Gluten-Free Indian Food

Like Thai food, Indian food traditionally offers many naturally gluten-free options; HOWEVER, check with the specific restaurant you select and ALWAYS ask about unlisted ingredients, especially if you have multiple food intolerances.

Dairy is commonly used in Indian dishes, so you may have fewer options than Thai food if you are also dairy-free.

There are also many great options for vegetarians, but meat (such as chicken, lamb, and goat) is also used in many dishes. All meats are traditionally gluten-free, but ask about any marinades or spice mixes (especially if not made on site).

Try to dine at restaurants that make their sauces and gravies from scratch. Avoid fried foods (even if made with non-gluten ingredients), unless they have a dedicated gluten-free fryer or you are not sensitive to gluten contamination.

Indian food often offers a buffet-style lunch option. Most dishes are naturally gluten-free, so there is minimal risk for gluten contamination, but use your own judgment about whether or not to eat from the buffet. It may be less risky to order off the menu.

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Gluten-free Indian food options:*

  • Most entrees:
    • Vindaloo (spicy)
    • Tandoori
    • Chicken Tikka Masala / Butter Chicken (great options for kids) – often contains dairy
    • Achari Fish Takka (marinated white fish)
    • Khagina / Akuri (egg dishes)
    • Chhole masala / Chana masala (chickpeas)
    • Papadum – a lentil cracker that can be a great alternative to wheat-based breads (see below)
    • Dosas – like crepes (check on GF status) – AVOID RAVA DOSA (made with wheat flour)
  • Any rice option (traditionally steamed white or basmati)
    • Poha – flattened rice fried with turmeric, chili powder, onions, mustard seeds (ask about preparation, HIGH contamination risk)
  • Most vegetable-based dishes:
    • Biryani – eggplant, saffron, rice
    • Dal – lentils and split peas
    • Aloo gobhi – potatoes, cauliflower, spices
    • Pakoras – fritters made with lentil flour (no gluten ingredients, HIGH contamination risk)
    • Raitas – yogurt, cucumbers, watercress OR yogurt, bananas, coconut
    • Vegetarian Thalis – platter containing a variety of dishes (check on individual options and preparation risk and ask for rice or papadum in place of wheat-based breads)
  • Some desserts:
    • Rice pudding (check on GF status)
    • Rasmalai – contains dairy (ask about preparation)
    • Gulab jamun (ask about preparation)
    • Kulfi – Indian ice cream, may contain dairy

Watch for:

  • Suji (“wheat”) – gluten ingredient
  • Maida flour – gluten ingredient
  • Curry powder – may be contaminated with gluten, usually found in sauces and gravies
  • Uppama – gluten ingredient
  • Wheat-based or fried appetizers / snacks:
    • Samosas
    • Kachori
    • Dal baati churma
  • Wheat-based breads:
    • Naan
    • Roti
    • Chapati
    • Poori
    • Paratha
  • Wheat-based or fried desserts:
    • Peni
    • Chiroti
    • Jalebi
    • Imarti
  • Any fried foods (unless the food is not coated in wheat and fried in dedicated gluten-free fryer)
  • Ingredients added to base sauces (like masala) or pre-made sauces
    • Hing – spice often mixed with wheat flour and added to chutneys or soups
    • Wheat-based thickeners (more common in Westernized restaurants)

Other common allergens:

  • Nuts (tree nuts and peanuts): ingredient in many dishes, not always listed as an ingredient
  • Dairy: ingredient in many dishes (especially desserts) and beverages
  • Eggs: not always listed as an ingredient

Safest bet:

  • Select restaurants where everything is made from scratch and communication is relatively easy
  • Communicate with your server about that restaurant’s preparation style and your tastes (a great way to try some new dishes!)

*Refers to commonly-used ingredients only. Gluten contamination is ALWAYS a risk when dining out. Ask about food preparation and anything not made from scratch. Communicate your concerns with your server and consider using a dining card

What’s your favorite gluten-free Indian dish?

One Comment

  • Makarand Kokane says:

    I’m an India, and am amazed with your knowledge about Indian food. Hats off! I guess not more than 1% Indians might be knowing so much about our own food.

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