Complete Beginner’s Guide To Indian Cooking

In this beginner’s guide to Indian cooking, you will learn the basic aspects of cooking Indian food at home with ease.

When you think of Indian food you think of curries.  Am I right!

Before starting, remember one thing, there are multiple ways to cook the same curry.  In India, curry is made slightly different depending on the region of India it is being cooked in.

Variety of Indian dishes including Indian curry, chapati roti and salad

The curries you get in Indian restaurants are usually based on recipes from the north-west regions of Indian.

Eating in an Indian restaurant and tasting some of their mouth-watering dishes can be heavenly but how awesome would it be if you could make those tasty curries at home? 

Well, believe it or not, it is not as hard as you would think.

With a little practice, you will be able to make your own mouth-watering Indian curries at home and impress your friends and family.

Indian food is not all about the spice level of the dish rather than the flavors of different ingredients coming together smoothly as one, but who doesn’t love a bit of spice in their food? I do lol.

Some people think all Indian food is super spicy in fact that can’t be further from the truth.  You can easily make your Indian food as hot or as mild as you like, and it will still taste amazing.

Is Indian Food Hard To Make?

In my opinion, I would say no, it is not hard to make Indian food once you learn the basics.    If I can learn it so can you.  Indian cooking is not as hard as people assume it to be.

Like anything in life the more you practice the better you will get at it and this definitely applies when it comes to cooking Indian food.

The great thing about Indian cooking is everything is done in small steps, such as:

  • Saute the onions,
  • Fry the ginger and garlic,
  • add the spices etc.

Once you understand the flavors of the different spices you can use that knowledge to adjust the spices to suit your taste buds.

Just imagine inviting your family and friends over for dinner and you serve them their favorite Indian curry that you made.   Can you imagine how impressed and surprised they would be?

Why You Should Learn To Cook Indian Food

Ok, we all know that Indian food is delicious but apart from the flavors are there any other reasons to learn how to cook Indian food.

Yes!, there are many benefits to learn Indian cooking.

Let us look at some of these benefits.

Health Benefits
A lot of the ingredients used in Indian cooking have many health benefits such as:

  • Turmeric:
    • Anti-inflammatory,
    • Antioxidant.
  • Cumin:
    • Rich Source of Iron,
    • Supports digestion system.
  • Ginger:
    • May help with weight loss,
    • Relieves nausea etc.
  • Garlic:
    • Good for skin & hair,
    • Antibiotic.

The list goes on…

Save $$ Per Meal
Your traditional Indian curry can cost around $5 to make and can last up to 4 days depending on the curry.  This is a plus nowadays where every penny counts.  

For example, a small packet of garam masala can be used to make a dozen if not more curries.

A 5kg chapati flour can last up to a month or more depending on the size of your family.

A Balanced Diet
A traditional Indian meal contains all the elements you need to have a balanced diet such as proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and fats.

Many Indian curries are low in calories.

Easy Storage 
Most Indian food can be frozen.  So, you can cook now and eat later.  This is great when you have to pre-make your meals for the week or your lunch for work.

Are The Ingredients Hard To Find?

Nowadays you can find most of the ingredients in your local supermarket but if you can’t, you can easily order them online with a click of a button from many online platforms such as Amazon.

Before you head over to your local supermarket.  Try and find out, if there are any Indian grocery shops near to where you live.  Simply Google “Indian food shop + (your location)” and hopefully there’s one near you.  It’s good to support your local businesses.

These shops usually have a bigger variety of ingredients to choose from, plus they are more than happy to answer any questions you might have regarding the dish you are planning to cook.

Talking about the ingredients, let us look at the most common ingredients used in Indian cooking.

What Are The Most Common Ingredients In Indian Food?

First things first, let’s look at the typical ingredients you need to have in your kitchen to start cooking your own Indian food at home.

Spices are used in the following forms.

WholeWhole seeds or pods such as coriander seeds, cumin seeds, or black peppercorns.
GroundedWhole seeds that are ground into a fine powder.  
ToastedWhole seeds that are toasted in hot oil so their true flavor can be released through their oils.
Toasted & GroundedAfter the spices are dry toasted, they are grounded into a fine powder. This is how you make homemade garam masala.  

Whole Cumin Seeds (aka Jeera):  These small brown seeds add a smoky warm aroma to any dish they are used in.  They are normally used in curries, rice, side dishes such as Samosas and Pakoras. 

Turmeric Powder:  There are many known health benefits of using Turmeric.   When used, it gives the dish a yellow color and a slightly bitter taste. Turmeric is used in all Indian curries.

Red Chili Powder:  This adds a hot spicy flavor to Indian food and adds a reddish color to the dish.  Red chili powder is used alongside fresh green chilies in curries.

Garam Masala:  Garam Masala is a mixture of whole spices that are ground together into a fine powder, it contains many whole spices including coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin seeds to name a few.  In India garam masala is traditionally made at home, or you need are the spices and a grinder.

Curry Powder: Like Garam Masala it is a mixture of whole spices ground together in a fine powder.  It normally contains curry leaves, turmeric, chili peppers, and cumin seeds to name a few.

Cilantro (Coriander):   – This is used in many forms fresh, whole and ground.

Salt:  Any table salt will do for Indian cooking.

Onions:  You can either use white or red onions.  Red onions add a slightly sweet flavor, but traditionally white onions are used. 

