Indian food is kind of like that really cool friend who she seemed a bit intimidating at first.
Like she always looks amazing, is super outgoing and confident, and you kind of wonder if the two you would even fit together.
But then when you get to know her, you realize that she’s actually pretty easy to talk to and fun.
And then you wonder why you didn’t hang out with her sooner.
That’s really all it is for a lot of people.
The ingredients are different, the scents are complex and amazing, the colors are vibrant, and you’re wondering if you’d be compatible with this cuisine.
Answer: You are.
From creamy rose drinks to bowls filled with a rich tangy sauces, I promise you that it’s well worth your time.
Related: The Indian Food Bucket List
How to Eat Indian Food
Think of the foods of India as something to explore.
You look around the menu, and then you order a drink, a couple starters, a few sides, a main (or two), and a dessert.
Fill that table up like you’re an aspiring Instagram influencer from 2017.
There will be leftovers for later, so no big deal.
Or, if you feel a bit embarrassed with that method, then just take a friend or two and agree to eat family style.
This is an experience and you’re expanding your horizons in new types of foods.
Make the most of it. 👍
10 of the Best Indian Dishes to Order at a Restaurant
Depending on where you live, this might not be the easiest thing to do, but I still want to make the suggestion.
Before heading to a local Indian restaurant, I would check out the reviews. Are people saying it’s authentic or pretty close to authentic? Are they saying that the cooks are doing the traditional dishes justice?
I’m not saying that you can’t eat at a place unless all of the dishes are 100% authentically perfect.
But I do think it’s ok to go to a place that either has it down or they’re legitimately doing their best.
Alright, now that you have an Indian restaurant picked out with good reviews, let’s get started!
Side Note: I also include recipes at the bottom of each one in case you want to try it yourself!
I feel like naan is something almost all of us know or have heard of.
And it makes sense.
It’s easy to like and there’s nothing intimidating about it.
You can get it…
- Garlicky and buttery
- Stuffed with cheese (paneer naan)
- Coated in chili
It’s a hot, fresh, pillowy, and comforting flat bread that you can eat as is, with sauces, with spices, or dipped into a creamy Indian dish.
I’ve personally loved it plain or with garlic butter, but I think my favorite is when it’s stuffed with cheese.
I went to an Indian restaurant in Kyoto, Japan and literally had the most incredible naan. The cheese stuffed inside was just oozing out and it was honestly so good.
Was it fully authentic? Not sure.
It was made by Indian cooks, but probably altered for the locals tastes.
However, I still definitely recommend paneer naan if you’re also a lover of cheese. 👌
Oh, and if you’re curious about that Indian restaurant, I talk about it in my post on the perfect place to see fall in Japan. It’s under the section that talks about the Ōbai-In Temple. 😊
And lastly, here’s a butter naan recipe you can try if you want to do it at home. It looks so good!
This one is kind of necessary to talk about, and it’s definitely a common food for India.
It’s hot fried or baked flaky bread, stuffed with things like lamb, beef, potatoes, spices, and so many other tasty ingredients.
Or you can get them with veggies since that’s also very common with Indian samosas.
Also, it’s suggested that you pair them with tamarind chutney (a sweet and sour sauce) or a mint sauce.
Just make sure to order a lot of them because I’ve had the experience where you get one order, eat them all, and then feel kind of disappointed that you didn’t get extra.
Here’s an samosa recipe from an Indian cook that look very tasty!
A super thin crepe-like bread made of lentils and rice, it’s one of my personal favorite things to eat in Indian restaurants.
It doesn’t fill you up a ton, so you still have plenty of space for when the main meal comes.
Also, it’s flaky and tasty to eat with the dipping sauces they provide.
And if you want, you can pair it with the meal you’re eating.
Or if they have a yummy stuffing, then I’d say you should definitely order it!
This dosa recipe looks like a good one to try at home!
4. Chicken Makhani (Or Butter Chicken)
It’s a classic. The idea of not adding this one to the list seems a bit strange. 🤷♀️
Chicken Makhani is a chicken dish where you cook the meat in a tomato based sauce.
Traditionally, it’s cooked in a tandoor which is a clay or metal oven with a cylinder-like shape.
Here’s what a tandoor looks like. Cool right?
And with ingredients like whole milk, butter, cardamom, and garlic, you get this tangy, creamy, and savory dish that’s basically the perfect comfort food.
Put the butter chicken on some rice or dip some naan into the sauce, and you’ll understand why it’s one of the most popular foods in India.
Lastly, if you want to make this creamy dish yourself, then here’s a tasty looking recipe for chicken makhani.
I love Indian rice dishes and biryani is one of them!
I mean there’s just something about taking a big bite of warm super flavorful and fragrant savory rice.
Also, if you’re a carb lover like me, then this should definitely be on your list. 👌
Here are the main ingredients for this Indian dish:
- Lamb, goat, or chicken – If you’ve never had goat before, in my experience, it tastes like lamb. Very delicious!
