HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Wanted: Low calorie and low fat Indian recipes

I love Indian food but the fat and calories are not kind to my cholesterol. Can anyone suggest a good source for low calorie and low fat Indian recipes? A book? A website? I know the taste and texture would somewhat be compromised so I would be happy if you can recomment a book or website that actually has tasty recipes.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Indian food isn't generally fatty or overly calorie dense.

    Many dahl recipes contain only legumes, spices, and aromatics. Like this one.

    Have a look around that sight. It shouldn't be hard to find mountains of great vegetable based based recipes that, at worst, use moderate amounts of ghee.

    1. vahrehvah.com, you can watch him on youtube too, I found his recipes helpful.

      Like Brandon Nelson said, I don't find indian food fatty or unhealthy either, perhaps the way they serve/prepare it in some restaurants? who knows.

      1. maxmillan, I assume you're referring to the southern Indian food most often served in American and UK restaurants. That's probably the highest-fat (especially butterfat in the guise of ghee, cream and paneer) and -calorie cuisine I can think of -- though it isn't representative of all Indian food.

        I'd recommend you check out some northern Indian recipes. Those can be adapted to very low fat cooking. I also have and like the book "Indian Cooking Without Fat" below:


        2 Replies
        1. re: dmd_kc

          dmd_kc, I think you might have flipped north and south in your post. The common "Indian Restaurant" dishes made with lots of oil or ghee and creamy sauces are the Mughal-style northern dishes, but are also more restaurant cooking than home cooking. The southern (Indian) states feature lots of vegetable dishes and "dry" curries, in addition to dishes popular in south-Indian US restaurants, such as dosai, idli, etc. This is all a gross generalization, of course, a gloss on an incredibly diverse and regional cuisine.

          For the OP, I agree with the other posters that Indian cooking is not at all high-fat per se, but restaurant cooking isn't representative of home cooking. Any good Indian cookbooks, such as those by Madhur Jaffrey, will have a diversity of recipes that you can adapt just as yu'd adapt any other cuisine - i.e. only use as much cooking fat as you need to, not necessarily as much as is called for. If you are worried about saturated fat, you can also use a vegetable oil in place of ghee.

          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

            Yes yes -- I need a compass!!!! The southern recipes are the ones I meant!

            Dosas are your friend. That dish alone can keep you fed many times over. But even those in restaurants will have far more fat than you need use at home...

        2. Look for vegan Indian cookbooks/recipes.

          1. My foray into Indian cooking has been made possible by Manjula's Kitchen and Show Me The Curry videos on YouTube. Manjula is Jain (so no onions or garlic for religious/dietary reasons), so I always add onions and garlic to her recipes. Hetal and Anuja from SMTC seem to be cooking for a more western, American palate, so they seem to substitute lower-fat and lower-calorie ingredients where possible.

            Just as a tip for general purposes, I almost always sub non-fat or lowfat evaporated milk for the heavy cream called for in some recipes.

            1. Indian Cooking Without Fat by Mridula Baljekar.

              1. Most Indian food is pretty fattening, and I am not even talking about the creamy Mughlai-Punjabi inspired cream laden restaurant stuff. Indian home cooking tends to be fatty and oily, too. Lots of carby deep fried items, lots of items in which the end result is a centimeter or more of oil rising to the top of the cooked gravy (especially in meat dishes), potatoes in everything, daals tempered with oil, etc.

                Home cooked vegetable stir fries or dry-masala vegetables are pretty healthy though. You can use a non-stick wok shaped vessel, add 1 tbs of oil, stir fry the veggies and cover till they steam.

                Another tip to use less oil is to microwave the veg first and then just stir fry at the end.

                Using less oil like 1-2 tbs instead of the normal 1/4 to 1/2 cup and avoiding all deep fried stuff is the only way to really go low fat. Also eat with less rice, eat veg with no carb, or if you have flat bread, eat only one or two and break it up into your food and scoop it up with a spoon rather than scooping the food up with your flat bread.

                Home cooked Indian food actually doesn't often have cream in it, but if you want a restaurant effect, say on your saag paneer, use a dash of 2% milk instead of cream. I have done the same, and also with daal makhani. It works fine.


