12 interesting Indian veggie dishes that you need to try

Menaskai - spice sweet and sour curry - Mangalore, Karnataka

Indian cuisine has an incredible variety, and if you like vegetarian food, here are some brilliant Indian veggie dishes that you should definitely try.

India has innumerable cuisines, and flavours vary from state to state—and often within states. Here are 12 Indian veggie dishes that we’ve eaten (and loved) in 12 different states, during our travels through the country. And while everyone probably has their own opinion about what the ‘best’ Indian vegetarian food is, some of these are definitely contenders in my book.

Also read: 9 unexpectedly great restaurants for vegetarians in Hyderabad

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1. Andhra Pradesh: Ulavacharu

This thick, dark-brown curry is made from horse gram and has an earthy, sweet-sour taste. It’s often made during special occasions, served with a dollop of cream and eaten with rice. It looks almost exactly like chocolate sauce, so you might want to make sure before you dig in. You also might take some time to get used to the flavour. If you’re in Hyderabad, The Spicy Venue—an unexpectedly good restaurant for vegetarians—does a great ulavacharu.

Check out this great ulavacharu recipe from Foodvedam.

Uluvacharu (horsegram curry) - Andhra Pradesh - vegetarian dishes from India
Earthy, chocolate-brown uluvacharu (image courtesy Foodvedam)

2. Goa: Amado curry

Amado, also called amade or ambade (hog plum in English), is a sour, spongy fruit that looks a little like a small unripe mango. This fruit is cooked in a light and tangy curry, which is usually made only at home. At least, when we visited Goa, it was only the family with whom we were staying who made it for us.

Don’t be surprised if you can’t bite through the whole fruit, though. Only the outer flesh is edible, even though the whole fruit is cooked in the curry. The rest is a bit like a hard sponge, which you can chew if you want more of its sour juice.

Big Fat Tummy has a recipe for amado curry that you should take a look at.

amado curry - tangy hog plum curry - Goa - vegetarian dishes from India
The light and tangy amado curry (image courtesy Big Fat Tummy)
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3. Gujarat: Jalebi

The best jalebis we’ve ever eaten were in Bhuj during our visit to Gujarat’s Kutch district, in the upmarket Hotel Prince as part of their lavish dinner thali. But if you’re pinched for time, you can get your jalebi fix at any time of day, anywhere in Gujarat. Despite being a sweet, jalebis are probably one of the most popular Indian vegetarian dishes ever.

These popular sweet, crunchy spirals are, of course, available all over India. But in Gujarat, where they’re traditionally eaten for breakfast, they’ve been taken to a different level. They’re usually paired with the savoury fafda, which balances the extreme sweetness of the jalebis

Check out Swasthi’s jalebi recipe, which includes both the quick and the traditional way of making the batter.

Jalebis - 12 interesting Indian veggie dishes
Fresh jalebis, hot and crisp!

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4. Ladakh: Thukpa

Thukpa is a warm, satisfying soupy dish of broth, noodles and vegetables, and is a meal on its own—which we found perfect for the cold summers and freezing winters of Ladakh.

Since Ladakh is on the border with Tibet, that’s probably why this Tibetan dish is so popular there. Beware, though: Thukpa has many non-vegetarian versions as well, so be careful when you order. It’s also a little messy to eat, so don’t worry if you’re splashing soup all over while slurping your noodles.

If you want to try making it, take a look at this thukpa recipe.

Thukpa - Indian veggie dishes
A steaming bowl of thukpa is perfect for the cold
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5. Karnataka: Menaskai

This was the stand-out dish for us during our day in Mangalore at the end of our recent trip to Coorg—one bite and we understood why it’s served on special occasions. It’s one Indian veg side dish that deserves far more recognition, in my opinion.

Menaskai is a popular dish served during weddings and other occasions in the coastal Mangalore region of the state. It’s a spicy sweet-and-sour dish that can be made with different kinds of vegetables. The most popular version, though, is made with pineapple, which makes the dish even sweeter and richer than otherwise.

