From healthy curries to lentil pancakes, our favorite Indian-inspired recipes are full of rich flavors and traditional regional spices.
December 07, 2014
1 of 10Photo: Oxmoor House
The Flavors of India
Known for spices like coriander and hot red chiles, Indian cuisine combines regional ingredients to create excitement on the palate. Our Indian-inspired recipes offer a healthy version of cultural classics such as lamb curry and cashew fudge.
Chicken tikka—chicken marinated in spicy yogurt and charred in a tandoor—has origins in India. So do the spices in the masala sauce. But chicken tikka masala as it stands today is not traditional in Indian cuisine. Most food historians point to the U.K. to explain how the two parts of the dish (tikka and masala) came together.
2 of 10Photo: Oxmoor House
Indian Cashew Chicken
Also known as butter chicken, this Punjabi dish gets its richness from cashew butter, half-and-half, and yogurt. A host of spices from coriander and ginger to cardamom and cinnamon give it head-swirling aromas. Serve over brown basmati rice or with naan bread to soak up the creamy sauce.
3 of 10Photo: Romulo Yanes
Tandoori Grilled Chicken with Mint Raita
The tandoor, India’s wood-fired clay oven, turns out fantastic barbecued chicken. An ordinary outdoor grill with a tight-fitting lid and prepared for indirect heat mimics the gentle heat of the authentic clay ovens. Tandoori chicken originated in the Punjab region of northern India and Pakistan and get its traditional red color from ground chiles.
There must be a thousand ways to make this hearty dish from Kashmir—a region of the northwestern Indian subcontinent. Marinate the lamb in yogurt to tenderize it, and add flavor with saffron since the dish is really about aroma. I also add tomato paste, which is not traditional but thickens like fresh pureed Kashmiri chiles would.
5 of 10Photo: Oxmoor House
Fall Vegetable Curry
In his Indian cookbook, 660 Curries, author Raghavan Iyer says that chana masala is “as pervasive in northern Indian home kitchens as is macaroni and cheese” in U.S. kitchens. Here’s a riff on chana masala that includes sweet potatoes and cauliflower along with the chickpeas.
6 of 10Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Dosas (Indian Rice and Lentil Pancakes)
In this classic Indian recipe, the lentils and rice are not cooked but soaked overnight in water, which softens and ferments them. Then they are pureed. The chlorine in tap water can inhibit the softening of the lentils, so it is best to use bottled spring water. Urad dal are skinned, split lentils that are available in Indian groceries. Typical lentils found in the supermarket will not substitute in this recipe.
7 of 10Photo: Oxmoor House
Lamb Burgers with Indian Spices and Yogurt-Mint Sauce
Vadouvan is an Indian condiment made by cooking onions, shallots, and garlic until deeply caramelized, then flavoring them with a combination of toasted dried spices. For a shortcut, you can substitute 2 teaspoons of garam masala or Madras curry powder for all the ground spices here.
8 of 10Photo: Randy Mayor
Red Lentil Dal with Charred Onions
Quick-cooking red lentils don't need to be pureed since they break down as they cook. Lentils are a great source of protein, as well as fiber. Serve over brown rice with a side of broccoli for a vegetarian meal.
This recipe comes from chef Suvir Saran, who earned a Michelin star for his brilliant cooking at New York’s Dévi. Author of the best-selling Indian Home Cooking, Saran knows how to simplify Indian cooking for Westerners. North Indian cuisine isn’t as fiery hot as the food in the South, so if you want more heat here, add a ¼ teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper.
During Diwali, the Festival of Lights, Indians often share this dessert with friends. It's so easy and delicious that you could riff on the idea with all manner of nuts and spices, such as peanuts and cinnamon, pine nuts and allspice, or pistachios and clove.