What Cookware Do I Need For Indian Cooking?

So you want to learn to cook Indian food at home and now you are wondering what cookware do I need for Indian cooking?  We will cover all the essential cookware you will need to start as well as a few extras to make the workload lighter.

I’ve read many posts on other websites relating to this question and I was astonished by the long list of cookware items that they were trying to claim that were needed to cook Indian food.

I would agree that you need the right cookware for the best results however, in the beginning, you don’t need as many cookware items as some websites lead you to believe.

Mixture of cookware

I will be covering 2 types of cookware in this article.

  1. Essential Cookware
    Even though these items are essential, many of them can be substituted with cookware that you may already own.  Once you decide you enjoy cooking Indian food THEN you can go out and purchase them.
  • Optional Cookware
    Here I will cover optional cookware.  They are not essential to own but will make cooking Indian food much easier and save you so much time.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy any new cookware, we all love shopping.  All I’m saying is that it’s not necessary to buy everything from the start. 

If you have the money for these items GREAT but if you don’t not to worry, because I will tell you what you can use as a substitute when you are new to Indian cooking.

Essential Cookware

Kadhai (Cooking Pot For Curries)

Cost: from $40 – $100+
Alternative: stockpot, saucepan, or any pot with a lid.

What Is A Kadhai?
Kadhai (Handi) is a cooking pot used in traditional Indian cooking.  Even though it was created and first used in India, it has now become popular all over Asia and the rest of the world.

It’s very similar to the wok but with a flatter base and steeper sides.  It is made from cast iron which helps cook the food more evenly and faster compared to your normal day-to-day cooking pots.

Nowadays you can find kadhai made of different materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, etc.

Because a kadhai has steep sides, it is perfect for making Indian curries that contain a lot of gravy or when you are cooking food in larger portions.  kadhai offers plenty of room to stir without spillage.  

What Can I Use Instead Of A Kadhai?
Even though using a kadhai gives you the best results for Indian cooking, you can use alternative pots until you decide to invest in one. 

You can use any cooking pot that has steep sides and a non-stick base such as a stockpot, saucepan, any pot with a lid will do even a wok. 

Whichever cooking pot you decide to use, make sure you have enough room to stir without worrying about any spillage.  Using a pot that has a lid is a must because a lot of Indian cooking requires food to simmer.

For a good quality kadhai you can expect to pay anything from $40 to over $100.  Investing in one is a good idea but not essential when you first get into Indian cooking.

Which Cooking Pot Do I Use For Indian Cooking?
I enjoy using my kadhai for my everyday cooking, even though it’s made from cast iron, which requires some maintenance, and it is on the heavy side, I believe it cooks food much quicker than your conventional cooking pots. 

If I plan to cook a large portion of curry and freeze some, I use my stockpot.  It holds more and is much lighter than my cast iron kadhai.

Tawa (Pan For Making Chapati/Roti)

Cost: from $25 – $40
Alternative: skillet.

What is a Tawa?
A tawa is a round flat pan used to cook chapati (roti) and it’s usually made from cast iron.  This is the perfect tool to cook chapati on. 

As it is made from cast iron it can last for many years without losing its efficiency to cook perfect chapati/roti each time.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Tawa?
From my experience, the best alternative for a tawa is the skillet.  It takes a little longer to cook chapati/roti on a skillet, but it does a great job. 

One of the main differences between a tawa and a skillet is that a traditionally tawa does not have any sides to it, which makes turning a chapati easier without burning yourself. 

When using the skillet, you need to be extra careful not to touch the sides and burn yourself.

A good quality tawa can cost anything from $25 – $40+.  If you love chapati with your curries then you should consider investing in a tawa.

Which Pan I Use For Cooking Chapati?
Without a doubt, my favorite pan to cook chapati on is the tawa.  Compared to the skillet, I find that a tawa does a better job and cooks them much quicker.  However, that said a skillet is a good pan to start with, even though it cooks chapati a little slower it still does a good job.

Chakla Belan Set (Rolling Pin & Base For Chapati)

Cost: from $25 -$60
Alternative: rolling pin & kitchen worktop.

What is a Belan & Chakla?
A belan is a cylinder-shaped wooden rolling pin that is used to roll out dough for chapati/roti and other Indian flatbreads.  Alongside the belan, is the chakla, which is a round wooded base to roll dough on. 

These have been used for generations in India to make chapati/roti and other Indian breads.

What Can You Use Instead Of A Chakla and Belan?
The best alternative for a belan is the humble rolling pin and your kitchen worktop for the chakla. However, the dough tends to stick to the kitchen worktop unless you use extra flour to dust the surface.

If you’re good at woodworking you could actually make these yourself saving a few $$.

A good quality chakla and belan can cost anything from $25-$60.  If you love Indian food, then you should consider investing in a set.

What I Use To Roll Chapati?
I use the traditional chakla and belan, even though the rolling pin does a good job, I just find that rolling nice round chapatis is easier using the traditional tools.

