Known for its exotic arsenal of food choices, Indian cuisine is not only one of the most diverse and versatile of cuisines, it also scores aces when it comes to health. Sadly, as Indians, we often consider our cuisine inferior to Western food, maybe not in terms of flavor, but when it comes to protein sources. However, this is more mythical than it is true.
It is common knowledge that the spices used in Indian cuisine, including coriander, turmeric, cumin, cloves, cardamom, carom, etc. to name a few, are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help prevent several diseases. However, Indian food also has something else going for it aside from the color, spice, and unique flavor that it offers – in the name of, Protein!
That’s right. If you’re Indian or you simply love Indian food, and are into fitness/bodybuilding/powerlifting, there are several high protein options you can utilize for your nutrition needs in training. Contrary to popular belief, there are also many vegetarian options in Indian food that are high in protein.
Indian food, whether you realize or not, is actually high in protein relative to many cuisines in the world outside of the U.S. (you can’t beat their steak potency 🙂 ).
Now, a lot of dishes in Indian cuisine are also very inefficient when it comes to their macros distribution (protein:fat:carbs ratio) – the potato and wheat carbs overload in Aloo paratha comes to mind. But if you choose the right ones, there are plenty of dishes that are power packed with protein.
Here’s a list of 10 go-to Indian dishes that will take care of your protein intake needs whether you’re a bodybuilder, fitness junkie, or simply a healthy eater looking for protein-rich foods.
This all-time favorite grilled chicken recipe is a consistent victim of Indian cravings. In Indian cuisine, it is one of the more delicious ways of cooking chicken.
The bulk of the protein is obviously obtained from the chicken here. But another important ingredient in Tandoori chicken is Yogurt, which is also high in protein. Further barbecued with tandoori masala, onions, and garlic, this makes for a super tasty high-protein dish which is perfect after a date with the barbells.
Paneer is an Indian term for cottage cheese cubes which are primarily made from milk. Hence, these are very high in protein, despite being vegetarian food. Any recipe involving Paneer, therefore, is an excellent source of protein. Palak paneer, matar paneer, paneer makhani, and paneer tikka are just some recipes you can opt for.
That said, Palak Paneer is easily the healthiest choice out of these since its gravy is made of spinach.
Rajma, or red kidney beans, are a staple food for many North Indian families. Among North Indians, Punjabis are known to make the best Rajma, and they are known to best enjoy it as well.
Not only is Rajma delicious and healthy, these red kidney beans house 24g of protein per 100g. This amount of protein is relatively high and almost comparable to that of red meat!
It is known to one and all that Eggs are one of the most efficient protein-rich superfoods. One egg, just one, has 6g of high-quality protein.
Egg Keema is a unique Indian dish in which you ground the egg in small scrambled pieces and cook it in Indian spices and masala. Unlike the stereotypical Indian dishes, Egg keema is very easy to prepare and can make for an extremely high protein meal.
Egg keema is definitely a diverse way of cooking eggs if you’re a lifter looking for some deviation from your boring hard boiled eggs.
Another dish of Punjabi origins, Chole (Chana/Chickpeas) is an excellent source of protein, similar to red kidney beans. The main ingredient in Chole is a type of chickpea called the Chana or Kala Chana. These chickpeas are cooked in a spicy gravy called Chana masala and usually eaten with “Batura” – which is a type of Indian bread.
Chole is a very popular dish among vegetarian bodybuilders in India. One can prepare Chickpeas in several ways too, whether it is boiled, in gravy, or even roasted for snacks.
Curd is an essential component in every Indian family’s dining table and is widely used in Indian cuisine. It looks like greek yogurt in appearance and is essentially a variation of Yogurt. Since curd is obtained from milk, it has a high amount of protein (around 10g per cup).
Another popular drink in Indian cuisine known as “Lassi” which is made by diluting the curd and yogurt with water and adding spice. It is a high-protein yogurt drink that is consumed for refreshment and energy. So if the texture of curd doesn’t coincide to your liking, go for Lassi instead!
Soybean-based recipes are a popular source of protein among vegetarians all over the world. Although Soya comes from Soybean which is part of the legume family, it’s texture when cooked can be similar to that of meat.
For this reason, “Soya chunks” is a popular dish in India since it satisfies the meat texture craving for vegetarians. Small Soya chunks are typically made in some sort of masala (spicy paste). Soya is also used in many types of “Veggie meat”, which is just soya that is shaped and cooked to look and feel like meat.
Aside from Soya chunks, Soya can be utilized in many other forms including tofu, miso soup, soy milk, and tempeh. Soya is significantly healthy as it is high in protein and has cancer-fighting properties. However, excess intake of soy can create problems like gout and excess estrogen in men.
Until today, much of India’s population is predominantly raised and fed with variations of Dals/Lentils, including yellow mung dal, chana dal, masoor dal, urad dal, black chana, moth dal, etc. These types of lentils are found and grown in India so there is an abundant supply of them.
Dals are extremely cheap and at the same time very high in protein and nutrients, making it attractive to Indian families, especially the less privileged ones who can’t afford meat for their protein intake.
Kari Pakora (Besan)
Kari Pakora is a rich North Indian dish which is made by submerging small Besan pakora pieces into a delicious curry made from spices and yogurt.
Besan (gram flour) is obtained from grounding yellow chana lentils, which makes it not only delicious but also very high in protein. Besan is often used as an ingredient to increase a dish’s protein content. Further, the curry in Kari Pakora is made from yogurt, which is again a high-protein ingredient.
You wouldn’t have guessed this one, would’ve you? That’s because Chapati (otherwise known as roti or Indian flatbread) is supposed to be the carbohydrates part of the Indian meal. Amazingly, Chapati is made from wheat flour, not white flour, so it contains as much as 4g of protein per medium-sized Chapati.
On average, one can consume 2-3 pieces of Chapati per meal, so it is possible to get around 10g of protein from your meal just from Chapati! On the flipside, you can’t overdo it since wheat contains gluten, and too much gluten is never good for you.
What are your favorite high-protein Indian dishes that are not in this list? Share them with everyone by commenting down below!