A Vegetarian’s Guide to North Indian Food

A Vegetarian’s Guide to North Indian Food

The beauty of India lies in its diversity. There are different regions in India varying from high altitude Ladakh in Himalaya, backwaters of Kerala, the coast of Kanyakumari in South India, free-spirited Goa beaches, the white desert of Kutch and sand dunes of Jaisalmer. Due to this diversity of climate, the way of living and food culture is different in every region. If rice is the staple food of South of India then North India’s staple is Wheat. Let’s discuss some of the North Indian dishes, specifically vegetarian dishes which one should try during their visit to this part of India.

Nowadays North Indian food is available in South India and vice versa but the taste & preparation varies. The food of a region won’t taste the same in other parts of India.

Also read Planning a trip to India and How to travel in India and What to wear in India

Must try North Indian Vegetarian dishes

North India provides a wide variety of dishes and there are many choices when it comes to food. North Indian dishes are spicy as well as plain but always flavorful. I always keep an open mind when traveling to a new place. My priority is to try local food and dishes of that region. I personally love traditional food of Kerala.

Street food is an integral part of India’s food experience and you will find plenty of street food stalls in every part of the country. The street food is more localized and you get local dishes in the street food stalls. North Indian street food has its own identity and its totally different from the food from other parts of India.

There are a wide variety of restaurants in India for every budget. The reviews and ratings are available online for almost all the places. The most popular websites/apps are Zomato and Burrp along with TripAdvisor.

North Indian Snacks and Street Food

Dahi Bhalla/Papri Chaat

This is one of the best snacks in the summer months. There is a slight difference in Dahi Bhalla chaat and Papri Chaat. Dahi Bhalla is fried balls of urad dal (Split & skinned black gram), which is soaked in water after frying and then it’s excess water is removed by squeezing. It is then served with curd, tamarind & green chutney on it and garnished with chaat masala, Sev and fresh pomegranate seeds.
In Papri chaat, crisp papri (small coin-shaped pieces of fried all-purpose flour+oil+salt dough) are added with Dahi Bhalla. It’s crunchy and sweet sour in taste.Chaat

Vegetable Pakora

This is the Indian version of fritters. Pakora is one of the easiest snack made by deep frying any vegetable in gram flour batter. The most popular vegetables used in Pakodas are Onion, Potatoes, fenugreek leaves, Spinach leaves, Paneer (Indian cheese). These are consumed with tamarind sauce, green chutney, and tomato ketchup. The Pakodas made of baked bread is also very popular and available everywhere as “Bread Pakoda”.Vegetable Pakode

Golgappe

These are crispy balls made from wheat flour or semolina flour and then filled with sweet & sour spiced water. The thin cover of Golgappa breaks in the mouth as you try to chew and it releases the flavorful water.
To be honest, eating Golgappas is fun but if your stomach is delicate then don’t eat it anywhere. Eat at some fast food restaurant where they give packed flavored water.
In Mumbai, it’s known as Pani Puri and in Kolkatta, it is known as Puchkas.Golgappa

Aloo Tikki

This potato patty, which is shallowly fried and then served with red & green chutney. In some places, Aloo Tikki is served with white Chane ki gravy (White Chickpea).
In some places, Aloo Tikki is stuffed with dal (lentils). This is a crispy from outside and soft inside. Aloo Tikki is served as a hot snack.

Kachori

This round flattened ball of flour has different stuffings and its deep fried in oil. The stuffing of kachori varies in different parts of north India. In UP it is stuffed with Urad dal mixture (Cooked lentils) and served with aloo ki sabzi (potato curry).
In Jodhpur & Jaipur, it’s double the size & filled with onions + potatoes and served with tamarind sauce. in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and other parts it’s available with Dal as well as with Potato Stuffing. It’s mild to spicy and since it’s deep fried so it is high in fat and calories content. But it is safe for stomach if you get fresh made Kachoris. In cities like Varanasi and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, this is a popular breakfast dish.Samosa and Kachoori

Samosa

The samosa has come to India from the middle east but Indians adapted it very fast according to local culture. The outer shell of Samosa is made of all-purpose flour and it’s filled with boiled mashed potatoes, green peas, and local spices. This deep-fried snack is a popular tea time item and served with tamarind or mint chutney.
There are different versions of Samosas available, these samosas are filled with minced meat keema or even is vegetable noodles.