Check out this menaskai recipe from Aaharam

Menaskai - spice sweet and sour curry - Mangalore, Karnataka - vegetarian dishes from India
Spicy, sweet-and-sour menaskai (image courtesy Kart217 via Wikimedia Commons)

6. Kerala: Avial

This is a lightly flavoured dish of mixed vegetables cooked with curd and coconut, and is made either with a thin or thick gravy. Avial is one of the dishes served as part of the traditional Kerala ‘sadhya’ or vegetarian banquet, and is eaten with rice. Fresh and light, this is the perfect dish to eat in the hot and humid Kerala climate. Definitely one of my favourite  dishes from ‘God’s own country’. If you’re looking for flavourful Indian veggie side dishes that aren’t too spicy, you should add this to your list.

Here’s an avial recipe from Veg Recipes of India.

Avial - mixed vegetable curry with coconut - Kerala - Indian veggie dishes
Light avial is perfect for the hot, humid Kerala weather (image courtesy Samphotography via Wikimedia Commons)
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7. Lakshadweep: Parotta

The cuisine in the island state of Lakshadweep is heavily influenced by that of Kerala, the nearest state on the mainland. It’s no surprise, then, that the layered, delightfully flaky parotta is found wherever you go on these islands. When we were there, we ate parottas with anda burji (Indian-style scrambled eggs), but they’re usually eaten with a stew of meat or vegetables.

Take a look at this Kerala parotta recipe from Kannamma Cooks.

Parotta - flaky layered flatbread - Lakshadweep - vegetarian dishes from India
The flaky layered parotta is great with gravy (image courtesy Charles Haynes via Wikimedia Commons)

Also read: A simple, hearty, guilt-free salad: Broccoli and crispy potato with honey-mustard vinaigrette

8. Maharashtra: Misal pav

Technically, misal pav is a really a snack and not a meal. But it’s satisfying enough for there not to be much difference. A popular street food across Maharashtra, missal is a mixture of bean sprout curry, spiced boiled potatoes and any number of crunchy fried snacks covered with thin, spicy gravy and sprinkled with chopped onions. It is served with pav—small square loaves of bread.

Here’s Tarla Dalal’s misal recipe.

Misal pav - mixed snacks with spicy gravy and bread - Indian veggie dishes
Spicy misal pav is great as a filling snack or light meal (image courtesy The Uncomplicated Cook)
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9. Rajasthan: Dal baati

Even though this is a simple dish, it’s also very satisfying, with the ghee giving it an extra dose of richness—something we experienced a lot during our trip to Rajasthan.

This is one of the many North Indian veg dishes that doesn’t really get its due. A main staple of Rajasthani cuisine, dal baati is a simple dish of baked wholewheat dough balls served with yellow dal (lentils). The fresh baati are broken into small pieces before being mixed with ghee and dal and then eaten.

If you’d like to try making it, here’s a dal baati recipe by Cook with Manali.

Dal baati choorma - wholewheat balls with lentils - Rajasthan - Indian veggie dishes
Dal baati: A simple, yet rich and satisfying Indian vegetarian meal (image courtesy Sumit Surai via Wikimedia Commons)

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10. Tamil Nadu: Kootu

We had the opportunity to try lots of different variants of this tasty dish during our trip through southern Tamil Nadu.

Kootu is a lightly-flavoured dish of vegetables and lentils, and is one of the main dishes served as part of the Tamil ‘virundhu saappadu’ or vegetarian banquet. Different variations of kootu can be made with different vegetables and types of lentils, but all are served with rice.

Take a look at this instant pot mixed vegetable kootu recipe by Cooking with Pree

Kootu - vegetables and lentils - Taamil Nadu - vegetarian dishes from India
Kootu made with vallarai keerai, a leafy vegetable (image courtesy Kalaiselvi Murugesan via Wikimedia Commons)
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11. Telangana: Pachi pulusu

Roughly translated as ‘uncooked curry’, pachi pulusu is a sweet-and-sour variant of the South Indian rasam. It is made with tamarind water and jaggery, and flavoured with onions, chillies and tempered spices. It isn’t heated during preparation, and is served cold with rice. This makes it perfect during the hot summer months. If you’re looking for great pachi pulusu in Hyderabad, try The Spicy Venue.

