The first Indian restaurants appeared in the UK in the late 19th century, and since then they have grown massively in popularity - in fact, "going for a Ruby" is one of the most common takeaway choices nowadays. But have you ever thought about trying to cook authentic Indian cuisine in your own kitchen?
If you’re looking to up your home-cooking game, we’ll help you out by reviewing the best Indian cookbooks around. We'll cover everything from healthy vegetarian classics and yummy street food to simple curry recipes for beginners, plus all of our recommendations are available on Amazon and eBay - so there’ll be no holding you back!
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Table of Contents
So you’d like to learn more about Indian cuisine and want to recreate favourite dishes at home - but where to start? We’ve created this buying guide to help you pinpoint exactly what you’d like in a cookbook. Read on to find out more!
India is a massive country covering over 1.2 million square miles. From the cooler mountainous north to the tropical coastlines of the south, the climate varies a lot and so does the food! Let’s take a look at the main regions and their most famous dishes.
The cooler climate of the Himalayas and the alpine areas in the northern part of India call for cuisine that's dominated by rich, warming curries and thick sauces paired with freshly-baked bread and fragrant yoghurts.
North Indian cooking features spice-heavy dishes like tandoori chicken and rogan josh, that are cooked in clay ovens. Onion, tomato, and garlic form the base for most meals, which are typically washed down with a glass of ice cold lassi.
Gujarat sits to the west of the country, and this is where you’ll find a lot of familiar savoury dishes such as roti, daal, and samosas. Due to the hot and dry climate, hydrating ingredients such as tomatoes and lemons are commonly used in recipes.
Gujarati cuisine varies widely in flavour and heat, and despite having an extensive coastline with plentiful seafood, Gujarat is primarily a vegetarian state due to the influence of Jainism.
Kerala is a south-western state that's particularly well-known for its exciting melting pot of cuisines. Here, you will find lots of dishes with seafood, in addition to poultry and red meat due to the mixing of Hindu, Muslim, and Christian cultures.
If you’re looking for a more general overview of Indian cooking rather than cuisine from one particular region, there are plenty of books available. These will feature the most popular recipes from all over the country, giving you a mix of fantastic dishes that you can try out for yourself in order to see which ones you prefer.
Or, if you're after something more casual, an area of Indian cuisine that’s seen a huge rise in popularity lately is street food. Here in the UK, there are now quite a few chains selling street snacks and small plates straight from Mumbai and New Delhi, so some cookbooks choose to focus exclusively on these moreish bites.
Cookbooks can vary greatly in length, with some being a brief but interesting overview of a region while others are massive tomes that cover every aspect of the country's cuisine. Beginners and those with limited knowledge of Indian cuisine may prefer a smaller selection of recipes to start off with.
By looking at the number of pages that a book has, you can gauge roughly how many recipes you will find in it as well as how much space it will take up on your bookshelf - which is a factor that's definitely worth considering before you click that "add to basket" button!
In days gone by, you only really had to worry about whether a book was a hardback or a paperback, whereas now you also have to think about digital books! Here, we'll look at the pros and cons of each format, so you can decide which one will be best for you.
Hardback cookbooks are the most common format and they feel pleasantly substantial in your hands. Furthermore, they can be propped up easily on a book holder and look fantastic displayed on your kitchen shelf.
However, this format is quite heavy and cumbersome, particularly if it has loads of pages. It's also not great if you're short on space, as it can take up a lot of room!
Paperback cookbooks are handy because they're lightweight and much slimmer than hardbacks, so they take up less shelf space. They're generally a lot cheaper than hardbacks too, although they tend to be less durable.
However, you'll usually have to wait longer for a paperback edition of a cookbook to be released. You might also have trouble keeping a paperback open at a specific page unless you bend the spine, which isn't ideal!
Digital books are extremely convenient, especially when you’ve realised you don't have a specific recipe to hand - you can instantly download it straight to your device. They also tend to be cheaper to buy than paperbacks or hardbacks, and flicking from page to page is really easy.
However, there’s something exciting about holding a real book in your hand and digital versions sometimes feel a bit lacking in soul compared to a physical tome.
Humans are fairly fickle creatures, and the old adage that we feast with our eyes before our stomach is very true! You're much likelier to cook and eat a recipe from a cookbook if you see a photo of it included in the book.
So, to bring out your inner chef, you should opt for a book that contains beautiful colour photography of the dishes. The yummy images will be sure to inspire you - plus, they'll show you exactly what the finished result should look like!
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Mowgli Street Food
Bring Vibrant Indian Street Food Into Your Home
Make Delicious, Quick Meat-Free Meals
Made in India
A Bestselling Guide to Everyday Indian Fare
The Curry Guy
Create Takeaway-Style Dishes at Home
Chai, Chaat & Chutney: A Street Food Journey Through India
An Exciting Look at Indian Street Food
The Essential South Indian Cookbook
Teaches You All About South Indian Food Culture
Dakshin: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India
Fresh, Healthy, and Balanced South Indian Dishes
My Mother's Cooking: Simple Gujarati Cuisine
Traditional Family Recipes for Veggies
The Essential Kerala Cookbook
Explore the Flavours of Keralan Cuisine
S. Abbas Raza
Pakistani & North Indian Cooking: A Complete Guide for Students & Beginners
Simple Recipes for an Authentic Taste of the North
Nisha Katona established the Mowgli restaurant chain in 2014, with the aim of bringing the zingy, sensational flavours of Indian street food to people in the UK. In this book, she shows home cooks how to recreate iconic Mowgli dishes such as "Angry Bird", "Chat Bombs", and their signature "House Lamb Curry".