Momo

This is a new addition to popular street food culture. Momos are steam cooked dumplings. Its vegetarian as well nonvegetarian versions are available. There is fried versions of Momos also available.
Momos came to India with Tibetan people, who came to India after Dalai Lama made India his home. A different version of Momos is also made in Hills of India.
Nowadays you will find Momos stalls everywhere in North India as it gained popularity very fast. Momos are served with tomato ketchup and spicy red chilly chutney.Momo

Veg Rolls

Like Momos, it’s also a new addition to North India’s street food. Roll is roti made of all-purpose flour, which is then filled with Paneer, capsicum & onions. The stuffing can vary and sometimes it’s filled with vegetable patties or potato patties.
The egg rolls are also very popular, in which the egg is filled in a roti roll. In the nonvegetarian version, small pieces of chicken or other meat are filled instead of vegetables. It is served with Mayonnaise sauce or green chutney.Roll

Popular North Indian Snacks and Starters in Restaurants

There are different versions of Vegetarian kababs available in Indian restaurants. Though you might get many of the above-mentioned street food snacks also in restaurants.

Paneer Tikka masala

The main ingredient of these is “Paneer”, which is Indian cottage cheese. The pieces of paneer, capsicum, onion, mushrooms, and tomatoes are marinated with curd & spices. Then these pieces are put on a skewer and grilled on the fire.
These grilled pieces of paneer and vegetables are similar to grilled kababs. These are served with green chutney and onions. This is one of the healthier snacks asvery less oil is used and Paneer is full of protein.Paneer tikka

Vegetable Kabab

These Kababs are made by boiling and meshing different vegetables with potatoes. This thick mashed mixture is then either put on thick kabab skewers and cooked on the fire.
Otherwise small round patties are made from this mixture and cooked on a griddle. Served with green chutney and onions rings.

Dahi Kabab

These kababs are unique vegetarian kababs from North Indian cuisine. Dahi Kababs are made with hung curd, spices and a dash of roasted gram flour which works as binding agents. These kababs are cooked on a griddle till golden brown and served with green chutney and onions.Dahi ke Kabab

North Indian Vegetarian Dishes – Main Course

Chole Bhature

This is the most popular North Indian dish. Chole Bhature is a simple yet classic dish. The white chickpeas curry is served with Bhatura. The Bhaturas are made of fermented all-purpose flour by deep frying. Served with onions and pickle. It is slightly oily though in some places they make Bhatura with such a technique that it does soak oil.Chole Bhature

Chole Kulcha

This is a less oily dish in which white chana (Chickpea) are served with baked Kulcha made of all-purpose flour. The Chole/chana is made by adding some salt and chaat masala, there is no oil added to this dish. These Chanas are garnished with onions, tomatoes, green chilly and fresh lime juice. Kulcha is a flat baked bread, which is served with the chana.
There is a cheaper street version of this dish in which dried green peas are used in place of chana and it’s available everywhere on small hawker stands.Chole Kulche

Puri Aloo

This is a popular breakfast item from North India menu. A curry is made with boiled potatoes, which is seasoned with salt, turmeric, red chilly and garam masala. This is served with deep fried puris, which are made from wheat flour dough. In some places, it is served with sauteed pumpkin vegetable and suji (Samolina) halwa.Aloo puri

Popular North Indian Curries

Paneer curries

Indian cottage cheese is known as Paneer, its cubes are cut and used for making curries. Paneer is slightly creamy in consistency but still have a bite to it.
It is non-fermented cheese, unlike most European cheeses.

Different curries are made with Paneer and it’s one of the topmost choices of vegetarian food lovers in North India. The popular Paneer curry dishes are –

Panner masala, which is made by adding grilled Paneer tikka in onion, tomato, and creamy gravy.
Shahi Paneer, it is made with raw chunks of paneer in onion, tomato, cashew paste, and creamy gravy.
Palak Paneer is a most healthy version of any paneer dish. The chunks of paneer are added in boiled and puree spinach, then spiced.
Kadai Paneer, the ingredients of this dish are paneer, Capsicum and chunks of onion. Tomato puree and cream is used to making a thick gravy in this dish.
Matar Paneer, the green peas are added with chunks of paneer in tomato & onion masala gravy.
Paneer Bhurji, it’s a non-curry dish. Grated paneer is added in a masala of onions and tomatoes. This dish is always made fresh and most easy on the stomach.Paneer

Vegetable Curries

These vegetarian North Indian dishes are without gravy & sauce. In India, we make dishes from all available seasonal vegetables by sauteing in onion and tomato masala.
The main winter vegetarian dishes are made with Potato (Aloo). The popular vegetable curry names are Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower & Potato), Baigan aloo (Aubergine & Potato), Gajar aloo (Carrot & Potato), Beans Aloo, Palak Aloo (Spinach & potatoes) , Patta gobi aloo (Cabbage & Potato), Shimla Mirch Aloo (Capsicum with Potatoes), Meethi aloo (Fenugreek leaves with potatoes) and mixed vegetable in which all vegetable are added with few pieces of paneer.
In summer months Bhindi masala (Lady’s finger/Okra) is a most popular dish.Vegetable curry

Potato dishes

Potatoes are an integral part of North Indian cuisine and other than using it with different vegetables, we make different curry dishes with it. The most popular non-gravy dish is Zeera Aloo in which diced boiled potatoes are sauteed with cumin seed, salt, turmeric, chilly powder, dried mango powder, and garam masala.
The popular gravy dish is Dum aloo, which is made with small or medium size potatoes in onion, tomato, and creamy gravy.