Head over to Foodvedam for a nice pachi pulusu recipe.

pachi pulusu - uncooked sweet, spicy tamarind water - Telangana - Indian veggie dishes
Cool, sweet, sour and spicy pachi pulusu is great during the hot summer (image courtesy Foodvedam)

12. West Bengal: Momo

We had a very pleasant lunch one day during our time in Kalimpong, which we spent eating plate after plate of fresh vegetable momos at a tiny shack overlooking a valley.

Admittedly, momos are more of a Tibetan/Nepali import rather than a traditional Bengali dish. Still, these delicate little parcels of dough stuffed with minced vegetables are a staple in the far north of West Bengal, and are very popular in the rest of the state too. Light but still satisfying, a plate of steaming hot bite-sized momos served with their typical spicy sauce make for either a tasty snack or a filling meal, regardless of the weather. Make sure you ask for the vegetarian version when you order, though.

Take a look at this very visual recipe for vegetable momos from Foodviva.

Momos - delicate filled dumplings - West Bengal - vegetarian dishes from India
Steaming momos are perfect as snack or main meal (image courtesy RMT via Wikimedia Commons)
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I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through this list of Indian vegetarian dishes. As a bonus, here’s another one from just across the border.

Bonus – Bhutan: Ema datshi

In case you feel like hopping over India’s northeastern border, here’s a dish from Bhutan.

The tiny little Himalayan country of Bhutan is known for its spectacular natural beauty, imposing Buddhist architecture—and its fiery national dish, ema datshi. Literally translated as ‘chillies and cheese’, this simple but incredibly spicy dish uses green chillies as its main vegetable component, paired with onions and yak cheese.

We were curious about this dish during our visit to Bhutan, so we decided to try it at a restaurant, and found it too spicy even for our experienced tastes. Maybe the spiciness of their cuisine is a way for the Bhutanese to deal with the Himalayan cold…

If you have the courage to try making this dish, here’s an authentic ema datshi recipe by Druk Girl

ema datse - chillies and yak cheese - bhutan
Spicy enough to blow the top of your head off! (image courtesy Sunkissedguy via Wikimedia Commons)

Also read: Turning vegetarian? Here are 10 tips from someone who’s done it

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About me

Hi! I’m IQ, and I’ve been travelling in India and beyond as often as I can manage since 2005. Besides blogging on The Good Life With IQ, I’ve had articles published in Lonely Planet Magazine India, and in Air India’s in-flight magazine. My photos have also been featured on the BBC Travel Show, and on LonelyPlanet.com.

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12 thoughts on “12 interesting Indian veggie dishes that you need to try

  1. As you know, THIS IS MY KINDA POST!!! I’ve tried most of these foods and absolutely love them. I think my favorite has to be the momo’s. Delicious!!

    1. Anonymous says:

      You have?! That’s great to hear! Most people in India probably haven’t even heard of them, unless they’re from their home states 😀 And I agree, momos are amazing. But I think dal baati is my favourite. Or maybe pachi pulusu. Wait, it’s menaskai. Ah, I can’t decide!

  2. thethoroughtripper says:

    All looks so good! Indian cuisine is one of my favorites, and we are certainly usually limited to the most common dishes at most Indian restaurants in the US 🙁

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thanks, Steven! A lot of these aren’t know outside their home states, so even most Indians wouldn’t know them. If you want to try them, you’ll just have to plan a trip to India 😀 Or if you have any of Maneet Chauhan’s restaurants in your area, you’ll probably find some interesting options there.

  3. Wow! That’s a nice collection of lesser known dishes. Thank you for linking to my Menaskai recipe. You can use the image from my blog, if you so wish. 🙂

    Thank you again for featuring my recipe.

    1. Anonymous says:

      My pleasure, Aruna! And thanks for your kind words. I might just take you up on the offer and use your image 🙂

    1. My pleasure! Glad you found them useful!

  4. Pacchi pulusu is my favourite.. brings back a lot of memories! Taste is enhanced when you eat it or mix it with boiled dal/lentils..known as mudda pappu(Telugu)! This combination finely balances the tamarind (sour) taste.

    1. Thanks for the tip! Will definitely try next time around.

  5. Thanks for reminding us of the Bhutanese dish – Ema Datse. We had had it at Darjeeling. We like spicy and we enjoyed it. Just could not remember the name.

    1. Happy to help, Sean! And thanks for your help too!

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