                Here is a recipe for bitter gourd and potato dry-masala stir fry, but you can subsitute other vegetables and use less oil, but it explains the principle of Indian long stir fry (as opposed to East Asian flash fry stir fry).

                Good luck to you.

                2 Replies
                1. re: luckyfatima

                  Generally I'm in agreement with you. My favorite dishes to prepare are dry vegetables, particularly okra and cauliflower, which do not require as much oil as specified in recipes. My Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks requires 8 tbsp. of oil for potatoes and cauliflower, I find I can get away with 1-2 tbsp. Daal can be made without a tadka. When my father made raita he used reduced-fat yogurt, though I must confess it's been so long since I bought 2% that I don't know what it tastes like anymore.

                  If one needs a generally low-fat meat, chicken tikka is relatively healthy given that it is made of skinless breast. I have also discovered that turkey makes a great kheema that gives beef/lamb a run for its money without sacrificing any flavor.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    I always reduce the oil in Indian recipes to the bare minimum (or nothing, if not cooking something starchy like potatoes). You can get away with onions cooked brown in a nonstick pan - add a bit of water to them to bloom the spices. The original Madhur Jaffrey recipes and some by other authors have a staggering amount of oil in them.

                2. much of vegetarian indian food is pretty high carb, which is the worst thing of all for your cholesterol. worse than fat. (but forget about the puris, samosas etc which pack a double whammy) You might want to keep your eye out for toovar (toor) dal based recipes, which are I beiieve the lowest cal/highest protein of the dals. Its possible to cook a lot of dishes in a minimum of fat (for meat draining off the extra), but I would sacrifice the tadka (final seasoning cooked in just a little oil) last, I think. Serving size cotrol (especially of rice and dal) is a good idea.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jen kalb

                    Yes often for meat/chicken dishes I use 1/4 cup or more oil and pour nearly all of it off at the end of cooking, works just fine. You just can't achieve the proper "bhunofying" effect without a good amount of oil in a lot of dishes.

                    The baghaar or tarka is what gives daal taste so I just use less oil for that, but I just can't give it up, no way.

                    That's interesting about toovar daal. It is one of those daals with a smell/undertaste so it isn't my favorite but I will have to give it more consideration knowing it is healthier.

                    1. re: luckyfatima

                      You have to wash it like mad of course, gets rid of much of the odd taste.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        you talking about the oily form? these days its not necessary to buy that version of toovar dal. In the old days that was all we could find in US and you had to wash it in warm water to get rid of the oil.

                        You know, I made a claim for toovar dal above - I will try to post back with some additional info on it.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Yes, I haven't bought it in quite a while.

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            I have seen the oily form at the store but I have no clue what that is even for. Can you enlighten me? I thought it was something South Indians used.

                            I meant just the regular toor daal, it still has that undertaste/smell when cooked. I use it for sambhar and khatti daal (sour daal). I'll try washing it more and see what happens.

                            1. re: luckyfatima

                              I think it was oiled originally as an insect deterrent. I don't know why this type would be more susceptible to infestation though. It does have a taste unlike other dal.

                    2. Here's a recipe for Chana Punjabi. I discovered this on The Wednesday Chef website. http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_w.... The flavors are great and it's so quick and easy to make. I also love that I can make this easily anytime the mood strikes, because the ingredients are all pantry staples for me.

                      1. I'm not sure whether this is available in the States, but I've been cooking a bit from Anjum's New Indian, which is a lighter take on Indian food. I don't think you can avoid some oil in Indian cooking, but you can definitely cut back a bit sometimes.


                        1. Check out "Curried Favors," by Maya Kaimal MacMillan. There's not a lot of added fat in her recipes to begin with, so any modifications you might want to make should not stray too far from the original. Good food.

                          FYI, this book received the Julia Child award for best first cookbook the year it was published.

                          1. look out for maharashtrian cookbooks. its a wonderful cuisine - esp supremely delicious vegetarian dishes, mostly cooked with very little oil, heavy spices etc.

                            here is an example online for (my favourite way) to cook cauliflower:


                            1. Here's a recipe I make often:


                              I like mine thick, last time I made it i used 3/4 as much water and cooked it, lid off (after cooking it lid on as per recipe) for about 40 min on medium low heat. longer than they recommend. I skip the salt too.