This book is incredibly popular, with plenty of fun and flavoursome recipes for chefs of all levels. It's visually stunning too, with glossy pages and colourful photos. That's why it's our top recommendation!
Here's another cookbook from Meera Sodha, but this one is totally vegetarian! It reveals a whole new side of Indian cuisine, with 130 meat-free recipes for you to try. Alongside popular recipes like daal, curry, and bhajis, there are less familiar ones that use seasonal British ingredients.
This is another fantastic book for beginners that covers basic techniques in detail. As Sodha states, Indian cooking is all about vegetables - so why not skip the meat tonight and whip up a veggie feast instead?
This bestselling cookbook promises to change the way you cook, eat, and think about Indian cuisine forever! Guardian columnist Meera Sodha introduces the food she grew up eating every day, with recipes that are fresh, vibrant, and surprisingly easy to make.
With sections for speedy mid-week meals, kid-friendly dishes, and recipes using just store cupboard ingredients, it's obvious that this book has been designed for people with all kinds of lifestyles. It's great for beginners, as it covers a variety of cooking techniques, but would also suit experienced chefs. A fab all-rounder!
Dan Toombs, AKA "The Curry Guy" has perfected the art of replicating British Indian Restaurant (BIR) cooking after sampling dishes and learning curry house kitchen secrets. This book therefore helps you to make homemade curries that taste just like your favourite takeaway, while saving both time and money!
While the recipes can't really be classed as authentic, fans of the book are practically evangelical about the quality and flavour of the dishes included. If you're a huge curry fan or just fancy something a bit different then you can't really go wrong with it!
Chetna Makan, of Great British Bake Off fame, has compiled this wonderful book all about Indian street food. Taking inspiration from the streets of Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, and Chennai, she's created tantalising dishes that are simple to serve up for your family and friends.
The recipes are arranged by city, which can make finding particular recipes quite tricky. Having said that, this is an amazing look at India's thriving street food scene, and we reckon you'll love the tempting array of snacks, chutneys, desserts, and drinks!
The Essential South Indian Cookbook will definitely take your taste buds on an exciting journey! You'll explore all kinds of regional cuisines courtesy of India's southern states, as well as learning about how each of these areas has contributed to the rich tradition of Indian dining.
Some of the ingredients mentioned could prove tricky to come by unless you have a local Indian supermarket, but the recipes are really fantastic. Plus, this book includes detailed information on the unique food culture of each region.
Filled with tempting recipes and stunning photographs, this book presents the finest cooking from the south of India. The focus on fresh produce and a balanced approach to eating makes this a brilliant cookbook for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
Unfortunately, the images in this book have been placed in an unusual way which can slightly obscure the text at times. The recipes, however, are absolutely mouthwatering and will leave you feeling inspired!
This book aims to show that Gujarati cooking is a healthy and tasty way of life. Pina Patel shares her family’s recipes, all of which are vegetarian, and shows you how to prepare common ingredients like chillies, garlic, and ginger in order to transform your dishes.
This is the perfect book for veggie chefs and the recipes are undoubtedly delicious, so it's a shame that this book is so expensive! We understand why though - it's packed with beautiful, high-quality photographs.
In this book, Vijayan Kannampilly explores how Kerala manages to wow food connoisseurs from all over the world with its cooking. He shows readers how to prep each ingredient and recreate some of the region's best-known dishes such as mango curry and stir-fried crab with coconut.
As comprehensive as this book is, it's sadly let down by the lack of photography, which would help readers to visualise the end result. Nevertheless, this is an insightful look at South Indian food that's bound to increase your knowledge of the Keralan region!
This comprehensive beginners' guide to cooking Pakistani and North Indian food is ideal for those without much experience in the kitchen. The recipes are very simple and the author includes all kinds of useful information, from where to buy spices to which cooking oils to use.
Unfortunately, the quality of the text and photography isn't the best. This book is also rather limited in terms of the number of recipes included. Still, the instructions are easy to follow and provide an authentic taste of a region that's not often covered in Indian cookbooks.
If you find yourself in a cooking rut, making the same dishes over and over again, it may be time to try out some new recipes. Here are a few of our favourite cookbooks to get you started, so you can bring out your inner Jamie Oliver!
That concludes our journey through the different kinds of Indian cuisine - we hope that after reading this article, you now know which book will be your perfect cooking companion. Wishing you many happy hours of creating delicious home-cooked Indian food!
Author: Catherine Torrance
No. 1: Nisha Katona｜Mowgli Street Food
No. 2: Meera Sodha｜Fresh India
No. 3: Meera Sodha｜Made in India
No. 4: Dan Toombs｜The Curry Guy
No. 5: Chetna Makan ｜Chai, Chaat & Chutney: A Street Food Journey Through India
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