12 Most Popular Indian Dishes and Recipes

Create your favorite Indian restaurant foods at home

It may seem daunting to cook your favorite Indian dishes at home, with the cuisine's unusual and complex spices. But, if you stock your kitchen with some of the essential ingredients found in Indian cuisine, you can easily prepare these dishes and enjoy that lively, spicy taste any time you want. From tandoori chicken to palak paneer, the recipes are relatively simple. You can even learn to make your own naan, the tasty flatbread ideal for scooping up rice and sauce.

  • 01 of 12

    Murgh Makhani (Butter Chicken)

    Authentic Murg Makhani (Butter Chicken)

    The Spruce

    Murgh Makhani (butter chicken) is one of the top orders at any Indian restaurant in the West and for good reason—it is delicious. This sultry poultry dish tastes great with kaali daal (black lentils), naan, and a green salad.

    If you have a well-stocked spice drawer, the only pantry ingredient you may need is kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves). Otherwise, this recipe calls for common ingredients like olive oil, onion, garlic, ginger, butter, and tomato puree.

  • 02 of 12

    Instant Pot Butter Chicken

    Instant Pot butter chicken in a dish with rice.

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    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. 

  • 03 of 12

    Tandoori Chicken

    Tandoori Chicken
    Elaine Lemm

    It's hard to find anyone who doesn't fall in love with tandoori chicken, that famous Indian barbecue chicken recipe. Although traditionally cooked in a clay oven, you can prepare the yogurt-marinated chicken in a regular oven (or on the grill). You do need to plan ahead, as the coated chicken should sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. If you prefer, you can sear the marinated chicken cubes first on the stovetop to achieve that signature tandoori char.

  • 04 of 12

    Chicken Tikka Masala

    Chicken tikka masala
    Angel Gallardo / Getty Images

    Chicken tikka masala is a delicious grilled chicken dish with a thick, creamy gravy that is unforgettable after the first bite. A tomato-yogurt sauce is spiced with chili, garlic, ginger, and garam masala, the ubiquitous Indian spice blend. The chicken is marinated overnight, grilled, and then gently cooked in a slightly smoky gravy. You will want to serve this dish over basmati rice with warm naan bread for soaking up the sauce. For a quick version, try making it in the Instant Pot.

    Continue to 5 of 12 below.
  • 05 of 12

    Chicken Vindaloo Curry

    Chicken vindaloo in a serving bowl with rice and condiments on the side

    The Spruce / Elaine Lemm

    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 and, in fact, 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.

  • 06 of 12

    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.

    The list of spices called for in this recipe may seem long, but a trip to your local international food market should set you up nicely. Spices such as cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala are often sold in small bulk quantities, so they'll last for quite a long time.

  • 07 of 12

    Malai Kofta

    Malai kofta vege balls recipe

    ​The Spruce Eats / Ulyana Verbytska

    Malai kofta (vegetable "meatballs" in a thick sauce) is the vegetarian alternative to meatballs. The koftas are made with a mix of potatoes, carrots, beans, peas, and sweet corn, which are 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. It's rather easy to find if you don't want to make it, especially if you shop at a natural foods market. Malai kofta goes very well with naan or jeera rice.

  • 08 of 12

    Chole (Chickpea Curry)

    Chole chickpea curry recipe

    ​The Spruce Eats / Nita West

    A classic and easy chole chickpea curry, is a favorite in Northern India and has become a worldwide sensation. It's perfect for a crowd, especially if you serve it hot along with fried Indian leavened bread like poori or bhatura.

    The ingredient list looks more intimidating than the recipe is in reality. Once you have the chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes, along with garlic and ginger pastes, all you need are those common Indian spices that make this cuisine unique.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.
  • 09 of 12

    Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cottage Cheese)

    Spinach and Cottage Cheese

    Christine Glade / Getty Images

    One of the most popular paneer recipe at Indian restaurants is palak paneer, a mildly flavored dish made with spinach and cottage cheese (the paneer), along with the typical Indian spices.

    Thanks to the large portions of spinach and fenugreek leaves included in the recipe, this dish takes on a deep green hue. The cubed paneer are pan-fried first, contributing a nice texture to the dish. Palak paneer gets even better when served with your favorite flatbread.

  • 10 of 12

    Kaali Daal (Black Lentils)

    Black Lentils

    Jelena Jojic Tomic / Stocksy United

    There are certain dishes, such as butter chicken, that go perfectly with a side of (mom's lentils) because it is wholesome and delicious.

    You'll need to soak your black lentils overnight, but after that, it's an easy recipe. The only new ingredients you'll need are ghee (clarified butter) and asafetida (a resinous gum), both of which will be useful in your Indian food adventures.

  • 11 of 12

    Papdi Chaat

    Papdi chaat recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Chaat has to be the most popular North-Indian snack. Vendors literally crowd the streets selling all kinds of delicious variations of chaat in this part of the country. Chaat parties are also popular and a nice alternative to a sit-down dinner.

    Papdi chaat is a great introduction to this dish and a lot of fun to make. The first step is to make the papdi (or papri) dough, and then form it into thin circles and deep-fry. These wafers are then topped with potatoes and chickpeas and drizzled with a tangy, spicy, and sweet sauce.

  • 12 of 12

    Naan (Leavened Indian Flatbread)

    Naan leavened Indian flatbread recipe

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Naan, a puffy flatbread, is a staple in the Indian kitchen and can go with everything you make, including many popular dishes like tandoori chicken or all kinds of kebabs.

    Though naan (leavened Indian flatbread) is traditionally cooked 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.