How do you avoid gluten in Indian food?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, following a gluten-free diet can be challenging, especially when dining out or eating ethnic cuisines like Indian food which often contain gluten ingredients. However, with some knowledge of what to avoid and modifications to traditional recipes, enjoying safe and delicious Indian meals is possible.

What Foods Contain Gluten?

When eating Indian food, there are several ingredients that typically contain gluten. These include:

  • Wheat flour (atta)
  • Breads like naan, roti, paratha
  • Cracker snacks like papadum
  • Soy sauce
  • Malt vinegar
  • Beer and other brewed beverages

Dishes that use these ingredients should be avoided or modified. There are also many naturally gluten-free ingredients that can be enjoyed as part of Indian cuisine.

Gluten-Free Indian Ingredients

Here are some gluten-free ingredients that are common in Indian cooking:

  • Rice
  • Lentils (dal)
  • Beans
  • Chickpeas (chana)
  • Potatoes
  • Dairy products like milk, yogurt, paneer
  • Meats like chicken, lamb, fish
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Rice flour
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger

Focusing more on these ingredients when cooking Indian food can help create delicious gluten-free meals.

Tips for Avoiding Gluten

Here are some helpful tips for avoiding gluten when dining at Indian restaurants or cooking Indian food at home:

  • Ask about how dishes are prepared and which contain wheat. Request gluten-free preparations.
  • Avoid deep-fried appetizers which may be dusted with wheat flour.
  • Choose plain basmati rice instead of biryani or pilaf dishes.
  • Opt for lentil-based curries and dishes made with beans or chickpeas.
  • Order gluten-free breads like roti made with rice flour, millet or chickpea flour.
  • Skip sauce-based dishes which may have soy sauce or other gluten ingredients.
  • Be cautious of cross-contamination from shared cooking equipment and utensils.
  • At home, use certified gluten-free grains, flours and sauces when cooking.

Gluten-Free Substitutions

With some modifications, traditional Indian recipes can often be made gluten-free:

Gluten-Containing Gluten-Free Substitution
Wheat flour Rice flour, chickpea flour, millet flour, almond flour
Naan Rice flour or chickpea flour flatbread
Soy sauce Coconut aminos
Beer Wine, apple cider vinegar
Malt vinegar Wine vinegar, spirit vinegar
Barley Quinoa, millet, rice

With some creativity, you can modify family favorites to be safe and delicious on a gluten-free diet.

Safe Gluten-Free Indian Dishes

Here are some inherently gluten-free Indian dishes that are delicious options when dining out or cooking at home:

  • Dal – Lentil curries made with toor dal, masoor dal, chana dal
  • Chana masala – Chickpea curry
  • Aloo gobi – Potato and cauliflower curry
  • Baingan bharta – Smoked eggplant
  • Palak paneer – Spinach and paneer cheese
  • Chicken tikka masala – Grilled chicken in creamy tomato sauce
  • Fish curry
  • Biryani made with rice and lentils instead of wheat
  • Sabzi – Vegetables like okra, peas, potatoes
  • Papadum chips made from lentil or rice flour

Being a Mindful Gluten-Free Diner

It’s important to be an advocate for yourself when dining out and ensure your needs are communicated. Some tips for eating gluten-free at Indian restaurants:

  • Verify that dishes are gluten-free and ask about preparation methods
  • Request plain basmati rice with steamed entrées
  • Ask for dishes to be made without wheat flour, soy sauce or malt vinegar
  • Avoid fried appetizers unless made with gluten-free flours
  • Request gluten-free bread options
  • Ask about possibility of cross-contamination

With proper accommodations, Indian restaurants can be a tasty option for gluten-free diners.

Creating Safe Gluten-Free Indian Meals at Home

Cooking traditional Indian dishes at home gives you control over the ingredients. Here are some tips:

  • Stock your pantry with certified gluten-free grains, flours and sauces
  • Prepare meals from naturally gluten-free ingredients like lentils, rice, vegetables, meats
  • Use gluten-free swaps when needed – almond flour instead of wheat flour
  • Research restaurant dishes online and adapt recipes to be gluten-free
  • Look for gluten-free naan bread at stores or make your own
  • Be mindful of cross-contamination from gluten ingredients

With some adaptations, you can recreate your favorite take-out dishes in your gluten-free kitchen.


Avoiding gluten while enjoying delicious Indian cuisine is very possible. Focus on naturally gluten-free ingredients like lentils, rice, vegetables, chickpeas, meats and spice blends. Request gluten-free preparations at restaurants and modify recipes at home to swap wheat for gluten-free grains and flours. With some knowledge of ingredients and advocacy for your needs, you can eat great Indian food that is safe for your gluten-free diet.

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