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21 lesser-known cuisines of India

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India is a land of diverse flavours. Here at every 100 kilometre flavour changes, but what remains constant is the unconditional love, with which food is served in every Indian home. While we know about many popular cuisines that are native to India, today, here is a look at some lesser-known Indian cuisines which are not just flavourful but nutritious as well.

Indian cuisine can be broadly categorized into several regional cuisines, each with its own unique culinary traditions. Some of the most well-known regional cuisines include North Indian, South Indian, East Indian, West Indian, and Northeast Indian cuisines. Within each region, there are further subdivisions based on states, cities, communities, and even neighborhoods, each contributing to the diversity of Indian cuisine.

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Indian cuisine is known for its extensive vegetarian options, with many regions having predominantly vegetarian diets influenced by religious and cultural practices such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. However, there are also many non-vegetarian dishes, especially in regions with coastal areas or a history of meat-eating communities.

Each region of India has its own signature dishes and specialties based on local ingredients, climate, culture, and historical influences. For example, North Indian cuisine is known for its rich curries, tandoori dishes, and bread like naan and roti, while South Indian cuisine features rice-based dishes like dosas, idlis, and sambars, often accompanied by coconut-based chutneys and seafood.
Spices play a central role in Indian cooking, adding depth, flavor, and complexity to dishes. Common spices used in Indian cuisine include cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, mustard seeds, fenugreek, and red chili powder. Spice blends like garam masala, curry powder, and chaat masala are also widely used.

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Rice, wheat, millet, and lentils are staple foods in Indian cuisine and form the basis of many dishes. Rice is typically served with a variety of curries, dals (lentil dishes), and biryanis, whole wheat-based dishes like roti, naan, and paratha are common in North India. Legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black gram, and pigeon peas are also widely used in vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
From the flavorful dishes of Chettinad in Tamil Nadu to the tribal fare of Nagaland, and the robust flavors of Kumaoni cuisine in Uttarakhand, these hidden gems showcase the vastness and complexity of India’s gastronomic heritage. Scroll down to learn in detail about these cuisines, which celebrate local produce and spices, making each one of them truly unique.
Mappila Cuisine
This cuisine is native to the Muslim community of Malabar region of Kerala. As per food experts, it is a flavorful fusion of Arabian, Persian, and Indian influences. Known for its aromatic spices and coconut-based dishes, Mappila cuisine boasts unique flavors. The signature dishes of this cuisine are Thalassery Biryani, Pathiri, and Mutton Stew. The use of rich spices like cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon, along with coconut and ghee, imparts a distinct taste. And for those with a sweet tooth, they offer dishes like Unnakai and Kozhikodan Halwa.

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Kathaiwadi Cuisine
Kathiawadi cuisine, hailing from the Kathiawar region in Gujarat, India, is a vibrant and spicy culinary variety. Renowned for its bold flavors and diverse vegetarian delights, the cuisine reflects the region’s cultural richness. Dhokla, Thepla, and Undhiyu are iconic dishes that showcase the mastery of blending spices. The extensive use of garlic, chili, and mustard oil characterizes Kathiawadi cuisine, creating a symphony of tastes. Whether savoring the famed Kathiawadi Thali or indulging in the delectable Fafda-Jalebi combination, this cuisine offers a gastronomic journey through the aromatic and spicy landscapes of Kathiawar.
Malvani cuisine
Malvani cuisine is native to the coastal Konkan region of Maharashtra and is a seamless fusion of coastal flavors and spicy delights. This cuisine is famous for its seafood specialties, which uses a blend of coconut, red chilies, and tangy tamarind. Surmai Fry, Malvani Fish Curry, and Sol Kadi are iconic dishes showcasing the region’s culinary expertise. The use of Malvani masala, a potent spice blend, infuses a unique taste. From the fiery curries to the delectable sweets like Malvani Khaja, this cuisine offers a rich and spicy journey through the coastal landscapes of Malvan, leaving taste buds tantalized with its distinct coastal charm.

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Chettinad Cuisine
Chettinad cuisine belongs to the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu. This cuisine is characterized by a myriad of spices, including star anise, black stone flower, and marathi mokku, Chettinad dishes boast fiery and robust tastes. The signature dishes of this cuisine includes Chettinad Chicken Curry, Chettinad Fish Fry, and Atho. The use of ground spices, coconut, and poppy seeds contributes to the distinctive taste.

