The Most Popular Indian Recipes

Create your favorite Indian restaurant foods at home

Vegan tofu tikka masala recipe

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

It's one of the most difficult decisions you'll ever have to make: What to order at your favorite Indian restaurant. There are too many delicious options! The obvious answer is to show up with a group order for the whole table for everyone to share, family style. Start with a snack like papdi chaat for an appetizer, add a few popular crowd pleasers like murgh makhani (butter chicken) and rogan josh, something light, like kachumber (cucumber salad), and any house special naan.

Now the next big question: Which Indian specialty should you cook tonight? Hopefully you stock your kitchen with some of the essential ingredients found in Indian cuisine so you can easily prepare your favorite restaurant dishes from the comfort of your own kitchen. Use this guide for your own cooking or as inspiration for ordering dishes out, too. Most of these recipes are for mains, but we've included instructions to make your own naan, the tasty flatbread ideal for scooping up rice and sauce.

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    Papdi Chaat

    Papdi chaat recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Probably the most popular North-Indian snack, vendors crowd the streets selling all kinds of delicious variations of chaat in this part of the country. Chaat parties also make a nice alternative to a sit-down dinner. Papdi chaat is a great introduction to this dish and a lot of fun to make. First, make the papdi (or papri) dough, and then form it into thin circles to deep-fry. Then top the wafers with potatoes and chickpeas and drizzle with a tangy, spicy, and sweet sauce.

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    Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

    Butter Chicken, served with rice

    The Spruce / Ana Zelic

    Perhaps one of the most familiar Indian dish to the American diner, butter chicken first appeared in Delhi in the 1940s. It has a mild flavor that won't blow out your tastebuds, but you can increase the white pepper or curry powder for a more assertive taste.

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    Chole (Chickpea Curry)

    Punjabi-Style Chole Chickpea Curry

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    In Northern India, classic and easy chole chickpea curry often appears as a favorite menu item and as a result, has become a worldwide sensation. It can also serve a crowd, especially if you serve it hot along with fried Indian leavened bread like poori or bhatura. Once you have the chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes, along with garlic and ginger pastes, some common Indian spices will bring it all together.

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    Tandoori Chicken

    Tandoori Chicken
    Elaine Lemm

    Although traditionally cooked in a clay oven, you can prepare the yogurt-marinated charred chicken in a regular oven (or on the grill). You do need to plan ahead, as the chicken should sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight to let the flavors develop. If you prefer, you can sear the marinated chicken cubes first on the stovetop to achieve that signature tandoori char.

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    Chicken Vindaloo Curry

    Classic Chicken Vindaloo Curry

    The Spruce / Chelsea Ross

    This is a mild and sweetly-spiced recipe for chicken vindaloo curry. Contrary to current belief, curries do not have to be hot and fiery. In fact, they never started out that way in India. Creating the curry paste is the most important part of this dish, so don't skimp on the ingredients.

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    Lemon Rice

    South Indian Lemon Rice

    The Spruce / Preethi Venkatram

    South Indian lemon rice makes a great weekday meal because it comes together quickly. It often appears solo or alongside raita, yogurt, chutney, or  kosambari (a type of salad).

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    Naan (Leavened Indian Flatbread)

    Naan leavened Indian flatbread recipe

    The Spruce / Olivia Mindelle

    Naan, a puffy flatbread, goes with just about everything, including many popular dishes like tandoori chicken and all kinds of kebabs. While naan traditionally bakes in a tandoor or earthen oven, they work just as well in your own oven. The ingredient list includes yeast, flour, sugar, and water, as well as yogurt and ghee.

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    Malai Prawn (Shrimp Curry)

    Creamy prawn curry recipe

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    This Bengali speciality often appears alongside jeera rice. Cook the shrimp in creamy coconut milk with whole spices for a deeply flavorful dish. Using head-on shrimp will add even more shellfish character, but you can peel and devein them first if you prefer.

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    Vegan Basmati Rice

    Easy vegan basmati rice recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Anastasiia Tretiak

    Fragrant, tender, and the perfect accompaniment to just about every main, all Indian feasts need basmati rice. Try this restaurant-style vegan recipe that results in a wonderfully spiced grain.

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    Savory Dosas

    Savory Dosas Recipe (South Indian Pancakes)

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Thin and pancake-like in texture, dosas appear alongside many meals in South India. Make them from soaked and drained rice, fenugreek seeds, and urad daal, also known as black lentils. Fermenting the batter gives it a slightly tart flavor.

