Spicy delights

Let us guide you through five classic meat-free dishes of the Indian cuisine – the world’s vegetarian wonderland.


The Indian cuisine is a galaxy of diverse and tasteful plates. In a country of more than 1.2 million people, every region has its own take on how food should be prepared. A signature dish in one area may be virtually unknown in another. More generally, Indian food has been heavily shaped by both religious and historic factors. Trade routes, foreign invasions and colonialism have had strong influences, with Persians, Arabs and Brits all leaving their mark.

India is also a haven for vegetarians. According to a study in 2006, as much as 40 per cent of its households consider themselves to be vegetarian. That is more people than the rest of the vegetarian world combined. To cater for this demand, meat-free dishes are on offer practically everywhere. Even McDonald’s has succumbed, opening its first vegetarian-only restaurant there in September 2012.

Malai kofta


If you happen to envy those indulging in tasty meatball plates, worry no more: this vegetarian version can hold its own against any such dish. Its main component is the dough balls, consisting of potatoes and vegetables, all mixed with gravy. It is often served for special occasions.

Palak paneer


One of the chief advantages of eating vegetarian is the healthy nature of the food. Of that, this dish is a prime example. It is a popular choice in north India, and is based on cheese mixed into a creamy spinach and onion sauce. If spicy food often gets the better of you, fear not: its mild flavours make it a safe choice.



Let the healthy choices continue. This distinct-looking dish features red kidney beans mixed into a thick sauce. It also contains green chillies and whole spices, and is commonly served alongside rice.

Mutter paneer


This is one of India’s most popular plates. It is a relative of the palak paneer, with Indian cheese being the chief ingredient. The other notable feature is peas. They are mixed into a thick tomato sauce, with rice or naan bread usually served on the side.

Chana masala


The final dish on the list can also be filed under the ‘peas’ category. Although variations vary, it always includes spicy chickpeas mixed into a rich sauce.

Photos: travellight, Boris Stroujko, silentwings, pikoso.kz, bonchan, Mukesh Kumar [all via Shutterstock.com].