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Bodo cuisine
This cuisine is native to the Bodo tribe of Assam and is known for its use of bamboo shoots, pork, and fish in dishes like joha chawal (aromatic rice) and fish tenga (sour fish curry). Tunga Bwtwi, Rikam Kuri, and Xaak Aru Bhaji are some of the other signature dishes that highlight the Bodo tribe’s gastronomic prowess.
Garhwali cuisine
Native to the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, Garhwali cuisine celebrates the usage of locally grown grains and vegetables, lending a unique flavor to the dishes such as Chainsoo, Phaanu, and Kafuli. Other celebrated dishes of this cuisine are Jhangore ki Kheer, Aloo Ke Gutke, Thechwani, Garhwal ka Fannah, Dhapdi, Arsa, and more.

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Kongunadu cuisine
This cuisine is native to the Kongunadu region in Tamil Nadu and features dishes like Thengai Chicken, Mokkajonna Vada, Gongura paneer, Tamalapaku Bajji, Aratikaya bajji etc. Kongunadu cuisine differs from Chettinad cuisine in its conservative use of certain spices, and ample drizzlings of pepper, jeera and grated fresh turmeric. The cuisine uses ingredients that are locally sourced like freshwater fish and country chicken; short-grain rice like ponni; kollu or horse gram (mostly used in rasam); dried or grated coconut; and a variety of region-specific vegetables.

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Muthuvan Cuisine
This cuisine is native to the Muthuvan tribe and it borrows the flavours from both Tamil Nadu and Kerala cooking styles. As per experts, they use a lot of freshwater fish and livestock including hens, goats and pigs. Goat milk is widely used in cooking curries and gravy preparations. They are also the consumers of millets and ragi, and often depend on red rice for their staple food. The use of coconut milk and water in cooking and fermenting shows their Kerala influence.

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Khandeshi cuisine
This cuisine is from the Khandesh region of Maharashtra, known for its fiery and flavorful vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes made with a variety of lentils, peanuts, and spices. The cuisine is known for its Kala Mala spice, which is made with 25 spices and the name ‘Kala’ is attributed to its intense, dark hue and the incorporation of dagad phool or lichen flower, a unique ingredient indigenous to Maharashtra. The popular dishes of the region are Shev Bhaji, Vangyache Bharit, Kalgoan Jalebi, Dubuk Wade, Khandeshi Chaas, and more.

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Tamil Brahmin Cuisine
This cuisine is dominated by vegetarian delights that caters to the six tastes as per Ayurveda, including sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent. They use a lot of pepper, cumin, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and asafoetida in their cooking. Sambar, Vatha Kuzhambu and Mor Kuzhambu tops the list of most popular kuzhambu in the Brahmin’s kitchen. Other popular dishes of the cuisine are Kootu (stews), Poriyal, Thayir Sadham, Rasam, Pappad, and more.

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Coorg Cuisine
Inspired by the local cuisine of Coorg, this cuisine mainly features rice. Their dosas and rotis are also made with rice. Another South Indian cuisine with non-vegetarian dishes dominating it, a lot of dishes of this cuisine are cooked in coconut oil. Kadambattu and Koli Kari are some of their most popular dishes.
Konkani Cuisine
This cuisine is native to the Konkan region and here the food is mostly influenced by the traditions and culture of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. Seafood like prawns, crabs and fish, coconut and local spices are some of the main ingredients used in their delicacies. Although Konkani foods are predominantly non-vegetarian, the vegetarian fare is equally delicious. The famous dishes of this cuisine are Sol Kadi, Konkani Grilled Fish,Fish Recheado, Prawn Balchao with Feni, Khatkhate and more.
Parsi Cuisine
This cuisine is native to ‘Parsis’ or ‘parsees’ who were descendants of Zoroastrians who fled Iran during the Arab invasion in the 17th century. The cuisine has glimpses of Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Iranian and British flavours. This cuisine is known for its three spice mixes, including garam masala, sambhar masala and dhansak masala. The cuisine also uses a lot of coconut in its dishes along with dried red chilli, fresh green chilli, coconut milk, ginger-garlic paste and tamarind juice. The must-try dishes of this cuisine are Sali Boti, Akuri, Sali Marghi, Parsi Mutton Cutlet, Patra Ni Machi, Dhansak, and Lagan Nu Custard.

