Why Indian Cooking Seems Hard (But It’s Not!)

A delicious gluten free and vegan dish- Chana Masala over white rice on a white dinner plate over a white background.

Why Indian Cooking Seems Hard (But It’s Not!)

 Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission.

Today, we’re diving into a topic that often comes up when we talk about Indian cuisine: why Indian cooking seems hard to Indian food lovers who are not from Indian culture.

As a food blogger, I frequently meet people who LOVE Indian food but are intimidated to cook Indian recipes at home.

But here’s the secret—I’m here to tell you that Indian cooking is not as complicated as it seems! Let’s break it down.

The Aroma of Spices

One of the reasons many people consider Indian food difficult to replicate is the unique blend of spices used in Indian cuisine. The mesmerizing, aromatic spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala can be overwhelming for someone who is new to Indian cooking. The key lies in finding the right balance and proportions of these spices to create those mouthwatering flavors. My recipes are easy with step-by-step directions and pro tips where applicable. You should find success with these recipes.

The Range of Ingredients

A round spice container container the basic Idnian spices.
A spice container called Masala Dabba

Another aspect that may make Indian cooking seem challenging is the seemingly wide variety of ingredients used. From lentils and legumes to an array of vegetables, Indian food celebrates the diversity of flavors and textures.

But fret not! My Indian recipes involve basic pantry staples that you probably already have on hand, such as onions, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes. Once you get a hang of these essentials, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how versatile Indian recipes can be.

Remember the trick to keeping the overwhelm down is to know that Indian food will always use some core spices. They usually are turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and garam masala. I’m not saying that all recipes call for these 5 spices but they are used in some combination in many of the Indian recipes. Consider these core spices as one ingredient or skip beyond these when you’re reading my recipes (as these are core and you have them at hand or will before you start your Indian cooking adventure). ☺️

This cauliflower recipe Adraki Gobi and Peas Pulao are examples of easy, delicious recipes with pantry ingredients.

Complexity of Techniques

A small pan with hot oil and some Indian spices.
A Tadka pan with aromatic spices and herbs

Indian cooking could involve various techniques like tempering spices, making fresh spice pastes, and slow cooking to develop complex flavors.

These techniques are simple and definitely doable! Take tempering, for example—the process of briefly frying spices in oil or ghee, which enhances their flavors and aromas. So simple, and with this technique under your belt, you’ll love the rich flavors they bring to your kitchen!

Recipes, where you’ll be using this technique, are in the Adraki Gobi and Peas Pulao example above as well as Beans Poriyal and South Indian Style Cabbage Curry

The Fear of Heat

One common misconception about Indian food is that it’s always fiery hot.

Now, I won’t lie—spicy dishes are a part of Indian cuisine, but not every dish is loaded with heat. Indian cooking is all about balancing flavors, and you have the freedom to adjust the level of spice according to your taste. You can easily reduce or omit chili peppers if you prefer a milder version.

Don’t let the fear of heat hold you back from exploring the amazing world of Indian flavors!

Embracing Imperfections and Fear of Not Being “Authentic”

In Indian culture, cooking is not just about following recipes—it’s also about adding a touch of love and intuition.

Unlike baking, Indian cooking is forgiving and allows for adjustments along the way. So, don’t be afraid to get creative and make tweaks to suit your taste. You might just stumble upon your own signature dish! Maybe the dish won’t look like the photo in the recipe you are following or maybe you’re doing without a couple of ingredients like whole warming spices like whole cinnamon, cloves, or cardamom- not the end of the world! If you have garam masala you can sprinkle that instead of whole aromatic spices and that is fine!

Once I put a jar of spaghetti sauce as a substitute for tomatoes in my chicken curry. I was wondering how the basil and oregano would work in an Indian curry but it was delicious!

I’m sure there are many people who would balk at what I just wrote, but to me, it’s about the process and being flexible.

Sourcing Concerns

I used to offer Indian cooking classes at my local Community Education Center and I always had a full class and engaged students. In fact, it was these classes that inspired me to start my Instagram blog @eatswithmish in 2020 and now my WordPress cooking blog which is brand new!

They inspired me because I saw how much people enjoyed the classes and how pleasantly surprised they were to see how easy the recipes were to follow and how delicious the recipe turned out when they cooked themselves!

MOST ASKED QUESTION wasn’t about the recipe but where to find the spices. I realized a lot of times people shied away from cooking Indian food was the perception that sourcing these spices is going to be hard.

GOOD NEWS! Most of the basic Indian spices are found in all neighborhood grocery stores- cumin, coriander, turmeric, and garam masala are mainstream now.

The only things you will need to go into an Indian grocery store for would be to get curry leaves (I have a few South Indian recipes needing this herb), or fresh frozen shredded coconut that I mention in the Beans Poriyal recipe, South Indian cabbage Curry and Coconut Chutney.

Finally, almost everything nowadays is available on Amazon and just a click away!

A point to remember is that in India due to the variety of languages, an ingredient has a lot of different names. Say you type in cumin seeds in Amazon, you might see listings for Jeera as well as cumin seeds. This is because “jeera” is the Hindi word for cumin. But most listings have the Indian name and the English name listed together, so you should have no trouble sourcing any of the items I mention.

Of course, if you have any questions email me at mish@eatswithmish.com or eatswithmish@gmail,com.

Let’s Do This!

An oval plate of Basmati rice with some spices like cumin, a black bowl of green pallak paneer and a wooden spoon on the left side placed on a round light and dark brown striped wooden trivel with a green plant on the left upper corner peeking out. The background is light gray.
Palak Paneer and Basmati RIce

So there you have it—Indian cooking might seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be!

With the right resources, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to experiment, anyone can recreate the vibrant, flavorsome dishes that make Indian cuisine so beloved.

Don’t be afraid to dive into the world of Indian cooking and explore the rich tapestry of flavors waiting to be discovered right in your own kitchen. Happy cooking, and know I’m with you every step of the way! ❤️

Written by:

HI! IM MISH. nice to meet you! My mission is to lower barriers and show you that cooking delicious Indian food is much simpler than you think. Let's get started on this culinary adventure together, and bring the joy of Indian flavors to your home!

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