best Indian cookbooks for a taste of South Asia
These Indian cookbooks twist my childhood (and adult) favorites. They’re unique and inventive. And they’re thoroughly Indian in flavor. When I first started collecting Indian cookbooks, I wasn’t looking for authenticity. I knew I could always poke through my mum’s cookbook (an unpublished, hand-written curation) if I wanted to make something traditional.
So this installment in our cookbook series is a little different. I love how these authors and chefs have adapted a longstanding cuisine into something fresh and wholesome (yet familiar).
So without further ado, here are our top picks for the best Indian cookbooks!
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Jikoni’s plug from Yotam Ottolenghi is what first sparked my interest in this cookbook. Since then, it’s become one of my absolute favorites (and dare I say, I like it as much as Flavor). Jikoni is beautiful. It’s also a complete mess in the best way possible.
Ravinder Bhogal is a daughter of Kenya. She’s also the daughter of two Indians. Raised in London, Bhogal has all the hallmarks of a third-culture-kid. And Jikoni is her story through food. It’s unabashedly inauthentic, a bit of here-and-there-and-everywhere. As an immigrant (born in India, raised in Jamaica and the US), I loved everything about this cookbook. The recipes are wildly experimental. They’re oh-so-good and perfect for lunches.
Indian In 7 is one of the most underrated Indian cookbooks. It’s easy to follow and that’s what makes it so lovable. Traditional Indian cuisine is stripped down to under seven ingredients (which is an impressive feat – I usually use more than seven spices alone).
These effortless entrees are dressed to impress on busy weeknights. Most are quick to make and kindly time-sensitive.
Chaat is a niche Indian cookbook. Whilst it doesn’t exclusively focus on chaat recipes, there are still many to choose from. Chaat requires a little bit of intuition (and familiarity with Indian cuisine).
That being said, I love that this cookbook is an ode to India’s railways. It wheels you to the best station snacks, from Amritsari Fish to Agra Ka Petha.
When I first heard the name, I knew My Two Souths would be a hit. This cookbook is a blend of two kinds of Southern cooking. It punches South Indian flavor into Deep South classics. And as a South Indian who lives in Texas, I’m all here for it!
Asha Gomez originates from Kerala so expect coastal flavors (and a healthy dose of coconut milk, curry leaves, and green cardamom). From Kichadi Grits to Buttermilk Peach Lassi, Gomez’s cookbook fuses the Indian coastline to Atlanta. It’s clever and good, serving up comfort food in two forms.
An authentic Indian cookbook is a tough find (I have high standards as well). But Tiffin is just that. It’s authentic to the core with recipes that remind me of my youth. Most of the dry ingredients and pastes can be found at your local Indian grocery shop. And a Halal butcher store will carry many of the recommended meats.
The best part? Tiffin doesn’t focus on one type of Indian cooking. It’s an exploration of the country in its entirety, north to south, east to west. You’ll find a range of flavors – sweet to spicy.
Owned by Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom is a boutique restaurant chain in the UK. Indian restaurants aren’t a rarity in the UK. But Dishoom manages to stand out. Its menu is a love letter to Bombay’s Irani cafes. And so is the book, titled after its namesake.
If you’re a fan of the restaurant, you’ll love Dishoom. It’s a stunning curation of big restaurant-style meals adapted to cozy home kitchen delights.
P.S. I love the stories and history included in this cookbook!
I’ve mentioned Khazana, an Indo-Persian cookbook that boldly crafts recipes inspired by the Mughal Empire, once on the blog before (here). It’s one of the best Indian cookbooks for meat-lovers. You’ll find recipes like Masala Liver (yes) and Malai Chicken Bites (also, yes).
This is the kind of guide you’ll want to whip out over the holidays (though, the writing is engaging enough that you can read it cover-to-cover as well). The recipes are crowd-pleasers so you’ll want to make full use of the offerings when you can. Try an appetizer and an entree and a dessert (because they’re all equally good).
Milk & Cardamom is all things sweet. Inside, you’ll find beautifully laid out, sugar-coated desserts. The book itself is split into five parts: custards, small bites, cookies, cakes, and breads. Technically, there’s a drink section too (but it’s negligible).
Some of the recipes in Milk & Cardamom seem out of place: bourbon bars, dulce de leche fudge, banana custard brioche. But they’re not. Milk & Cardamom is unafraid of taking international flavors and spicing them up with a touch of India. And it’s this artful fusion that makes it one of the best Indian cookbooks for dessert lovers.
My love of South Indian food has no bounds. And Vibrant India offers a sumptuous and detailed taste of the South.
The recipes are vegetarian but you’ll find tags sharing which meals are vegan and gluten-free as well. This cookbook also goes down to the nitty-gritty of the ingredients (AKA no salt to taste – you’ll get the exact measurements). It’s great for beginners looking to dip their toes into South Indian cuisine!
Masala & Meatballs adapts Indian flavors for the American home cook. It’s an Indian-American cookbook. Everything is a delightful mishmash. And you’ll be tempted to try it all: grilled bok choy and sriracha chickpeas with buttermilk dressing, masala chicken wings, and curry pot pie. It’s an approachable cookbook, smartly written and easy to follow.
Indian Pantry Essentials
My Indian pantry is a packed-to-the-brim heap of masalas and curry powders. It’s rack upon rack of spices. And it’s quite intense. Frankly, you don’t need that many ingredients for Indian cooking.
In fact, most of our favorite Indian cookbooks cycle through the same essential ingredients. You can find all of these pantry staples at your local Indian grocery store or Asian market.
- Garam Masala (we use regular chili powder instead as my family is allergic to this ingredient)
- Amchur (a kind of mango powder)
- Jaggery (unrefined palm sugar – you can also find cane sugar varieties)
- Ghee (Indian cooking butter)
- Mustard Seeds
- Graham Flour
- Curry Leaves
- All the lentil varieties
Did you enjoy this post on the best Indian cookbooks? What are your favorite Indian cookbooks? Let me know in the comments below! I love hearing from you.