Creating an Indian Food Menu
Friends and blog readers often ask me what dishes to pair together when creating a menu. While there are no set rules, I typically aim to serve dishes that differ in taste and texture. I pair a “wet” dish (e.g., Butter Chicken) with a “dry” dish (e.g., Corn Kadai). And I also try to include a good variety of vegetarian and non-veg.
Take a look at my sample menus below, and feel free to switch recipes out! Check out all of my Indian Recipes and all of my Instant Pot Recipes. Nearly all of the recipe suggestions in my sample menus are Instant Pot recipes because they are easy to make and perfect for parties!
Before I get into what to serve for lunch or dinner, I want to talk about snacks. Depending on the type of event you’re planning, you might want to have some snacks. If you’re having a small dinner with a few friends, you can skip this part. But if you’re having a party with several guests, you’ll want to include snacks.
It’s very common during “Indian parties” to serve a few different appetizers. This way, you have food ready for friends to munch as soon as they arrive. They can enjoy the snacks while you wait for all of your guests to arrive.
I personally love having a table filled with a few appetizers – at least two vegetarian and one non-veg. I think snacking on apps is the most fun time during a party because you get to walk around and socialize between bites.
Here are some ideas for snack and appetizers:
- Lazy Tikki
- Dhokla (savory chickpea flour cake)
- Samosas with chutney (store-bought samosas with homemade Chutney)
- Pani Puri (made with chickpeas and potatoes and store-bought puris. I’ll also sometimes serve chutney on the side (amchur chutney, tamarind date chutney, tamarind chutney, and green chutney)
- Chicken Bhuna
- Kerala Meat Cutlets
- Chickpea Sundal
- Black-Eyed Pea Chaat
- Stuffed Aloo Tikki
- Sweet Potato Tikki
Lunch and Dinner
Serve the following with each menu listed below:
- Plain Basmati Rice or Matar Pulao or Jeera Rice
- Naan (when organizing a lunch or dinner party, I serve naan that I buy from Costco or Trader Joe’s)
- Raita (yogurt thinned out with a little water, salt, and roasted cumin powder)
- Try my simple Beetroot Raita
- Pickles or Chutney (I always have a jar of achaar in the pantry/fridge at all times)
- Indian Pickled Onions
Here are Several Sample Menu Plans:
Lunch Party Menu (as pictured in the very top photo of me standing by my kitchen island)
This is the menu from the photo above of me standing next to several dishes. On the day this photo was taken, we had around 12 adults and 11 kids at our place, and so I doubled all the recipes below in my 6 quart Instant Pot. We had a good amount of leftovers (except for the butter chicken). Everyone finished all the snacks I mentioned in the snack section, so if you’re not going to serve snacks, you likely won’t have leftovers.
(For this particular event, I prepped/cooked everything needed for the snacks as well as the butter chicken, keema, and langar dal the day before. I cooked the korma, aloo beans, and matar pulao the morning of the party).
Fancy Dinner Party Menu
- Chicken Biryani
- Paneer Onion Masala Stir-fry or Paneer Butter Masala
- Corn Kadai or Tangy Tomato and Fresh Corn Soup
- Spiced Buttery Lentils (Dal Makhani)
- Potato and Eggplant in Pickling Spices (Achari Aloo Baingan) or Vegetable Korma (though I wouldn’t serve the korma if you are serving the paneer butter masala)
- Mango Cheesecake or Kheer (Creamy Cardamom Rice Pudding)
Fancy Dinner Party Menu (All Vegetarian)
Holiday Menu 2
*substitute ghee with coconut oil and heavy cream with full-fat canned coconut milk
- Steamed Rice Cakes (idli) or Crispy Crepes (Dosa) with aloo masala for Dosa (recipe hopefully coming soon)
- Split Pea & Vegetable Soup (Sambar)
- Spiced Brown Chickpeas (Sookha Kala Chana Masala)
- Sweet Saffron Fruit and Nut Rice (Meethe Chawal) or Moong Dal Halwa
- Masala Chai/Chai for a Party & Stovetop Chai
Fusion Brunch Menu (pictured below)
On the day this picture was taken, we had 12 adults and 12 kids at the house. I decided to create a fusion menu with some Indian food and then a few American dishes like waffles and turkey bacon for the kids (and adults if they wanted). I tripled my recipes below for egg biriyani, egg curry, and my breakfast skillet recipe and then doubled the recipes for chana masala and chicken stew. There were some leftovers but not an overwhelming amount – I always like to make extra food as it’s better to have more than not enough. Since this was an early brunch, I did not serve any snacks/appetizers.
- Potato Egg Scramble with Avocado (not Indian but well-spiced! I wanted to serve something a little different and this was a hit)
- Egg Biryani
- Chana Masala
- Kerala Chicken Stew and/or Kerala Egg Curry (normally I would only make 1 coconut stew but I really wanted the vegetarians to be able to enjoy too. You can always make this Kerala Egg Roast or this Punjabi Egg Curry instead).
- Store-bought parathas (ordered these from a local Indian restaurant to make life easier. Had yogurt, achar, and butter to go with this on the table)
- Masala Chai/Chai for a Party or Stovetop Chai and Orange Juice/Mimosas for the adults
- Waffles and Turkey Bacon for the kiddos (and a friend brought the biscuits pictured)
(For this brunch, I prepped/cooked the chicken stew and chana masala the day before. I also made the egg curry sauce and the egg biryani rice the evening before – but I wanted the eggs to be fresh so I hard-boiled those the morning of the brunch and added them directly to the curry and the rice. I made the egg scramble that morning as well as the turkey bacon. I prepared the batter for the waffles and made those as guests arrived so they’d be nice and hot).
Kid Friendly Recipes
This one isn’t a menu – just a shortlist of some kid-friendly recipes you may want to add to an existing menu. While kids can of course eat any Indian dish, I think these may be more well-received.
Easy Onion Masala Menu ideas:
If you make my onion masala in advance, you’ll save A LOT of time and can easily throw together a meal impressive enough to feed guests! While the recipes below all call for onion masala – DO NOT WORRY – they taste different from one another, so they will NOT be similar in flavor.
Onion Masala Brunch/Lunch Menu (vegetarian)
Onion Masala Lunch/Dinner Menu (vegetarian)
Onion Masala Lunch/Dinner Menu (non-veg)
Onion Masala Kid-Friendly Menu
Dessert & Chai
I shared some dessert ideas in some of the sample menus above, but you can find my Indian Instant Pot Desserts here and ALL of my Indian desserts (non-instant pot as well) here. Dessert is a must when having guests over! You can buy store-bought dessert or if you’re looking for something very simple, try my Instant Pot Kheer!
I also have a recipe for How to Make Chai for a Party in an Instant Pot, which is great for a large crowd. Chai is also easy to make on the stovetop. Depending on the crowd, you can offer chai before or after the event. I’ll usually do some cocktail/drink to start the party then end with chai but totally your preference!