Most traditional Indian dishes are hearty, rich, and full of flavor. Many of them also tend to be creamy, made with ingredients like butter, ghee, and, well, cream. That isn’t exactly great news for anyone avoiding dairy due to an intolerance, sensitivity, or by choice.
But life without tikka masala or vegetable curry—is that the life anyone wants to lead? Fortunately, it’s a life no one ever has to know. Here, 7 dairy-free Indian dishes that can be made at home, without dairy and without sacrificing taste. Pro tip: Before you get started, make sure you have the spices you need. Garam masala, turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and chili powder are used in almost all of these recipes. Everything you need can be found at a local Indian market or Amazon (if your town doesn’t have an Indian market). Have what you need and ready to get cooking? Scroll down to see the recipes.
Keep reading to see 7 dairy-free Indian recipes to try at home.
Made with lentils and veggies, this curry comes together in just 10 minutes if you have an Instant Pot on hand. The recipe calls for moong dal vadi, which are dried lentil dumplings. The sauce is a tomato puree-base that also includes ginger, turmeric, garam masala, and chili powder. All together, they form the perfect veggie entree that’s packed with protein from the lentils.
Get the recipe: lauki vadi ki sabji (Indian vegetable curry)
2. Warming vegetable dal
Similar in texture to a hearty soup, this dal is made with starchy veggies that make it the ultimate comfort food dish. In it are sweet potato, cauliflower, and lentils. Watch the video above to see exactly how to make it.
3. Matar chaat
The starring ingredient in this dish is white peas, which serve as a sponge for all the spices that are used and provide lots of protein. (If you can’t find white peas, chickpeas work just as well.) The other major component in this recipe is a tangy chutney, made with seedless tamarind, cumin, ginger, and red chili powder. The end result is the perfect mix of sweet and savory with an underlying layer of heat.
Get the recipe: matar chaat
If you’re looking for a delicious dairy-free Indian snack recipe, this is it. Puffed rice, green mung bean sprouts, and veggies are mixed with a green chutney and a sweet chutney before being placed into little tortilla scoop chips. Crunchy, soft, sweet, savory…it’s all here!
Get the recipe: tortilla bhel cups with sprouted beans
The combination of a crispy outer shell but a soft inside is So. Darn. Satisfying. The inside is a lentil paste, made with green chili, fresh coriander, ginger, cumin seeds, and salt. These fritters make a great appetizer or snack, although they are time-consuming to make, so just be sure to plan ahead.
Get the recipe: lentil fritters
Fact: You can most definitely whip up a creamy butter chicken without using any dairy whatsoever. The trick is to use coconut milk to make the sauce, which is combined with canned tomato sauce. Serve this dish with rice and warm naan bread.
Get the recipe: butter chicken
This creamy masala also uses coconut milk in the sauce, which gives an underlying hint of sweetness in every bite. Coconut sugar is also used in the spice blend—along with cayenne, cumin, garam masala, and turmeric—which cuts through the heat just the perfect amount.
Get the recipe: chicken tiki masala
Inspired by these dairy-free Indian recipes? Get more recipe ideas in Well+Good’s Cook With Us Facebook group.