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Let's get one thing straight. Saying that all Indian food is the same is like saying all birds are the same.
The country is absolutely gigantic, and a penguin is vastly separate from a turkey, okay? Bengali food is very different from Manipuri food. Both are delicious regional cuisines in India, and within the nation's border, there's almost 40 different distinct cultural regions.
Each is influenced by the local culture, geography, and economics, and once you start exploring, you probably won't be able to stop. As you travel through food, you'll learn about new techniques and ingredients that will definitely expand your everyday cooking, even when a dish is not specifically Indian-inspired.
But how do you even get started when there's so much to taste and explore? Don't worry. That's what this list is for.
The cookbooks collected below are by no means an exhaustive idea of all the ones available, nor do they cover all of what the country has to offer, but they are a good place to start. And trust us, you will be learning from the best and brightest culinary folks, from Madhur Jaffrey to Priya Krishna.
They will teach you the classic Indian dishes that you may or may not already know, as well as show you some new stuff, or their own spin on certain dishes. Get to ordering these cookbooks, so you can start cooking already!
I'm hungry, and you will be too after you get your hands on these.
(Kyle Books, $45 AT AMAZON)
This cookbook is a solid one to start with. It prides itself on exploring several of the aforementioned regions and offers "step-by-step masterclasses" in Indian ingredients and techniques.
Chapters cover everything from rice to breads, meat, lentils, and beans, plus snacks and sides.
(Knopf, $15 AT AMAZON)
Madhur Jaffrey is the “queen of Indian cooking.” Buy this cookbook, and you'll quickly see why.
An Invitation to Indian Cooking is largely credited with introducing the world to the vast cuisine that makes up the country. Inside, you'll find delicious dals, pickles, and relishes, plus lots of formal recipes for parties.
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18 AT AMAZON)
You can probably guess how good this book is gonna be based off the title, which lets you know you'll be eating food writer Priya Krishna's Indian and Indian-adjacent recipes that she adapted alongside her mother.
The point of the book is to show how Indian food can be everyday, all with an American twist. Think roti pizza, tomato rice with crispy cheddar, whole-roasted cauliflower with green pea chutney, and Malaysian ramen. Yum!
(Rockridge Press, $11 AT AMAZON)
If the Instant Pot is your first bff, then this cookbook should be number two.
Taking Indian dishes and cooking them in an Instant Pot makes the whole process a little easier while maintaining deliciousness. You'll get recipes for marathi kadhi (tangy yogurt soup), murgh makhani (butter chicken), and masala chai (spiced tea), just to name a few.
(Flatiron Books, $23 AT AMAZON)
The ethos of this cookbook is to make real Indian food fresh, simple, and packed with flavor.
Meera Sodha will teach you the steps to cook the food she grew up eating so fondly, and it probably won't look like the Indian takeout that you're used to. The 130 recipes inside cover three generations of her family, from popular street food like chili paneer to aromatic curries, and plenty of desserts like pistachio and saffron kulfi (which is sort of like an ice cream).
(Clarkson Potter, $19 AT AMAZON)
Maneet Chauhan is a well-respected James Beard Award-winning chef and Chopped judge, so you know this cookbook will be good.
Chaat dives into India's most iconic dishes, which you might see at local markets and street vendors, and of course in people's homes. Inside, you'll find simple roasted sweet potatoes with star fruit, lemon, and spices; a fragrant layered chicken biryani rice casserole; and the flakiest onion and egg-stuffed flatbreads.
(Vegan Heritage Press, LLC, $15 AT AMAZON)
Plant-based eaters, here's one for you. Richa Hingle, a.k.a. veganricha.com, developed all these vegan Indian dishes, from curries to flatbreads to snacks and everything in between.
In a lot of the recipes, the vegetable is the star of the show, as with the whole roasted cauliflower in makhani gravy.
($14 AT AMAZON)
Are you a science nerd and looking to learn about Indian cooking? Here's the cookbook for you.
Author Krish Ashok delves into the cuisine, testing all the little tricks he'd observed - like why a teabag should go into the pressure cooker when boiling chickpeas, or why you should measuring with the knuckle of an index finger.
It's like if your high school chemistry class covered cooking, which for sure would have made it it much more fun.
(Interlink Books, $24 AT AMAZON)
If you've seen the Chef's Table series on Netflix, then you know all about Darjeeling Express, a restaurant in London famous for its Indian food.
This cookbook contains all the recipes, secrets to success, and personal stories from Asma Khan, the owner. Inside you'll find delicious dinners for two, feasts for friends and family, and lots of desserts and sweet treats.
(Chronicle Books, $20 AT AMAZON)
If you want easy-to-cook recipes with delicious flavor, you want Season.
This cookbook got a James Beard nomination for Best Cookbook Photography, so you know the 270 food photos inside are going to be gorgeous. And the recipes, like Deviled Eggs with Creamy Tahini and Za'atar, Caprese Salad with Sweet Tamarind Dressing, and Steak with Orange Peel and Coriander, all sound just as delicious as the photos look.