Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (2023)

Indian food is some of the most popular and most widely eaten cuisines in the world. Indian cuisine consists of a diverse range of curries, rice dishes, meats, vegetables and breads, all flavored with a traditional range of spices.

Whilst delicacies vary by region and state, there are many similarities in terms of spices and flavors, regardless of the geographical region.

India shares a border with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and has a close proximity to the island of Sri Lanka. The influences of those countries are keenly felt on one another, especially when it comes to good.

Table of Contents

Most Popular Indian Dishes

Much of the northern regions of India are vegetarian, as a result many of the most inspiring vegetable dishes originate from northern states.

Staple ingredients in Indian cooking include rice, tomatoes, potatoes, lentils, chickpeas, onions and yoghurt.

The most common spices used to flavor most traditional Indian dishes include:

  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Coriander
  • Mustard seeds
  • Garam masala
  • Cardamom
  • Chilli powder
  • Garlic
  • Cloves
  • Saffron
  • Fennel
  • Star Anise
  • Fenugreek

A combination of some or all of these spices tend to make up the vast majority of typical Indian dishes. Most common Indian dishes include curries, rice dishes, fried pastries, roasted meats or breads.

So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try Indian dishes along with recipes for you to try for yourself.


Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (1)

It may almost seem like a cliché, but the truth is that biryani is one of the most popular foods in all of India. In fact, in 2019 it was voted in the most ordered dish in the country. It was estimated that around 95 biryanis were ordered each minute!

This flavorful rice dish packs quite a punch, although the exact spice mix can vary from one region or state to another. In particular, South Indian biryani tends to be spicier than their Northern counterparts.

Some of the more popular kinds of biryani were boneless chicken, chicken dum biryani, egg, mutton, vegetarian, and paneer.

Tandoori Chicken

Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (2)

This dish has a great deal to offer in terms of flavor. This is partially due to the way that it is cooked in clay ovens known as tandoor ovens. The cooking process results in succulent and smoky meat. Of course, the marinade adds quite a bit to the taste as well.

The marinade is composed of yogurt, tandoori masala, cumin, and nutmeg. Once doused in the spices, the chicken is skewered and then place in the oven until done.

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Masala Chai

Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (3)

It is estimated that around 837,000 tonnes of chai are consumed in India every year. More often than not, people drink the spiced version of this tea known as masala chai. The actual spices used in the tea can vary from one vendor to the next. For the most part, though, spices like ginger and cardamom are added.

It is especially common to buy the tea from chai wallahs – street vendors, particularly when traveling to and from work. The blended Camellia sinensis fannings are a relatively new addition to the drink. Before the British colonized India, it was just spices decocted together for health purposes.

Masala Dosa

Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (4)

This dish hails from Southern India but is a fan favorite throughout the country. Dosa refers to a thin pancake-like flatbread made from fermented soaked rice and black gram beans.

The ‘masala’ refers to the stuffing inside the pancake. This largely consists of potatoes cooked with onions and mustard seeds.

Dal Makhani

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Despite getting its start in Punjab, this dish quickly became famous all over India, particularly among vegetarians. And, when you consider its ingredients, it is easy to see why.

The main components of this dish are red kidney beans and whole black lentils.They are cooked in a tomato-based sauce, seasoned with ghee, ginger, garlic, and chili. The final pièce de résistance is the butter, for which the dish is named. Sometimes, however, ghee is sprinkled on top instead.

Dal Makhani Recipe

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Now, all these delicious side dishes have to be scooped up with something. While India does have a whole host of flatbreads, chapati appears to be the favorite and is a staple in households.

The unleavened bread is stretched out between the palms of the cook and prepared on a flat frying pan known as a Tava. What makes chapati stand out from many other types of bread is that it works with all kinds of curries and gravies, making it rather versatile.

Gulab Jamun

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Indian food isn’t just all about spices – there are plenty of sweet treats to enjoy. The one that tops the list is gulab jamun. When translated literally, this dessert is rendered as rose water plum.

This refers to the notable taste of rose water in the syrup that the gulab jamun is doused in and the fact that the sweet is the size of a plum.


Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (8)

This condiment can be closely described as a relish. You will be hard-pressed to find a meal in India that isn’t served with chutney. Chutney is made from a wide variety of fruits and vegetables lightly seasoned with various spices.

The goal of chutney is to add more flavor to the meal. Depending on the ingredients used, it may also have a cooling impact on the palate.

Butter Chicken

Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (9)

Butter chicken isn’t just a favorite in India – it is beloved all over the world. However, as far as authentic dishes go, this is a fairly modern construct. Butter chicken was only invented in the 1950s!

The dish was created on the spur of the moment for a busload of refugees. However, the mix of tomato-cream sauce infused with spices and paired with tandoori chicken was a hit and soon gained national fame.

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Palak Paneer

Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (10)

Paneer is a soft cheese that originated in India. Due to its delicious and versatile taste, paneer is cooked in several ways. Nevertheless, there is no denying that palak paneer is one of the most requested options. Here, the paneer is cooked in a thick paste of well-seasoned, pureed spinach.


Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (11)

Lassi is a wonderful, yogurt-based drink. Depending on how it’s prepared, it can either be sweetened with fruit or consist of herbs and mild spices. The drink is often cooled and is the perfect accompaniment to spicier dishes. Lassi is also enjoyed during the warmer days of the year.

Aloo Paratha

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Aloo Paratha is a very popular Indian flatbread made with a spicy potato mix. It is primarily a breakfast dish that can be filled with different types of filling.

It is also now common to eat Aloo Paratha with different curries, dals and stews.

Aloo Paratha Recipe


Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (13)

Korma is stewed in a tangy and flavorful combination of yogurt, saffron, and various other spices. Although there are vegetarian options, the dish is most commonly made with meat. Despite the use of spices, korma is fairly mild. This doesn’t make it any less tasty, however.

The actual components of a korma will vary depending on the region that you are visiting.

Korma Recipe

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Indian Food: 16 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of India | Travel Food Atlas (14)

If India had a national food, khichdi would probably be it. This meal of lentils, rice or oats, and mild spices like turmeric is one of the first solid foods that Indian infants eat.

While each household has their own take on this dish, there is no denying that it is something that is consumed in one form or another across India.

Khichdi appears to be getting a second wind as it is now being ordered more than ever before. To many adults, it is viewed as the ultimate comfort food.


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Idli is most commonly eaten at breakfast time. Made from fermented rice and lentils and then steamed, they look like flat, little cakes. At the same time, they are packed with protein and make for a very fulfilling meal as well as the perfect start to the day.

The staple can be eaten by itself, but it is most commonly paired with sambar or chutney. In some cases, the idli themselves are heavily spiced, making for a more savory food.


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Deep-fried, crunchy, and flavorful, these pastries make the ultimate snack. They are often triangular in shape and can be filled with either a savory meat or vegetable filling. Samosas taste best when they are served hot. They are often accompanied by a chutney or cool, yogurt-based dip.

Although the savory version is most well-known, you can also find sweet ones as well. These are typically filled with fruit.

It can be somewhat difficult to summarise the most popular dishes in India simply because there are just so many of them! Indian cuisine is vast and has so much to offer. However, the above dishes certainly take the cake as some of the most beloved food and drink from throughout the country.

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What is India's most popular food? ›

Curry is one of India's most popular and well-known dishes. Tomato-based curries are known as the ultimate comfort food in India, and countries all over the world have adopted this opinion too.

How many types of Indian food are there? ›

To be precise, about 31 dishes define the Indian cuisines. According to scientists, they have examined more than 2,000 Indian dishes in a common thread. Being the most diverse style of cooking, Indian dishes have become popular across the globe and loved by the masses almost everywhere you travel.

What Indian food is good for travel? ›

Top 10 Indian Dishes for Tourists to Try While Traveling to India
  • Chaat. Chaat is a savory snack and considered to be the king of all the dishes. ...
  • Biryani. ...
  • Chole Bature. ...
  • Samosa. ...
  • Gol Gappe/ Pani Puri. ...
  • Paalak Paneer. ...
  • Sweet Desserts: Kheer / Cakes/ Gajar ka Halwa. ...
  • Dam Aloo.
Mar 29, 2019

What do Indians eat daily? ›

The staple Indian diet consists of roti, rice, dal, chutney, pickle, beans and legumes along with meat or chicken or fish. These can vary from region to region with addition of several other components, but listing them here will be an impossible task.

