Indian vegetarian pantry

Indian vegetarian pantry

Anjum Anand
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
Emma Lee

Most of the ingredients necessary to whip up exciting, nourishing vegetarian food can be kept handy in your pantry. As long as you have the very basic fresh ingredients – such as onions, root ginger, garlic, tomatoes and yogurt – you should be able to whip up delicious meals without last-minute dashes to the shops. This is a really comprehensive list, so don’t feel that you need to buy and store all of these in your kitchen, but do have a look through and see which make you feel hungry! The more varied your vegetarian diet the better, so be adventurous and seek out ingredients that you don’t eat… yet.


Obviously, these are a great source of protein, as well as key minerals. I store both dried and canned beans. I prefer the texture and flavour of dried beans, which need to be soaked overnight before cooking, but I also have cans of those beans I eat often, just in case of sudden cravings. I never buy canned lentils, as these do not need soaking. There are a whole panoply of lentils and they are your friends in the kitchen: they need little attention and minimal fuss to fashion into beautiful curries. Here are some of the bean and lentil varieties I use most often.

Beans: black-eyed beans, butterbeans, cannellini beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans.

Lentils: Bengal gram (chana dal), black gram (urad dal), Puy lentils, red lentils (masoor dal), split black gram (dhuli hui ma dal), split pigeon peas (toor dal), and yellow lentils (mung dal).


Essential to the Indian diet; Indians are the alchemists of the spice rack. I recommend you increase your spice larder by one jar or packet a week, as these will really add a wow factor to your daily diet.

Whole: black cardamom pods, black peppercorns, brown mustard seeds, carom seeds, cassia bark (a hardier, less sweet version of cinnamon), cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves (ideally fresh; if dried or frozen, use with a heavier hand), dried red chillies, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, green cardamom pods, mace, nutmeg, and panch phoran (a mix of five seeds).

Ground: asafoetida, chaat masala (a store-bought blend of tangy spices, this is really useful), chilli powder, dried fenugreek leaves (a great savoury flavour), dried mint (adds lovely fragrance), mango powder (gives a welcome sour note), pomegranate powder (with an unusual, delicious tang), and turmeric.

How to roast spices

Only roast whole spices. Place the spices in a moderately hot, dry frying pan and toast over a gentle heat. Shake the pan often so the spices brown evenly. (Do not use non-stick pans as the coating may smoke and this is thought to be toxic.) As the spices roast, they colour and become aromatic. Take them off the heat once they turn a few shades darker. (For the already dark spices, test by aroma instead.) Remove them from the pan or they will continue to brown and might burn. Roasted spices can be ground in a mortar and pestle, or a spice or coffee grinder kept for the purpose.


These don’t have to be dull, in fact these days they are positively fashionable! Some can add protein to the diet.

Basmati rice, white and brown: I use a lot of brown at home for family food.

Beaten rice (poha): this is cooked rice that has been dried, then flattened into a flake. It is fluffy and delicious and often made into a pilaf. Don’t confuse this with the flaked raw rice that you can buy in some supermarkets.

Bulgar wheat: nutty and delicious.

Chapati flour (atta): made from whole wheat berries.

Gram flour (besan): made from chickpeas. This has a lovely flavour and is high in protein.

Quinoa: another high-protein grain that is really good as part of a vegetarian's diet.

Semolina: a lovely, couscous-like grain that can be used in a batter to add crunch, or in a pilaf or dessert.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts feature heavily in Indian food, giving texture or flavour, or working as thickening agents. I have also included in this book chia seeds, which are believed by many to be very healthy, especially good for vegetarians, and, once softened in liquid, have an interesting gelatinous texture. I have used them in this book in my kulfi recipe, but I often add some to my porridge or yogurt.

The most commonly used nuts and seeds include almonds, cashews, coconut (milk, cream, desiccated, and frozen and grated), peanuts (roasted or raw), pistachios (roasted or raw), poppy seeds, sesame seeds.

Notes on…

…Root ginger: In many recipes I read, ginger is measured by length, but I find this an unreliable way to measure the rhizome, as the thickness can vary so much. I measure it in grams, or sometimes teaspoons, to get just the right amount of ginger flavour every time.

…Chillies: the heat varies from batch to batch, and this extends to chilli powder, so always add sparingly. You can always add extra chilli powder at the end of cooking for more heat, if you want it.

…Doubling recipes: As a general rule you can double all the recipes in this book, but you have to be careful about the amount of spices you use. Only add another 50 per cent of the whole spices used, to double a recipe. (The exception to this rule is cumin seeds; you should double the amount of these.)

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