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Eating Vegetarian in India


Date05 Nov 2021


It’s no secret that India is a paradise for vegetarians. Vegetarianism in India is deeply anchored in cultural and religious traditions. According to estimates and surveys, more than one third of the Indian population is vegetarian. However, new research by anthropologist Balmurli Natrajan and economist Suraj Jacob challenges these findings. They believe that the high percentage shown in government surveys might be significantly inflated by religious and political pressures. Their research shows that only around 20 % of all Indians are vegetarian.

What is evident, however, is that the Indian population consumes significantly less meat than other nations. People in India consume five kilogrammes of meat per capita per year. In Germany for example, the per capita consumption is 60 kilograms. Indians eat mainly poultry and lamb. In the coastal regions, there is a lot of fish on the menu. Beef is eaten very little. Since the cow is considered sacred in India, the consumption of beef is frowned upon. In many states, the slaughter and sale of beef is prohibited. But meat consumption is steadily increasing in India. Especially the middle and upper classes are increasingly craving meat.

Whether in hotels, restaurants, small roadside eateries or at a private invitation - vegetarian food is available everywhere and needs no further explanation. Many restaurants are also "pure veg", which means there are neither meat nor egg dishes on the menu. Eating vegetarian in India is easy. For a long time, every vegetarian product has been marked with a green dot. Everything that contains eggs or meat has a red dot.   

We can learn from India that a vegetarian diet does not need any substitute products, such as sausage made of soy or seitan schnitzel.

Indian vegetarian cuisine scores particularly well with protein-rich pulses: Lentils, peas and beans come in different varieties and are prepared in countless ways. But a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds also add diversity to the vegetarian menu. The biggest difference to for example German food, however, is the incredible variety of spices and herbs. Thus, a simple vegetable curry can trigger a taste explosion on your tongue. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as "The Indian vegetarian cuisine" because every state, in fact every region, has different dishes and specialities. Most families also have their own masala (spice) blends that they use for cooking.

Vegans have a slightly harder time in India. Dairy products like yoghurt, paneer (Indian cream cheese), ghee (clarified butter) and cream are highly valued and often found in vegetarian dishes and desserts.

Check out our article on how to eat vegan in India here

What is your experience with eating vegetarian in India? Do you have any further questions? Don’t hesitate to write to us!

Written by: Antje Stiebitz

Cover Photo Credit: 1222Komalkumari1222 - Pixabay

Photo Credit Spices: Prachi Palwe - Unsplash

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