Indian food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, but did you know it can also be one of the healthiest? Indian-style cooking offers a wealth of flavour-packed dishes for all kinds of health-focused diets. Compared to many other cuisines, it’s relatively easy to find low-carb Indian food, thanks to its focus on wholesome ingredients dressed up in rich spices.
With a range of delicious meat-based and vegetarian meals to choose from, Indian food is a great choice for many low-carb eaters, as long as you select the right dishes and avoid carb-heavy sides. With an abundance of spices in every dish, you don’t have to sacrifice your enjoyment of great-tasting food to cut back the carbs.
In this article, we’ll explore some delectable keto-friendly Indian dishes. Adjust the spice levels and you’ll have delicious meals for the whole family.
Is Indian food keto-friendly?
Indian cuisine offers a wealth of dishes that fit almost perfectly into a keto macro split. So what is the goal when it comes to eating keto? A keto diet is essential a low-carbohydrate, high-fat approach to eating, intended to trigger ketosis. This means your body will burn fats for fuel rather than carbohydrates.
With that principle in mind, a keto diet involves limiting your intake of carbohydrates, often around 20 to 50 grams per day. To compensate, you eat significant amounts of fats from healthy sources such as fish, eggs, meat, nuts, and healthy oils.
Another thing to consider is your protein consumption – protein should be eaten in moderation if you’re on a keto diet. That’s because if consumed in significant amounts, the body can convert protein into glucose, which is then burned for energy. The addition of extra glucose can impede ketosis, so it’s best not to overload on the meat at every meal.
If we’re avoiding carbs and limiting protein, where do most of our calories come from? On keto, we want to focus on fats as the major source of sustenance. One of the reasons Indian meals are so keto-friendly is the amount of fat in healthy oils used to cook them – in fact, Indian ghee (or clarified butter) is one of the most-recommended cooking oils for ketoers worldwide.
A lot of Indian dishes also use slow-cooked, high-fat cuts of meat, such as beef and chicken, as the main ingredient. When stewed slowly in a curry, all this beautiful fat is retained in the finished dish, rather than drained off.
Of course, you’ll still want to be selective about which recipes you choose and avoid carb-heavy sides like rice and naan bread. Instead, focus on fat- and protein-rich mains like curries served with cauli rice or cloud bread rather than naan.
If there’s an Indian restaurant near you or if you have an Indian neighbour who loves cooking, you can ask them for some of their favourite recipes to try at home. Most recipes can be modified to make them more keto-friendly – consider leaving out high-carb vegetables like potatoes and replacing starchy sides with the alternatives above. For vegetarian dishes, avoid chickpeas and lentils, and instead pair low-carb veg with egg or halloumi.
Keto Indian Food: Meat Dishes & Keto Friendly Curries
Let’s start with a few Indian meat curries perfect for keto.
Keto biryani weaves a keto-friendly twist to this classic Indian favourite. Full of flavour and incredibly nutritious, the standard rice is swapped for cauliflower, adding fibre and subtracting carbs. In addition, any kind of lean meat can be used for this dish – beef, lamb, or even chicken. To add an extra fat boost, you can top the biryani with natural yoghurt or a sprinkling of almonds.
If you have an affinity for tender and slow-cooked curry, you have to try this delicious chunky beef madras. Made according to the recipe, it has only 250 calories – 450 calories less than most curries. To adapt it for a keto diet, replace some of the water with coconut cream. This will increase the calorie count, but it adds richness and healthy fats to the dish, perfect to pair with tender cauliflower rice.
Here’s another creative twist on a classic chicken curry. Rather than coconut milk or cream used in most curries, this dish uses full-fat yoghurt, the best variety for keto. It also includes loads of onions and tomatoes cooked down slowly to give the dish a whole lot of flavour. Finish with a tablespoon of butter for extra richness and fat content.
Easy to prepare and far better than the takeout version, this hearty chicken dish never fails to delight. Four ingredients make it unique: brown or black cardamom pods, fenugreek leaves, mild chilli powder, and red tandoori colour (optional, but you can find it at your local Indian grocery store). You can substitute green cardamom if it’s all you can find, and leave out the chilli powder if your family prefers no heat at all. Serve with fresh coriander leaves, cauliflower rice, and extra yoghurt.
Easy to prepare and totally delicious, this keto chicken tikka masala is packed with flavour. The chicken is first marinated to lock in that mouth-watering goodness, then stewed in a creamy spiced curry sauce. All ingredients are commonly found in your pantry or your local supermarket, too – this curry is based on tinned tomatoes with a touch of thickened cream to finish. Both marinade and curry are made from scratch in this recipe, so it isn’t the fastest keto curry, but the depth of flavour is well worth the effort. You can also use the Thermomix method to get this dish on the table even faster.
White fish is known for its tender texture and mild flavour, making it perfect for family-friendly dinners. If you use your blender or Thermomix instead of chopping, this recipe is even quicker to put together! The original recipe uses cod, but any white fish such as haddock or halibut would work as well. These chunky pieces of fish swim in a rich coconut milk curry, offering a healthy dose of fats for keto eaters. The richness of the curry beautifully balances the delicate flavour of the fish, making it an excellent change from chicken and beef curries.
Keto Indian Food: Vegetarian Dishes
If you’re a vegetarian, then you will love these keto-friendly Indian vegetarian dishes.
Eggs are a humble yet nutritious staple ingredient in many Indian dishes – and the same is true of keto cuisine as well. I’ve featured this recipe in my 10 Ways With Eggs eBook to demonstrate that eggs are far more versatile than just ‘poached or scrambled’. This keto-friendly mushroom and egg korma is a spicy vegetarian curry that can be enjoyed with simple cauliflower rice. Lots of onions, tomatoes, and Middle Eastern spices are added to give it a well-rounded flavour. You can also mop up the delicious curry sauce with any Indian bread, like my favourite keto naan – see the recipe below!
