10+ Healthy Indian-Inspired Recipes for Easy, Flavorful Meals

Indian recipes are practically designed for weeknights: The cuisine is relatively easy to make, perfect for meal prepping, and (when done authentically) incredibly healthy. In fact, its mix of veggies, fruits, proteins, and grains is just about the ideal balance—and to top it all off, Indian food is bold and delicious.

But if you’re new to Indian cooking (or getting back into it after a long break) picking out the right ingredients and recipes can feel slightly overwhelming. “Whether it’s Indian or American or any other cultural food, it’s not much different,” says Sarika Shah, M.S., R.D.N., a California-based dietitian. “The goal is to have a plant-forward diet in whatever flavor it comes with.”

Is Indian food healthy?

In short, yes. Although it’s impossible to reduce all of India’s regional cuisines into one type of cooking—there are dozens of them—the traditional makeup of most Indian meals balances food groups with ease.

For the uninitiated, Shah explains, Indian meals include a main vegetable dish, a main meat dish, dal (a lentil dish), rice, roti (round flatbread), yogurt, and kachumber (a cold salad). Vegetarians and vegans simply skip the food that uses animal products. In this form, Indian food is balanced and offers fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals.

But Americanized Indian food can be a different story. In the interest of cooking quicker meals, home chefs often omit the veggies. “All Indian meals have vegetables. But when we assimilate to the U.S., we tend to skip out,” Shah says. “What we’re doing [here] is plating a big bowl of rice, putting some dal on it, and calling it a meal.”

On top of that, Shah notes, an over-reliance on cream and butter (and even ghee, or clarified butter) makes American-Indian cooking heavier than it is traditionally.

How to cook healthy Indian-inspired recipes

“For the non-Indian,” Shah recommends making simple swaps that’ll keep your recipes as nutritious as possible. Shop for roti made with whole-grain flour instead of white flour, for example, or use quinoa, farro, or barley instead of rice. “For the Indian, go back to your roots—go back to the way that [this food] was made.”

Serving yourself is the next opportunity to make a healthy choice. “When you’re plating your food, make sure half of your plate is vegetables, cooked or uncooked,” Shah says. Then, split the remaining half evenly between carbs, like rice or roti (or a little of both), and protein, like a cup of dal, yogurt, meat, or tofu.

Where to buy healthy Indian ingredients

“Go check out the Indian grocery store,” Shah recommends to non-Indian cooks. “I’m not going to ask you to invest in every Indian spice. But if you’re going to make a traditional item like a chole, you can buy a seasoning packet, tomatoes, canned garbanzo beans, spinach, and some onions, and get it cooking.”

People new to Indian cooking shouldn’t be afraid to try new spices: Turmeric, chili powder, coriander, cumin, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and more, all play big roles on their own and in masalas (seasoning blends) that you can buy at any grocery store.

Is your mouth watering yet? Read on to find our absolute favorite healthy Indian-inspired recipes that are guaranteed to be a hit at your dinner table.

1

Sheet Pan Chicken Tikka

Even if you’ve never made Indian food for yourself, you’ve probably tried chicken tikka masala. This sheet pan version manages to pack in onion, cauliflower, chickpeas, carrots, and yogurt, all touchstones of Indian cuisine.

Get the recipe from Prevention »

2

Traditional Chicken Curry

Unlike other recipes, this chicken curry (which gets its distinct flavor from garam masala) swaps the heavy cream for yogurt. Plus, it all comes together in just half an hour—right on par with your go-to restaurant, but way more satisfying.

Get the recipe from Good Housekeeping »

3

Pulissery

Pulissery, also known as moru curry, is a savory buttermilk curry with a coconut base that tastes divine over rice. This version uses taro as its base, but you can choose to sub in pumpkin, papaya, yam, or banana depending on your taste.

Get the recipe from Edible Garden »

5

Vegan Cauliflower Salad

Break out the air fryer for this filling salad, which makes the most of cauliflower, zucchini, onion, and herbs, plus tons of turmeric and cumin. No more sad salads for lunch—this one is in a different league entirely.

Get the recipe from Saffron Trail »

6

Aloo Gobi

If you haven’t noticed, cauliflower plays a huge role in Indian-inspired recipes. This vegetarian staple transforms the veggies (plus healthy servings of potatoes, turmeric, and ginger) into a main dish worthy of any dinner table.

Get the recipe from Delish »

7

Savory Lentil Waffles

A decidedly remixed approach to Indian flavors, these fluffy waffles are bursting with bright flavor from curry, coriander, red onion, and golden raisins—topped with Greek yogurt and plenty of arugula. Are they breakfast or dinner? We’ll let you decide.

Get the recipe from Prevention »

8

Spiced Carrot Soup With Coconut Cream

Although it might look like a ton of work, this turmeric- and cumin-spiced soup (which is surprisingly high in protein and fiber) takes just an hour to come together. Garnish with pepitas, coconut cream, and fresh black pepper, then savor every spoonful.

Get the recipe from Prevention »

9

Chaat Masala Colored Carrots and Dates

With colored carrots and fresh oranges, this vibrant salad is bursting with rich, earthy flavor. And while those two ingredients would be amazing on their own, they reach new heights coated in chaat masala, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lime juice.

Get the recipe from Belly Over Mind »

10

Cold Rice Salad With Mango and Coconut

Any sturdy grain—including red rice, wild rice, or even farro—makes a perfect base for this salad, which shines with fresh mango, sliced spinach, and crushed peanuts. Bonus: It travels well, meaning you can bring this dish wherever you go.

Get the recipe from Saffron Trail »

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