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Gluten-Free Indian Foods

author image Michele Turcotte, MS, RD
Michele Turcotte is a registered, licensed dietitian, and a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has more than 12 years of experience in clinical and corporate settings, and has extensive experience in one-on-one diet counseling and meal planning. She has written freelance food and nutrition articles for Trouve Publishing Inc. since 2004.
Gluten-Free Indian Foods
A bowl of chana masala. Photo Credit PeteerS/iStock/Getty Images


Individuals who cannot tolerate gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains, must choose gluten-free grains and starches. This becomes more challenging when consuming a cuisine that is rich in starch-based food items. However, there are many delicious, gluten-free Indian dishes. It's wise to keep in mind that with many food items, there is a chance that gluten elements may be found in certain spice mixes.

Soups and Stews

There are several soups and stews that are good gluten-free choices. Tomato shorba is a water-based tomato soup that may contain coconut milk and ghee (butter). Dal is a popular lentil-based stew that contains a variety of fried spices and vegetables. Tadka, a combination of regional spices, such as cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro and mustard seeds, is fried in oil and poured over dal prior to serving. Another hearty, legume dish is called chana masala. The base of this spicy stew is chickpeas, spinach and a wide variety of Indian spices.

Vegetable-Based Dishes

Aloo jeera is a dish composed of cumin- seasoned diced potatoes; aloo mutter is a hearty potato and green pea dish, and aloo gobhi is a potato/cauliflower dish cooked in a spicy sauce. Vindaloo is a vegetable stew made with garlic, ginger, dates, a variety of spices and vegetables as well as beans and green peas. It may be served over rice. Madras-style green beans are green beans cooked with ghee or butter, red onions and a variety of spices. Okra with onions, and Indian cauliflower curry with yogurt are popular vegetable side dishes. All of these options are suitable for those on a gluten-free diet.

Rice-Based Dishes

Rice is gluten-free and forms the base of many Indian dishes. Pulao is a rice pilaf where the rice has been fried and sautéed with other ingredients. Variations on this dish include jeera pulao, which is made with cumin seed and paneer pulao which is made with homemade Indian paneer cheese. Vegetable handi biryani is a heavily spiced rice dish often served with a thick chutney called salan and raita, a cucumber-yogurt sauce. Curd rice is a southern Indian rice dish that is made with dairy products, such as yogurt.

Seafood and Dairy Items

Though Indian food is primarily vegetarian there are some fish dishes, such as achari fish tikka, which is a boneless white fish marinated in yogurt and pickle spices. This and tandoori goaldachingri, large tiger prawns cooked and marinated in kebab spices, are both generally gluten-free.

Paneer tikka is marinated, spiced homemade Indian paneer cheese that has been coated in yogurt and cooked in a tandoor oven. Rarely, it is coated in flour. If that is the case, it is not a gluten-free dish; otherwise, it is acceptable on a gluten-free diet. Paneer makhani is a recipe for paneer cheese simmered in a buttery sauce that may contain a tomato component.

Breads and Starches

While naan bread is off limits, pappadum is a gluten-free crispy wafer-like flatbread made from lentil or chickpea flour. Dosas, a southern Indian favorite, are wheat-free crepes made from rice and lentil flours that are often stuffed with savory fillings. Idli, also native to southern India, is a spongy "cake" also made from rice and lentil flour; ideal for mopping up sauces and chutneys. Vadai, another gluten-free starch, is a small, savory "donut" made from lentil, rice or potato flour.

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