Mushroom, tomato, spinach, cucumber, cauliflower - what is your veggie of choice? Cheese, tofu, or paneer - which one do you use to make your easy veggie recipe for dinner? In India, vegetarian food has been a predominant trend for decades.

Millions of people in our country are choosing vegetarianism as scientific studies continue to establish the health benefits of vegetarian dishes. Ingredients of a delicious vegetarian meal are linked to protection against heart diseases, cancers, diabetes, and hypertension.

buddha and ahimsa
Ancient religions, such as Buddhism and Jainism, propagated the philosophy of ahimsa which led to the rise of vegetarianism. | Source: Jan Kopřiva on Unsplash
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History of Vegetarianism in India

The history of vegetarianism in India goes back to the days of the advent of Buddhism and Jainism and their emphasis on the concept of ahimsa or non-violence towards all living things - animals, insects, birds, and humans. Even many Hindus often abstain from the consumption of eggs, meat, and dairy products, making India a safe haven for not only vegetarians but also for vegans. Indian vegetarianism is not just about religious and cultural beliefs but also about the concern for health and the environment.

India and Her History of Vegetarianism

The next time you question why someone eats only a veggie salad or orders a veggie pasta or soup at a restaurant, consider this - India has been home to many origin stories of some of the world's most foremost religions. She is the homeland of Hinduism, one of whose chief tenets is ahimsa, which means non-injury or non-violence to animals and humans.

The Sanskrit-speaking people of the Rig Vedic society venerated the cattle as their chief source of wealth. Eating meat was frowned upon in the Rig Veda and other ancient texts, now considered holy scriptures, such as the Bhagavad Gita.

Both Hinduism and Buddhism preach the doctrine of ahimsa.

There were exceptions in various Buddhist texts regarding the prescription of meat and fish for certain health ailments. The Buddhists could eat meat, if offered, provided the animal was not killed specially for them. There are no such exceptions in Jainism. Jains follow the principle of ahimsa to the letter. Vegetarianism is mandatory for every practicing Jain.

The vegetarian practices in ancient India were known far and wide in the ancient world. Both the Greek ambassador, Megasthenes, who visited India in the third century BCE, and the Chinese Buddhist monk Fa-Hsien, who visited the subcontinent in the 5th century AD, observed that Indians refrained from eating meat.

Easy Vegetarian Dinner Recipes Ready in Minutes

The typical Indian diet is popular for its diversity, including many spices, pulses, and rice, not to mention a range of delectable flavors and colors that give it its unique charm. Indian lunch or dinner recipes that are vegetarian, are usually low in fat, high in vegetable and fruit content, making Indian vegetarian foods a healthy choice.

Try these easy recipes at home using whatever you have available - tomato, cauliflower, paneer or tofu, spinach, potato - to make delicious dinner or lunch meals. Forget about those excruciating minutes when you have to plan a family lunch or dinner every day.

paneer dishes
Paneer is a favorite ingredient in many Indian vegetarian dishes. | Source: Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Easy and Delicious Vegetarian Indian Recipes

When you are in charge of cooking for an Indian family, time is precious. You surely don't want to spend most of your evening or day thinking about which veggie to put in your creamy pasta - whether your kids will like the tomato or the white sauces, whether the spinach will end up in the dustbin, especially if you don’t enjoy cooking.

But, what to do when you love eating and love to feed others? Keep your loved ones and house guests full and satisfied with these flavorful and delicious Indian vegetarian foods, that require only a few minutes of your time to cook. These simple Indian recipes take just 10 minutes!

Bombay Potato

  • Put the ginger, garlic, and 4 tomatoes into a food processor and blitz until smooth. Set aside.
  • Put the potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for 8–10 mins, or until just tender. Drain and leave to steam dry.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the onions and a large pinch of salt and fry for 15 mins, or until the onions are golden and sticky. Add the chilies, mustard seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, cumin, and garam masala to the pan and fry for another 2 mins. Tip in the tomato mixture and bring to a gentle simmer. Carefully stir in the potato and the remaining tomato. Season to taste. Gently simmer the Bombay potatoes for a few minutes until everything is warmed through.
  • Serve topped with the coriander.

Rajma Chawal

  • Wash the rajma and soak it in water overnight. Wash it again and pressure cook with 2 cups of water, 1/4 tsp salt and turmeric. Once the rajma is soft and squishy, remove it from the heat and keep it aside.
  • Finely chop onions and keep them aside. Grate the tomatoes and keep them aside. Make a paste of ginger, garlic, and green chilies.
  • In a deep bottomed pan, add mustard oil. When it gets heated add green cardamom, black cardamom, cinnamon, clove, peppercorn. Once they become fragrant, add onions and cook till they are golden brown. Add the tomatoes and cook on high for 4–5 minutes. Add the ginger-garlic-chili paste, cumin powder, coriander powder, and black pepper powder. Cook till the spices become fragrant and oil starts leaving the sides of the pan. Then, add the rajma and 1 cup of water. Mix well and cook covered for 10 minutes. Once done, add the ghee. You can garnish with coriander leaves. Your rajma is ready.
  • To make steamed rice without using a pressure cooker, wash 1 cup of rice in running water. Then, add them in a large and deep-bottomed pan with 4–5 cups of water in it. You can also add a little salt to it for taste. Once the rice is soft and double its size, strain the water. Spread the rice on a plate and allow it to cool for 2–3 minutes. Once the rice is done, serve hot with prepared Rajma.
kidney beans
Rajma or kidney bean is a favorite Indian staple that is loved by both rice and roti loyalists. | Source: D Stark on Unsplash