What are 3 traditional foods in India? ›

Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bājra), rice, whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), and a variety of lentils, such as masoor (most often red lentils), tuer (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), and moong (mung beans). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split.

What is the main meal in India? ›

If there's one dish that almost everyone knows in Indian cuisine, it's biryani. The origin of this aromatic mixture of rice, spices and meat is usually credited to the Mughal kings who once ruled the subcontinent, but it's now a popular dish all over the country.

What are the 5 major foods found in India? ›

10 Traditional Must-Try Foods to Eat in India
  • 1) Masala dosa. Arguably South India's most renowned culinary export, masala dosas are famous the world over. ...
  • 2) Chaat. ...
  • 3) Dal makhani. ...
  • 4) Vada pav. ...
  • 5) Stuffed paratha. ...
  • 6) Dhokla. ...
  • 7) Barfi. ...
  • 8) Pani puri.

What is the famous food of all states of India? ›

Cuisine Map of India
State / UT'sCuisine
MaharashtraShrikhand, Thalipeeth, Vada Pao, Modak, Pani Puri
Madhya PradeshLapsi, Bafla, Bhutte ki , Khees, Bhopali Kabab,
GujaratThepla, Dhokla Khandvi, Handvo, Panki
ChattisgarhBafauri, Kusli Red Ant Chutney,
30 more rows
Apr 9, 2020

What are the 7 types of food? ›

There are more than 40 different kinds of nutrients in food and they can generally be classified into the following 7 major groups:
  • Carbohydrates.
  • Proteins.
  • Fats.
  • Vitamins.
  • Minerals.
  • Dietary fibre.
  • Water.
Dec 4, 2017

What food to take while travelling? ›

Best Foods for Traveling By Plane
  • Cucumber and whipped cream cheese on whole-wheat bread.
  • Peanut butter and jelly on rye.
  • Grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and mustard in a whole-grain wrap.
  • Hummus with sliced tomato, pepper and cucumber in a whole-wheat pita.
Aug 5, 2022

What are some good travel foods? ›

On the road
  • Applesauce.
  • Fresh fruit such as bananas, apples, oranges or grapes.
  • Yogurt.
  • Low-fat string cheese or cheese slices.
  • Single-serving containers of hummus, guacamole or tuna.
  • A peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread.
  • Single-serving packets of nuts such as almonds or cashews.
Mar 23, 2021

What food travels the best? ›

Now, whether or not you offer the following foods in your menu, some food items travel much better than others, and it's never too late to adjust your menu for delivery.
Food that travels well for delivery
  • Pork ribs.
  • Beef brisket.
  • Chicken wings.
  • Kebabs.
  • Grilled BBQ veggies (for your veggie diners!)
Apr 9, 2020

What are the 12 types of food? ›

What are the five food groups?
  • Fruit and vegetables.
  • Starchy food.
  • Dairy.
  • Protein.
  • Fat.
Oct 11, 2019

What do Indians eat for dinner? ›

Easy Indian Dinner Ideas

Usually South Indians eat rice, curry, veggie stir fry, sambar and rasam for dinner. Some people also eat chapathi and vegetable curry. Many people even love to eat only breakfast foods like Idli, crispy dosa for their dinner as it is easier to prepare.

What are 3 popular foods? ›

The Number 1 Most Popular Foods in America are Hamburgers!
  • Potato Chips.
  • Donuts.
  • Ice Cream.
  • Chicken Tenders.
  • Soft Drinks/Soda.
  • Pizza.
  • Oreo Cookies.
  • French Fries.
Sep 7, 2021

What do Indians eat for breakfast? ›

A typical breakfast in India varies depending on region, but is often quite similar to a lunch or dinner. A breakfast plate in India might include roti (flatbread), dosas (thin crepes made of lentils) or idlis (steamed rice-dough pancakes), and different dips and chutneys, as well as spiced potatoes.

