15 Traditional South Indian Plant-Based Recipes


South Indian recipes originate from the five southern states of India viz. These states include Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana. South Indian food is very different from food found in the rest of India. The south is famous for its palm trees and beaches, so freshly grated coconut and coconut milk are often used in many dishes. The food is altogether much lighter and more flavorful. The dishes traditionally consist of rice, lentils spices, curd, coconut, and vegetables like tamarind, plantain, garlic, and curry leaves. Dosas, idlis, and vadas are just some of the most well-known dishes from this region.

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1. Onion Pakoras With Avocado Dipping Sauce

Onion Pakoras With Avocado Dipping Sauce

Source: Onion Pakoras With Avocado Dipping Sauce

A pakora is an Indian snack that’s essentially a vegetable dipped in chickpea flour, so they’re naturally gluten-free, and then deep-fried until crispy. These Onion Pakoras With Avocado Dipping Sauce by Cruelty Free Family are spiced with garlic, cumin, and curry powder and served with a cool, spicy, and creamy avocado dip.

2. Spinach Chana Masala Vada

Spinach Chana Masala Vada

Source: Spinach Chana Masala Vada

Vada are crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. This Spinach Chana Masala Vada by Pavani Nandula is great to serve hot for friends and family during festival season.

3. Lemon Rasam: South Indian Spicy Soup

Lemon Rasam: South Indian Spicy Soup

Source: Lemon Rasam: South Indian Spicy Soup

Rasam is a thin and very spicy southern Indian soup served alone or combined with other foods, such as rice, as a side dish. There are several different ingredients you can put into a rasam but this particular recipe for Lemon Rasam: South Indian Spicy Soup by Pavani Nandula uses pigeon peas, tomatoes, and a variety of spices and aromatics including mustard seeds, cumin, cilantro, turmeric, and lemon juice.

4. Masala Dosa With Sweet Potato Filling

Masala Dosa With Sweet Potato Filling

Source: Masala Dosa With Sweet Potato Filling 

A dosa is a popular dish in South Indian cuisine typically served for breakfast, traditionally made from rice and lentils. In this recipe for Masala Dosa With Sweet Potato Filling by Priya Lakshminarayan, dosa is stuffed with a spicy, savory sweet potato filling. It’s filling, flavorful, and packed full of good carbs to give you the best start to your day.

5. Soft Idli From Scratch

Soft Idli From Scratch

Source: Soft Idli From Scratch

Idlis are steamed rice cakes made by steaming a fermented batter of rice and lentils! It is perfect with a spicy chutney, piping hot sambar, or some coffee. Try out this Soft Idli From Scratch recipe by Frida Dias as a snack or even as breakfast!

6. Mint Biryani With Garden Peas

Mint Biryani With Garden Peas

Source: Mint Biryani With Garden Peas

Rather than having plain rice, add some flavor to it by adding mint into a curry. This Mint Biryani With Garden Peas recipe by Charanya Ramakrishnan will become your new go-to dish for any occasion!

7. Kerala-Style Parippu Dal

Kerala-Style Parippu Dal

Source: Kerala-Style Parippu Dal

This Kerala Style Parippu recipe by Pavani Nandula features creamy red lentils cooked with coconut milk and ground spices. This dish is delicious served with steamed rice.

8. Baked Vada

Baked Vada

Source: Baked Vada

There is no South Indian celebration that doesn’t feature vada and now with this Baked Vada by Tina Dawson, you can enjoy them baked, not fried, for a lighter option. These baked vada are crispy, crunchy, and delicious.

9. Mushroom Paniyaram: Indian Steamed Savory Cakes

Mushroom Paniyaram: Indian Steamed Savory Cakes

Source: Mushroom Paniyaram: Indian Steamed Savory Cakes

Paniyaram is an Indian dish made from a lentil and rice batter that is steamed in a pan with circular molds. This recipe for Mushroom Paniyaram: Indian Steamed Savory Cakes by Srividhya Manikandan is ideal for any time you need an easy meal to grab!

10. Instant Sambar with Vegetables for Idli, Dosa

Instant Sambar with Vegetables for Idli, Dosa

Source: Instant Sambar with Vegetables for Idli, Dosa

This Instant Sambar with Vegetables for Idli, Dosa recipe by Pavani Nandula is a quick and easy alternative to traditional sambar. Spice paste with lentils & spices makes the sambar thick, flavorful, and taste almost like the original version. Perfect to serve with idli, dosa, or even rice.

11. Appam – Lace Rimmed Rice and Coconut Pancakes

Appam – Lace Rimmed Rice and Coconut Pancakes

Source: Appam – Lace Rimmed Rice and Coconut Pancakes

There are many variations of Appam enjoyed across South India, and even in Sri Lanka where they are called hoppers. This recipe for Appam – Lace Rimmed Rice and Coconut Pancakes by Rinku Bhattacharya can be prepared for breakfast or dinner.

12. Pongal: South Indian Rice and Lentil Porridge

Pongal: South Indian Rice and Lentil Porridge

Source: South Indian Rice and Lentil Porridge

Pongal or South Indian Khichuri is all-time comfort food. This South Indian Rice and Lentil Porridge recipe by Rinku Bhattacharya uses melted ghee, clarified butter, and toasted cashew nuts, which make all the difference!

13. Vegetable Biryani

Vegetable Biryani

Source: Vegetable Biryani

Biryani is a traditional Indian rice-based dish that is layered with rice, meat, and vegetables, and seasoned with spices. Here is a vegan version of this traditional dish. You will love this Vegetable Biryani by Vaishali Honawwar!

14. Beet Thoran: South Indian Beet and Coconut Milk Curry

Beet Thoran: South Indian Beet and Coconut Milk Curry

Source: Beet Thoran: South Indian Beet and Coconut Milk Curry 

South India has many palm trees and beaches, so freshly grated coconut and coconut milk are often used in curries. This delicious Beet Thoran: South Indian Beet and Coconut Milk Curry by Mira Manek is made by cooking grated beets in a creamy, spiced coconut milk curry with curry leaves and cashews.

15. South Indian-Style Kurma

South Indian-Style Kurma

Source: South Indian-Style Kurma

Any restaurant you walk in, in India (especially South) will have this kurma. Kurma is a curry with heaps of vegetables and flavored with coconut and fennel seeds. This South Indian-Style Kurma by Charanya Ramakrishnan is dairy-free, gluten-free, high in fiber, and vegan.

Learn How To Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!

Indian Dosa with Spiced Sweet Potato

Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammationheart healthmental wellbeingfitness goalsnutritional needsallergiesgut health, and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked to many health problems, including acnehormonal imbalancecancerprostate cancer and has many side effects.

For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Here are some great resources to get you started:

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