39 Indian Recipes Better Than Takeout | SAVEUR

39 Indian Recipes Better Than Takeout

Recipes for curries, dals, chutneys, and the ultimate tikka masala—no delivery fee required

Drop that takeout menu: making homemade Indian food isn’t just about getting dinner on the table—it’s about exploring one of the world’s most exciting cuisines.

As a whole, Indian cuisine is spice-forward and colorful—some of our favorite spicy recipes come from the subcontinent—which is why it’s so well-loved all over the world, from the United Kingdom, which formerly colonized the country, to South Africa, which is home to a large population of Indian expats.

But Indian cuisine, like its culture, is hardly a monolithic entity: there are over 100 languages spoken and a comparable diversity in cooking, which hinges on geographical variation. The north of the country relies more on wheat, while the south of the country uses rice. On the coasts, find incredible fish dishes, oft laced with coconut milk.

A world unto its own, Indian cuisine is one worth getting to know. From Indian mains to the desserts, here are the essential Indian recipes to make today.

Chicken Tikka Masala

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA

Chicken Tikka Masala

Matt Taylor-Gross

Our version of the classic is lighter, fresher, and brighter than what you'll get at most restaurants. Get the recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala »

Bunny chow, a hollowed out bread bowl with a spicy, meaty curried filling, is as delightfully messy as it sounds. You can eat every last morsel of this version from Hollywood Bets in Durban, including the curry-soaked bread from the bottom and sides. Get the recipe for Mutton Bunny Chow »

Indian Leavened Flatbread (Naan)

Naan

Ingalls Photography

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 it's also perfect for cooking on the stovetop. Get the recipe for Indian Leavened Flatbread (Naan) »

Don't overcook your spinach for a fresher bowl of this stew. Get the recipe for Saag Paneer (Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese) »

Goan Cod Curry

Goan Cod Curry

Goan Cod Curry

Farideh Sadeghin

Goa, located on the west coast of India, has a regional cuisine known for seafood and coconut milk. But there's another ingredient in the Goan pantry that calls back to its Portuguese colonial roots: vinegar. That's what gives the slight tang to this easy, not-too-spicy fish stew. Like many curries, the flavor improves the next day, so I suggest making the base for the sauce the night before, even freezing it, and reheating it when you're ready for dinner. Once the sauce is simmering, cooking the fish and getting dinner on the table takes just a few minutes. Get the recipe for Goan Cod Curry »

Red Lentils with Green Mango (Malika Masoor Dal)

Red Lentils with Green Mango (Malika Masoor Dal)

Red Lentils with Green Mango (Malika Masoor Dal)

Ingalls Photography

In early spring, green, unripe mangoes are a featured ingredient in the daily menu at Raja Sulaiman Khan's home in Lucknow, India. Here, amchoor—dried green mango—adds sour pungency to creamy lentils. Get the recipe for Red Lentils with Green Mango (Malika Masoor Dal) »

Aloo Masala (South Indian Potatoes)

Aloo Masala (South Indian Potatoes)

Aloo Masala (South Indian Potatoes)

Ingalls Photography

These flavorful mashed potatoes are spiced with mustard seeds, fresh curry leaves, turmeric, and ginger, and mixed with peas. Get the recipe for Aloo Masala (South Indian Potatoes) »

Characteristic of the region's curries, this intensely spicy one from chef Kevin Joseph of Durban's The Oyster Box hotel gets its heat not from chiles, but pastes made of fresh garlic, ginger, and onions, plus lots of curry powder. Though not cooked long, the sauce is rich and thick thanks to heaps of ground spices and unsweetened coconut cream. Get the recipe for Chicken and Prawn Curry »

Goan Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi)

Goan Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi)

Goan Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi)

Ingalls Photography

In Goa, a tiny, palm-fringed state on the western coast of India, seafood is central to the cuisine. Beloved regional specialty sembharachi kodi, or shrimp in a coconut curry, is prepared a number of ways, but always with the freshest local shellfish simmered in a rich, chile-spiked coconut sauce. Get the recipe for Goan Shrimp Curry (Sembharachi Kodi) »

Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh)

Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh)

Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh)