What's healthy at an Indian? ›

Swap your naan for a couple of poppadums topped with raita or tomato sambal, and choose plain over pilau rice, which is cooked with extra oil. Healthier options: Tomato-based or dry curries like tandoori, madras, jalfrezi, rogan and bhuna dishes; plain rice, roti, poppadums.

What do most Indians eat for lunch? ›

Take a look at our 15 heart-stoppingly delicious recipes. Find an apron and get cooking!
  • Masala Bhindi. A delicious dish made with freshly bought okra. ...
  • Chana Kulcha. A classic dish that never goes out of style. ...
  • Gujarati Kadhi. ...
  • Allahabad Ki Tehri. ...
  • Low Fat Dahi Chicken. ...
  • Kolhapuri Vegetables. ...
  • Paneer Achaari.
Jun 29, 2022

What are the top 10 best foods? ›

Top 10 Foods for Health
  1. Water. Drink 8 to 12 cups of water daily.
  2. Dark Green Vegetables. Eat dark green vegetables at least three to four times a week. ...
  3. Whole Grains. Eat whole grains sat least two or three times daily. ...
  4. Beans and Lentils. Try to eat a bean-based meal at least once a week. ...
  5. Fish. ...
  6. Berries. ...
  7. Winter Squash. ...
  8. Soy.

What is Indian food culture? ›

In India as elsewhere, food culture is shaped by climate, land, and access to natural resources. The food system emphasizes eating agricultural and natural produce “in season,” such as mangoes and local greens during the summer, pumpkins during the rainy monsoon months, and root vegetables during the winter months.

Who is the No 1 Cook in India? ›

Sanjeev Kapoor is the most famous and commended chef in India. He is also an entrepreneur and a television personality. Sanjeev works for a TV channel named 'FoodFood' after which he became the world's first chef who owns a 24×7 food and lifestyle channel.

What kind of meat do Indians eat? ›

The majority of meats consumed in India are fish, bovine (cow and buffalo), mutton, goat, pig, and poultry.

What do Indians eat and drink? ›

Best foods and drinks to try in India
  • #6 LASSI.
Sep 7, 2021

What are 5 interesting facts about India? ›

40 Fun and Interesting Facts About India That Might Surprise You
  • Cows are considered sacred. ...
  • India is the wettest inhabited place on Earth. ...
  • India has over 300,000 mosques and over 2 million Hindu temples. ...
  • Chenab Bridge is the highest rail bridge in the world. ...
  • Rajasthan has a Temple of Rats.
Aug 20, 2022

What are the 6 best foods? ›

Healthy foods to eat every day: 6 of the best
  • Lean protein.
  • Cruciferous vegetables.
  • Different colored vegetables.
  • Berries.
  • Nuts.
  • Olive oil.
  • Summary.
May 27, 2021

What are 6 main foods? ›

The 6 Major Food Groups
  • Whole grains and starchy vegetables. ...
  • Fruits and non-starchy vegetables. ...
  • Dairy and non-dairy alternatives. ...
  • Fish, poultry, meat, eggs and alternatives. ...
  • Heart-healthy oils. ...
  • Elective or Discretionary Calories.
Jun 6, 2016

Is Indian food famous in USA? ›

Indian food is easily one of the most popular cuisines in the United States. The distinct ability of the cuisine to create a perfect blend of flavors using a plethora of spices and earthy herbs is unmatched by any other cuisine.

Which city is famous for food in India? ›

Delhi (Chole Bhature & Chicken)

Undeniably, Delhi, along with being the capital of India, is also the food capital of India. It serves lip-smacking, aromatic dishes that will blow your mind. It is a paradise for food lovers. Apart from the famous chole bhature, it is known for its street foods as well.

What are the 6 main food types? ›

The 6 Major Food Groups
  • Whole grains and starchy vegetables. ...
  • Fruits and non-starchy vegetables. ...
  • Dairy and non-dairy alternatives. ...
  • Fish, poultry, meat, eggs and alternatives. ...
  • Heart-healthy oils. ...
  • Elective or Discretionary Calories.
Jun 6, 2016

What are the 10 types of food? ›

Basic foods
  • Baked goods.
  • Cereals.
  • Dairy products.
  • Edible plants.
  • Edible fungi.
  • Edible nuts and seeds.
  • Legumes.
  • Meat.


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