Ginger: Ginger is key for making the perfect tasting gravy for your curries.  Using the correct amount will help all the flavors come together nicely.  Fresh ginger is normally used but you can use ginger paste which is just as good.

Garlic: Like ginger, Garlic is key for making the perfect gravy for your curries. This is used to bring all your other spices together and adding a deep warm flavor to your dish. Once again fresh garlic is normally used but you can use garlic paste for your dishes, saving you time having to peel and chop.

Green Chilies: Green chilies are used in most Indian dishes.  It is known to have many health benefits including a good source of antioxidants and Vitamin C.  Just do not use too many. Lol.

Cilantro (Coriander): Cilantro is mainly used in curries.

Chapati Flour:  Chapati Flour is a blend of wheat that is used to make chapatis also known as roti.  Chapatis are traditionally eaten alongside Indian curries.  Chapati is a thin bread that is broken into small pieces and dipped into the curry. 

Many other types of bread can be made using chapati flour, such as:

  • Puri (Poori)
  • Paratha
  • Naan bread

Cookware Needed For Indian Cooking

The great thing about Indian cooking is, that you probably already have most of the pots and pans in your kitchen that are needed to start cooking your own Indian food at home. 

But even if you don’t not to worry, they can easily be found online.

Here is some of the cookware that I use.

Heavy Stock Pot – Using a good quality large stockpot makes the whole process of cooking a curry less stressful, not only is there more room to stir but it will help prevent anything burning to the bottom, but don’t forget to stir lol.

Nonstick Tawa – A tawa is a skillet-like pan that is used for making chapatis (Roti).  Using a tawa will help cook the chapatis quickly and evenly.  You can use a skillet instead of a tawa, however, you can’t beat traditional tawa.

Rolling Pin – If you don’t have a rolling pin you will need one!  This is used to roll out the dough for chapatis, samosa, homemade paneer, etc.

Grinder – A grinder will save you so much time in the kitchen and the great thing is that it doesn’t even cost that much.   This is one tool I use regularly.

Utensils: Having a full set of utensils makes the task at hand much smoother.

Pressure cooker: If you plan to make lentils then a pressure cooker can shed off hours of cooking time.

Rice cooker – A rice cooker and pressure cooker will save you a lot of time, but they are not essential to get you started with Indian cooking.

What Is Indian Curry Served With?

Traditionally Indian food is served with one of the following

  • Chapatis (aka Roti),
  • BasmatiRice,
  • Puri (Poori),
  • Naan bread.

If you have ever eaten in an Indian restaurant you probably have come across these but if you have never heard of any of the above let me quickly explain to you what each one is.

Chapati (Roti)

Chapati (Roti) is a round flatbread that is traditionally eaten with curries.  It is usually made of whole-wheat flour and cooked on a skillet-like pan called a tawa. 

These flatbreads are easy to make and can be eaten with all types of curries.

Basmati Rice

Rice is traditionally eaten with curries both meat and vegetarian.  Like all Indian food, Indian rice is cooked with different spices such Cloves, Cardamom, and cumin seeds, etc. 

When you make Indian rice for the first time you will be amazed how much aroma fills your home.  It gives a sweet spicy aroma that is just heavenly.

Variety of Indian Food

You probably have noticed when you look at the menu in a restaurant that the curries are divided into 3 main groups, lentils, vegetables and meat. 

for example:
Lentil curries include Dal, Chana Masala etc.

Vegetable curries include: Aloo Gobi, Saag Aloo, Aloo Paneer etc.

Meat curries include: Chicken Korma, Lamb Rogan Josh etc.

Even though some of the curries in restaurants have been created for western taste buds and are not usually cooked in India, your traditionally Indian cooking at home use the same 3 main groups lentils, vegetables, and meat.

So, no matter if you are a vegetarian or a lover of meat you will surely find a curry that you would fall in love with.

How Long Does It Take To Make An Indian Curry?

It all depends on what you are making and how much.

Some curries such as Aloo Gobi & Chana Masala can be made within the hour and some other curries such as the traditional lamb curry can take much longer.

Like any recipe preparation is key before you start cooking, not only will this save you time but also prevent any hiccups happening in the kitchen when trying to multitask.

With some curries, you can use a pressure cooker to save a lot of time.  A pressure cooker is excellent to have near-by when cooking chickpeas, spinach, and lentils, etc.

One tool I cannot live without is my grinder. 

A grinder will grind anything in seconds and save you so much time having to chop everything individually.  I use it mainly for ginger, garlic, and green chilies when making a curry.

If you want to save even more time you can buy already made ginger and garlic paste.

Even though I prefer to use fresh ingredients but whenever I’m running short on time I do use already made ginger and garlic paste.  It tastes just as good and saves you so much time with all the peeling and chopping.

Final thoughts

Indian cooking might seem like a huge leap, especially when you are using ingredients that you have never used before but trust me!  

Once you have made your first Indian dish you will overcome your fear of the unknown.

I hope this beginner’s guide to Indian cooking has given you some inspiration to start cooking Indian food at home.

You will find many Indian recipes on this website that will show you all the steps in easy-to-follow instructions.

I hope this beginner’s guide to Indian cooking has given you some inspiration to start cooking your own Indian food at home.

If you have any tips for someone new to Indian cooking please share them in the comments, I would love to hear from you.

Happy Cooking!

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