Indian cuisine represents one of the fastest-growing types of food around the world. Indian food is known for its abundance of spices, developing intoxicating sauces diners can’t find elsewhere. Coriander, turmeric, and ginger are all popular spices in Indian food.
If you are new to Indian food, the best place to start is with the best Indian dishes. These best dishes of India provide an excellent introduction to this fascinating global cuisine. Once you become more familiar with famous Indian food and start to branch out, you can always return to the best Indian food described on this list.
Read on to explore the most popular Indian dishes that are loved by people around the world.
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Like many global cuisines, Indian food also offers delicious appetizers to pop in your mouth. India’s version of Chinese egg rolls or Japanese gyoza is the samosa. Samosa is often a vegetarian appetizer stuffed with a paste of potatoes and spices. Peas, onions, and other vegetables form the rest of the stuffing.
Samosas are then formed into a triangular shape and fried, resulting in a puffy, canape-like appetizer. Dip samosas in flavorful sauces or chutneys for a tasty flavor explosion.
For a riff on samosa, try chaat. These street food snacks come in a variety of forms, and are similar to potato chips in the west – and they’re just as irresistible.
Chaat has a samosa-like crust, with a crunchy exterior and creamy interior, like french fries. Dip your chaat into tamarind chutney for a fantastic snack any time of day.
Naan bread serves as an essential aspect of Indian cuisine. This item of the best Indian food acts as a delicious treat on its own or helps you soak up the fantastic, spicy sauces that are the trademark of most popular Indian dishes.
Naan is a soft and flexible bread baked until puffy. Think of naan bread like a tortilla in Mexican cuisine or a dinner roll on the side of your holiday feast.
This bread can taste plain or be flavored with spices like garlic or cheese. Some diners prioritize this puffy and delicious bread and eat only naan instead of traditional basmati rice or another side dish.
If you are traveling in South India or visiting a South Indian restaurant, instead of naan, you may see dosa. Dosa resembles a crepe or pancake, with a large, rolled appearance and sweet flavor.
Dosa is often dipped into chutney and eaten on the side, like naan. Or dosa may be stuffed with filling, like a French crepe. Try a dosa filled with spicy potatoes or vegetables for one of the most popular Indian dishes in South India.
The best Indian food features complex and bold spices. Many diners, especially those new to Indian food, appreciate a cooling sauce that adds flavor and comfort.
Raita consists of a yogurt base mixed with citrus juice, cucumbers, cilantro, and cumin. Think of raita as similar to tzatziki sauce from Greece. Raita is a useful condiment for any main entree or is yummy when spread onto naan.
Most global cuisines boast terrific soups, from Mexican pozole to Thailand’s tom Kha Gai. Dal soup (or dahl) is a great Indian food option, especially for vegetarians. Indian food in general is often a safe bet for those looking to avoid eating meat in their diet.
The bulk of dal soups consist of lentils, a small, hard grain that must simmer for a long time before becoming tender. You can cook lentils with vegetables, dark, leafy greens like spinach or kale, and traditional spices and herbs of India, such as turmeric and cardamom.
Dal, like many of the best dishes in India, delivers a very healthy meal. The wholesome ingredients of this hot and creamy soup promote healthy digestion and are high in vitamins and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and Vitamin B. If you are transitioning to a plant-based diet lifestyle, look into dal soup as a staple that you can make in bulk and reheat when you need it.
You’ll find these hearty dals on Indian restaurant menus with names like Dal Tadka and Dal Makhani.
One of the most famous foods of India, curry stands as one of the most popular Indian dishes worldwide. Curries can appear as a red, tomato-based sauce. Yellow curries boast a lot of turmeric and other warm spices. Green curries feature prominent cilantro or coriander flavor.
Curry was introduced to the world after England’s colonizers brought these trademark spices back to the West hundreds of years ago. Today commercial curry powders and pastes make it easier than ever to replicate the ancient flavors of India in your home without developing intricate masala spices and simmering for hours.
This dish consists of a thick sauce or gravy studded with vegetables like carrots and meats like lamb, chicken, or shrimp. The curry is poured over aromatic rice and eaten in a bowl. Use naan to soak up the flavorful gravy, and don’t miss an inch of India’s famous curry meals.
