How To Start Cooking Indian Cuisine At Home – Your Step-By-Step Guide
So, you want to make your very own chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, butter chicken, or any of your favorite Indian recipes at home.
We applaud your dedication and bravery! Learning to cook any new type of cuisine can have a big learning curve – and Indian cuisine with its myriad spices and unique cooking techniques may seem intimidating.
But that’s not the case! If you approach things in the right way, equip yourself with the right supplies, and have the proper mindset, you can start cooking Indian cuisine at home and get spectacular results.
Want to learn how? In this guide, we’ll go over the basics, and give you tips and tricks that will help you begin cooking delicious Indian cuisine in your own kitchen. Let’s get started!
1. Start With The Spices And Other Supplies
First things first, you’ll need to make sure you have the spices and supplies you need to start cooking. If you have “curry powder,” in your spice cabinet, we’ve got bad news for you – you won’t be using it in Indian cooking! “Curry powder” is not Indian at all. In India, curry spice mixes are called “garam masala.”
To begin equipping your spice cabinet, you’ll want:
- Garam masala, preferably from an Indian store
- Green and black cardamom
- Turmeric powder
- Cumin powder
- Red chili/cayenne pepper powder
- Coriander powder
- Whole cumin seeds
- Whole brown mustard seeds
- Cinnamon/cassia bark
- Black pepper
You’ll also want plenty of ginger and garlic on-hand, as well as cilantro, bay leaves, and some other spices and fresh herbs, depending on the recipes you’re cooking.
Yes, this sounds like a lot – so if you’re just getting started, we recommend consulting the recipe you want to cook, and just purchasing the spices for that specific recipe. Then, if you end up loving the process of cooking Indian food, you can try new recipes – and add spices to your cabinet as necessary.
You’ll also need basmati rice – which you can find in bulk at most Indian stores or ethnic supermarkets.
As far as cooking tools and utensils, you probably already have everything you need. As long as you have a wok, a set of high-quality pans, a pressure cooker, and a steamer, you can cook pretty much any Indian dish.
2. Get Familiar With Indian Cooking Terms
Don’t know a dal from a biryani? Aloo from chani? A biryani from a Bhajia? We don’t blame you! Indian cooking uses a lot of special terms, and you probably aren’t familiar with all of them. If you’re going to start cooking Indian food, though, it’s a good idea to get familiar with these terms.
This webpage has definitions for a lot of Indian cooking terms, so it’s a helpful resource if you’re just confused about a term or two while cooking a recipe. But if you want to dive deeper, we highly recommend purchasing and reading an Indian cookbook or two. By doing so, you’ll be able to develop a much deeper knowledge of common Indian cooking terms and techniques. A few highly-rated Indian cookbooks for beginners include:
- 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer
- 5 Spices, 50 Dishes by Ruta Kahate
- Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen, by Meera Sodha
Another option is to begin reading some Indian cooking blogs. By reading about different dishes and cooking methods, you’ll begin to learn some common cooking terms. Manjula’s Kitchen is a great resource, as is Tarla Dalal. Mallika Basu also has a ton of approachable recipes for beginners – and if that’s not enough for you, here’s a list of the top 100 Indian food bloggers!
3. Understand The Basic Patterns Of Most Indian Recipes
If you’ve ever spent a lot of time cooking a particular type of cuisine – such as Italian – you’ll know that many dishes use a similar pattern. Italian pasta meals, for example, usually start by making a sauce using olive oil, a tomato base, fresh herbs, and garlic. Then, you may fry some meat if the recipe calls for it, boil the noodles – you get the picture.
The same is true of most Indian recipes, which follow these basic steps:
- You will begin by heating some kind of oil in a pan
- To the hot pan, you will add whole spices which you will saute, such as cardamom, cloves, cumin, or cinnamon sticks. This is known as “tempering”
- Next, you’ll add vegetables – usually onions or some other type of vegetable, followed by tomatoes
- After this, you’ll add more powdered spices to achieve the desired flavors
- The next step is to create a base by adding water to create a curry, adding dairy for a dish like butter chicken, or even adding the mixture to lentils to create daal, and cook it for some time
These above steps are generalized, of course, and can vary a bit. But mostly, when you cook Indian food, you will start by tempering oil, frying some vegetables, and adding spices and a sauce base. This is the basis for a lot of Indian dishes that you’ll be making when you start out, from butter chicken to chicken tikka masala, saag paneer, biryani and more.
4. Choose Your Favorite Indian Dish And Start Watching YouTube Videos!
Okay. You’ve got a handle on some of the basics. You understand more Indian cooking terms, your spice cabinet is loaded with everything you need, and you’re about ready to start making your favorite dishes. What should you do next?
Well, unless you want to fork over some cash for cooking lessons with a local Indian chef, the best way to learn more about the cooking process is to sit back, relax, and pop open YouTube! Seriously!
YouTube is the ultimate resource for learning how to make just about any cuisine – Indian food included! All you have to do is search for the dish that you want to make, and you’ll get dozens of instructional videos that will walk you through the whole process.
This is especially helpful if you are a visual learner, and have a hard time making food based on instructions that are written down. By seeing the recipe as it’s being made, you can understand what it’s supposed to look like at each stage – and ensure that you’re following the instructions properly when making your own dish.
Once you’ve watched a few videos about the dish you want to make, you should have a pretty good idea about how the cooking process should go – and it’s time to try to make it yourself!
A few YouTube channels that you may find helpful when learning to cook Indian cuisine include:
5. Experiment With One Dish Until You Master It – Then Choose A New One!
The next step is to try cooking the dish you want to make – and to be patient with yourself. When you’re cooking a new dish for the first time, you’re going to make mistakes. Maybe your curry will be watery, or won’t be flavorful enough. Maybe you burn some of your onions. Perhaps your chicken is overdone in your tikka – that’s okay!
Every time you make a dish, you will improve. As you become more comfortable with the cooking process for the dish you’re making, it will begin to taste better and better! Eventually, you’ll master it – and the skills you’ve learned making that dish will transfer to other dishes, too.
Then, you can pick a new dish to try and master – and continue doing so, until you know how to cook all of your favorite Indian foods. The best way to learn is by doing, and with the tips and resources above, you’ll have all of the information that you need to cook delicious Indian cuisine – even if you’ve never made an Indian dish before.
Don’t Fear The Curry – Try Making Your Own Indian Food Today!
Cooking Indian food is an art that takes a long time to master. But with just a bit of practice, the right recipes, and the proper spices and cooking techniques, you can easily start to cook simple Indian dishes at home. And as you get more familiar with the basics of Indian cookery, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier to branch out and cook new dishes – and over time, you’ll turn into a fully-fledged Indian chef!