Dals (Lentils)

Regular lunch with dal
Regular lunch with dal

These are the main source of protein for Vegetarian people in India other than Paneer. The dals are an integral part of Indian cuisine. Dals are made differently in different parts of India.
The taste varies due to the masalas used for the tempering the Dal. In North Indian menu, you will find Dal Tadka also popularly known as yellow dal (Which is either split pigeon peas/Toor dal or split chickpeas/Chana dal) and Dal Makhani which is made with black gram lentil / Whole Urad Dal.
These Dals are available in restaurant menus, while at home we eat many other dals/lentils.
In most restaurants, they add tempering after the order is placed, so it can be easily customized for spicy or not spicy.

Kofta

There are different varieties of vegetarian koftas available in North Indian menus.
The most popular ones are Malai kofta (made with Paneer) and then served in tomato, onion & creamy gravy.
Another popular dish is Palak Kofta, in which Kofta is served in pureed spinach sauce.
Other than this we make kofta with vegetables like raw banana, bottle gourd, lotus stem, and potato. These are usually not available in most restaurants menu.

Soya Chaap

This is a comparatively new addition to the north Indian cuisine but it gained popularity very fast. The Soybean chunks are made in form of kababs and grilled with marination before making curry. It’s contents are very similar to Paneer tikka masala but since soya is used so the taste is different. Other than curry, it’s also served in form of kababs as snack or starter.

Combination dishes from Punjabi Cuisine

Makki ki roti & Saag

This combination dish is available only in winter months. Makki ki roti is made from Maize/ Corn’s flour which is coarse than cornflour but fine in comparison to cornmeal.
This roti is served with Saag, which is made by boiling and crushing Mustard leave & spinach. Saag is tempered with ginger, garlic, onion, and tomatoes. Mostly it is served with white butter. This is one of the most rustic food from the Punjab region and it has good nutrition value.Makki ki roti and saag

Kadi Chawal

There are many versions of “Kadi” in India and it changes in taste as well consistency according to the region.
The North Indian version of Kadi is made with Pakodas (Round fritters) of Spinach or Fenugreek leaves. The kadi is made by mixing few spoons of gram flour in buttermilk and then boiling it. The Pakodas are added in it while boiling. This tempered with Fenugreek and mustard seeds. Kadi is served with boiled basmati rice.Kadi Chawal

Rajma Chawal

This is another popular combination from North Indian cuisine. Rajma is Kidney beans, which is boiled and tempered with tomato and onion pureed masala. In some parts, tamarind is added to make gravy slightly tangy in taste. Chawal is rice and normally basmati rice is used in north India.

Chana Chawal

This is a combination of Chickpea curry and rice. Mostly white chickpeas are used in the version available in the market.Chane Chawal

Vegetable biryani

This rice dish is made by adding different vegetables and paneer with rice, which are slow-cooked together. This one pot dish is normally consumed with curd/Raita.Vegetable Biryani

Amritsari Kulcha

This is a unique item from Amritsar in Punjab. Traditionally it’s made by stuffing mixture of boiled potatoes & chopped onions into all-purpose flour dough. These stuffed balls are then rolled in form of Paratha/flatbread and cooked in tandoor/clay oven. The oil/clarified butter/ghee is added in the dough to make these crispy and flaky, this is the unique character of this dish.
It is served with chickpea curry, butter, and onion salad.

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Different types of Indian Flatbread

Tawa Roti

This is made with wheat flour dough and cooked on a griddle.

Tandoori Roti

It is thicker in comparison to Tawa Rori and cooked in tandoor/clay oven.

Naan

These are made with all-purpose flour and cooked in tandoor/clay oven. Naan is made plain as well as with garlic & its known as garlic naan. The stuffed naan is also popular and it can be stuffed with potatoes or paneer.

Missi Roti

It’s made with a combination of wheat & chickpea flour dough. It is cooked in tandoor/clay oven.

Romaali roti

These Rotis are very thin and Romaali means like Handkerchief. It’s fun to watch the process of making Roomali Roti. This extra-thin roti is usually made of all-purpose flour and cooked on the inverted wok.

