We received this note from a reader:
I was reading your latest Vegetarian Journal and felt compelled to write because of info from your Nutrition Hotline. It is mentioned that naan is usually vegan. I think this may be misleading. I was in India two times – 1st for 2 weeks, then for two months. Both times I found it hard to be a vegan because milk and yogurt are added to so many things. I did eat the naan the first time because a waiter said it did not have dairy in it (now I think that was a misunderstanding or a willingness to please). Since, I have found that it usually does have dairy in it and avoided it my second time there. I have tried to buy it here in stores like Whole Foods and it always has milk in it.
I have run into the same thing in Indian restaurants in the US. I just do not eat naan now. I was at a wedding in CA at a nice restaurant a couple of years ago and asked them. The waiter assured me it was not made with milk. So I decided to go talk to the cooks who were outside cooking the naan in barrels. They said that their batter did have milk in it.
When I was in India I was working for a company that was owned by an Indian-American and employed many people from India. When I asked them about it they said as far as they knew, it was usually made with milk. Maybe the preference for naan made with yogurt, milk, or water is regional, I am not sure.
The author of the Nutrition Hotline said the reader does bring up valid points that naan does sometimes contain animal products. She said, “In my experience when I went to Indian restaurants, I have been told almost 100% of the time that naan does not contain dairy/egg if it is not brushed with ghee/butter. Certainly you should ask the wait staff, but as examples above illustrate, this isn’t a certainty either.”
We asked the opinion of Saurabh Dalal, who is a long time vegan Jain and active with the Vegetarian Society of D.C. and the International Vegetarian Union. He said, “I usually do not eat naan because I assume it has dairy in it. In the U.S., I believe some/many Indian restaurants also use eggs, which would likely not be the case in India. I would not say naan is usually vegan. Often the roti or puri is vegan…but it’s still good to ask the wait-staff if there is any milk/dairy, egg, or even butter or ghee put on top.”
So the consensus seems to be to avoid naan. If anyone is certain of vegan naan options, please let us know. Also, what is your experience with roti?
For information about calcium content of popular Indian dishes (vegan versions), see http://www.vrg.org/journal/vj2009issue4/2009_issue4_calcium_indian.php
We found in the Punjab store in Baltimore a product called naan that was labeled 100% vegetarian, parve, and halal. So this product appears to be nondairy.
It shouldn’t have dairy if parve, though could have eggs. However, there are no obvious eggs on the ingredients label. It does contain cane sugar and l-cysteine. This product was distributed by Kontos Foods and labeled as Alexander’s Great Flatbreads. They have several varieties of naan.
For more information, see