5 Indian Food Substitutes Which Can Prove Helpful

The case for food substitutes is much more layered than what it would seem especially when it comes to comparing nutritional profiles. Most dieticians advocate eating locally-grown native fruits and veggies, since they’re not just fresher than imported produce, but tend to be high in nutrient value since locally-grown produce has a shorter time between harvest and consumption. Fruit and vegetables that are found in local markets have been allowed to ripen naturally and do not have any chemicals or additives mixed in, unlike imported produce which need preservatives to retain their own freshness.

Similarly, locally-grown grains, pulses and spices can replace exotic varieties. Some alternatives however are simply appreciated for convenience. For instance, did you know that lemon juice can be used as a substitute for tamarind in dishes that require acidity and tanginess? Alternatively, amchur can be used to add a sour flavour to dishes like chutneys or marinades. Here are some other Indian food substitutes which can help you out in your kitchen.

A Substitute For Kale: Spinach

Palak can easily be used as a base for salads in place of kale. Its tender leaves and mild flavour make it a versatile option for salads. Palak can be added to smoothies as a nutritious leafy green. Its mild flavour blends well with fruits like bananas, berries, mangoes, and pineapple.

Moreover, palak can be cooked in various dishes where kale is typically used. For example, you can sauté palak with garlic, onions, and spices to make a flavorful side dish. Both palak and kale are highly nutritious leafy greens that offer a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. 

Spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K. It is particularly rich in vitamin K, which plays a crucial role in bone health and blood clotting. Kale is also rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Like spinach, it is particularly high in vitamin K, providing more than 100% of the recommended daily intake in just one cup of raw kale.  Both kale and spinach a good sources of dietary fibre, which supports digestive health and helps regulate blood sugar levels. 

A Substitute For Zucchini: Doodhi

Doodhi which is an Indian summer gourd is low in calories and rich in water, just like zucchini. Doodhi may even be more nutritious than zucchini as it contains essential nutrients such as vitamins C and B complex, including folate, as well as minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.

It’s also known for its high fibre content, which supports digestive health and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

In terms of taste, doodhi has a mild, subtle flavour with a slightly sweet undertone. It has a tender texture when cooked, similar to other summer squashes. Zucchini has a slightly stronger flavour compared to doodhi, with a hint of sweetness and a slightly nutty taste. But it has a firm texture with a slight crunch when cooked.

A Substitute For Quinoa: Amaranth

Amaranth can be a good substitute for quinoa in many recipes due to its similar nutritional profile and texture. Both amaranth and quinoa are gluten-free pseudo-grains, high in protein, fibre, and various vitamins and minerals, so substituting one for the other won't significantly change the nutritional value of your dish. Moreover, they can be cooked similarly.

Rinse the amaranth seeds thoroughly, then combine with water or broth in a pot, using a ratio of about 1 cup of amaranth to 2.5 cups of liquid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the amaranth is tender.

Amaranth has a slightly different texture compared to quinoa. While quinoa has a slightly crunchy texture when cooked, amaranth tends to be softer and slightly more gelatinous. 

Substitute For Avocado: Coconut

This may sound like a reach considering avocados and coconuts don’t have much similarities in terms of flavour, but when it comes to the nutritional profile and texture, the two fruits are quite similar. Avocado is known for its creamy texture, which lends itself well to dishes like guacamole, salads, sandwiches, and smoothies. It adds richness and thickness to recipes while also providing healthy fats.

Coconut, especially in its creamy form like coconut milk or coconut cream, can provide a similar level of creaminess to dishes. Coconut cream, in particular, is thick and luxurious, making it a suitable substitute for avocado. Coconut has a distinct flavour that is sweet and nutty, with tropical undertones. Coconut is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easily digestible fats that provide quick energy. Coconut is also a good source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Besides coconut is much more versatile than avocado since it can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes.

A Substitute For Matcha: Moringa

Matcha, a powdered green tea, is known for its vibrant green colour and slightly bitter flavour. Moringa powder, made from the leaves of the moringa tree, offers a similar green hue and some common nutritional benefits. Both matcha and moringa are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Moringa powder is particularly high in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and iron. 

Moringa powder has a milder and earthier taste, than matcha along with some vegetal notes. Moringa powder can be used in similar ways to matcha. It can be added to smoothies, lattes, baked goods, desserts, and savoury dishes to impart colour, flavour, and nutritional benefits.