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    Aloo Matar (Indian Potatoes and Peas)

    Aloo Matar (Indian Potatoes and Peas)

    The Spruce / Wanda Abraham

    This vegan potato and pea main from the Punjab region can be made many different ways. Some have a coconut base, others simmer potatoes and peas in tomatoes, and this recipe lends itself to variation. Using garam masala means you don't have to mix your own spices, cutting down on some of the work. Serve with white rice or naan.

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    Rajma Dal (Red Kidney Bean Curry)

    Rajma Dal: Red Kidney Bean Curry

    The Spruce / Madhumita Sathishkumar

    Popular in Northern India, red kidney bean curry makes a great option for vegetarian diners. The kidney beans simmer in a warming masala paste that features ginger, garlic, chiles, and tomatoes. Adjust the spice level to your tastes by tweaking the type and number of chiles you use. Serve with white rice or naan.

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    Thai Massaman Chicken Curry

    A bowl of Thai massaman chicken curry served with rice

    The Spruce Eats / Ahlam Raffii

    With a fusion of Thai, Malaysian, and Indian influences, this chicken curry has a bright yellow color from the addition of turmeric, as well as whole spices like coriander, cumin, and cardamon for Indian flavor. Serve with white rice to soak up the sauce.

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    Baingan Bharta (Punjabi Eggplant)

    Punjabi Eggplant (Baingan Bharta)

    The Spruce / Preethi Venkatram

    Punjabi baingan ka bharta hails from North India and features roughly-mashed roasted eggplant with a variety of warming spices. Onions, tomatoes, and garlic give it additional spice and texture. Scoop it up with naan or other Indian breads.

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    Crab Curry

    Indian Crab Curry in a pan, side of rice

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    Get your fingers deliciously messy with this crab curry. It can get quite spicy, so if you have a lower heat tolerance, reduce the number of red chiles. Serve with white rice and lots of gravy to spoon over the top.

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    Masala Kheema (Dry Spiced Minced Meat)

    Masala kheema dry spicy minced meat

    The Spruce

    This masala kheema, a flavorful combination of onion, garlic, ginger, spices, and meat, works with just about any minced protein you like best. Try beef, pork, goat, chicken, turkey, or even a combination. It can also feature peas and potatoes for a different texture. Serve with flatbread or rice, or

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    South Indian Chicken Curry

    South Indian-Style Chicken Curry in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Every region of India has its own way of making chicken curry, and this one from the South features tangy tamarind, aromatic spices, and coconut cream for mellowing them out. Skinless bone-in chicken gives it even more flavor, but you can use boneless as well.

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    Lachcha Paratha (Layered Bread)

    Lachcha Paratha (Layered Indian Bread)

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

    With lots of tender layers, lachcha paratha comes out delightfully crispy with only a few ingredients. Its light texture makes it the perfect accompaniment to heavier mains. Try it with tikka masala or your favorite curry.

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    Vegan Lentil Dahl

    Spicy Vegan Lentil Dahl

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

    Many people in India follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, making the cuisine perfect for those with dietary restrictions. This lentil dahl has some kick, if you like food that bites back, Serve with rice, naan, or other bread to sop up the gravy.

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    Khatta Meetha Karela (Sweet and Sour Bitter Gourd)

    Khatta Meetha Karela: Sweet and Sour Bitter Gourd in a bowl

    The Spruce / Julia Estrada

    Karela, or bitter melon, often shows up in Asian cuisin. In India, you'll often find this sweet and sour preparation that uses cumin, chilies, ginger, coriander, and turmeric, as well as tamarind and jaggery, an unrefined sugar. Try it with naan, paratha, or other flatbread.

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    Vegan Tofu Tikka Masala

    Vegan tofu tikka masala recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Traditionally made with chicken, tikka masala has an enticing aroma and spicy, slightly charred flavor. Make it vegan by preparing tofu in the same style. While it calls for quite a few spices, don't sweat it if you don't have one or two. It will still taste delicious. White or basmati rice complements it perfectly.

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    Kachumber (Cucumber Salad)

    Kachumber (Indian Cucumber Salad)

    The Spruce/Diana Chistruga

    Cucumber, tomato, and onion salads appear in cuisines all around the world. This kachumber has a light and easy lemon, salt, and pepper dressing that doesn't use any oil. We recommend using English cucumbers because they don't have any seeds, but Persian cucumbers will also works. The salad makes a great side for spicy curries and mains.

