Everyone loves a good Diwali meal. It’s a coming together of rich colors, textures, and flavors—a celebration of light. To help you plan for your own feast this season, we've put together this handy guide outlining some of our favorite refreshing salads, hearty mains, and clever sweets and drinks, all perfect for Diwali (or anytime!).
No Indian festival is complete without a rich, rice-based dish on the dining table. Biryani can sometimes be too labor-intensive to cook for a small crowd, and this rice salad offers a light yet festive alternative. With add-ons like unsweetened coconut, Le Puy lentils for protein, and a tangy tamarind dressing to toss everything in, this south Indian dish is a winner.
2. Besan laddu
An Indian bliss ball that is sweet and snacky at the same time, besan laddus are traditional to make during Diwali. The best part? This recipe calls for only four easy ingredients, making it very approachable. Store them in mason jars and enjoy once a day (okay, maybe twice).
Fruity, chilled lassis are always a fun and refreshing start to a long meal. This one has cooling yogurt studded with bits of juicy pineapple, which is also the only sweetener in the recipe—no added sugar!
4. Raj Kachori
In India, a festive meal is incomplete without a few crispy, crunchy, sweet, sour, tangy chaats. A chaat is an Indian snack that can take on nearly infinite forms, and usually gets loaded up with a whole lot of toppings like sprouts, yogurt, sweet tamarind chutney, and spicy chile sauce. The Raj Kachori offers no mercy; it has all of the above!
Gajar (carrot) halwa is a traditional dessert that is very popular in northern India in winter, mainly because carrots are sweeter during that time of the year. This recipe turns the classic dish into blondies and brings to you a beautiful East-meets-West recipe. Here, the halwa is folded into a brownie batter and baked into bars. Eat them for breakfast, eat them after dinner, the world’s your oyster.
A cheese-based dish is practically mandatory on the Diwali table. Here, paneer and cauliflower florets lay in a silken tomato and cream sauce that tastes ideal with naan, bread, or chapatis. To make a whole meal around this recipe, serve it with a helping of long-grain rice perfumed with cumin seeds and clarified butter, a big salad, and crispy papads on the side.
While marzipan-like kaju katli (Hindi for “cashew slivers”) is a common festive confection in India, these cashew and cardamom fudge kaju barfis shine a whole new light on the traditional recipe. They are made with a base of blended tofu, which seldom features in Indian recipes. The tofu, which takes the place of milk, lends an extra rich flavor and creamy texture.
8. Masala coke
James Beard Award semifinalist Chettie Kumar's favorite way to drink Coke is doctored with some spice. It’s full of Desi nostalgia and packs a punch; the hit of savory black salt really brings the cola to life. Cheers!
Every part of India, from north to south, east and west, has its own variety of kheer, which is like a cousin of rice pudding. This dish is central to all Indian celebrations, especially Diwali. The standard, humble mixture consists of rice, milk, and sugar, but this recipe kicks it up a notch with fresh fruit.
Sometimes, we like to build a whole menu around a salad. This salad is one worthy of that honor. Refreshing, sweet, sour, juicy, and minty, it makes an amazing main dish on a day you want to eat light, or a colorful add-on to a larger meal.
These delightful pakoras are made of a combination of cauliflower, kale, red onion, and potato, giving each bit complexity and heft. The coriander & walnut chutney is an excellent dip for these, but it would also be great smeared on toast, set out with a big bowl of potato chips, or, honestly, eaten straight up with a spoon.
12. Coconut Gujiya
Chef and MBE Romy Gill developed these sweet Gujiya by drawing on memories from her childhood. Each bite is filled with coconut, pistachios, fennel, and cardamom. They're excellent fresh from the fryer, but they can also be kept for a few days in an air-tight container.