Stuff Paratha

The paratha is made by stuffing anything of your choice into wheat flour dough and it is flattening with the help of rolling pin. It can be cooked on a griddle or in tandoor/clay oven.
The paratha cooked on the griddle is simply known as stuff paratha. And stuff paratha cooked in tandoor/clay oven is known as stuffed tandoori paratha.Stuffed Paratha

Accompaniments in North Indian food

Papad

It’s also known as papadum. This is usually made of lentils flour and then roasted or deep fried before serving. It comes in spicy and non-spicy versions.

Raita

It’s simply curd/yogurt dish, in which curd is beaten to remove lumps. Then finely chopped vegetables or fruits are added in it and seasoned with salt & roasted cumin powder.
The most popular raitas are Bundi (fried droplets of batter made of chickpea/besan), Cucumber, Tomato Onion, Pineapple etc. It helps to cool the palate when eating spicy dishes and it is served cold or at room temperature.

North Indian desserts

Gulab Jamun

This small ball shape sweet is made from Khoa, which is deep fried and then soaked in sugar syrup. It’s usually served hot or at room temperature. I had my best Gulab Jamun when I went to eat Non-Vegetarian food in old Delhi.Gulab Jamun

Jalebi

It is made from all purpose flour’s batters by deep frying it in round shape (Kind of pretzels). Then these crispy fried Jalebi’s are soaked in sugar syrup for a couple of minutes before serving.Jalebi

Imarti

It is similar to Jalebi but the only difference is that it is made of lentil batter instead of all-purpose flour.

Rabri

It is made by reducing the cow or buffalo milk in a wok. The milk reduces by 1/5 and then sugar & flavoring is added to it. Rabri is served cold.

Kulfi

This is the Indian version of ice-cream. The kulfi is made of thickened milk or condensed milk. Almond and pistachios are added in thick milk, which is then frozen. Kulfi is available on thin round stick or in a plate.
The kulfi is also served with Faluda, which are soak vermicelli. Both are served cold together and their combination is known as kulfi Faluda.

Kheer

This rice pudding and made by boiling basmati rice into creamy milk. Then sugar and cardamom are added to it for flavoring. It can be served cold and hot.

Firni

It is very similar to the kheer. The only difference is that it is made by boiling rice paste into milk. This is then refrigerated for few hours and its consistency becomes like custard. This is garnished with almond or pistachios.Firni

Gajar ka halwa

This is a seasonal delicacy and usually made in months of winters. The grated carrots are cooked in thick milk and sugar & nuts are added in it before serving.Gajar ka halwa

Dal ka halwa

It’s made by ghee roasting Moong dal paste (Mung bean lentils), then Khoa and nuts are adding in it. It is served hot and again a winter dish.

Malpua

There are shallow-fried pancakes, which are consumed as is and with Rabri or Kheer. I had my best malpua in Pushkar during Pushkar camel fair.Malpua

Daulat ki Chaat

This dish is unique and is available in winters months only. Though it had “Chaat” in its name it is a sweet dish. This is a kind souffle, infect it is much lighter then souffle. It’s made of milk, cream, and sugar. In Delhi, it’s known as Daulat ki chaat and in Varanasi, it’s known as Malaio.

Traditional beverages of North India

There are many traditional beverages available in North India. Lassi, Chaas (Buttermilk), Aam Panna (Raw mango drink), Shikanji (Lemonade), Jal jeera (Cumin and mint drink), and Badam milk (Almond milk) are some popular cold drinks.
Lassi is available in many variations, it can be sweet or salty, or with fruits like mango, strawberry, banana or pineapple.
Mango shake is very popular in summer months.
Indian masala chai is all time favorite drink in North India.

These are some of the popular and must try items of North Indian vegetarian cuisine. Hope you enjoy reading my recommendations. Please feel free to add your recommendations, if you think I missed some North Indian dishes.
Happy eating !!!!!

Also check Best places to travel in India for female solo travelers and Travel tips for India

10 thoughts on “A Vegetarian’s Guide to North Indian Food

  1. While I don’t know the difference between Southern and Northern Indian food, I love to eat Indian food. This post makes my mouth water. Yum!

    • It’s natural because Indian cuisine is vast and every region has so many different dishes.
      That’s nice that you love to eat Indian food.

  2. Such a useful post. I still haven’t been to India but its only a matter of time. I’m also a vegetarian so can’t wait to try out all the delicious Indian food on the spot. I regularly have Indian anyways. Especially when it starts getting colder, a hearty and spicy curry is unbeatable. Oh, and I just looooooove samosas!

    • Wow… That’s interesting. I totally agree some of the Indian dishes taste so good in winters and I also love to have samosa in winters πŸ™‚

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