Who says that veggies are bland and boring? Keeping the carbs to a minimum also doesn’t mean missing out on flavour. Just check out this keto-friendly turmeric roasted cauliflower and almond curry, which doesn’t fail to tickle your palate. This dish features healthy and keto-friendly veggies such as cauliflower florets and spinach, combined with halloumi cheese, coconut milk, and rich spices.
This delectable keto-friendly dish starts in my Vegetarian Keto eBook. It has plenty of recipes to help with your keto meal planning, all enjoyed by my own family for our meat-free meals. Cutting out the meat can be a real challenge on keto, so the variety of delicious veggie dishes in Indian cuisine is a great place to start.
This bold yet easy-to-prepare vegetarian dish is ideal for a side or a filling vegetarian meal. It incorporates cauliflower and tomatoes in a thick, spiced sauce made of coconut milk, vegetable stock, and spices. It also includes a dash of saffron for an elegant flavour, making this a great meal to serve to guests. Cauliflower is, of course, the star keto-friendly vegetable – rather than an extra helping of cauli rice, you can serve this one with keto naan bread.
Keto Indian Food: Side Dishes & Rice Substitutes
It can be tricky to avoid rice when tucking into Indian food, especially if you’re eating at a restaurant. You’ll probably have to skip the sides and stick with a curry or tandoori dish for takeout, but if you’re eating at home, you can whip up delectable keto-friendly side dishes.
Side dishes like my staple cauliflower rice can be kept in the freezer. This makes it easy to add your own low carb rice alternative if you do bring home Indian takeaway on a busy evening. You can find my cauliflower rice recipe (and a cauliflower-and-broccili variation) in my Keto Basics eBook.
Here are some keto side dish suggestions perfect to serve with curries:
If you’re a stickler for rice with curry but you’re trying to cut back the carbs, consider trying this cabbage ‘rice’ as a tasty alternative to riced cauliflower. This dish is ideal as a healthy side or even a meal in itself. For extra flavour, add in traditional Indian spices such as curry powder, garlic and turmeric, then stir fry in ghee for a few minutes. To turn this into a full meal, add mince and some keto-friendly veg like capcisum.
This delectable side dish takes 30 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook, but it’s all worth it! Place it in a sterilized, tightly sealed jar, and the pickles should last for a month. You can also buy pre-made turmeric pickle in jars if you’re not keen to make your own. While the macros aren’t totally ideal for keto, a small quantity with your meal doesn’t hurt, and I love the anti-inflammatory health benefits of turmeric.
Naan is a delicious, healthy leavened bread popular in India, Myanmar, Indonesia, and other Asian countries. Typically off-limits when you’re cutting out carbs, this keto-friendly take on naan makes it even lighter and fluffier than the classics, if you can believe it! It pairs perfectlyl with any of the curries above, both meat-based and vegetarian. This keto naan recipe is made from coconut flour and free of eggs and gluten. It’s also easy and quick to prepare, so it’s always my go-to side dish for a curry.
Keto Indian Food: Beverages
After enjoying any of the delicious meals above, you may want to finish off with a refreshing keto-friendly drink. Here are some Indian beverages that won’t compromise your keto diet.
I love using turmeric in as many dishes as possible, desserts and drinks included! This keto turmeric milkshake is a must-try – it’s not only low in carbs, but also vegan, gluten-free and nut-free, depending on which alteranative milk you choose. This after-dinner drink includes 2 Tbsp of coconut oil, as well as ginger powder, turmeric, cinnamon, and Himalayan salt for a turmeric latte flavour. Just add a granulated sweetener to taste!
A keto-friendly take on a classic chai, this delightful tea both calms the nerves and gives you an after-lunch pick-me-up. It’s also perfect on cold mornings, and you can even add a keto creamer or MCT oil if preferred. Like a traditional chai, this keto version is made with black tea and spices, using heavy whipping cream instead of milk for a fat boost.
Is besan carb-free?
Besan, also known as gram flour or chickpea flour, is made from ground chickpeas. It’s a common ingredient in Indian, Burmese, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nepali, and Sri Lankan cuisines. However, it is high in carbohydrates, with 22 grams of carbohydrates per 100-gram serving. For this reason, using besan flour is not ideal for keto diets.
Is naan bread healthy?
Naan is a type of leavened, oven-baked bread found in many western and southern Asian cuisines. Health experts advised that naan bread should be eaten in moderation. That’s because naan bread is full of less healthy ingredients such as sugar, fatty oils, and flour. However, if you’re making naan yourself at home, you can opt for a whole meal or low-carb recipe instead.
Which curry pastes are keto-friendly?
Many commercially available curry pastes contain added sugar, meaning they aren’t ideal for a keto diet. Look for curry with short, simple, and natural ingredients lists. Avoid brands which contain vegetable oil, cornstarch, sugar, artificial colours, and artificial flavours.
I recommend Mae Ploy curry pastes and Thai Gourmet curry pastes, both with fairly clean ingredients and without additives like MSG. Seasoning powders are a good alternative too, as long as they’re a health-conscious and low carb brand: some of my family’s favourites are Mingle Butter Chicken and Mingle Curry in a Hurry for quick Indian meals.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning that if you click through and buy something, I may get a (very) small commission. This doesn’t cost you any extra and helps me build my passion for keto cooking into a livelihood. All opinions and recommendations reflect my own views.
Note: All nutritional values and product information is accurate at the time of posting, but you should always check the label, especially when it comes to allergens or other health concerns. Information shared through this blog is derived from my own experience and learning – for any medical advice regarding diet and nutrition, or before changing your diet drastically, I recommend consulting a doctor or nutritionist.