Indian Christmas Menu Ideas

Celebrate the holiday with time-honored dishes

Times like Christmas are made even more special by sharing the foods we love with family and friends; these dishes are usually recipes our mothers or grandmothers made while we were growing up. Most of us continue to cook and serve these meals at our own tables on festive occasions, adding in a few of our own favorite dishes. Just because it's Christmas doesn't mean these recipes have to be "fancy" or especially difficult to prepare; it's the memories of the happy times spent sharing them that make them so special.

  • 01 of 14

    Mughlai Biryani

    Mutton Biryani in a White Bowl
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    Originating in northern India, Mughlai cuisine has a long history and is characterized by aromatic and rich flavors. The dishes can range from mild to spicy and include spices, dried fruits, and nuts. Mughlai Biryani is a one-dish meal that is impressive enough for guests; lamb is cooked with several spices, an almond/garlic/ginger paste, onions, and yogurt. This gravy is then layered with colorful cooked rice and baked in a casserole.

  • 02 of 14

    Yakhni Pulao

    veg pulao , indian food
    Zohaib Hussain Getty Images

    Another north Indian classic, yakhni pulao is a rice dish featuring goat meat or lamb and can be made in a pressure cooker or pot. The rich flavor comes from the spice bundle, which includes cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and anise, just to name a few. The rice is cooked along with the meat, onions, and yogurt, creating a creamy sauce.

  • 03 of 14

    Sanna

    Idli, Chutney & Sambar
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    This typically coastal Indian specialty is a unique dish that requires some specific ingredients. Steamed spongy rice cakes, sanna are made with fresh coconut and Goan toddy, the sap collected from the bud of palm tree flowers. The batter needs to ferment for several hours and then is steamed in individual molds. Sanna are eaten on their own, as well as with curries and stir-fries.

  • 04 of 14

    Pork Vindaloo

    Pork Vindaloo
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    A hot and tangy Goan recipe, pork vindaloo is a stir-fried dish that is perfect over rice. Cubes of pork are marinated for at least 24 hours in a vindaloo masala paste, a spicy mixture including garlic, ginger, chilis, and coriander seeds. The meat is then browned along with onions and simmered in a sauce made of the paste.

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  • 05 of 14

    Nargisi Kofta

    Nargisi Kofta in Gravy
    Nargisi Kofta in Gravy. Pepper Garlic Kitchen/ Wikimedia Commons / CC By 4.0

    Kofta is basically a meatball that can be skewered and grilled or served as is in a flavorful gravy. Nargisi Kofta takes this meatball to a whole new level by encasing hardboiled eggs in the meatball mixture and then deep-frying. A mixture of lamb, onion, garlic, and spices is molded around each egg, which is then dusted in rice flour and fried until crispy. The kofta is then cooked in tomato-yogurt gravy that is spiked with spices. Although this dish appears to be complex, it is actually fairly simple to make.

  • 06 of 14

    Chicken Tikka Masala

    Plate with tasty chicken tikka masala and rice, closeup
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    One of the more well known Indian dishes, chicken tikka masala is a delicious combination of tender chicken in a thick, smokey sauce. There are a few slightly different versions of the recipe, but they will all include a yogurt marinade for the chicken and a gravy based on tomatoes and cream. Perfect served with hot naan bread.

  • 07 of 14

    Tandoori Chicken

    Tandoori Chicken
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    A common cooking vessel in India is the tandoor, a clay oven, and one of the most famous dishes cooked in a tandoor is tandoori chicken. Chicken on-the-bone is coated with a mixture of tandoori masala, yogurt, garlic paste, and oil and then left to marinate for several hours. Traditionally, it is cooked in a tandoor, but you can easily prepare this dish on the grill with similar results.

  • 08 of 14

    Mughlai Chicken

    Mughlai Chicken
    IYogi Studio/ Getty Images

    The richness of this dish makes it ideal for special occasions—but lucky for you, it is easy to make. Another recipe born from the Mughal dynasty, this dish uses ghee (clarified butter) as the fat, contributing to the decadent flavor. Chicken is fried along with garlic, ginger, and spices, and then cooked in a sauce of ground up almonds and cream. Garam masala is then sprinkled over to add a final touch of seasoning.

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  • 09 of 14

    Chettinad Chicken

    Chicken manchurian / chilli chicken, red hot and spicy curry Mumbai Indian.
    santhosh_varghese / Getty Images

    This fiery curry hails from Tamilnadu in South India. Dried chilis are what provide the spicy kick, while a combination of seeds (poppy, coriander, cumin, aniseed) and spices contribute to the dish's complex flavor. Coconut, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, onion, and tomatoes round out the recipe, resulting in a colorful and flavorful curry. Serve with parathas (pan-fried flatbread) or rice.

  • 10 of 14

    Malai Prawn

    Malai Prawn
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    A thick coconut milk gravy and bold-flavored whole spices are what sets this north Indian delicacy apart. Onions, tomatoes, and chilis are ground into a paste which is then fried along with ginger and garlic pastes. Spices and coconut milk are added and brought to a boil; the shrimp then quickly cook in the sauce before a bit of cream is added to finish off the dish. Perfect served with Jeera rice.

  • 11 of 14

    Malai Kofta

    Malai Kofta - Classic north Indian dish with Paneer potato balls tossed in rich tomato cream base gravy
    vm2002 / Getty Images

    Although this kofta recipe does take some time to prepare, it is the ideal dish if you have vegetarians at your Christmas dinner table—but is also so delicious, even the meat eaters will be asking for more. Cooked potatoes are mashed along with a mixture of vegetables, panner (cheese), heavy cream, and traditional spices to form a dough. The dough is formed into balls, stuffed with nuts and raisins, and deep-fried before simmering in a rich gravy.

  • 12 of 14

    Palak Paneer

    palak paneer
    Zohaib Hussain / Getty Images

    This dish is ideal for those who have a sensitive palate or who prefer a more mild tasting dish; it is also a nice accompaniment to spicy and rich recipes as it will not compete. Paneer is a type of cheese, somewhat similar in texture to tofu. It is a perfect match for healthy spinach, fenugreek leaves, and tomatoes that are mashed until soft and seasoned with typical Indian spices. Serve hot with Chapatis (Indian flatbread), parathas (pan-fried Indian flatbread) or Makki Ki Roti (pan-fried maize bread).

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  • 13 of 14

    Mutter Paneer

    matar paneer masala - an indian cuisine
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    One of the most frequently ordered vegetarian dishes in Indian restaurants, mutter paneer is also easy to make at home. Paneer and peas are stir-fried and cooked in a mixture of onion, tomato, ginger, and garlic pastes, as well as spices and green chilis. Water is added to create a thick gravy. Serve with rice and/or flatbread.

  • 14 of 14

    Kaali Daal

    Indian Cuisine Vegetarian Dal
    joannatkaczuk / Getty Images

    Kaali Daal is also known as Ma Ki Daal (mom's lentils) since it is wholesome and delicious. Black lentils are soaked overnight and then boiled along with onions, green chilis, and asafetida. The lentils are added to stir-fried onion, tomato, and spices, along with enough water to create a gravy. Cream and cumin seeds fried in ghee are the finishing touch. Serve with a vegetable side dish and naans (tandoor-baked flatbread).