How to Cook Indian Food

How to Cook Indian Food

Publish Date August 29, 2023 3 Minute Read

You’ve savored Indian cuisine in restaurants and ordered it for takeout. Now you’re ready to try preparing it at home.

Before you start shopping Indian recipes, here’s a primer on the different ingredients, equipment and cooking methods you might use.

Traditional Indian Food

Indian recipes vary extensively by the regions of India they originate from. In general, though, a meal consists of bread (naan or roti) and/or rice served with gravies made from beans or lentils, or a meat curry. A dry side dish is usually also served, along with pickles, chutneys or raita. Many drink offerings are yogurt-based.

Cooking Equipment

What you’ll need depends on which Indian dishes you’re preparing. Here’s the kitchenware most frequently used in Indian recipes:

  • Pressure cooker: Saves time on dishes that require extensive cooking on the stove or in the oven.
  • Belan: This thin rolling pin is essential for rolling flatbreads.
  • Chakla: The circular board that accompanies your belan.
  • Tadka pan: A mini frying pan used when preparing curries.
  • Tawa: A concave cast-iron pan ideal for making roti or chapati. A flatter version can be used for dosas.
  • Mortar and pestle: Used for powdering spices quickly.
  • Masala dabba: A circular tin of commonly used spices.

Staple Ingredients

Start your shopping list with basmati rice, chapati flour and gram flour. Many dishes also rely heavily on beans and lentils, so you’ll want to stock up on varieties like kidney beans, pigeon pea lentils, yellow lentils and green gram (mung). Foundations like garlic, onions, ginger, chili peppers, tomatoes and coriander appear in many recipes.

Then there are the herbs and spices that play a starring role. The most commonly used are cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric powder and garam masala powder.

Indian Cooking Techniques

Here are some primary methods of cooking Indian cuisine:

  • Tadka: Also known as bagna or chownk, this method involves tempering spices in hot oil or ghee (clarified butter). It usually involves mustard seeds, cumin seeds or bay leaves. The timing depends on the type of dish; it can be done at the beginning or end of your meal prep.
  • Bhunano: Food is stir-fried on low heat until it caramelizes. Be attentive and keep stirring so the food doesn’t stick to the pan.
  • Talna: Food is deep-fried in small batches in 1"-2" of oil or ghee.
  • Dum: Cook on low heat using steam trapped inside a large pot or pan. Since this can take hours, pressure cookers are often used to replicate the process.
  • Bhapa: This involves steaming food pot-in-pot. A perforated vessel is placed over the pot with the water and covered to trap the steam for cooking. Food is usually wrapped in banana/turmeric leaves or foil during steaming.
  • Tandoori: Traditionally, this means cooking naan or marinated meat in a clay oven, which gives food a roasted, smoky flavor. The effect can be replicated at home with an oven or pressure cooker.
  • Dhungar/Dhuanaar: A small bowl with a piece of lit charcoal is placed inside a larger vessel on top of the food. Hot oil or ghee is poured over the coal. The resulting smoke is trapped by covering the food with a lid, which infuses the food with a smoky flavor.

More Meal Ideas

Ready to get started? Enjoy the recipes below, then get additional inspiration on our blog and our Easy Meal Solutions page.

Indian Recipes to Try at Home