If you have a gluten intolerance or have been diagnosed with celiac disease, it is important to know what foods contain gluten and what foods are safe. Fortunately for you, most Indian foods are naturally gluten-free, so you can enjoy them as part of your modified diet. Not all Indian foods are safe, however, so learning more about what ingredients they contain and how they're cooked will help you make the best choices for your health.
Almost all main courses are gluten-free in the Indian cuisine because the dishes are made with fresh ingredients, such as lentils, meat and rice, rather than processed ones. The exceptions are the sauces and gravies because they are sometimes made with curry powder, which may be cross-contaminated with gluten. If you're eating out, always ask first, but you're usually safe with most entrees. Try vindaloo or tandoori, both of which are gluten-free. Vindaloo dishes are typically the spiciest and contain several kinds of vegetables. Tandoori is usually made with lemon, yogurt, garlic and ginger and often features chicken. Though, most Indian food is vegetarian, lamb and goat meat are sometimes included in certain recipes. Both kinds of meat are gluten-free. Have achari fish tikka, which is marinated white fish, as another gluten-free main course. Khagina and akuri are two common egg dishes, and both are usually gluten-free.
Fresh vegetables don't contain any gluten, and almost all traditional Indian vegetable dishes are gluten-free options. Order biryani, a casserole made with eggplant, saffron and rice. Dal is another option. It's made with pureed lentils and yellow split peas. Aloo gobhi is a blend of potatoes and cauliflower as well as spices. Pakoras are spicy vegetable fritters that are usually made with lentil flour, making them a safe gluten-free option. Order raitas, which is a dish made with yogurt, cucumbers and watercress or yogurt, bananas and coconut. Both options are safe.
If you're gluten-free, you won't be able to eat uppama, which is similar to a dumpling and is served with sauteed vegetables. The dumplings are made with hot wheat cereal, so it contains gluten. You'll have to skip other varieties of bread, such as naan, roti, chapati, poori and paratha. These types of bread are almost always made with wheat flour. Pappadum, which is a wheat-free flatbread, is a safe choice, as are dosas, which are more like crepes, but don't contain any gluten. On a gluten-free diet, you can eat any type of rice. Indian cuisine typically features steamed white rice or basmati rice, both of which are safe.
Many traditional Indian desserts are made with flour, so they're off limits. Peni is a dessert similar to donuts, but it's made with maida, which is a wheat-based flour. Chiroti is a rice pudding dessert that's also made with maida, so it's not gluten-free. You don't have to finish your meal without a sweet treat. Try rasmalai, which is a dumpling made with cottage cheese and served with thickened milk. Gulab jamun is another gluten-free option. The dessert features balls of milk curd flavored with cardamom and saffron, which are served with sugar syrup.
- The Gluten-Free Bible; Jax Peters Lowell
- Gluten-Free Dining in Indian Restaurants; Kim Koeller and Robert La France
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.