Does Indian Food Have Gluten?

Last Updated on February 24, 2023

Today we’re going to be taking answering the question: does Indian food have gluten? And compiling a gluten-free Indian food list to make life easier for you, whenever you’re craving a curry.

I remember getting my diagnosis and feeling as though I would never be able to get takeout or eat in a restaurant again. I remember researching if there was anything I could have that was safe. One option cropped up time and time again – Indian.

That’s right if you’re a fan of curries and spice, look no further! Indian food is not often thickened with flour (like almost all other foods seem to be!), so it’s often one of the safest options for us.

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What Can We Eat?

Fortunately for us, Indian food has a huge range of options for us. From main courses to side dishes, to desserts, to starters – we don’t have to go without! Wheat is seldom used in Indian cuisine but we’ll be taking a look a bit later at foods to watch out for – but for now, let’s focus on the good part, what we can eat.

Rice, vegetables, and lentils are all used heavily in Indian food, which makes it the perfect meal for us. Lamb and chicken are the most common meats.

Now what you’re probably asking is, “is chicken tikka masala gluten-free?”. Chicken tikka masala is one of the most popular dishes, so it’s no surprise it’s the dish we’re all hoping is gluten-free. I’m here to tell you – yes it is! I’ve yet to come across a tikka masala in an Indian restaurant that contains any gluten at all.

In fact, almost all Indian main courses do not contain any gluten. All dishes are made with fresh ingredients, often with rice as the main component. Most Indian restaurants will comfortably be able to tell you whether the dish you wish to order is gluten-free, but every curry I’ve ever chosen is gluten-free!

For starters, the safest options are Tandoori and Vindaloo. Vindaloo is extremely spicy, so bear that in mind if you have a sensitivity to spice. However, Tandoori is often made with garlic, lemon, and yoghurt. Tandoori chicken is one of my all-time favorite starters.

Gluten-Free Indian Food List

Let’s take a look at some popular Indian foods you can enjoy when following a gluten-free lifestyle.

  • Tandoori Chicken – chicken marinated in yoghurt and spices
  • Vegetable Pakora – a fritter that consists of spices and vegetables
  • Chicken Tikka Masala – chicken marinated in creamy and tomato flavors, with lots of spice
  • Chicken Korma – sweet, creamy, and coconut tasting
  • Butter Chicken – mildly sweet with plenty of butter
  • Lamb Biryani – a spiced mix of meat and rice with a hot and tangy flavor
  • Onion Bhaji – onions with spices and often chickpea flour (the perfect side dish!)
  • Saag Aloo – a spinach and potato-based side dish
  • Poppadum – often made from lentils, they’re the perfect crisp accompaniment to any curry
  • Chapati – a flatbread, perfect for dipping (sometimes made with wheat)

This article has a great selection of gluten-free offerings (besides main courses)

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Foods To Watch Out For

  • Spices – although all spices are naturally gluten-free, if they’re shop-bought, they may contain gluten. Gluten can prevent clumping so is sometimes an unwelcome addition. Hing is a spice that is often mixed with wheat, so it’s always best to tell your server you’re gluten-free when you’re ordering any food.
  • Chapati – it can be made with gram flour, which is suitable. But sometimes it’s made with whole wheat flour, so always check.
  • Naan – Naan is a side dish almost always made with wheat flour. I’ve not found an Indian restaurant that offers gluten-free naan, so I’d highly suggest avoiding this one at all costs.
  • Kofta – sometimes is filled with breadcrumbs
  • Sevian – an Indian dessert which is made with vermicelli noodles. Those particular type of noodles are made from wheat flour
  • Anything Fried – this is a tricky one because cross-contamination can occur if gluten-containing products are fried in the same oil as gluten-free products. Always ask if you’re unsure and clarity is often given.

Shop Bought

If you decide to make a curry from scratch, it’ll almost always be gluten-free. However, if you buy a kit or a ready-made sauce in a jar, it may contain gluten. Gluten is often a thickener in sauces, especially jar sauces. Some great brands to use that are gluten-free are:

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Patak’s have a huge range of sauces and marinades. Whether you prefer something mild like a Korma, or you want to spice it up with a Vindaloo – Patak’s has it all! It clearly states that it’s gluten-free. You can find a selection of their pastes, kits, sauces, and marinades here.

Thai Kitchen

Not only does Thai Kitchen offer gluten-free curry pastes, they have a whole host of products. Stir-fries, noodles, peanut satay sauce – everything you need to satisfy that craving.

When buying curry powder and pastes it’s almost always gluten-free, but as always, check the labels.

Crazy For Curry

To conclude, although all dishes are almost always gluten-free, it’s always safest to check with your server – or the label if you’re in a store. In my experience, even if you’re at a buffet, most restaurants will bring you out a fresh portion from the kitchen of whatever it is you need. That way you can be sure that no cross-contact from other customers has occurred.

Since diagnosis, I’ve had no trouble with any Indian food that I’ve eaten and it’s always my go-to option if I’m fancying a treat. My order is Chicken Makhani with rice, onion bhajis, and poppadum (with raita, also gluten-free). I would love to know your order when you venture into Indian cuisine.

There are so many gluten-free dishes that haven’t made it onto the list, so if your favorite isn’t here, please feel free to let me know in the comments below!

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