Gluten Free Indian Food: Embrace Vibrant Flavors at or Away from Home

Are you tired of feeling restricted by your gluten-free diet? Are you looking for delicious, exciting and satisfying options? If so, welcome to the burst of flavor and color that is gluten free Indian food.

gluten free chana masala with rice on a black plateChana Masala with Rice

Indian cuisine is known for its vast range of dishes that are a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. But it's the spices that make Indian cuisine unmistakable. Mixtures of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom and paprika among others create amazing flavors and aromas.  However, the best thing about Indian food is the reliance on gluten free grains and legumes. What a gold mine for those of us on a gluten-free diet!

What Indian Meals are Gluten Free?

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Pin Image - Gluten Free Indian food including chana masala, biryani, Indian spices, chicken curry

Gluten free Indian meals feature staples like rice, lentils, chickpeas and vegetables.  There are many dishes you can make yourself or safely order in an Indian restaurant.  Indian meals often come with traditional naan bread, which contains gluten. But don't despair, you can make your own gluten free naan or opt for a naturally gluten free alternative.  For example, bhakri is made from jowar (a type of millet), or try crispy papadum, lentil crepes or pancakes known as dosas, or leave out the bread altogether. 

You Control the Heat

dried chili peppers on a wooden board

Some westerners shy away Indian food because they don’t like hot spices.  It’s a misconception that all Indian food will burn your lips off or have you diving into the jug of ice water.  The spices mentioned above are flavorful and aromatic, but not hot.  The heat of a dish comes from the amount of chili added to it.  If you are making curry at home you can start with a little heat then add as you become more comfortable.  You may even come to enjoy a little burn.  When ordering gluten free Indian food in a restaurant, look for little chili pepper symbols on the menu. They tell you how hot the dish is. If you ask, the cook may even dial it back a little for you. 

Popular Gluten Free Indian Dishes

Here are some great gluten free Indian foods for you to consider whether you’re eating out or trying new recipes at home:


Papadum is a common appetizer. It is a thin crispy wafer usually made from lentil, chickpea, black gram or rice flour. All gluten free! Or try chaat, a scrumptious street-food-style dish often made with potatoes and chickpeas.


For the main course, go for dishes like Tandoori chicken or Paneer tikka. These are cooked in a tandoor (a traditional clay oven) and seasoned with various spices. Both are gluten free and incredibly flavorful.

Soups and Sides

Don't skip the dals (lentil soups) and vegetable curries too. They usually don't contain any gluten and serve as a healthy, hearty part of the meal. And remember, basmati rice is your ever-reliable gluten free substitute for Indian breads. Be cautious though about dishes with cream sauces like Korma and Tikka Masala. They might contain flour as a thickening agent.

More Delicious Gluten Free Indian Dishes


Curry:  An Indian stew simmered slowly with meats like lamb or chicken and aromatic spices.  Curries from the north of India feature tomato in the sauce while those from the south rely more on creamy coconut-based sauces.  One of my favorites is Garam Masala Chicken Curry which you'll find in the recipe link below.

Butter Chicken is a type of curry, but I mention it separately due to its popularity.  It is rich in texture due to the creamy tomato and butter sauce.

Chana Masala is also a type of curry but with chickpeas and no meat.  It features a typical intoxicating Indian spice blend including garam masala.  Pair chana masala with a meat dish or serve it with rice for a vegetarian or vegan option.

Aloo Gobi is another vegetarian curry. This one is made with cauliflower and potatoes which are cooked with onions, tomatoes, and Indian spices.

Making Gluten Free Indian Food at Home

Feeling adventurous enough to try Indian cooking at home? Gluten free Indian dishes are not only delicious they are also fun to make. The aromatic spices make the preparation an experience to enjoy.

For Your Indian Pantry

indian spices, onion, chilis, garlic, ginger

If you’re going to cook gluten free Indian food at home you may need to make some additions to your pantry:

  • Canned goods: coconut milk, diced tomatoes, chickpeas and lentils.
  • Spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, paprika, curry powder, garam masala
  • Fresh herbs: Cilantro

Some Dishes to Try at Home

Start simple with a hardy and and homey dish called, Daal Tadka. It's a simple lentil soup sautéed with cumin seeds, garlic, and chilies. This light yet flavorful dish is a staple in Indian homes and is completely gluten free.

If you’re a fan of rice dishes, give Biryani a go. It's a hearty dish made with basmati rice, meat (or vegetables for vegetarians), and lots of spices. It's is gluten free and offers an explosion of flavors.

For something lighter and refreshing, whip up some cucumber and yogurt-based Raita. It's the perfect accompaniment for spicy dishes and cools down your palate. Plus, it's quick and easy to make.

Remember to always choose gluten-free spices or spice blends while cooking. At times, spice mixes available in the market may contain wheat flour as a filler, so beware of those.

Here are some of my favorite gluten free Indian recipes:

Coming Soon: Lamb Curry

Navigating Gluten Free Indian Restaurant Meals

If you’re dining in an Indian restaurant, be sure that your meal is safely gluten free by following these tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with gluten free restaurant protocols.
  • Tell your server of your needs.
  • Look for reviews on gluten free websites or apps like Find Me Gluten Free.
  • Ensure any fried foods are cooked in a dedicated fryer.
  • Leave out the bread or ask for gluten free alternatives.
  • Avoid dishes that involve hing.

About Hing in Indian Recipes and Why You May Want to Avoid it.

Watch for dishes with hing in Indian restaurants.  It has a pungent odor reminiscent of sulfur with a hint of garlic and leek.  That doesn’t sound awesome but when you add a pinch to dish with other spices, it adds balance and an umami flavor.  Hing comes from the fennel plant and in its pure form is gluten free.  In the west, it’s often dried and ground to a power and mixed with wheat.  I don’t use hing but if you want to try it in your home cooking, gluten free versions are available online.

Are You Convinced? Is Gluten Free Indian Food for You?

Living gluten free is about more than just avoiding the gluten. It is about exploring new flavors and delicacies that will make your meals exciting. Gluten-free Indian food has so much to offer - from the pop of aromatic spices to wholesome grains, legumes, and fresh vegetables.  Savor the harmony in its spice-filled dishes as you nurture your body and delight your senses. It's not just about the journey; it's about the delectable destination. Bon Appétit!

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