5 Vegan cooking tips for Indian recipes

Rich with flavor, Indian food is a tongue-tantalizing cuisine that has many inherently vegan recipes as well as recipes that can be adapted to a vegan diet. We talked with celebrity Indian chef Hari Nayak, author of My Indian Kitchen  (Tuttle, August 2011), on how vegans can get the most out of Indian cuisine.
Rich with flavor, Indian food is a tongue-tantalizing cuisine that has many inherently vegan recipes as well as recipes that can be adapted to a vegan diet. We talked with celebrity Indian chef Hari Nayak, author of My Indian Kitchen  (Tuttle, August 2011), on how vegans can get the most out of Indian cuisine.

Chef Hari Nayak is known around the world

Chef Hari Nayak shares his Indian cuisine expertise across the nation. Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Nayak has worked at renowned New York restaurants like Aquavit and Daniel, runs his own consultancy business called Gourmet Gurus, and has provided culinary and consulting services to various organizations like Sodexo USA, ifoodTV, Whole Foods and several restaurants. The Indian chef also pioneered America’s first ice cream patisserie, Halo Fete, in Princeton, New Jersey.

Tips for vegan Indian recipes

Though Chef Nayak’s cookbook My Indian Kitchen features traditional Indian recipes, such as Lamb Biriyani and Chicken Tikka Masala, it also showcases vegetable- and grain-based recipes, like Black Eyed Peas and Rice, Cauliflower with Ginger and Cumin, and Zucchini with Lentils and Roasted Garlic, as well as chutneys and other animal-free dishes. Here are Chef Nayak’s tips for vegan Indian recipes.

1. Stock your pantry with beans and lentils

“Indian cooking is blessed with diverse recipes using beans and lentils — they are staples,” says Chef Nayak. “Have a stock of canned items such as chickpeas, red kidney beans and black eyes peas on hand for a quick Indian meal.”

2. Have a few basic Indian spices in your pantry

Chef Nayak suggests keeping ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, red chili powder and Garam Masala powder in your kitchen as well as whole cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds and cardamom. All of these bold spices are featured in Indian cooking and will add rich flavor to any vegan dish.

3. Buy a good spice grinder

“A spice grinder is a must in any Indian kitchen to [grind whole spices and] make spice blends to add to the dishes,” the Indian chef explains.

4. Eat seasonally

This cooking tip spans across cuisines. “Substitute any seasonal vegetables that are available in the market for ingredients in Indian recipes as the recipes are very adaptable,” says Chef Nayak.

5. Swap out ghee

Ghee is a common ingredient in Indian cuisine but Chef Nayak says you can substitute olive oil or another oil of your choice in any recipes that call for butter and ghee to make the dish vegan (granted, you leave out other animal products or substitute vegan-friendly ingredients).

>>Chef Nayak’s recipe for Bengali Potatoes with Spices (Bengali Aloo)

More tasty vegan dinner recipes!

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