From flatbreads like naan to rice dishes—essential to soaking up soupy curries or dals—to the country’s wide array of chutneys, raitas, and pickles, these side dishes, condiments, and breads round out any Indian table.
On the Indian table, where utensils are rare, flatbreads sop up soupy dishes and wrap morsels of food. The everyday flatbread is chapati, also known as roti, a pliant round made from whole wheat flour dough that is cooked on a dry skillet and then inflated and browned over an open flame. See the recipe for Chapatis (Whole Wheat Indian Flatbread) » James Roper
Curry Leaf Chutney (Karipatta Chutney)
This fragrant sauce is great with dosas, the fermented lentil and rice crêpes common in south India. It’s dead simple to make, using just a few vibrant ingredients to deliver big flavor: Fresh curry leaves form the base, with sweetness from jaggery (an unrefined sugar), spice from ginger, and sourness from tamarind.
This basic raita is a cooling counterpoint to fiery foods, thanks to its foundation of full-fat yogurt, cucumber, and mint. Plum tomatoes add a hint of acid, Thai chiles heat, and cumin a slight earthiness.
When author VK Sreelesh’s in-laws get together in the South Indian state of Kerala, they prepare traditional Keralan dishes such as this beet thoran, which his mother-in-law, Shyamala, and her cousin Jayanti make with tender ruby-red beets that are stir-fried with chiles, turmeric, and coconut oil. Shreelesh and his family devour the dish with rice, watching as the white grains turn a deep crimson red. See the recipe for Beetroot Thoran (South Indian Beet Stir-Fry) » James Roper
Mint and Green Mango Chutney
Green mango and aromatic mint combine to delicious effect for this tart, refreshing Indian purée. Green Thai chiles lend a spicy note, while cumin and the garlic-like powder asafoetida give an earthy backbone to the condiment.
Naan (Indian Leavened Flatbread)
Unlike some other staple Indian breads, which are unleavened and crafted from durum wheat flour, or atta, fluffy naan is made with all-purpose flour and yeast. Traditionally, the dough is slapped against the chimney wall of a clay tandoor oven and baked over wood fires, but many home cooks make it on the stovetop.
When writer VK Sreelesh visits his in-laws’ house in the south Indian state of Kerala, papaya thoran is almost always on the table. Thoran is usually a dried dish that is mixed and eaten with rice; its ingredients can range from cabbage to beans to carrots to beets. For this papaya version, minced green papaya is first steamed and then mixed with robust coconut and chile paste, and spiced with cumin seeds, garlic, and turmeric. See the recipe for Papaya Thoran (Keralan-Style Fried Green Papaya) » James Oseland
Indian Layered Flatbread (Paratha)
The foundation for this common Indian flatbread is the same dough that is used for chapati—atta, or durum wheat flour, mixed with water. The key difference, which creates the paratha’s signature layers, is rolling and folding the dough in a triangle. The chewy flatbread is then dry-cooked in a skillet until puffy and golden.
As cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey discovered while traveling through the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, palakoora vepadu, fresh spinach sautéed with aromatics such as cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, and turmeric, is a staple in South Indian messes (mess halls). See the recipe for Palakoora Vepadu (Andhra-Style Sautéed Spinach) » Ingalls Photography In coastal South India, coconuts are used for a variety of dishes, including this sumptuous ivory-colored and nutty-flavored chutney. This version is made with yellow split peas, grated coconut, and green Thai chiles, and is traditionally served with dosas, South Indian fermented lentil and rice crêpes. See the recipe for Thengai Chutney (Coconut Chutney) » Farideh Sadeghin Bananas and grapes are sweetened with jaggery—lump cane sugar—and seasoned with black pepper and sulphurous volcanic black salt in this spiced fruit chutney from the north of India. The Gupta family, Marwari Hindus from Mathura who are strict vegetarians, like to make it to go alongside dal, semolina breads, and vegetable masalas. See the recipe for Sonth (Marwari Masala-Spiced Fruit Chutney) » Ariana Lindquist This brisk salad spiced with chiles and cumin comes to us from the Gupta family, Marwari Hindus from the northern Indian town of Mathura. Followers of Krishna, they observe a strict vegetarian diet; this simple, lively side dish makes a frequent appearance on their table. See the recipe for Marwari Radish and Tomato Salad » Ariana Lindquist