Contributed by Mahima Purohit, founder of The Vegan Wagon
Indian food is popular across the globe, and it’s easy to see why. The aromas and flavours are intoxicating, and there’s so much variety which makes it exciting. But did you know that it’s one of the easiest cuisines to veganise?
India has more vegetarians than any country in the world, and so a lot of Indian recipes are already meat-free! Dairy ingredients, however, tend to find their way into many Indian dishes. But with a little initiative and experimentation, you can make most of these dishes totally plant-based. Keep reading for our top tips on creating vegan versions of popular dishes.
Khichdi is soul food! This classic yet simple Indian dish made with daal and rice is every Indian’s go-to when 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 – there’s no khichdi in the world that Indian spices can’t flavour, after all.
2. Dahi vada
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 once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll love it and find no reason to go back to dairy curd.
Peanut and rice curd is a great example of how to veganise this dish. Both texture and taste are perfect! 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.
3. 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 we 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, making it way healthier. You can always use vegan ghee or butter if you like your parathas extra glossy.
5. Gajar ka halwa (Carrot Halwa)
We know what you’re thinking! You may find it hard to imagine this soft, indulgent dessert traditionally simmered in cow’s milk to ever be vegan. However, this winter favourite can 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.
For more tips and inspiration, see our vegan Diwali guide.