12 Easy Indian Recipes for Beginners

We love trying new recipes when we travel around India, but also when we get back home and cook for ourselves. For us, traveling is about embracing and taking in the culture and history of each place we land.

Because we aren't expert chefs and have limited experience with cooking Indian food, we've gathered the top authentic Indian recipes for beginners from across the web – from people who can cook way better than we can. This is the list of Indian recipes we are going to try first!

Indian cuisine is a unique blend of flavors, colors, and aromas that have evolved over thousands of years. Each recipe is steeped in history, reflecting the diverse landscapes, climates, and cultural influences that have shaped India’s culinary traditions.

From the aromatic spices traded along ancient routes to the festive dishes prepared for centuries-old celebrations, Indian food is as rich in culture as it is in taste.

The 12 dishes we are exploring today are perfect for beginners looking to dip their toes into cooking authentic Indian cuisine. Let us know which one(s) you love the best!

Aloo Matar Dry

Aloo Matar Dry (potatoes and peas curry) is indeed an easy recipe, making it a great choice for beginners looking to cook Indian food.

aloo matar dry in a cast iron skillet on a marble background

You cook potatoes and peas in a tomato-based sauce with simple spices like cumin, turmeric, coriander, and garam masala. The process typically includes sautéing onions and tomatoes to form a base, adding spices, and then cooking the potatoes and peas until tender.

It's a straightforward dish that doesn't require any special techniques or equipment, and it can be served with rice or any Indian bread like roti or naan.

Get the Aloo Matar recipe here.

Paneer Tikka

I am a huge fan of kebobs, or any type of food on a skewer, really – so Paneer Tikka is one of the first Indian dishes I wanted to cook.

paneer tikka (kebobs)

Paneer Tikka reflects the tradition of tandoori cooking. The dish involves chunks of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) marinated in spices and yogurt, then grilled in a tandoor (a cylindrical clay or metal oven).

This method of cooking brings out the robust flavors of the marinade and gives the paneer a distinct charred texture.

⮕ Get the Paneer Tikka recipe here.

Arhar Dal Tadka

Arhar Dal Tadka, also known as Toor Dal, is an Indian staple known for its hearty, comforting, and subtly complex flavors. It's savory, a little sweet, and even tangy. Like most Indian recipes, this one has tons of flavor.

arhar dal tadka in a bowl with complimentary bowls of rice surrounding it

Toor dal is a type of pigeon pea, a legume that originated in India. It has been a crucial source of protein in vegetarian diets throughout Indian history, especially in regions where meat consumption is less common due to religious or economic reasons.

Dal Tadka, a method of preparing dal with a spiced oil or ghee mixture poured over the cooked dal, is popular across various regions of India. The technique of tempering enhances the flavor and adds an aromatic finish to the simple cooked lentils.

⮕ Get the Arhar Dal Tadka recipe here.

Creamy Saag Aloo

Creamy Saag Aloo is a delicious fusion of traditional North Indian flavors and a touch of culinary creativity. The roots of this dish lie in the fertile plains of North India, where spinach (saag) and potatoes (aloo) are staples.

creamy saag aloo in a bowl

Historically, saag referred to a variety of greens, including mustard leaves, collard greens, and fenugreek leaves, cooked down into a thick, spiced paste.

Potatoes were introduced to India in the 17th century by Portuguese traders and quickly became popular due to their versatility and ease of cultivation, eventually becoming a fixture in Indian cuisine.

The traditional saag dishes often did not include cream, but as Indian cuisine evolved and regional cooking styles influenced one another, richer versions began to appear.

Creamy Saag Aloo is a modern take that incorporates cream to give the dish a luxurious texture, appealing to a broader palette that includes both locals and foreigners looking for a milder version of Indian spice-laden dishes (ehem… *raises hand*).

⮕ Get the Creamy Saag Aloo recipe here.

Onion Bhaji

Onion Bhaji, also known as kanda bhajia, is a beloved Indian snack (or appetizer!). The recipe uses simple, readily available ingredients, making it ideal for beginner chefs like me. 🙂

The term “bhaji” refers to a vegetable dish in Indian cuisine, and “pakora” denotes a variety of fritters made by coating vegetables in a spiced batter and deep-frying them.

fried onion fritters (onion bhaji)

These crispy, deep-fried onion fritters are commonly served as street food and at home, especially during the monsoon season.

Onion Bhajis can be served with chutneys or ketchup. These crispy onion fritterse are particularly popular in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Gujarat.

⮕ Get the Onion Bhaji recipe here.

Pav Bhaji

Pav Bhaji is a vibrant and flavorful Indian street food dish that features a spicy, buttery vegetable mash served with soft buttered bread rolls known as pav.

Pav Bhaji originated in the mid-19th century as a quick lunchtime dish for textile mill workers in Mumbai. It was designed to be an affordable and quick meal that could be eaten during a brief lunch break, utilizing leftover vegetables to create a filling meal.

pav bhaji in a silver dish with a silver spoon

The bhaji (vegetable mash) is a medley of mashed vegetables, usually including potatoes, peas, tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers, cooked with a rich blend of spices such as pav bhaji masala, chili powder, and turmeric.

The result is a hearty, slightly tangy, and deeply savory flavor, often enhanced with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of butter on top. The buttered pav, lightly toasted on a griddle, provides a delightful contrast with its soft, fluffy texture against the thick, spicy bhaji.

⮕ Get the Pav Bhaji recipe and awesome history here.

