-fried snacks that are extremely delicious with a great aroma of gram flour and spices.
Dosa is the ever-popular South Indian breakfast of crispy crepes made with fermented rice and lentil batter. With just a handful of ingredients and the help of Dassana’s Veg Recipes, learn to make the classic Dosa recipe from scratch with Dassana’s step-by-step video and photos.
Sanjana Feasts shows us how to make her Soft Gujarati Thepla in this recipe! Thepla are a staple any-time-of-the-day flatbread in Indian homes. Fresh fenugreek leaves give them their signature bitter caramel flavour.
If you have my cookbook, be sure to check out the vegetable biryani recipe in Chapter 5!
For an absolutely delicious and hearty Indian-inspired braised stew, head to the bottom of this post!
My Vegan Red Lentil Curry is a fan favorite and the BEST lentil curry you will ever try! It’s easy and quick, making it a perfect weeknight dinner! Plus, it’s creamy and indulgent but made with wholesome vegan ingredients!
Enjoy gourmet restaurant-style Indian food at home with my Vegan Palak Tofu Paneer! A fragrant, creamy spinach curry made healthier with tofu instead of cheese. An easy yet impressive vegan Indian dinner!
Try this Vegan Mattar Tofu Paneer recipe by Eva of The Curious Chickpea is a must-try! A garam masala spiced tomato sauce is made creamy with cauliflower and coconut milk and is simmered with tofu and green peas for a delicious, medium spicy, Indian dish reminiscent of mattar paneer.
This restaurant style creamy vegetable korma curry from Meeta of Piping Pot Curry is a perfect blend of vegetables with a creamy coconut based sauce. A vegan & gluten free curry that pairs perfectly with naan or rice.
My Restaurant-Style Vegan Malai Kofta is the ultimate Indian comfort food! Crispy dumplings in a creamy, spiced curry that will excite your tastebuds! I’ve included detailed instructions for frying and baking, metric and imperial measurements, a soy-free option, and an in-depth cooking video with lots of tips!
My Restaurant-Style Vegan Dal Tadka is the most flavorful dal and inspired by my childhood! A deeply spiced Indian lentil stew that’s healthy, vegan, and gluten-free, yet pure comfort food. Stovetop and Instant Pot directions.
This Instant Pot Rajma Chawal by Anvita & Soniya of The Belly Rules the Mind is a delicious meal your whole family will love. The Instant Pot makes preparing this hearty recipe easy for a busy night.
An easy vegan Instant Pot curry that is bursting with flavor! Made with warm and aromatic Indian spices, jackfruit, sweet potatoes, and coconut milk, my Instant Pot curry is both vegan and Paleo and incredibly creamy! Plus, it’s quick to make and perfect for those busy weeknights.
This Cauliflower Chickpea Coconut Curry by Ashley of My Heart Beets is a pour and cook recipe made with wholesome, everyday ingredients and is very straightforward to make! You can make this recipe in an instant pot (Ashley’s preference) and on the stovetop.
A hearty, filling meal that’s 100% wholesome, my Indian Chickpea Sweet Potato Stew is the best of healthy comfort food. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and made with whole foods like sweet potatoes, chickpeas, warming Indian spices, and greens, but it feels like a cozy hug in a bowl!
Vegan Richa shares a dairy-free spin on the popular Bengali dessert Rasmalai, which is is typically served for Diwali. Moist almond and cashew flour cake squares are immersed in a rich and creamy cashew pistachio “milk” scented with saffron and cardamom.
My Chewy Vegan Chai-Spiced Cookies are inspired by Indian masala chai as well as oatmeal cookies, and feature a homemade chai spice blend. They’re healthy, vegan, gluten-free, and have no added oil, making them the perfect cozy but healthy breakfast, snack, or dessert.
Veggiecurean’s Carrot Halwa Trifle is a modern take on a traditional Indian dessert made with shredded carrots that are roasted and simmered with nuts, spices, and milk. Gajar Halwa tastes like a moist and spiced Indian carrot crumble. This recipe is vegan, gluten-free and soy-free.
As promised, here is my one of my favorite Indian-inspired recipes, a braised chickpea stew that combines Indian flavors and French techniques. Hope you enjoy!
This Indian-inspired chickpea stew features lots of warming spices, chickpeas, cabbage, and carrots. Everything gets braised in the oven and the result is a rich and hearty yet wholesome stew that will satisfy the heartiest of appetites.
- 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4 medium carrots, sliced on the bias*
- ½ of a medium cabbage, roughly chopped (16-18 ounces or 450-510g)
- 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2- inch (5 cm) piece of fresh ginger, grated or minced
- Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons Indian red chili powder**
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¾ cup (180 mL) dry white wine***
- 1 1/2 cups (360 mL) vegetable broth (plus a little more as needed)
- 2 (15-ounce/425g) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup (55g) golden raisins (sultanas)
- 1 (14.5-ounce/410g) can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup (240 mL) full-fat canned coconut milk, stirred well
- 6 whole green cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 cinnamon sticks (2-3 inches long)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ¾ cup (9g) cilantro leaves chopped, plus more for garnish
- Lemon juice (a few squeezes)
- 1-2 teaspoons organic cane sugar, as needed
- Coconut yogurt or other vegan yogurt
- White rice, brown rice, or Indian flatbread such as naan or roti
- Roughly grind the whole spices. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds to a spice grinder or mortar or pestle. Coarsely grind (just a few pulses with an electric grinder) – you want some texture to remain. Remove the empty cardamom pod shells. Note: If you don’t have either of these tools, see the blog post section “Frequently Asked Questions“
Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
Heat a Dutch oven or stove-to-oven braising pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the roughly ground spices *and* the cinnamon sticks. Sauté for 60 seconds or until very fragrant, tossing frequently to prevent burning.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. Next, add the onions, carrots, and cabbage. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir frequently for 2 minutes to coat everything. If things start to dry out or seem like they might burn, add a splash or two of water and scrape up the browned bits. Add in the Indian red chili powder, turmeric, and nutmeg, and stir frequently for 1 minute.
Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping up the browned bits and fond from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is mostly evaporated and the smell of alcohol has dissipated, about 2 minutes.
Pour in the vegetable broth, chickpeas, bay leaves, raisins, tomatoes, and 1 ½ teaspoons of kosher salt and black pepper to taste. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, stir again, and then turn off the heat.
- Put the lid on the pan, or if it doesn’t have a lid, cover tightly with foil. Transfer the pan to the preheated oven and braise for 1 hour, until the chickpeas and vegetables are soft.At the halfway mark, check to see if the liquid has evaporated somewhat. If so, add additional vegetable broth or water (about 1/4 cup).
Pour in the coconut milk and return the pan to the oven to braise for another 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.
Stir in the garam masala, cilantro, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste for seasonings, adding more salt or pepper as needed. If it’s slightly too acidic, stir in a teaspoon or two of sugar.
Serve warm with Indian flatbread or over a bed of rice. Dollop on some vegan yogurt before serving or serve on the side.
** Use less Indian chili powder for a milder heat; or use up to 2 teaspoons if you like it very spicy. If the latter, highly recommend pairing with yogurt to balance the heat.
*** A dry white wine such as Pinto Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc works well. Use Barnivore.com to find vegan-friendly wines.