The Best Cookbooks for Traditional Indian Food

Julia Wytrazek /
Julia Wytrazek / | © Culture Trip
Chloe Hay

Traditional Indian cookery is hugely different from the likes of chicken tikka masala and lamb biryani that Westerners have become accustomed to. The curries and dals that are devoured in India are much healthier, more adventurous and just downright tastier. Here, 10 chefs share their secrets of real Indian cooking in their books.

Tasting India (2011) | Christine Manfield

Both a recipe book and a travel guide of sorts, Christine Manfield recounts her travels around India in her cookbook Tasting India. Including 250 delicious recipes, this book is a curated guide to all that Manfield learned from the enthusiastic and talented cooks she met throughout her two decades in India. Tasting India is divided into 10 chapters, each focusing on a different region, such as Goa and the Indian Himalaya. As much a traveler as a foodie, Manfield begins each chapter with a directory of recommended places to stay, restaurants to eat at, and shops to purchase souvenirs from. For those armchair travelers unlikely to find themselves in India any time soon, there is an extensive selection of extremely tasty—yet not too difficult—recipes to get stuck into. The coconut chutney and the beetroot curry are particular favorites.

‘Tasting India‘ by Christine Manfield

50 Great Curries of India (1994) | Camellia Panjabi

One of the top-selling Indian cookbooks of this century, 50 Great Curries of India is a staple on any spice-lover’s bookshelf. The perfect introduction for curry novices, Panjabi has made sure to include recipes suitable to a varied skill set and pleasing to different tastes. Born in Mumbai, Panjabi moved to England to study at Cambridge before setting out on a culinary business adventure. Together with her family she now owns the MW Eat collection of London-based restaurants—Chutney Mary, Veeraswamy, Masala Grill, Masala Zone, and Amaya. In this book she shares some of her favorite regional recipes while teaching the philosophy of Indian cuisine and giving lots of handy tips about how to cook curries authentically. The book includes some beautiful food photography and an illustrated culinary map of India, alongside ample delicious recipes such as Bombay prawn curry, Madras-style lamb curry, and Sindhi curry.

’50 Great Curries of India‘ by Camellia Panjabi

Made in India: Cooked in Britain: Recipes From an Indian Family Kitchen (2014) | Meera Sodha

Passionate about educating Westerners on what true, home-cooked Indian food is, Meera Sodha created Made in India: Cooked in Britain. Having never experienced the Western take on an Indian curry before leaving home for university, Sodha had taken her mother’s culinary genius for granted. She doesn’t anymore. This collection of family recipes started as a personal project for Sodha, who was afraid that her family’s favorite recipes were going to be forgotten. Thankfully, she was encouraged to publish her recipe collection, so now we can all enjoy recreating the flavors of her childhood with our own attempts at chili paneer, and pistachio and yogurt chicken curry.

‘Made in India: Cooked in Britain’ by Meera Sodha

Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook (2015) | Richa Hingle

Indian cuisine already has so much to offer vegetarians, but the majority of popular Indian dishes are rich in dairy products. In her book Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, Richa Hingle has tackled this problem to provide vegans with an abundance of delicious, spicy recipes created using solely plant-based foods. Think spicy tofu scramble for breakfast, potato quinoa patties for lunch, and a delicious Goan tempeh curry for dinner. Hingle even chucks in a few token gluten-free recipes as well as some extraordinarily good desserts, including saffron cream popsicles and fudgy coconut balls. One for dinner parties as well as treat-yourself midweek suppers, these recipes will surely impress.

‘Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen’ by Richa Hingle

Entice With Spice: Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People (2010) | Shubhra Ramineni

Shubhra Ramineni destroys the myth that proper Indian food takes hours to prepare in her award-winning recipe book Entice With Spice: Easy Indian Recipes for Busy People. A first-generation Indian-American, Ramineni has learned about Indian food from her elders and many of her shortcuts and secret tricks have been taught to her by her mother. Eager to show her American peers that authentic and wholesome Indian cooking is much simpler than they would assume, she has put together a selection of 100 of her favorite recipes and laid them out in in a simple and easy-to-follow format with lots of tempting pictures. For a speedy family dinner, have a go at the fragrant chicken curry or the lamb chops with Indian spice rub.

