Iconic Eats: India

Don’t miss these ten classic dishes and drinks—from satisfying street snacks to soulful rice dishes—when travelling throughout the subcontinent


Fried or baked, triangular or conical, samosas are perhaps India’s most ubiquitous snack. Sold by street vendors and fine-dining restaurants alike, the pastry is typically filled with spiced potatoes and peas and is almost always accompanied by a chutney or mint sauce. While the vegetarian variety is most prevalent, meat and paneer versions are also delicious. See our favorite samosa recipe »


Made by blending mango pulp, yogurt, and milk, the mango lassi is a rich, refreshing drink that serves as a great counterpoint to heavily spiced Indian foods. Often sweetened with sugar and honey and flavored with cardamom, lassis are most common in northern states like Delhi and Punjab, but can be found at markets, street food stands, and casual restaurants across India. See our mango lassi recipe »


Essentially a layered dish of spiced rice and meat, fish, or vegetables, biryani takes on various forms depending on location: The fragrant Mughlai biryani is dotted with almonds, cinnamon, and saffron; brought to India by ancient Persian kings, it is most popular in the Delhi area. Hyderabadi biryani, a spicy rice- and yogurt-marinated lamb biryani topped with fried onions and cilantro, is one of the most famous biryanis throughout India. In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a milder Lucknow-style is preferred. Wherever you try it, biryani offers a unique and singular taste of place. See our recipe for chicken biryani »


The Hindi word for pickle, achaar refers to a wide range of preserved fruits and vegetables brined in oil, salt, and spices. Ubiquitous on the Indian table, they range in flavor from tart to spicy to sweet; mangos, chiles, and limes are especially popular varieties. Try achaar served as condiments tableside at restaurants, and purchase glass jars at markets to take home as souvenirs. See our recipe for Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Carrot Achaar »

naan and roti
Naan and Roti

Two of the most popular breads in India include naan, a pillowy, leavened flatbread blistered from the high heat of a tandoor oven, and roti, an unleavened flatbread made with high protein whole-wheat flour and cooked on a griddle, resulting in a chewier texture. Both are served alongside most meals to scoop up soupy dishes from dal to curry. See our favorite Indian bread recipes »


Originally introduced by the Mughals, kebabs are still a staple street food in any Muslim neighborhood. Skewered cubes of meat marinated in spices or spears of ground seasoned meats can be grilled, pan-seared, or even deep-fried. See our recipe for North Indian Chicken Kebabs »

Gulab Jamun
Gulab Jamun

These donut-like fried, milk-based dough balls slowly cooked in boiling syrup are available street-side or at any sweets shop. See the recipe for Gulab Jamun »


Topped with crunchy, fried bits of chickpea dough, chaat, or snacks are hawked at street stands throughout India. The most popular version boasts an addictive blend of potato pieces, fried bread, chickpeas (chana) , and spices, but variations abound, from aloo ki tikka, spiced potatoes with onion and coriander, to aloo pakora, potatoes with chili powder and mango. See the recipe for Aloo Chana Chaat »


Chai is the word for tea in India, and though serving preferences change from city to city, the most iconic version is masala chai: a sweetened combination of strong black tea, whole milk, and spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Order some from a street-side chai wallah for an afternoon pick-me-up. See the recipe for Masala Chai »

Continue to Next Story

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.