Insulated Roti Dabba (Storage Container For Chapati)

Cost: around $30
Alternative: food storage container ($10+)

What Is A Roti Dabba?
A roti dabba is a container that keeps your chapati/roti warm and fresh.  It has insulated inner walls that can keep them warm for a few hours.

Chapatis are best eaten straight after they have been cooked while they are still warm. The last thing you want is for them to get cold after all your hard work.

To store chapati in a roti dabba, wrap them up with a dish towel first, this absorbs any moisture from them.

What Can I Use Instead Of A Roti Dabba?
If you don’t plan to purchase one just yet, you could use an airtight storage container.  However, the chapati won’t stay warm for long.

A good quality roti dabba can cost around $30.  it’s a good investment to make plus you can also use it to keep other foods warm such as stews etc

What Do I Use To Store My Chapati?
Personally, I use a roti dabba.  In the beginning, I did try using a food storage container, but I found that it made the chapati soggy so I started using a roti dabba and I have never looked back.

Essential Cookware – Conclusion

So, the 4 essential cookware items I recommend for Indian cooking are;

  1. Kadhai – cooking pot for curries.
  2. Tawa – pan for making chapati.
  3. Chakla & Belan – rolling pin and base for rolling chapati.
  4. Insulated Roti Dabba – Storage container for chapati.

Like I said earlier, even though the above items are essential for Indian cooking, you don’t need to purchase them right away.  You can use alternative cookware to start with until you feel you are ready to upgrade.

If I could recommend any of the above essential cookware to purchase straight away, I would recommend purchasing the tawa and the roti dabba. 

Coming to think about it, the tawa was given to us, for our wedding.  Not sure if getting a skillet like pan for a wedding present is a good sign or bad, thank goodness it has only been used for cooking, Lol.

Optional Cookware

Grinder (For Herbs & Spices)

Price: $20 – $50+
Alternative: motar and pedestal ($15 – $35+)

You can’t go wrong with having a grinder in your kitchen.  This handy machine saves you so much time during the preparation stage. 

Instead of spending so much time finely chopping ginger, garlic, chilies, etc this turns anything into a fine paste within seconds.

If you plan to make your own garam masala at home then you will definitely going to need a grinder.  It is perfect for grinding spices into a fine powder.

Blender (For Gravy & Sauces)

Price: $25 – $100+
Alternative: hand blender ($20 – $100+)

For some curries such as Chicken Korma and Saag Aloo (Spinach & Potatoes), you will need a blender to blend the gravy into a smooth creamy sauce.  Without a stand-alone blender, this task can get very messy.

You could use a hand mixer which would give you similar results, but with a standalone blender, you don’t need to worry about splashing your walls with sauce.  Something that I did plenty of times in the beginning lol.

Masala Dabba (Storage For Spices)  

Price: $20 – $40+
Alternative: food storage containers ($10+)

A masala dabba is a container for storing all your spices.  Instead of keeping your spices in their packets, with this, you can store all main spices in one dish.

This is a handy dish to have if you like to keep everything organized like me.

Pressure Cooker

Price: $30 – $100+
Alternative: stove.

A pressure cooker can save you hours of cooking time, especially when cooking certain curries such as Chana Masala (chickpeas) or Saag Aloo (Spinach & Potatoes), etc.

Instead of boiling them over the stove for hours, a pressure cooker can cook them in a fraction of the time.

A great thing about a pressure cooker is that it retains most of the nutrients of the food, which means everything tastes so much better.

Using a pressure cooker will also keep your kitchen cooler, as you will not need to boil anything on the stove for hours.

Rice Cooker

Price: $30 – $100+
Alternative: stove.

Some people think using a rice cooker is cheating, however, we live in a time where we have to juggle our family life, our careers, and our social life.  Due to this, we don’t always have time to stand in front of the stove cooking.

A rice cooker is what I call a treat machine.  When you don’t have the time to cook rice, this amazing machine will make you the fluffiest delicious rice without you even being there.

Even though I love making rice on the stove, sometimes I just don’t have the time to cook rice and this is when I turn to my rice cooker for some help. lol

Optional Cookware – Conclusion

Even though the above items are optional cookware, sometimes in life we need a little help to make things a little easier.

To help you decide if you need to purchase any of these optional cookware items, just ask yourself the following question.

 “would they make my life easier in the kitchen?”.

Final Thoughts

Cooking shouldn’t be a chore but something you enjoy doing.  And if you enjoy cooking you will love making Indian food.

You don’t need much cookware to start cooking Indian food but if you do decide to upgrade and purchase some of these cookware items, I hope it makes life easier for you in the kitchen.

If you have ever wondered “what cookware do I need for Indian cooking?“ then I hope this article has been helpful.

If you think something is missing from our list, or if you have any tips, advice, or any questions let us know in the comments.

Happy Indian Cooking!

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