14 Easy Vegetarian Indian Appetizers

Indian food is some of the most flavorful and unique of any cuisine in the world. But while the curries of India are well known and beloved around the world, Indian appetizers are just as delicious and make wonderful snacks and starters even if you don’t plan on serving an Indian main course.

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They work wonderfully well as a finger food to accompany gatherings and would be a great way to spice up your next poker night or Super Bowl party, and are also a great way to add something unique to your next barbeque.

Many of these dishes are spicy, however some are more balanced, and all of them are full of amazing flavors and textures inspired by traditional dishes from all over India. There’s something suitable for everyone on this list, so without further ado, let’s take a look at the 15 best Indian appetizers.

  1. Vegetable Samosa

Vegetable samosas are deep-fried pastries that are a lot like dumplings and can accommodate a variety of different fillings depending on your own personal preference.

Most basic vegetable samosa’s use potatoes, peas, onions, various spices, and herbs combined with a beautifully crisp pastry. These snacks can be made large enough to be substantial and filling, and work well as a lunch break snack but can also be made small enough to use as finger food.

This is the great thing about veggie samosas, they are so versatile! You can add different fillings according to what you prefer, and experiment with them to create your own unique flavors and textures.

It’s also quite easy to make a meat samosa by adding in chicken or lamb, which tastes delicious as the pastry absorbs the meaty juices.

Overall, samosas are one of the most popular appetizers in the world, and it’s quite easy to see why.

  1. Onion Bhaji

Sometimes known as fritters, bhaji’s are a traditional Indian snack that is popular throughout India where they are a popular street food sold in stalls at the roadside of streets and major highways.

They are made with gram flour and deep-fried, usually also containing chopped onion and spiced garlic for a beautifully aromatic pastry that works wonderfully when dipped into different chutneys such as mango or mint, as the bhajee’s flaky pastry grabs onto sauce well, and the sauce adds to the texture and flavor as a perfect compliment.

  1. Corn Pakora

The Corn Pakoda is another appetizer similar to a fritter, and is sometimes referred to as a pakodi depending on the area of India it originates from, and the terms are often used interchangeably. 

Corn pakoda is a great choice for diners who are unaccustomed to Indian flavors and textures, as it is quite mild compared to other Indian appetizers.

Corn is also very popular in the US, so a corn fritter doesn’t sound nearly as exotic to diners and can help win them over, especially once they’ve actually experienced how delicious this starter is. They are made with a lot of seasonings and spices but are quite easy to make, and are again a great finger food for dipping in various sauces and chutneys.

  1. Cabbage Pakora

Very similar to the corn pakora, cabbage pakoras are another great option that is quite mild and simple compared to other Indian dishes, and are made the same as corn fritters but swap in cabbage along with extensive seasonings and spices.

The crispy deep-fried pastry again holds sauce well and the flavor of the cabbage is balanced out perfectly by the garlic and other aromatics in this snack which eases the cabbage flavor and makes it much more palatable, even to those who dislike cabbage.

  1. Pappadums with Chutney

Flatbreads are one of Indian cuisine’s major food types, and there are many different versions from naan to chapati. However, papadum is one of the most popular and is known for its crisp-like texture which makes it perfect for dipping in a range of sauces and small side dishes.

Made using dried-out dough of the black gram bean, these can be fried or cooked under a dry head and flipped until they are crunchy and hold their shape.

Some other flours such as lentil, rice, millet, and potato flour can be used, however, the result should always be a rounded and paper-thin crisp-like disc that snaps with a satisfying crunch and is riddled with air bubbles.

Sometimes known by many different names such as papar or appalam, this snack is the most popular accompaniment to Indian dishes and can be eaten as an appetizer with various dips, and used to enjoy Indian mains such as curry where the bread can be dipped into the sauce and used to scoop up rice and curry into one hugely satisfying mouthful.

  1. Idli Fry

Idli fry is a great way to use slightly old idli to create something new and delicious, and this dish makes an excellent replacement for fries and other potato snacks.

Simply take your idli and season it with whatever Indian spice or seasoning you like the most, then fry in oil until golden brown. Season with salt and enjoy the amazing texture and taste of this super convenient snack!

  1. Khandvi

Hailing from the Gujarati region of northwestern India, khandvi is a very popular snack made from gram flour, yogurt, ginger paste, and turmeric which are formed into a batter, rolled similar to small thin pancakes, and cut into bite-size mouthfuls.

The beauty of this snack is that it can be served hot or cold and makes a great base for various additional ingredients from cheese to chutney and can be garnished with herbs like coriander or even coconut for a very unique and delicious finger food.

  1. Paneer Tikka

Paneer tikka is a great way to make a vegetarian kebab stick and uses marinated paneer as the main attraction.

For those who don’t know, Paneer is an Indian cheese that is soft and delicious, with a slightly moist and chewy texture once cooked. The cheese is marinated in spices and then cooked, then skewered along with a variety of ingredients including peppers, tomatoes, and onions which are then grilled and seasoned with spicy Indian powder such as chaat masala.

The dish is often served with salad and mint chutney as a side, and there are many options for customizing this dish to your own tastes, experimenting with spices and marinades as well as additional skewered vegetables.

  1. Dahi Vada

Dahi Vada is a delicious snack that is often served as a main dish but can be offered as a side dish to various other main Indian courses.

The dish consists of fried lentil balls known as vadas, which are delicious and savoury. These are served topped with creamy thick yogurt known as Dahi, which gives a clue as to the name of this combined dish.

These creamy fried balls are then served either on their own or accompanied with various chutneys and herbs for garnish. This is a popular dish for celebrations and festivities and is very refreshing in the hot and humid Indian summertime.

  1. Aloo Chaat

This popular street food is popular throughout India as well as Bangladesh and Pakistan, and is prepared by frying potatoes in oil and adding a range of spices and sauces.

Other ingredients such as fruits, spices, and chutney can be mixed in to create a very unique flavor and texture.

This dish works best as a snack or like meal and it's quite easy to make which is perfect for a light lunchtime snack food.

  1. Shami Kebab

Shami Kebab is a delicious combination of various meats, spices, and herbs which makes an incredibly convenient snack that is delicious and quite substantial.

They are common throughout southern Asia, from Afghanistan to India, and can be made using mutton, lamb mince, or beef mixed with chickpeas, onions, garlic, ginger, herbs, and various spices such as chili flakes, mint, cumin, or garam masala. 

The meat should be well seasoned and shaped into patties, before being dipped in beaten eggs and fried until crisp on the outside but soft in the middle.

  1. Khaman Dhokla

This cake is a soft and savory option made of chickpea flour, sugar, semolina, and of course a healthy helping of spice for additional flavor. The result is a very delicious little cake which works great at breakfast.

  1. Chilli Paneer

Another dish that uses paneer cheese cut into cubes, these are then mixed with a sweet and sour sauce and can be served in various ways, either dry or covered in a spicy delicious gravy.

The paneer is often seasoned heavily with garlic paste, red chili powder, salt, flour, and cornstarch, then fried. The gravy is made using ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, chili powder, and sugar.

  1. Boti Kebab

Boti kebab is one for meat lovers and consists of various meats such as lamb, chicken, or beef which are marinated in a sauce of yogurt, ginger, garlic, papaya, and spices before being skewered and grilled until lightly charred. They are then brushed with ghee and served hot, and are one of the most delicious kebab skewers in Indian cuisine.

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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