- Spices – You’ll get spices like saffron, cardamom, biryani masala, and nutmeg.
- Fruits and Veggies – Onion and lemon.
- Yogurt – The meat is marinated in yogurt and spices before being added to the rice.
But essentially, in a pot, they’ll layer it with the meat, then add the uncooked rice on top.
Next they’ll add water, and let it cook together. Oh, and there’s also the option for using broth or coconut milk instead of water.
Of course, there’s way more to it than that, but this gives you a general idea.
And trust me, it’s something you’ll want to try!
If you want to make this at home, here’s a biryani recipe I found that looks great!
6. Tandoori Chicken
Cooked at a high temperature in a tandoor oven, tandoori chicken has this sort of tangy, savory, almost barbecued flavor.
Side Note: If you want to make it at home, there are other methods too!
Originally from Punjab, it’s marinated in yogurt and colorful spices, and you end up getting one of the most amazingly colorful and tasty Indian foods.
And in this recipe, you’re going to be seeing ingredients like lemon, yogurt, tandoori, masala, garlic, and Kashmiri chili powder.
This is the kind of recipe you can also make at home if you want to impress friends and show them that yes, you are a better cook than them. 😌
I’m joking… kind of.
But really, if you do want to make this for friends or just yourself, then here’s a recipe for Tandoori chicken. 🙂
If your local Indian restaurant serves kulfi, get it.
I remember the first time I had kulfi.
I was in Istanbul, eating at one of my favorite Indian restaurants, and the menu had labeled it as Indian ice cream (or something similar).
And that’s exactly what it is!
The cooking process is a bit different than western ice cream though.
It can be made by slowly simmered whole milk, cream, cardamom, and other tasty ingredients. So while the process is longer, I think the results are potentially a lot better!
Also you’ll be getting ingredients like rose, pistachio, and saffron. I do remember having it with rose and pistachio, and the flavor combination was just perfect!
Oh, and they’re put into molds for fun shapes! The one we had was shaped into triangles; it was a really fun experience trying this Indian dessert. 😊
This kulfi recipe by this cook looks so good! You might want to give it a try for dessert.
8. Gulab Jamun
I’m pretty sure that whenever my husband and I eat at an Indian restaurant, we get this dessert every time. 😂
But it’s so good!
It’s these doughy fluffy balls soaked in a sugary syrup that’s been flavored with cardamom and rose water.
And although it’s a warm dessert, there’s just something very refreshing about them. I know that sounds weird!
But when you take a bite of them, and your mouth fills with that syrupy goodness and fresh flavors, you’ll know what I mean.
Or maybe not; it could just be that I’m weird. 🤷♀️
Either way though, I think you should get it and enjoy. It’s a fun experience!
Here’s a gulab jamun recipe. I like how she gives very thorough instructions since it’s a recipe that can be messed up if not done just right.
Lassi’s are a classic, so if I didn’t mention them, I don’t think it would make sense.
Also, they’re one of my favorite drinks, so obviously they’re making it onto this list!
But with that said, I’ve had so many different types of lassis, and they’re all very good!
They’re this refreshingly cold, perfectly creamy yogurt drink that originated in Northern India.
And here are some flavors to look out for:
- Pineapple ginger
- Sweet but plain
Oh, and if you want to make a lassi yourself, then I’d check out Cook with Manal, she makes a few different flavors of lassi.
10. Masala Chai
I love masala chai!
Well I guess I love almost everything on this list. 😅
But masala chai is one of the most comforting rich and creamy drinks, and it makes for a perfect pre-dinner or after dinner drink
Basically, you’re steeping black tea, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and other delicious spices in milk to make this creamy Indian drink.
Also, the process for making it at home isn’t too hard. Here’s a recipe for masala chai if you want to do it yourself. I think it’ll make for a good early morning drink!
Indian Food FAQ
Here we’re going to include some frequently asked questions people have on Indian cuisine.
And if you’re not seeing any of your questions answered here, then let me know in the comments down below. I’ll answer them!
1. What is the best Indian dish for beginners?
This one is going to be my personal opinion, but I think you can trust me since I’ve been eating it for years. 😊
Also, there are just plenty of simple and delicious Indian recipes out there!
Here are some of the best Indian dishes for beginners:
- Tikka masala
- Corn pakoda (corn fritters)
- Paneer butter masala
All of these dishes are either creamy, mild, or just have a bit of spiciness.
2. What are 3 traditional foods in India?
This is a question I see getting searched for quite a bit.
And if you want more traditional foods to check out than the ones I listed above, then I’ve got you!
Here are 3 traditional foods from India:
- Rogan Josh: A lamb curry dish.
- Chaats: Deep fried savory snacks.
- Vada Pav: A sandwich stuffed with spices and a potato patty.
3. What is the most popular Indian food?
According to the Times of India, last year, the most widely ordered dish in India was biryani.
Makes sense, it tastes so good!
Indian food can be an incredible experience, so get adventurous and give it a try.
It might become one of your favorite cuisines!