By Kumar Ramanathan

There is a prevailing myth about Indian food: Indian food is lowfat.

While one can consider most Indian dishes as being lowfat compared to meat-based American dishes, Indian food is moderate to high in fat because it often includes dairy products, nuts, and oil. A typical Indian snack, for instance, requires 3/4 to one cup of oil for deep frying, a typical dessert requires two cups of whole milk, and a typical main dish requires nuts, ghee, or buttermilk. It is easy to convert them to lowfat recipes by cutting down by half or more the amount of dairy products, oil, or nuts required. The other way to convert them to lowfat is by removing the dairy products and reducing the oil. Another option is sautéing onions or vegetables in water instead of oil.

The following recipes are vegan and are lowfat. Most of the ingredients required for the dishes below are available in supermarkets, and some special ingredients such as blackgram dal, fenugreek, and mustard seeds, are available in Indian and other ethnic grocery stores.


(4 servings)

Enjoy this "crepe," with potato stuffing.

  • ½ cup blackgram dal
  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek
  • 1 cup enriched long grain rice
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  • 2 cups water

Soak blackgram dal and fenugreek together and rice separately for at least 6 hours. Using a blender, with less than ⅓ cup of water, blend rice first and keep it separate. Next, with less than ⅓ cup of water, blend blackgram dal and fenugreek together. Combine the two mixtures. The batter should not be too thick or too thin. If you take the batter and pour it out of a spoon, the flow from the spoon should be even. Keep the batter in a big pot for at least 12 hours until it ferments and tastes a bit sour. If you do not get a sour flavor, add lime juice.

Heat a non-stick pan until it becomes medium hot and wipe the pan with a little oil dipped on a cloth or paper towel. When the pan becomes hot, take a small scoop of batter and pour it on to the pan. Spread it around and make a small circle of batter. Flip it over to the other side when one side is done, that is when air bubbles begin to appear. Reduce the heat to medium before you cook the next one.


  1. Sprinkle some water on the pan to make the pan cool.
  2. Keep the pan hot but not so hot as to burn the dosai.
  3. If you find the dosai a bit dry, add ⅛ teaspoon of oil around the edges of the next dosai so as to make it less dry. Flip it and add ⅛ teaspoon of oil,
Total calories per serving: 253
Fat: 2 grams


(4 servings)

Here's a great potato stuffing for dosai.

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes
  • ⅛ teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon yellow split peas
  • 1 teaspoon blackgram dal
  • 3 medium-sized onions
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ⅛ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 cup pre-cooked chickpeas
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
  • Cilantro to garnish
  • 4 teaspoons orange juice (optional)

Cut potatoes into small cubes. Boil potatoes until tender, drain, and remove the skins. With oil, fry mustard seeds, yellow split peas, and blackgram dal and set them aside. Next, sauté onions in water with chopped garlic and tomato. Add turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander, black pepper, cumin, and ginger to the onion. Add chickpeas and mix thoroughly. Add cooked potatoes. Add the fried mustard seeds, yellow split peas, and blackgram dal to the potatoes. Mix them all thoroughly. Add lemon juice and garnish the masala with fresh cilantro. If the masala is too spicy for your taste, add orange juice.

Put a little masala in the middle of each dosai and roll the dosai. Do the same for the remaining dosai.

Total calories per serving (filling only): 108
Fat: 1 gram


(4 servings)

Here's a unique rice dish.

  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon blackgram dal
  • 1 teaspoon split yellow peas
  • 1 green chile
  • ⅛ teaspoon oil
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 6 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • Fresh cilantro to taste
  • Fresh curry leaves to taste

Cook rice in water until done. Fry mustard seeds, blackgram dal, and yellow split peas in oil. Set them aside. Fry chile, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, and cumin in oil. Add all of them to the cooked rice. Mix thoroughly. Add lemon juice, fresh cilantro, and curry leaves.

Total calories per serving: 177
Fat: 2 grams


(4 servings)

Savor this terrific dessert.

  • 1 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Dissolve brown rice syrup in boiling water. Stir until you get a consistent syrup. Add carrots and stir until the mixture becomes semi-solid. Add cardamom. Refrigerate before serving.


  1. Add dried fruits for variety.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of chopped cashews and almonds to enhance the flavor (optional).
Total calories per serving: 276
Fat: Less than 1 gram


(4 servings)

Children will love this pudding.

  • 6 cups lowfat rice milk
  • 2 bananas, puréed
  • 2 teaspoons apple butter
  • 2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Boil rice milk and reduce the heat to low. Stir the milk occasionally. Simmer the milk for about 30 minutes until the milk is reduced by about 2/3 of its volume. Add banana purée and apple butter. Add brown rice syrup and cardamom. Cool and keep in a refrigerator. Serve chilled.


Add dried fruits and ¼ teaspoon pistachios or almonds or cashews for variety (optional).

Total calories per serving: 194
Fat: 3 grams


(4 servings)

Try this great version of rice pudding.

  • 3 cups lowfat rice milk
  • ¼ cup long grain rice
  • ¼ cup brown rice syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

Cook rice in rice milk for about 15 minutes. Add brown rice syrup after the rice is cooked. Add cardamom. Allow the rice to cool and refrigerate for a few hours before serving.


Add saffron, chopped cashews, or raisins to enhance taste (optional).

Total calories per serving: 155
Fat: 1 gram


(4 servings)

Here's a traditional dessert to serve to family and friends.

  • 5 cups lowfat rice milk
  • ½ Tablespoon soy margarine
  • ½ teaspoon raisins
  • 1 cup broken vermicelli
  • 5 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Bring rice milk to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes until it becomes 3 cups. Using ¼ tablespoon of soy margarine, fry raisins until they become brown. Remove them from pan. Using the same pan, add ¼ tablespoon soy margarine and fry vermicelli for 5 minutes until it becomes reddish brown. When the milk is reduced to 3 cups, add maple syrup and then add vermicelli. Boil until vermicelli becomes soft. Add cardamom. Serve hot or cold.


  1. Add ¼ teaspoon chopped cashews (optional).
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of non-dairy chocolate to get chocolate flavor (optional).
Total calories per serving: 300
Fat: 4 grams

About The Vegetarian Journal and The Vegetarian Resource Group

This article originally appeared in the May/June 1996 issue of The Vegetarian Journal, published by:
The Vegetarian Resource Group
P.O. Box 1463
Baltimore, MD 21203
(410) 366-8343
E-mail: vrg@vrg.org