A Vegan's Survival Guide Through India

If you are vegan and exploring India soon, here’s your region-wise guide to making the most of the country’s beautiful gastronomy without losing your mind!

As diverse as its culture is, coming a close second is the diversity of its food as one of the biggest draws of Indian tourism. There’s something for every taste bud, for every lifestyle. With travellers becoming more conscious of the way they travel — less plastic, reusing, recycling and most importantly - food choices — travelling through India is becoming more popular owing to its versatility.

Given the prevailing religious ideologies, India, as a country, was always assumed to be a vegetarian nation broadly. While that is only an assumed reputation, there is no doubt that one can find some of the best vegetarian and vegan food all across the country! How? The answer, again, is versatility. From coconut and mustard oils to some of the world’s most primaeval organic farming — India, with the warmest of Namastes, welcomes vegans with the culinary indulgence of a lifetime!
Read on to know how you, as a vegan, can tread easily through India!

Southern India

1) Idli -
Not only are idlis ubiquitous through the entire Southern India - in some form or the other - they are also super easy on your pocket. Ground rice, urad dal (skinned black lentils), and water are the main ingredients of this super nutritious dish. It is typically served with chutney - ground cocnut which may sometimes have some form of tempering.
2) Dosa -
Prepared using the same ingredients as idli, dosa is the crepe / pancake version of idli. It is thinner and crispier. While having this one though, it’s better to inform the server to add no ghee or butter as it is a usual practice.
3) Rassam -
You can drink gallons of this zesty, warm, flavourful broth made using lentils, water, onion, and some spices. Add some rice and papadum — and you have for you one beautiful vegan meal to indulge in! Sambhar is another counterpart — albeit denser — of this dish, usually served with idlis and dosas; again a great dish to just slurp on.
4) Sundal -
Black chickpeas boiled, garnished with coriander and coconut, and tempered with curry leaves and mustard — sundal can be eaten as a snack or as an accompaniment. This is a great source of protein, too!

Western India

1) Vada Pav
A staple snack of the region, now across the nation, vada pav is the Indian version of a burger. A potato patty deep fried in vegetable oil that is served with pav (Indian white bread) and usually accompanied by fried chillies and ground coconut chutney. This one can easily become an addiction!
2) Pithla Bhakri
One of the most popular and easy to make Maharashtrian vegan foods, the Pithla Bhakri is packed with nutrition. Pithla is made using a paste of gram flour, chopped onion and spices, while the bhakri is a flatbread made using flours of different grains or millets like Jowar, Bajra, Ragi, Buckwheat, etc.; it may vary as per season and location.
3) Khakra
A household snack across the states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, the Khakra is a crisp flatbread prepared by thoroughly roasting a wheat pancake. You can have it by itself or get as creative as you like — hummus, olive oil, garlic oil, or the dips of your choice!
4) Undhiyu
If you love vegetables, undhiyu can easily be your next favourite Indian food. This is a one-pot, all vegetable dish that can be had with roti or rice. While it is now easily available all through the year, you will find the best versions in winters, given the availability of required vegetables.

Eastern India

1) Ghugni
A popular evening snack across the states of Assam, Bengal, Bihar, and Odisha, the Ghugni is a preparation of black chickpeas cooked to the consistency of dal or curry. You can devour this dish with deep-fried puris, puffed rice, or savour it by its own!
2) Luchi Dum Aloo
There’s little that can go wrong with a potato gravy and puri. The Luchi aloor Dum Aloo is a testimony of that! The dish is such a favourite with folks that it is a not just a patent breakfast option, but even lunch and dinner. You really got to try it to know why!
3) Kola Bora
Love bananas and have a sweet tooth? Sink your teeth into these sweet banana fritters made using ripe banana, rice flour, and sugar. This dish is cheap, easily available all across western India.
4) Momos
Our take on dim sums and dumplings, momos have become a national favourite. Originated in Tibet, momos are available all throughout the country today so much that they have taken the form of street food. The vegetable variation is a safe bet for vegans, typically consisting of cabbage, carrots and onions.

Northern India

1) Chaat
Samosas and gol gappes have become the face of Indian food globally. Good thing — they are one of the most scrumptious vegan Indian foods one can indulge in. Just skip the yoghurt and you’re good to have chaat in any of its forms as the most common ingredients here are flour, chopped veggies, fried namkeens, coriander and tamarind chutney, and ground chillies.
2) Maa ki Dal
Your source of protein on the go, the Maa ki Dal is made using black lentils, water and spices and usually enjoyed with both roti and rice. Translated literally to "Mother's dal", you don't have to wonder why this dish is so very popular! Just to confirm your dal is vegan, it's worth instructing a butter-free variation!
3) Chhole Kulcha
If you’re visiting Delhi or any region in Punjab, you can happily survive on some of the world’s best chhole kulche. A curry of cooked chickpeas served with all-purpose flour flatbreads, this dish is a comfort food for many!
4) Parantha
Have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner — the parantha is so versatile, it’s hard to get bored with it. Plain or stuffed (with veggies or tofu), the parantha is easily found in literally all places, just mention that you don’t want butter over it and you’re good to go!
With this list, we have you covered on literally all parts of India and the most commonly available food there. How has your experience as a vegan in India been thus far? We’d love to know in the comments below!
Seema Nande

Seema Nande

Jeevoka member since Nov 2019

I am no animal expert, but I am a person with common sense (something that holds a permanent spot on my gratitude list!). That is what brings me here to express my prerogative on situations of which animals happen to be the sole protagonists.