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Vegetarian Indian Buffet

Updated on September 10, 2014

An easy way to entertain with vegetarian Indian meals

I love Indian food and I love to have friends round and creating an Indian-inspired buffet is so easy. It's very simple to create a fabulous meat-free Indian buffet because there are lots of ways to cheat and yet still create an authentic meal.

Using authentic bread, chutneys, sauces and side dishes, you can serve a wonderful buffet meal to your guests - although these meal ideas are also perfect for day-to-day family meals or small dinner parties.If you know that your friends love this type of food - excellent.

If they don't know it food very well, then you'll be treating them to a whole new experience. Some people mistakenly think that all Asian food is very hot and spicy, which isn't the case at all. But it is very delicious and easy to prepare.

You'll need some basic spices which, if you don't have already, you can easily get from your grocery store or supermarket and I've used no funky ingredients :)Many of the foods you'll serve at your delicious buffet can be prepared well in advance, so you'll be able to relax and enjoy your party too.

Example recipes

The recipes below are exactly the sort of dishes for an authentic buffet. They can be made in advance and heated just before serving. You should be able to get all the ingredients at your local grocery store.

Paraati Chana

You'll need:

4½ cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
½ lb tomatoes peeled and chopped
Peeled grated ginger - about 1 tablespoon
2 medium onions finely chopped
Peeled chopped garlic - about 1 tablespoon
2 teaspoons salt
¾ cup yellow split peas
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
3 green chilies finely chopped
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
1 cup finely chopped mint leaves
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup cooking oil
3 tablespoons tamarind paste


To make:

Cook the lentils in water until soft.Put the chili, ginger garlic and mint into a blender along with about 6 tablespoons of water. Blend until you have a purée.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions. Fry until they are golden brown. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Cook until the sauce is well mixed.

Add the green purée, stir and cook for a further five minutes.Add the cooked

chick peas and lentils, followed by the remaining ingredients. Add a little water if necessary. Cover and cook for about half an hour.

This can be made ahead and reheated. I'd suggest that it's served in a slow cooker on the table with a ladle so that your guests can help themselves. This quantity will serve eight people as a main dish.

Mushroom Korma

3 medium onions
1½ lbs mushrooms
½ lb spinach
3 garlic cloves
About 1" piece of ginger
8 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cinnamon stick
Small pinch ground chili
6 bay leaves
1 cup skinned hazelnuts
7oz plain yogurt


To make:

Peel the onions and garlic cloves and slice. Add a little butter to a pan and heat, add onion and garlic. Grate the peeled ginger and add to the pan. Stir well and cook on a medium-low heat. Add all the spices and flavorings to a blender and mix. (Just use the seeds inside the cardamom, not the outer husk). Add to the pan.

Depending on the size of the mushrooms cut into large chunks and add to the onion and garlic mixture in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes - you may have add more butter. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes and then add a cup of water. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

If you are cooking ahead, remove the mushrooms from the heat and set aside now.When you are ready to resume, wash the spinach. Add to a pan with a little water and cook for about a minute. Then sieve and run under cold water and squeeze dry.Reheat the mushroom mixture and add the spinach and hazelnuts.Stir in the yogurt, heat gently and serve.

This serves four as a main dish so you might want to double up, depending on the size of your party.

Further reading

It's easy to hold an Asian-themed dinner party or buffet especially if you mix a good selection of ready prepared foods with a few dishes you have made yourself. These books will help you discover more about this delicious cuisine.

OK - now we cheat!

There are a lot of easy sides and other dishes that you can serve with your tasty buffet with very little effort! Here are some ideas.

  1. You'll need to serve rice and if you have a rice cooker, that's easy. If not, buy ready cooked rice, Remember, let's save time and effort so that you can enjoy your party!
  2. Raita is a tasty and cooling accompaniment and takes just a minute to make. Grate cucumber and add to plain yogurt. Mix with chopped cilantro you're done.
  3. Mango chutney should be one of the seven wonders of the world. You'll be able to buy this at your local supermarket. Just decant it into a pretty dish or bowl.
  4. Indian food is best served with authentic bread. In supermarkets today you can buy naan bread that simply needs to be reheated.
  5. Poppadoms are also available at the grocery store. You just have to fry these and drain on paper towel. They can be cooked in advance and served cold.
  6. If you have an Asian restaurant nearby, you have the ultimate cheat's facility. Buy onion bhajis, vegetable samosas and other delicious treats you can serve.
  7. If you have an authentic grocery store near you, you've hit gold. Check out the goods on sale there. Serve relishes and chutneys in small bowls.
  8. You can buy a huge range of lovely foods online too. Your entire Indian buffet can be delivered to your door!



Salads are the perfect buffet food as they can be prepared well in advance. Try these:


Shred 2lbs fresh green cabbage and mix with 2 medium sized carrots which have been grated plus a little salt. Add 4 tbs red wine vinegar and half a teaspoon cayenne. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and when the oil is hot, add 2 tbs whole brown mustard seeds. When you hear the mustard seeds start to pop, pour the oil and the seeds over the cabbage / carrot mix and toss to mix. Refrigerate for one hour before serving. This can be made 24 hours in advance.


Simply slice tomatoes, lay on an attractive plate and add rings of thinly sliced onions. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Don't add any dressing as this will make the salad soggy.


Halve one large cucumber lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and then slice. Add 1 tbs mustard seeds, 2 tsp fine sugar and 2 tbs red wine vinegar. Mix well.

Order your party online

Really, it does make entertaining so much easier when you can order just about everything you need and have it delivered. It doesn't get much easier - thank goodness for the internet.

If you buy bulk packs like the ones you see below, catering for a crowd is no problem. Just use the number of packs you need and save any extras for family meals.



Indian sweets are delicious but are time consuming to make. If you have an Asian restaurant or store nearby that sells these, then a selection for dessert is perfect. If not, then fresh fruit is the most suitable dessert to follow rich and tasty Indian food although you can buy Indian sweets online - a great time saver that adds authenticity to your meal.

You can make a fresh fruit salad or serve sliced or cubed fruits in bowls. Mango, pineapple, dragon fruit and coconut are perfect as these won't discolor if they are sliced in advance. Even if you serve Indian sweets, it's a good idea to have fresh fruits available. Add a bowl of grapes too.

For a real Indian treat, serve lassi. This is a drink rather than dessert but is rich and filling.


For each person, you'll need ½ cup plain yogurt and ½ chopped and peeled mango. Put these into a blender with 1 tbs extra fine sugar and 5 ice cubes. Blend until smooth. You may have to sieve this depending on your blender. Try Kelay ki Lassi which is exactly the same but substitutes banana for the mango.

Buy Indian sweets online


  • To get your guests into the mood, play Indian music.
  • Dress the part! For the girls, here's a great opportunity to wear a beautiful sari - for the guys, a beautiful traditional kurta.
  • There are some great Indian foods that you can buy online - you won't even have to go to the grocery store!

Appliance help

Holding a buffet is the easiest way of entertaining a group. It's more relaxed and informal, plus you can prepare most of the foods well in advance. Having the right equipment is important though and a few purchases will pay for themselves over and over again.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

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