Diet Types in Curry Cravings (TM) recipes

Within the Indian cuisine, there are various sub-culturally specific diet types with minor modifications, practiced routinely, without a misstep. These differ based on religious leanings, subsects, and special event observance. For example not all Indians eat meat, and not all Indian vegetarians eat garlic!!

If you have never dealt with this sort of thing before, a special meal request can become utterly confusing!

Although most diet types are conventional knowledge, I use a slightly expanded system of identifying my recipes here and in my books. There are a few new categories here - so, you may find this interesting.

Gluten free refers to the traditional definition of dishes that do not include gluten. Some recipes may include an ingredient or two which can be substituted to make a gluten free dish. Look for these. Gluten-free adaptable recipes are not called out separately.

Jain refers to Jain foods that are strictly vegetarian and excludes root vegetables like onions and garlic but allows the use of ginger. The Jain premise is that any plant that cannot continue to grow after the harvest of its edible components must be avoided. Jain diets have different levels of acceptance towards food items: Progressive Jains may eat some things that devout Jains don’t. The Jain diet mainly excludes mushrooms, honey, figs, fermented batters (unless they are consumed on the same day) and all alcoholic drinks.

Non-vegetarian refers to Hindu non-vegetarian, and includes dishes made with select animal products including eggs, chicken, goat and seafood. Note that most Hindu non-vegetarians do not eat beef, lamb or pork.

Ritual-friendly dishes are Hindu vegetarian in nature and can be prepared specifically for Hindu religious ceremonies or religious meals and offerings where the inclusion of onions, garlic, meats and alcohol is strictly forbidden. Jain foods are typically ritual friendly.

"No Indian, by birth, lineage or association, needs an excuse to cook or eat something decadent. Most of the Indian population recognizes that life events are markers, require spiritual guidance, and therefore call for special meal consideration—lavish spreads with detailed place settings, decorations with flowers or colored powder (rangoli) or rice paste (alpana)—people’s true expression and joy finds pure manifestation at celebratory feasts. Such life events include a baby’s first “solid” meal, coming-of-age rituals for young adults, weddings, pregnancy showers, religious ceremonies such as a housewarming blessing ceremony, religiously led house cleansing ceremonies, prayer vigils, deaths and the mourning period after the passing of an immediate family member. In Eastern India, unlike other parts of the country, at celebratory and festive meals, meal components are served as separate courses. For example, there will be an appetizer course, a main course and a dessert course with fresh plates and silverware. Such meals as those created for weddings or religious holidays can include up to 16 or more preparations.

Meals created for special occasions are always subject to specific guidelines as determined by individual, subcultural and religious leanings: Food takes on a different role, either as a giver of life or as the bearer of sensory stimulation. On joyous occasions such as a wedding, on the day of the main ceremonies, most couples are required to observe a fast until after the ceremonies are finished, at which time the first morsel consumed by that couple must be a simple “dessert” to reflect the simplicity and sweetness that life brings with the addition of a loved one into their lives. Somber life events such as mourning periods and religious ceremonies such as a house cleansing or housewarming may require that meals be made without the “harsh” or pungent flavors of ingredients such as onions or garlic."

~ A Dozen Ways to Celebrate, 2014

Vegan-adaptable refers to recipes that are vegetarian but can be easily adapted to vegan diets.

Vegan refers to the conventional version of vegan foods, meaning recipes that do not use animal products.

Vegetarian-adaptable refers to non-vegetarian dishes that can be adapted easily to suit a vegetarian diet using substitutions such as mushrooms, paneer, tofu, etc.

Vegetarian refers to Hindu vegetarian and includes dairy products as well as subterranean vegetables (potatoes, ginger, garlic, etc.) but excludes eggs and meats of all kind.

This list is not exhaustive, but will give you a general idea of keeping your menu’s enjoyable for all your guests. Please feel free to email me if you need clarifications!


Nandita Godbole

Once a botanist & landscape architect.

Now a personal chef & author, an artist, graphic designer, blogger & poet. 


Loves freshly brewed chai, the crisp salty ocean breeze, watching monsoon rains & walking barefoot through cold mountain streams. 


Believes in the strength, positivity of the human spirit. Is spiritual but not a fanatic. 


Mom of one. Two, if she counts her husband.

Nandita is a proud member of the Asian American Journalists Association & Association of Food Journalists.

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