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    Yellow Split Pea Dal

    Vegetarian Indian Yellow Split Pea Dal recipe

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Sometimes spelled dhal or dahl, yellow split pea dal starts with simply simmered split peas and then adds a  tadka, a tempered mix of onion, cumin, and clove with other spice that gives it a wonderfully fragrant flavor. It does have some kick, so reduce or eliminate the cayenne if you prefer a milder dish.

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    Malai Kofta

    Indian Veggie Balls (Malai Kofta)

    The Spruce / Abbey Littlejohn

    Malai kofta (vegetable "meatballs" in a thick sauce) is the vegetarian answer to meatballs. The koftas use a mix of potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, and sweet corn, which get cooked and mashed before mixing with spices and paneer, that essential blocked "cheese" that is similar to tofu in texture and a great addition to any vegetarian meal. Malai kofta goes very well with naan or jeera rice.

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    Meen Kulambu (Fish Curry)

    South Indian Fish Curry

    The Spruce

    Popular in South India, this meen kulambu (fish curry) brings a tangy tamarind-marinated fish in a signature curry that just begs for white rice, dosas, or other flatbread to soak it al up. Any firm whitefish will work, including cod, halibut, and tilapia.

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    Sarson Ka Saag (Greens and Spices)

    Sarson ka saag recipe

    The Spruce Eats / Julia Hartbeck

    This Punjabi dish often appears with naan and a dollop of butter atop wilted greens and spices like garlic, ginger, and green chiles. Use spinach, mustard greens, or your favorite hearty greens. A little Bengali gram flour thickens the mixture, but chickpea flour or corn flour will also do the trick.

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    Chicken Sukka (Dry Chicken Curry)

    Garnish chicken sukka

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck 

    Not all curries have a stew-like consistency. Chicken sukka from western India combines elements and ingredients that find their basis in both the Malabari and Goan styles of cooking. Onion, ginger, and garlic lend a fragrant spice, while coconut cream gives it a thick texture.

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    Mughlai Karahi Gosht (Indian Lamb Curry)

    Indian lamb curry

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

    Simple, hearty, and richly flavored, this lamb curry simmers into a homey meal. It does take some time, but most of that doesn't require hands-on work. Boneless lamb shoulder or chopped stew meat works best in this preparation.

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    Instant Pot Butter Chicken

    Instant Pot Butter Chicken

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

    If you love murgh makhani but don't have a lot of time, try Instant Pot butter chicken. It has all the delicious flavors of butter, cream, tomatoes, garlic, and spices like garam masala, cumin, ginger, and coriander, but with less cooking time. 

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    Masala Raan (Roast Leg of Lamb)

    Masala Raan
    Masala Raan. Image © Monkey Business Images/ Dreamtime.com

    For a special dinner that will fill your home with a tantalizing aroma, try masala raan or a roast leg of lamb. It slowly cooks in a fragrant blend of spices for three hours until it gets fall-off-the-bone tender. Marinate it first for 24 hours to give those flavors time to really intensify.

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    Tandoori Paneer Tikka Kebabs

    Tandoori Paneer Tikka Kebabs

    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

    For a fun vegetarian grilled main, make skewered tikka kebabs with marinated paneer, bell peppers, and red onion. It makes a flavorful, slightly smoky, spicy entree that will satisfy even the carnivores in your group. Squeeze a little fresh lemon over before serving.

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    Kerala Beef Fry

    Kerala beef fry.

    santhosh varghese/Getty Images

     

    Originating in the South Indian region of Kerala, both ginger and garlic paste give this beef fry an easily-adjusted spice level. Make your own paste in a food processor or find them in the Indian section of your local grocery store. Serve it with dosas, naan, idlis, or any Indian bread.

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    Basic Chicken Curry

    Basic Chicken Curry

    The Spruce / Karen Hibbard

    Having a basic chicken curry recipe in your back pocket means you can customize it to your tastes or mood, adjusting the spice levels or even swapping out the protein. You can use any part of the chicken, but make sure you remove the skin first.

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    Rogan Josh (Red Lamb)

    Rogan Josh - Indian Lamb Dish Recipe

    The Spruce 

    Rogan Josh, the name of this dish from Kashmir, translates roughly to "red lamb." The color comes from Kashmiri dry red chilies. While the name may sound fiery, the heat of the dish is toned down by the cream that is added at the end.