Ingalls Photography

For these simple bite-size confections from Bengal, milk is turned into homemade paneer cheese and then combined with sugar and cardamom to yield a dense, fudge-like treat. Get the recipe for Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh) »

Curried Yogurt Stew (Kadhi)

Curried Yogurt Stew (Kadhi)

Curried Yogurt Stew (Kadhi)

André Baranowski

Chickpea flour acts as a stabilizer, preventing yogurt from curdling in this aromatic soup. Get the recipe for Curried Yogurt Stew (Kadhi) »

Creamy Fenugreek and Spinach with Cheese (Methi Malai Paneer)

Creamy Fenugreek and Spinach with Cheese (Methi Malai Paneer)

Creamy Fenugreek and Spinach with Cheese (Methi Malai Paneer)

Ingalls Photography

This creamy dish from Toronto-based Indian cookbook author Smita Chandra makes a phenomenal spread, with oven-baked naan bread on the side. It’s made with the fresh Indian cheese called paneer, peas, and whole peeled tomatoes, along with plenty of tangy fresh fenugreek greens, and it’s spiced lavishly with turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and more. If you can’t find fenugreek greens, kale, Swiss chard, or another green can be substituted. Get the recipe for Creamy Fenugreek and Spinach with Cheese (Methi Malai Paneer) »

Telangana-Style Curried Chicken Stew

Telangana-Style Curried Chicken Stew

Telangana-Style Curried Chicken Stew

Ingalls Photography

Carved out of ten former districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangan officially became India’s 29th state in June 2014. For this eponymous dish from Telangana home cook Padma Reddy, the skin is removed from the chicken to allow the flavors of the marinade—coconut, lime, garlic, ginger, cardamom, mace and more—to penetrate. Get the recipe for Telangana-Style Curried Chicken Stew »

Goan Pork Vindaloo

Goan Pork Vindaloo

Goan Pork Vindaloo

Ingalls Photography

The word vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of the popular Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which made its way to India in the 15th century along with Portuguese explorers. In Goa the dish was tweaked, incorporating chiles, tamarind, black pepper, cinnamon, and cardamom. When it was exported to England, it became another hot curry, losing its vinegar tang and spice complexity, but this version stays close to the Goan original. Get the recipe for Goan Pork Vindaloo »

Thalassery-Style Fish Curry (Thalassert Meen Curry)

Thalassery-Style Fish Curry (Thalassery Meen Curry)

Thalassery-Style Fish Curry (Thalassery Meen Curry)

James Oseland

Any firm fish, including snapper, trout, or salmon, will work in this green mango-infused south Indian curry, named for the Keralan coastal city of Thalassery and flavored with coconut, ginger, curry leaves, and turmeric. Get the recipe for Thalassery-Style Fish Curry (Thalassert Meen Curry) »

Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa)

Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa)

Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa)

Ingalls Photography

Studded with chopped nuts and flavored with aromatic cardamom and rose water, this sweet Indian pudding is made from a blend of nutty ghee, milk, cream, sugar, and grated carrot. It's equally good served either hot or cold. Get the recipe for Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa) »

Goan Coconut Cake (Baath)

Goan Coconut Cake (Baath)

Goan Coconut Cake (Baath)

Matt Taylor-Gross

A hint of rosewater adds sweet, floral aroma to this moist, dense semolina cake, packed with four types of coconut. Refrigerating overnight gives the semolina time to soak up the sweet coconut liquid, resulting in a softer, more tender crumb. Get the recipe for Goan Coconut Cake (Baath) »

Papaya Thoran (Keralan-Style Stir-Fried Green Papaya)

papaya stir-fry

Papaya Thoran (Keralan-Style Stir-Fried Green Papaya)

James Oseland

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. Get the recipe for Papaya Thoran (Keralan-Style Fried Green Papaya) »

Chicken Vindaloo

Chicken Vindaloo

Chicken Vindaloo

Landon Nordeman

This tangy, spicy curry from Goa, India, has roots in vinh d'alho, a stew brought to the region by Portuguese colonists. Now an Indian restaurant staple, it comes in countless variations—some fiery, some mild—from the subcontinent to the British Isles. Get the recipe for Chicken Vindaloo »