Tandoori chicken provides one of the most complicated dishes to replicate on this list. However, if you find yourself at an Indian food truck or Indian restaurant, be sure to try the tandoori chicken. Like many global cultures, this dish is India’s version of grilled chicken.
Tandoori chicken is unique because it is cooked with a specific tool. A “tandoor” is an outdoor, cylinder-shaped oven made of clay.
One of the best dishes of India, tandoori chicken delivers a signature flavor. First, the chicken is marinated in yogurt and coated in spices. This gives the tandoori chicken its unmistakable, bright red appearance. These are the spices often used for the tandoori chicken preparation:
- Red chili powder
- Cayenne pepper
- Garam masala
Tandoori chicken is usually served on the bone, with a juicy interior and spicy, crisp exterior.
Biryani acts as this cuisine’s signature rice dish. Like Chinese cuisine has fried rice and Korea makes bibimbap, biryani satisfies the same craving.
Biryani consists of fluffy, fragrant rice mixed with vegetables and sometimes meat. Basmati rice is often used for this traditional dish. Lamb, chicken, or fish may make it inside a biryani recipe, or potatoes and eggs can be substituted for a vegetarian option.
Biryani can be eaten on its own or is a delicious side dish for a main entree like tandoori chicken. This famous Indian food is one of the best dishes in India.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Chicken tikka masala is a friendly introduction meal for many choosing Indian cuisine for the first time. Like many of the best Indian foods on this list, chicken tikka masala uses a few key ingredients to make a delicious and flavorful meal.
Boneless chunks of chicken are marinated with yogurt and grilled on a skewer, giving it a deep, charred flavor. Masala sauce combines tomatoes and coconut milk, along with a bouquet of spices. Turmeric, paprika, garam masala, and other signature spices simmer together for as long as possible to develop this flavorful gravy.
Top this creamy and rich sauce over basmati rice for a hearty and tasty meal. Be sure to have naan on the side to soak up the sauce. Chicken tikka masala is very similar to butter chicken, although butter chicken may be less spicy.
Tikka masala can also be ordered at most Indian restaurants with paneer (cheese) instead of chicken for a vegetarian version.
Spice lovers, take note! Vindaloo ranks as one of the most consistently spicy curries in the world. Hot chiles feature prominently in vindaloo curries. Diners can tell vindaloo apart from other curries from its deep red color, which comes from the hot chiles inside.
Diced chicken, beef, or lamb is often added to the hot curry mixture. The meat is often marinated in wine vinegar and garlic to achieve its signature flavor.
Saag paneer offers another dynamic and exciting vegetarian dish for this list of the most popular Indian dishes. Saag paneer originally hails from North India. The word saag means greens in Hindi.
You will recognize saag paneer by its vibrant green color. Cooked greens, usually spinach, but they can be other leafy greens like mustard greens or chopped broccoli, are softened and thickened with coconut milk or cream. Signature spices are then added to this sauce and simmered.
The end of this dish includes the addition of paneer cheese. Cubes of this soft cheese are fried and tossed into the greens mixture. The greens cling to the cubes of paneer cheese, making a visually stunning side dish. Some people eat saag paneer for a light vegetarian main dish.
If you wish to eat paneer cheese within a saucy curry dish, try mutter paneer. Mutter paneer also features cubes of fried cheese mixed with a tomato-based sauce and vegetables like peas and onions.
Of course, no one can forget about dessert! Finish off your meal with the sweet and unique gulab jamun. These are similar to donuts in the United States.
Gulab jamun gets its name from the two majority flavors within this dessert. Gulab means rose because these dough balls are soaked in rosewater syrup. Jamun is a type of indigenous berry, similar to a blueberry.
These small dough balls are soaked in rosewater and green cardamom for a dessert that is as flavorful and unique as all of the other best dishes of India. Be prepared for a very floral and sweet-tasting dessert from your gulab jamun.
As you can see, Indian cuisine offers a dynamic and interesting array of flavors to explore – which is why it’s one of the world’s most loved food cultures. Start by trying out biryani, chicken tikka masala, samosas, and more of these popular Indian dishes we’ve mentioned to explore the unique dishes of this diverse subcontinent.