‘Entice With Spice’ by Shubra Ramineni

Prashad at Home: Everyday Indian Cooking From Our Vegetarian Kitchen (2015) | Kaushy Patel

A beautiful book both to look at and to cook from, Prashad at Home: Everyday Indian Cooking From Our Vegetarian Kitchen is a coffee-table staple that you’ll be cooking from forever. The second book from Kaushy Patel, she has her grandmother to thank for her deep-rooted love of cooking. Having grown up on her grandmother’s farm in India, good food was at the heart of everything she knew from as far back as she can remember. Her grandmother’s passion for creating delicious, wholesome dishes that the entire family loved has been instilled in Patel. Since she was featured on British TV show Ramsay’s Best Restaurant in 2010, Patel’s delicious Indian recipes have become increasingly famous. This second book concentrates on quick and speedy meals—perfect for spicing up midweek suppers.

‘Prashad at Home’ by Kaushy Patel

Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible (2003) | Madhur Jaffrey

Mixing a few Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, and Western takes on the traditional curry into her collection of delicious Indian curries, Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible is as much a point of conversation as a famed recipe book. Written by one of the best-selling Indian cookbook writers of all time, the Ultimate Curry Bible begins with some of Jaffrey’s favored traditional Indian recipes, with a few never-before-published treats tossed in. She then detours off on a curry-inspired literary trip around the world, as she takes influences from countries as far flung as France and South Africa to jazz up her curries. As well as plying readers full of curry-making expertise, Jaffrey also dedicates a portion of the book to tips on what best accompanies each tasty dish—be it a fruity chutney, steamed rice, or a warm chapati. No curry fiend should be without a copy.

‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible’ by Madhur Jaffrey

The Curry Secret: How to Cook Real Indian Restaurant Meals at Home (1989)| Kris Dhillon

The first in a two-part Indian cookbook series, The Curry Secret: How to Cook Real Indian Restaurant Meals at Home was so successful that Kris Dhillon went on to publish a second book, The New Curry Secret: Mouthwatering Indian Restaurant Dishes to Cook at Home (2009). A friend for the Western curry fan, The Curry Secret includes tasty recipes for much-loved dishes such as korma, bhuna, tikka masala, and jalfrezi. Have a go at these simple recipes and Friday night takeaways will quickly become a thing of the past.

‘The Curry Secret’ by Kris Dhillon

Rick Stein’s India (2013)| Rick Stein

Born out of the BBC2 program of the same name, Rick Stein’s India is a detailed account of the author’s journey around India seeking out the very best examples of this popular cuisine. Rick Stein is firm in his belief that food isn’t a mere necessity in India—it’s the focal point of a good life—and he uses this book as a tool to express that passion. With sections dedicated to street food snacks, creamy curries, and spicy shellfish dishes, there is a recipe to excite every palate. Stein’s words and recollections are sure to inspire everyone that flicks through this book to try at least one of his recipes. The tamarind and pork curry, the kati rolls with pickled onion, and the squid curry are all highly recommended.

‘Rick Stein’s India‘ by Rick Stein

The Dal Cookbook (2013) | Krishna Dutta

A cookbook celebrating the humble, wholesome, and effortlessly delicious dish that is dal, Krishna Dutta’s The Dal Cookbook has been a huge success with budget- and health-conscious cooks. An absolute staple in traditional Indian cuisine, dal is one of the cheapest ways to feed a big family a nutritious dinner that is sure to keep them full all the way through to breakfast. The Dal Cookbook is a collection of more than 50 exquisite dal dishes, made using a variety of different pulses, vegetables, fish, sea food, and meat. Even the biggest lentil-phobes will find a recipe to satisfy them in this book. Try the sweet potato dal for the perfect winter-weather treat.

‘The Dal Cookbook’ by Krishna Dutta

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