Cilantro Yogurt Chutney

Cilantro Yogurt Chutney

Cilantro Yogurt Chutney

Ingalls Photography

This creamy yogurt-based chutney is made with cilantro, lime, and fresh green chiles. Get the recipe for Cilantro Yogurt Chutney »

South Indian Vegetable Stew (Sambar)

South Indian Vegetable Stew (Sambar)

South Indian Vegetable Stew (Sambar)

James Oseland

Cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey describes sambar as "a split-pea stew which is varied daily with the addition of, say, caramelized shallots or tomatoes or okra or aubergine (eggplant) poached in tamarind juice." What we discovered in our test kitchen is that any combination of vegetables, such as yams, zucchini, or eggplant, can be added to this aromatic south Indian stew. Get the recipe for South Indian Vegetable Stew (Sambar) »

Smita Chandra's Daikon Curry

Smita Chandra's Daikon Curry

Smita Chandra's Daikon Curry

Ingalls Photography

Daikon—a type of large white radish with a peppery, earthy flavor—has long been a staple of Indian cooking. In this simple vegetarian curry dish from cookbook author Smita Chandra, daikon is enhanced with an aromatic blend of coriander, cumin, turmeric, and other spices. Get the recipe for Smita Chandra's Daikon Curry »

Spiced Dal with Peanuts and Dill

Spiced Dal with Peanuts and Dill

Spiced Dal with Peanuts and Dill

Matt Taylor-Gross

Dill adds a fresh flavor to this Maharashtrian-style dal. Get the recipe for Spiced Dal with Peanuts and Dill »

Spiced Tea (Masala Chai)

Spiced Tea (Masala Chai)

Spiced Tea (Masala Chai)

Todd Coleman

Cardamom gives this Indian drink a bright, piney sweetness tempered by a creamy base of evaporated milk and black tea. Get the recipe for Spiced Tea (Masala Chai) »

Bengali-Style Fish Stew (Maacher Jhol)

Bengali-Style Fish Stew (Maacher Jhol)

Bengali-Style Fish Stew (Maacher Jhol)

Ingalls Photography

No Bengali meal is complete without maacher jhol, fish simmered in a tomato-based curry scented with mustard oil and the region's distinctive mix of five spices: toasted fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard, and fennel seeds. Get the recipe for Bengali-Style Fish Stew (Maacher Jhol) »

Indian Fish and Potato Tikkis

Fish and Potato Tikkis with Chile and Lime

Fish and Potato Tikkis with Chile and Lime

Matt Taylor-Gross

A simple Indian croquette with fish, bold hits of cumin and green chile, and a refreshing mint chutney. This is a great way to use up leftover cooked white fish; simply substitute 8 oz. of cooked fish and skip the first step. Get the recipe for Indian Fish and Potato Tikkis »

Indian Layered Flatbread (Paratha)

Indian Layered Flatbread (Paratha)

Indian Layered Flatbread (Paratha)

Ingalls Photography

The paratha's signature layers are made by rolling and folding the dough in a triangle. The chewy flatbread is then dry-cooked in a skillet until puffy and golden. Get the recipe for Indian Layered Flatbread (Paratha) »

Spicy Cabbage-and-Potato Curry (Bund Gobhi Aur Aloo Ki Subzi)

Spicy Cabbage-and-Potato Curry (Bund Gobhi Aur Aloo Ki Subzi)

Spicy Cabbage-and-Potato Curry (Bund Gobhi Aur Aloo Ki Subzi)

James Roper

This vibrant Indian curry comes from the Meghwal tribe of Gujarat’s Thar Desert. Since there is little local agriculture—the closest vegetable market is in the capital city of Bhuj, 35 miles away—the cuisine is spare, but it is delicious in its simplicity. This tribal cabbage-and-potato curry is traditionally cooked over a wood fire, along with millet rotla, a flatbread, but the stovetop works just as well. Get the recipe for Spicy Cabbage-and-Potato Curry (Bund Gobhi Aur Aloo Ki Subzi) »

Hot Mix (Indian Spiced Snack Mix)

Hot Mix (Indian Spiced Snack Mix)

Hot Mix (Indian Spiced Snack Mix)