Black Lentil Dal

Black Lentil Dal – often called Dal Makhani – is relatively easy to prepare, although it does require some time for cooking to ensure the lentils are perfectly soft and the flavors are well blended. It's a hearty, comforting dish that's very popular in Indian cuisine, particularly in the northern regions.

bowl of black lentil dal with a spoon in it, in a white bowl, on a burlap sack

Dal Makhani (“makhani” meaning “buttery”) is a rich, creamy dal made with urad dal (black lentils), rajma (kidney beans), butter, and cream.

It originated in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. This dish was popularized by Kundan Lal Gujral, the founder of the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi in the 1940s.

Gujral is also credited with creating other iconic dishes like Butter Chicken. The use of butter and cream in this lentil dish was a novel idea at the time, aimed at appealing to the tastes of the diverse clientele of the newly independent India.

Dal Makhani was traditionally prepared over a low flame, often simmered overnight to allow the flavors to develop fully, and it was usually served at dhabas (roadside eateries). The slow-cooking process helps to achieve a rich and creamy texture as the lentils and beans break down.

⮕ Get the Black Lentil Dal recipe here.

Rasam and Rice

If you like to cook new dishes with a strong flavor profile, you'll like this one!

Rasam is a South Indian soup traditionally made from tamarind juice as a base, with the addition of tomato, chili pepper, black pepper, cumin, and other spices as seasonings.

Rasam means “essence” in Tamil, originated in the southern regions of India. It has been a part of South Indian cuisine for centuries.

The flavor profile of rasam is typically tangy, spicy, and slightly sweet, with a watery consistency.

It can be eaten on its own, but it is often served over rice or with a side of papadum.

rasam and rice dish with cilantro and tomatoes

Typically served with steamed rice, rasam forms an essential part of daily meals in South Indian households. It is celebrated for its simplicity and the ease with which it can be digested, making it a favorite especially in hot weather for its cooling effects.

Traditionally, rasam is known for its medicinal benefits, particularly for soothing colds. Ingredients like black pepper, tamarind, and cumin have therapeutic properties.

It's not uncommon to find it being served during weddings and other celebrations, often as part of a larger feast.

⮕ Get the Rasam Rice recipe here.

Chana Masala

Chana Masala is a popular dish, especially in northern India. It consists of chickpeas cooked in a tangy tomato-based sauce spiced with garam masala, turmeric, cumin, and coriander, among other spices.

bowl of chana masala on burlap with a spoon in the soup

Chickpeas were introduced to India from the Middle East and have become a staple due to their nutritional value. This dish is seasoned with a complex blend of spices including garam masala, which varies regionally and often family-specific in composition.

The base of the sauce includes tomatoes, onions, and a tart element like amchur (dry mango powder) or tamarind, balancing the richness of the spices.

Chana Masala is not only a common everyday meal but also a significant part of festive and celebratory occasions, symbolizing the warmth and generosity of Indian hospitality. Seriously, we've traveled the world and the kindness we experienced in India was second to none.

Chana Masala is often finished with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of fresh cilantro for added freshness. You can serve it with Indian bread, rice, and even salad.

⮕ Get the authentic Chana Masala recipe here.

Paneer Butter Masala

Paneer Butter Masala, also known as Paneer Makhani, is a quintessential dish in North Indian cuisine. It was popularized in the mid-20th century, following the earlier success of Chicken Makhani (Butter Chicken) at restaurants in Delhi.

This dish is also one of the most well-known Indian recipes around the world.

image of paneer butter masala in a black bowl with a blue napkin and cilantro off to the side

Paneer Butter Masala combines the soft, fresh paneer (Indian cottage cheese) with a creamy, tomato-based sauce enriched with butter and cream, embodying the luxurious cooking styles of the Mughal era.

To make this recipe super easy, you can use store-bought paneer – but don't be intimidated by making it from scratch, either. Even newbies can handle it.

⮕ Get the Paneer Butter Masala recipe here.

Whole Wheat Roti

My husband ate his way through India, while I didn't eat a whole lot because… well, new flavors and spices are not my favorite thing (hello, autism). But, I'm getting better at trying new things because of our trip.

I ate a lot of roti because it was something that I could eat even when I wasn't feeling the best, and I could mix it up with different chutneys and dips.

plate of whole wheat roti

Whole wheat roti is a staple in India and is central to the daily diet in many South Asian cultures. Made primarily from whole wheat flour, it is valued for its nutritional benefits and versatility, complementing almost any dish.

Roti holds a significant place in both daily life and rituals, often prepared by women as part of family meals and used symbolically in religious and harvest celebrations like Vaisakhi.

Despite its simplicity, roti bridges social and economic divides, appearing in both affluent and modest meals, and is integral to communal dining practices such as Sikh langars.

⮕ Get the Whole Wheat Roti recipe here.

Rajasthani Bati

Rajasthani Bati, often simply referred to as Bati, is a traditional dish from the Indian state of Rajasthan.

This dish is particularly famous for its unique preparation method and its role in traditional meals, especially during festivities.

Bati originated during war time in medieval Rajasthan when soldiers needed meals that could be made easily with minimal resources. Batis could be buried in sand and left to bake under the sun, providing a durable and satisfying meal.

It is a staple in the diets of many local people.

image of 3 Rajasthani Bati in a gold bowl

Bati is essentially a hard, unleavened bread made from whole wheat flour that is mixed with ghee (clarified butter) and milk or water.

The dough is shaped into round balls and traditionally baked over cow dung cakes in the villages or more commonly these days, cooked in a tandoor, an oven heated with charcoal or wood, which gives them a distinct smoky flavor. They can also be baked in a conventional oven.

Bati is part of the iconic trio in Rajasthani cuisine known as ‘Dal Bati Churma', where the bati is served with dal (lentil curry) and churma (sweetened crushed bati mixed with ghee and sugar).

⮕ Get the Rajasthani Bati recipe here.

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