Don't leave Indian food for take-out only! Bringing this cultural food into your home is not only easy, but also packed with flavorful recipes that are easy for parents to make at home!
This handy Beginner's Guide to Kid Friendly Indian Food is the perfect way to expand your family’s palate.
Indian cuisine is known for its complex flavor profiles, generous use of spices, and great sauces. Most Indian cooks adhere to an Ayurvedic principle that says that every dish should contain six key elements of taste - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. Indian cooks are masters of creating balance with tastes, textures, and flavors. Which means that each meal is a fantastic opportunity to explore the world of flavor!
If you haven’t gone over the above guide it’s a good place to start so that you can successfully introduce your children to new and adventurous foods. Here’s some things to get you started on your food adventure into Indian cuisine!
Indian Cuisine 101
India is divided into 34 regional styles of cooking, which vary vastly from each other. Here in the United States we tend to generalize them into “Northern Indian Cuisine” and “Southern Indian Cuisine”. (Remember, this is a guide for beginners! We are keeping it super basic here). Most of what we are served in restaurants is Northern Indian style with a strong British influence.
Northern Indian Cuisine
Northern Indian cuisine is hearty with complex spice mixes, dairy products such as butter, cream and ghee, and is commonly cooked in a tandoori clay oven. A lot of wheat is grown in North India, so you will also see a lot of baked breads including naan, roti, and paratha.
Southern Indian Cuisine
Vegetarian dishes heavy on the spice are very typical of Southern Indian cuisine. These dishes are less likely to use butter or milk, but also tend to feature coconut and more seafood. Southern Indian cuisine also favors rice over breads.
Is Indian food spicy?
Spices are a big part of indian cooking, but that doesn’t mean that every dish will make you feel like your insides are melting. Not every dish is super spicy!
Tips to make Indian food for kids:
Indian food is totally kid friendly - after all, kids in India eat it everyday! Here are a few simple ways you can help your family learn to love Indian food.
- Include known favorites! Make sure you are also serving foods that you know your kids will like and eat on the side. This is a great time for simple side dishes and fruit, so even if they only try a bite or two they still have plenty of food on their plate to eat!
- Rice and Bread! Most Indian meals can be served with basmati rice or a flat bread (either naan or roti). Or you can go carb-crazy and serve both! Either way, its a good neutral flavor to add to your meal, and are great for soaking up extra sauce.
- Go easy on the spices. Indian food does include a LOT of spices. Talk with your kids about the differences between heavily spiced and spicy-hot. If it is the first (or even the second) time you have made a new dish, I often recommend using half the called for amount of spices as an easy way to introduce the flavors to your kids. Then as your family gets used to the recipe you can increase the amount of spices you use.
- Yogurt! Stirring in some plain yogurt is a great way to cut down on the intensity level of flavors. Serving some cooling riata on the side is great, too! And if its a tomato based dish, you can add in some extra tomato paste or puree to diluate the strong flavors as well.
- Get them involved and interested! Check out books from your local library, ask them to help you pick out recipes, and help you prepare the meals. The more involved and interested they are, the more likely they are to eat it!
- Dipping Sauce. Indian cuisine has a great array of dipping sauces like chutneys, riatas, and more. Food is always more fun when you can dip it in something! You can even pull out some of the sauce of each recipe and use that as a dip.
Top Indian ingredients:
The follow is a basic list of common ingredients found in Indian food! Most of them should be really familiar to your family already! Use this list to not only stock your pantry for quick Indian recipes, but to talk with your kids about how they recognize these ingredients from other recipes and meals you have had.
- Basmati rice
- Coconut milk
- Lentils and dal (look like yellow split peas)
- Paneer cheese (similar to pressed cottage cheese)
Indian spice guide:
Most of these spices can be found whole or ground in most major grocery stores, so no need to hunt down a speciality store!
- Black pepper
- Fennel seeds
- Mustard seeds
*Curry powder: Curry powder as we know it is not something that is used in India! It is actually a spice blend made from dried curry leaves, with some fenugreek and turmeric thrown in. Its kind of a generic flavor you can use!
* Garam Masala - another great spice blend is garam masala, which is made with cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and cloves.
Other resource you might need:
Tools and gadgets for cooking Indian food at home:
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You actually don't need any fancy equipment to enjoy Indian food at home! The following are fun to have, though!
- Cast iron skillet
- Rice maker
- Spice Grinder or mortar and pestle - for grinding whole spices
- Food Processor for creating great dips and sauces
Kid friendly Indian recipes:
Typically, Indian recipes are quite labor intensive and the focus is put on the quality of the taste, not on how quicky it can be made. The following recipes are not “authentic” in that they have been created for busy families to enjoy on weeknights - they are quick, they are easy, and they are meant to capture the spirit of the cuisine and help be a “gateway” to traditional, authentic Indian cuisine.