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Telangana Cuisine
Telangana cuisine is known for its unique spice levels and use of ingredients such as tamarind, sesame seeds, red chillies and asafoetida. The cuisine offers a good blend of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Telangana and is wildly popular for its biryanis and Karachi biscuits too. The must-try dishes of the cuisine are Sarva Pindi, Malidalu, Sakinalu, Garijalu, Pachi Pulusu, Golichina Mamsam, Chegodilu, Polelu, and more.
Kumaoni Cuisine
Kumauni cuisine is the food of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and uses pulses like gouhat, and is known for its popular dishes like Kumaoni raita, Bhatt ki Churkani, Bal Mithai,Ras Bhaat, Chain, Faanda and Thatwaani. Cereals like madua with rice and wheat are popular in this region.
Naga Cuisine
Naga cuisine is native to the Naga people from the State of Nagaland. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the region’s agrarian and hunting-gathering traditions and hence the staples include a lot of meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Naga cuisine is known for its use of a wide variety of meat, including chicken, pork, fish and wild game such as deer, wild boar and bison. They also use a lot of locally-sourced ingredients, such as bamboo shoots, wild mushrooms, and a variety of greens and herbs. Also, the Naga people have a tradition of consuming fermented soya bean, known as “Axone” and it’s a staple food in many Naga households and it is used to make various dishes like chutneys, stews and curries.
Kashmiri Pandit Cuisine
Kashmiri Pandit cuisine is exquisite and extensive and includes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. This cuisine is believed to introduce the use of yogurt, asafetida, and turmeric powder to Indian cuisine. The Kashmiri Pandit cuisine dates back to 326 BC, and both the vegetarian (Mahariyn thali) and the non-vegetarian (Maharaaz thali) are very simple and nutritious meals. The dishes of this cuisine includes delicacies like Buzith Gaad (roasted fish), Kokur Yakhni (chicken with yogurt), Muton Rogan Josh, Gaad Nadur (fish with lotus stem) and Kong Phirni (saffron semolina phirni). Another interesting fact is, that the food of Kashmiri Pandits is cooked with a handful of spices and without the use of onion, garlic or tomatoes.
Dogri Cuisine
This cuisine is native to Dogras or Dogra people living in the Jammu region of Jammu and Kashmir, and in adjoining areas of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh along with North Eastern Pakistan. The Dogri cuisine uses a lot of milk and milk products such as curd, lassi, shash, butter, and ghee. They also use a lot of Jammu rajma, anardana, long-grain basmati. Though the cuisine is predominant in Jammu but it also crosses the border and goes up to Kangra belt of Himachal Pradesh too. During festivities they would dig’ daan’ and place the saglas to cook rice, rajmash, pulses. A big iron pan is also there to prepare ambal using pumpkin, tamarind and jaggery. The celebrated dishes of this cuisine are Khatta Meat, Ambal, Ghyoor, and more.

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Udupi Cuisine
It is a cuisine of South India and revolves around grains and vegetables cooked with firewood. This cuisine is also known for its prominent use of jaggery in cooking, which brings out a mildly sweet flavour in every dish. This cuisine follows the tradition of Chaaturmasa Vrata, which is a restriction of certain food ingredients in a certain period or season, may have led to the innovation of a variety of dishes in Udupi cuisine. The popular dishes of this cuisine are Ale Bhaji, Bhaji, Kosambari, Neer Dosa, and Paayasa.

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Tuluva Cuisine
This cuisine is dominated by non-vegetarian dishes. Tuluva cuisine forms a part of the Mangalorean cuisine which comprises cuisines like Udupi as well as cuisines of different Mangalorean communities like the Hindus, Christians and Muslims with the Tuluva ethnic group forming the majority of the population.The notable Tuluva dishes include Kori Rotti, Bangude Pulimunchi, Beeja Manoli Upkari, Neer Dosa, Boothai Gassi, Kadubu, Chicken Sukkaand Patrode.

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Kodava Cuisine
This cuisine is native to Coorg region and comprises of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Fruits and vegetables like coconut, jackfruit, plantain and mangoes, meats such as pork, venison and chicken, river fish and boiled rice, all are found in abundance in Kodava cuisine. Staple dishes of the cuisine include boiled rice, rice gruel, Pandi Curry made with pork, Payasam, Thambattu, Paputtu (idli), Noolputtu (rice noodles), Koovaleputtu, Baimbale Curry and others, all of which boast of strong Indian spices.

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