Curd Rice

  1. Heat oil and add ¼ tsp mustard seeds. When they pop, add ¼ tsp of urad dal and ¼ tsp chana dal. Let it fry until golden brown.
  2. Now add the hing, red chilies, ginger, and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds and turn off the heat.
  3. Mix the 1 cup curd with ½ cup milk and beat well. You can also add water instead of milk. Add the tempered spices and dals into the curd mixture.
  4. Add the mashed rice to this and mix well, mashing more as you go. If the mixture is too thick, add water generously. Also, add salt.
  5. The rice will keep absorbing the water as you mix and as it sits, so add more water/milk as you go. The curd rice should be loose in its consistency.

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Health Benefits of Vegetarianism

Even if you are eating a delicious meal comprising creamy pasta, which may look unhealthy, most vegetarian meals comprise a wholesome diet. Depending on the veggie content in your creamy pasta - a bit of tomato, cauliflower, maybe roasted potatoes on the side, vegetarian meals usually have a high content of fiber, vitamins C and E, folic acid, magnesium, unsaturated fat, and numerous phytochemicals.

Most vegetarians have lower cholesterol, low blood pressure, and a reduced risk of heart diseases. Moreover, vegetarian foods, like roasted vegetables, baked potatoes or beans, veggie soup, steamed rice, are easy for the body to digest, takes lesser time to cook, are healthy, and most importantly save you money. And, there is that tiny benefit for the environment too - vegetables are vital for controlling climate changes.

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Health Benefits of Vegetarianism

Several scientific studies show that vegetarian diets provide adequate sources of nutrition, reduce the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. Vegetables are also free of harmful chemicals that may be used for processing different types of meat.

A vegetarian diet is a popular choice for those opting for a healthy lifestyle these days. The vegetarian diet is associated with higher fiber, vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, and phytochemicals, which allows vegetarians to stay fitter and enjoy several health benefits over non-vegetarians.

  • Reduces risk of diabetes
  • High fiber content
  • Stable blood pressure
  • Improves skin health
  • Improves mood
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduces chances of cardiovascular diseases
  • An eco-friendly choice

Best Indian Vegetarian Food Blog

Sanjeev Kapoor
Sanjeev Kapoor is the most famous of all Indian chefs. | Source: entrepreneur.com

Indian cuisine has followers the world over and is celebrated by foodies across the globe. Thanks to some dedicated followers on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, Indian food blogging, especially in the domain of vegetarian recipes of India, has become widely recognized. Indian food bloggers like Sanjeev Kapoor, Tarla Dalal, made a choice long before food blogging was actually a thing and made cookery shows look stylish and trendy.

Nisha Madhulika

Nisha Madhulika started young, as a chef. A citizen of Delhi, Nisha was struggling with empty nest syndrome, when she discovered her ability to communicate with a larger audience through cooking Indian vegetarian recipes. In 2011, she launched a YouTube channel about food and recipes. Now, the channel receives over 18 million views every month. She has over 10 million followers on her YouTube channel and she has written hundreds of cooking recipes on her blog.

Sanjeev Kapoor

The most celebrated face of Indian cuisine, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is a chef extraordinaire. His list of achievements seems to keep growing constantly! He runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood,  he has hosted the very popular cookery show, Khana Khazana, on Indian television for more than 17 years, he is the author of 150+ best-selling cookbooks, restaurateur, and he is the winner of several culinary awards. Sanjeev Kapoor is the embodiment of his own dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and motivating women through the power of cooking to become self-sufficient.

The popular recipe portal, www.sanjeevkapoor.com, is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried and tested recipes, videos, articles, tips, and trivia, and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi. Khazana is Sanjeev Kapoor's personal food blog. It is a treasury of spices and flavors that helps its followers to create enriching culinary experiences!

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Vegetarian Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle

A vegetarian doesn’t eat meat, including beef, chicken, pork, or fish, and may or may not choose to eat other animal products, such as eggs, dairy, gelatin, or honey. Vegetarianism may take several forms, which differ in their restrictions. The most common types are:

  • A lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet eliminates meat, fish, and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
  • A lacto-vegetarian diet eliminates meat, fish, poultry, and eggs but allows dairy products.
  • An ovo-vegetarian diet eliminates meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but allows eggs.
  • A pescetarian diet eliminates meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
  • A vegan diet eliminates meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, as well as other animal-derived products, such as honey.
  • A flexitarian diet A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat, fish, or poultry.