Ingalls Photography

There are countless varieties of this ubiquitous Indian snack mix, made with varying combinations of nuts, fruit, spices, and other ingredients. Cookbook author Smita Chandra's version of the satisfying nibble is the best we've had, with four kinds of nuts (cashew, peanut, almond, pistachio), plus sweet raisins, nutty coconut, and poha, dried flattened rice flakes. Get the recipe for Hot Mix (Indian Spiced Snack Mix) »

Red Chutney

Red Chutney

Red Chutney

Ingalls Photography

This five-ingredient Indian condiment from home cook Yamini Joshi is a snap to make, thanks to flavor-packed tamarind paste and the spice blend sambar masala. Get the recipe for Red Chutney »

Hyderabadi-Style Lamb with Potatoes (Aloo aur Gosht ka Kaliya )

Hyderabadi-Style Lamb with Potatoes (Aloo aur Gosht ka Kaliya )

Hyderabadi-Style Lamb with Potatoes (Aloo aur Gosht ka Kaliya )

Ingalls Photography

In the Indian city of Hyderabad, this dish is traditionally made using goat, but lamb makes an excellent substitute. Get the recipe for Hyderabadi-Style Lamb with Potatoes (Aloo aur Gosht ka Kaliya) »

Indian Samosas

Indian Samosas

Indian Samosas

James Roper

Triangular deep-fried pastries stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas are an iconic Indian snack. Pair them with tangy tamarind chutney or herbaceous coconut-cilantro chutney for dipping. Get the recipe for Indian Samosas »

Indian Lime Rice

Indian Curd Rice

Indian Curd Rice

Ingalls Photography

In this zesty side dish, fried chana dal adds an earthy crunch to the rice, which is delicious alongside rich vegetable curries. Get the recipe for Indian Lime Rice »

Rajasthani White Chicken Curry

Rajasthani White Chicken Curry (Safed Maans)

Rajasthani White Chicken Curry (Safed Maans)

James Roper

A seasoned coconut chicken curry is tempered with yogurt. Get the recipe for Rajasthani White Chicken Curry »

Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs with Oven-Dried Tomatoes (Zoomru Tool and Ruwangan Hach)

Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs with Oven-Dried Tomatoes (Zoomru Tool and Ruwangan Hach)

Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs with Oven-Dried Tomatoes (Zoomru Tool and Ruwangan Hach)

Ariana Lindquist

Hard-cooked eggs get a golden sheen from frying in bright mustard oil and are served in a rich, spicy sauce made from oven-dried tomatoes. Get the recipe for Fried Hard-Boiled Eggs with Oven-Dried Tomatoes (Zoomru Tool and Ruwangan Hach) »

Hyderabadi-Style Lentil Stew (Khatti Dal)

Hyderabadi-Style Lentil Stew (Khatti Dal)

Hyderabadi-Style Lentil Stew (Khatti Dal)

Ingalls Photography

Indian culinary expert Madhur Jaffrey experienced a version of this tarka—a combination of fried spices and aromatics stirred into a soupy dal—while visiting the South Indian city of Hyderabad. It is soured with tamarind and seasoned with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Get the recipe for Hyderabadi-Style Lentil Stew (Khatti Dal) »

Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Koli Milagu Masala)

Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Koli Milagu Masala)

Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Koli Milagu Masala)

Ingalls Photography

This richly spiced chicken dish is adapted from a recipe in Madhur Jaffrey's classic Flavors of India (West 175 Publishing, 1995). According to Jaffrey, "What gives this a very special southern flavor is the use of fennel seeds, curry leaves, and, of course, the pulse (legume) urad dal. This is definitely a dish you will want to make very frequently." We couldn’t agree more. Get the recipe for Chettinad Pepper Chicken (Koli Milagu Masala) »

Roti with Black Truffle-Sunchoke Ranch

Roti with Black Truffle-Sunchoke Ranch

Roti with Black Truffle-Sunchoke Ranch

Farideh Sadeghin

These roti are flaky and charred, all the best qualities of pizza dough without the heft. Get the recipe for Roti with Black Truffle-Sunchoke Ranch »

Khoya, a rich curd made by reducing milk for several hours, forms the base for these syrup-soaked confections. Get the recipe for Gulab Jamun (Cardamom Syrup-Soaked Donuts) »

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