Contributed by Mahima Purohit
Founder, The Vegan Wagon
We Indians are known to love our food! And who can blame us? The intoxicating aromas and flavours are to-die-for and the variety is just mind-boggling! But did you know that it’s one of the easiest cuisines to veganize?
Here’s why. India has the most number of vegetarians in the world and so a lot of Indian cooking is already meat-free! Dairy ingredients, however, tend to find their way into many Indian dishes. But with a little initiative and experimentation, we can make most of these dishes totally plant-based. Here are examples of some popular dishes that will show you how.
Khichdi is soul food! This classic yet simple Indian dish made with daal and rice is every Indian’s go-to when we’re craving a light, nutritious and quick meal. But we’re conditioned to believe that khichdi ought to be topped with oodles of ghee for it to taste good, defeating the very purpose of an easy-to-digest comfort meal. So let’s break free from that notion and skip the ghee for there’s no khichdi in the world that Indian spices can’t flavour.
Yes, you read that right! Dahi vada too can be made vegan. The only non-vegan ingredient in dahi vada is the dairy dahi itself. Plant-based yoghurt can be easily prepared at home without any hassle. It may take a few attempts and some getting used to, but take it from me, once you’ve got the hang (pun intended) of it, you’ll love it and find no reason to go back to dairy curd.
I’ve been making my favourite peanut and rice curd for many years now and both texture and taste are great! It can of course be used in dahi vadas, but why stop there? Use it to make yummy raitas, chaat, kadhi and creamy gravies.
Plant-based yoghurt can also be made using soybean, rice, coconut, and other nuts, or a combination of these. More variety, more nutrition, more flavours and zero dairy! Check out our recipe section for inspiration.
Shahi Paneer (Tofu)
This special paneer preparation made with thick, creamy gravy is everyone’s favourite. And the good news is, you won’t miss it after going vegan! Vegan versions of shahi paneer can easily be made by replacing paneer with tofu, milk cream with cashew paste and curd with any plant-based yoghurt. And I promise it will be as rich and decadent as the real thing.
Most stuffed parathas, when made in oil instead of ghee or butter, are already vegan. Paneer stuffing can be replaced with tofu stuffing, leaving out the extra cholesterol and calories, thus making it way healthier. You can always use vegan ghee or butter if you like your parathas extra glossy.
Gajar ka halwa (Carrot Halwa)
I know what you’re thinking! I too couldn’t imagine this soft, indulgent dessert traditionally simmered in cow’s milk to ever be vegan. But I was in for a happy surprise when I found that this winter favourite treat could be made using coconut milk. Coconut milk has been a popular ingredient in sweets, curries and stews, especially in south India. It’s known to be good for gut and heart health. So try making the vegan gajar ka halwa and share the happy surprise with your friends and family!
All we need is intent and imagination, and we can easily eliminate animal ingredients from our favourite Indian dishes. With every passing day, this only gets easier as more vegan ingredients become available commercially.
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