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vegetarian skincare
Improve your skin health by following a vegetarian diet. | Source: Noah Buscher on Unsplash

The Balanced Vegetarian Diet: Get Your Nutrients Portions Correct

The following information is for guidance only. It is advisable to consult a health expert for your perfect portion!

Carbs (Cereal/ Rice/ Pasta/ Potato)

  • Portion size: Your clenched fist
  • Include 1 portion in the main meals and ensure it fills a maximum of ¼ of your plate

Protein (Paneer/ Beans/ Pulses)

  • Portion size: Palm of your hand
  • It's okay to have a portion at each meal

Cheese

  • Portion size: 2 of your thumbs
  • Ideally, consume it as a snack or a small part of a meal

Nuts/ Seeds

  • Portion size: 1 of your cupped hands
  • Ideally, consume it as a snack or a small part of a meal

Butter/ Spreads/ Nut butter

  • Portion size: The tip of your thumb
  • Eat no more than 2 or 3 times a day

Savories (Popcorn/ Chips)

  • Portion size: 2 of your cupped hands
  • Eat only as an occasional snack/treat

Healthy Vegetarian Recipes

Sabudana Khichdi

  • Rinse sabudana under water until the water turns clear. Make sure to get rid of all the starch.
  • Transfer the rinsed sabudana to a large bowl and add no more than 1 cup of water to it.
  • The following morning, the sabudana would have soaked up all the water. Still, drain it using a colander just to get rid of any excess water.
  • To check if sabudana is ready to cook, press a pearl between your thumb and index finger. It should smash easily. Set it aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds.
  • Add diced potatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes stirring often until potatoes are almost cooked. Use small dices of potatoes to cook quickly.
  • Add raw peanuts and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add green chilis and curry leaves and cook for 1 more minute.
  • Add the drained sabudana to the pan along with salt and sugar. Mix well.
  • Cook for a few minutes until most of the sabudana pearls become translucent, stirring once or twice. Do not overcook, else it will become sticky.
  • Remove the pan from heat. Add lemon juice and cilantro and toss to mix well.
  • Serve the steaming hot sabudana khichdi with chilled yogurt.
udli-sambhar
The idli and sambhar combo can double up as a snack as well as a wholesome meal. | Source: mcthrissur on Pixabay

Dal Idli

  • Start by soaking the 2 types of dals - moong dal dhuli and urad gota, along with 1/2 teaspoon methi seeds for 5-6 hours in about 3 cups of water. Once properly soaked, drain the water using a strainer.
  • Transfer the soaked dal to a blender and add around 1 cup of water. Blend to a smooth paste.
  • Transfer the blended dal to the steel pot of your Instant Pot. Add salt and, then, using your hands, mix the batter nicely for 1-2 minutes. The mixing by hand also helps in fermentation.
  • The batter should have a nice pouring consistency. For this, you can add 3-4 tablespoons of water. Remember a thick batter will not ferment.
  • Cover the Instant Pot with a glass lid. It is better not to use the regular lid of the Pot, in case batter over-ferments and then locks the lid. Press the yogurt button. Set it for 13 hours on yogurt mode "normal setting". The fermentation time will depend on where you live. If you don't have an Instant Pot, simply put the batter into the oven with lights on overnight.
  • After 13 hours, the batter will be fermented. If unfermented,  even after 12-13 hours, and it looks very thick, add some water to make it a nice pouring consistency, and set it to ferment for an additional 2 hours. The fermented batter should be ready by then. To check if the batter has fermented, you can always drop some batter into a bowl of water- if the batter floats, it means it's aerated and fermented and good to make idlis.
  • You can either steam in a regular steamer for 10-12 minutes or use the Instant Pot.
  • To steam in the Instant Pot: Add 1.5 cups of water to the steel pot of your Instant Pot and press 'saute' while you fill the idli molds. Grease the idli molds with little oil and then fill them with the batter. The water in the Instant Pot must start to simmer now. Press the 'cancel' button and place the idli stand inside the pot. Close the lid and press the 'steam' button. Select time to 13 minutes with the pressure valve in the venting position. You will have to use an external timer of 13 minutes since the Instant Pot doesn't count when the valve is in venting position. At the end of 13 minutes, unplug the Instant Pot and let the pressure valve drop down on its own. Then, remove the idli stand from the pot and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Finally, remove the idlis from the mold. Serve warm with sambar!

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Healthy Vegetarian Meals

Vegetarians can ensure a balanced diet by eating a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products, and whole grains, that are obtained from non–meat sources. Vegans, an extreme form of vegetarianism, must also ensure that they are getting enough protein, iron, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and omega–3 fatty acids.

Most Indian vegetarians like to enjoy a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruit. However, some may also include dairy products, including cheese (made using vegetable rennet) and eggs. Scientific research studies show that a plant-based diet like this can be a healthier way to eat with fewer reported cases of obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

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Shreyanjana

Shreyanjana is an archaeologist who ironically finds the written word to be the most powerful means of storytelling. A travel buff and a photography enthusiast, she has been writing and sharing stories of all sorts ever since she can remember.