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North Indian Cuisine

North India is a world of extremes, and it shows in it’s foods. It’s no surprise that North India also has extreme climates – summers are hot, and winters are cold. The geographical, historical, and cultural influences are also vast and deep. Let’s just say, get your taste buds ready for more flavor than you ever knew were possible in every bite. Imagine this: rich aromatic curries, savory vegetable stir-fries, moist and tender slow-cooked meats, and sweet calming desserts.

The term ‘North India’, from a cultural point of view, includes New Delhi, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, and Rajasthan. These places have their own distinct food culture and traditions. It is slightly unfair to group them all in a single term when discussing food, but there are some overlapping cooking styles and flavor profiles.
The vast majority of Indian restaurants around the globe are influenced by North Indian Cuisine. Northern cuisine is distinguished by the proportionally high use of dairy products such as milk, paneer, ghee, and yoghurt, meat dishes with chicken and lamb, tandoori dishes, and a preference for breads over rice.

Thick Creamy Curries

North Indian curries usually have thick, moderately spicy and creamy gravies. The use of dried fruits and nuts is fairly common. Dairy products like milk, cream, cottage cheese, ghee and yoghurt play an important role in the cooking of both savory and sweet dishes. Thanks to the rich variety of fruit and vegetables available year around, the region produces a dazzling array of vegetarian dishes.

Indian curries or gravy sabzis as they are popularly known are a common and staple dish in every Indian home. The Indian curries, are packed with flavor, spice and richness that come from the authentic spice powders that get made in every Indian home.
Indian curries make a perfect meal that go well with phulkas, parathas, pulaos and accompaniments like raitas, papads and pickles. Curry cooking, recipes, spices and techniques can vary widely from region to region in the north. Some can be quite spicy!

Bread Over Rice

North Indians prefer their breads over rice. You’ll find plenty of rice dishes such as biryani and pulao, but unlike south Indian food, the rice is limited to specific dishes, and not a requirement of all meals. Instead, North Indians love their chapaati, naan, parathas, and rotis, made with unleavened dough, often in tandoori ovens.

Indian bread over rice, if the rich variety is anything to go by. This region is home to the tandoori roti and naans (bread made in a clay tandoor oven), stuffed parathas (flaky Indian bread with different kinds of vegetarian and non-vegetarian fillings) and kulchas (bread made from fermented dough).
It should be noted that rice dishes are also popular and made into elaborate biryanis and pulaos (pilafs). Many of these dishes were introduced into India from the Middle East via Islamic dynasties. The word “biryani” is an Urdu word derived from the Persian language. One theory is that it originates from “birinj”, the Persian word for rice.


The term tandoor refers to a variety of ovens, the most commonly known is a cylindrical clay or metal oven used in cooking and baking. A tandoor may be used to bake many different types of flatbread, but in the west the term is directly associated with Indian style meat dishes such as tandoori chicken or kababs.

Tandoori Chicken is by far the most popular Tandoor dish, ever made. The famous dish is a yoghurt and spice marinated chicken cooked in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven. It is a popular dish originating from the northwest frontier.
There are various types of Indian bread cooked in a tandoor, all of which are quite different in taste. The major types of Tandoor Bread are Tandoori Roti, Naan, Kulcha and Lachha Paratha.

Popular Dishes

Most people have a favorite Indian dish, and chances are it’s of north Indian origin. Here are a few: Mutter Paneer, a curry made with cottage cheese and peas, Biryani, Pulaos, Daal Makhani, Palak Paneer, Dahi Gosht, Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka, Fish Amritsari, Samosas, a snack with a pastry case with different kinds of fillings, Chaat, a hot-sweet-sour snack made with potato, chick peas and tangy chutneys, and Motichoor Laddoo.

In comparison to other cuisines of India, North Indian food is richer, a number of preparations made in pure desi ghee or doused in fresh cream. The world-famous Butter Chicken being the perfect case in point. Some of the dishes take long hours to prepare as they involve meticulous steps, but once you take a bite, you know you are in for a gastronomic joyride.
The best part of Indian cuisine is it’s incredible array of intense flavors. Some are simply comfort food such as Dal Tadka and Rajma-Chawal that hold a favorite spot in most people’s hearts. North Indians also binge on a variety of popular snacks in between meals that includes samosa, kachori, chaats, bhajis, pakodas, and bhujiyas.


Indian sweets and desserts, also called mithai, are a significant element in north Indian cuisine. They are notoriously sweet, fried foods made with sugar, milk or condensed milk, flavored with almonds and pistachios, spiced with cardamon, nutmeg, cloves, and decorated with nuts, or with gold or silver leaf. Keep your eyes open for jalebi, gulab jamun (see photo), kheer, and kulfi for starters.

Indians have a penchant for sweets, no doubt. Not only are desserts part of the staple fare, but they are also offered in places of worship. Be it the khada prasad at Gurudwaras or the boondi ladoos served at temples, desserts form an integral part of our sacred offerings.
When selecting an Indian dessert, keep in mind that these desserts are sugar bombs to say the least. A little goes a long way. One favorite past time of north Indians is to frequent an established sweet shop in town. Some specialize in certain types of sweets such as gagar ka halwa, a pudding like dessert made of carrots. It’s incredibly delicious.