A New Cookbook Makes A Case For Indian Cuisine & Veganism
Image Credit: Author of 'The Indian Vegan : Easy Recipes for Everyday Cooking', Sonal Ved

VIRAT Kohli, Sonakshi Sinha, Jacqueline Fernandes, Kangana Ranaut, Aamir Khan — do you know what is common amongst these celebrities? They are leaders in the league of those espousing either veganism or who have embraced it as a mainstay in their lifestyle. 

The adoption of veganism, previously regarded as a niche lifestyle, has quickly gained widespread popularity, with plant-based proteins playing a central role in this dietary shift. This remarkable surge in veganism found validation when The Economist termed 2019 as 'The Year of the Vegan', underlining that this plant diet had arrived on the culinary landscape. 

During the pandemic, this legion further grew as people started making tweaks in their lifestyles to remain healthy and to reflect their heightened awareness of the environmental impact of animal farming. As individuals increasingly prioritise conscious eating for environmental sustainability, restaurants are actively adapting to this transformative shift. A glance at any restaurant's menu reveals a notable inclusion of vegan options seamlessly integrated with its mainstream offerings.

Cookbook author and show host Sonal Ved is unsurprised by this shift; she is also a recent vegan convert because she believes that the proof of the pudding (obviously diary-free) lies in its eating. What made this transition easy for her was her vegetarian Gujarati origins. However, veganism was still a new beast she had to tame and befriend. 

"My journey began with cutting the cord with yoghurt, an ingredient I had been obsessed with all my life. I ate a yoghurt bowl for breakfast, drank chaas after lunch, and had raita for dinner. Yet somehow, I didn't know it wasn't working for my body type until I tried a vegan diet," she recalled.  

Today, she follows a diet that’s 80 percent plant-based, filled with whole grains, fresh vegetables, ample fruits, alternative milks, less gluten and more millets. This, she points out, makes sense to her body type and urges people to experiment until they find a diet plan that works well for them rather than following non-nutritionist suggestions.

Having researched the length and breadth of Indian cuisine for years, Sonal has finally concluded that when it comes to a vegan lifestyle, no other culinary tradition is as well-suited as the Indian one. And she has packed all her learnings in her newly launched book, 'The Indian Vegan : Easy Recipes for Everyday Cooking'.

Writing this book was quite an epiphany of sorts because a year before she landed the cookbook deal, Sonal was tremendously inspired to follow a vegan diet on a whim. "I read umpteen articles and studies and watched documentaries that convinced me that in order to feel better, think clearer, be fitter, I had to add more whole foods, grains and plants in my meals," she explains. 

She is aware of the criticism surrounding the commercialism of veganism, with people opting for industrially manufactured, synthetic products that imbibe the taste, colour and flavour of animal protein, defeating the very ethos of veganism. Given her own scepticism about anything that comes out of a packet, 'The Indian Vegan' has minimal to zero usage of synthetic colours to enhance the dish's texture. She has even written a recipe to make one's own ketchup at home.

Propagating any extreme dietary practice can be difficult because it is challenging to adhere to it, leaving many falling off the wagon within months. Will veganism also fall prey to this, or can it become a practical lifestyle habit one can follow in the long haul? The numbers show that veganism is here to stay. 

According to Coherent Market Insights, the Indian vegan food market is expected to surpass $2,756.6 million by 2030, exhibiting a 9.1 percent CAGR between 2022-2030. This could be linked to the growing inclination by people to subscribe to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle and do their bit to slow down climate change's snowballing effects. 

"Veganism is definitely practical, easy to follow, economic and therefore, a lifestyle habit for those who have taken well to it," Sonal emphasises. "Personally, I like to champion a dietary habit that is in not extreme or challenging to follow, based on where you're from, what your family eats, what you have grown up eating traditionally, your economic background, etc." So, if it's not practical, simple to understand and every day for you, she suggests that people rethink how they would like to incorporate healthy plant-based choices in their diet rather than banishing an entire food group. 

She also adds a strong disclaimer about 'The Indian Vegan', saying that it is in no way a nutritionist or a diet expert's take on vegan food. The reason, she reiterates, is that there are people who have often argued that a vegan diet can be deficient in essential nutrients as compared to one that includes dairy and meat. 

"I've read ample data on the health benefits of plant-based foods and would encourage the reader to research what is best for their body type and lifestyle. I've never followed a meat diet, so for me to understand what a meat eater goes through when they are deprived of that texture, taste and nutrition that meat provides, is challenging," she says. 

However, she promises that her cookbook will not restrict people to only swap ingredients in recipes, like substituting tofu for paneer. Instead, it comprises a wide range of recipes from Indian cuisines that are vegan in nature. 

So, one can still eat wholesome classics like Sindhi Bhee (lotus root) Kebab, Maharashtrian Kothimbir Vadi, Ladakhi Chutagi, Kerala's Ulli Theeyal and Manipuri Kelli Chana, Rajasthani Moong Dal Khilma, Bengal's Mocha'r Ghonto to Garhwali Kafuli. Sonal has taken pains to present recipes that open the doors to the diverse world of the country's regional cuisine and fit neatly into a vegan's daily life.

So, if you think that embracing a vegan lifestyle will burn a hole in your pocket because you would have to stock up on almond and soy milk, 'The Indian Vegan' will force you to do a rethink.  

"The popular perception of veganism that we see on the internet is that eating vegan food is all about soymilk lattes and avocado toast. That is why this book a guide to cooking Indian vegan food with everyday pantry essentials," Sonal explains. 

It does include a few recipes that are experimental with gourmet ingredients, but most are humble and at par with how an average Indian cooks daily. So, think Besan Chilla, Poha, Sabudana Khichdi, Dosa, Idli, Appam, Handvo, Rajma or Dal-Chawal—the many dishes we Indians have been eating for generations. 

For all those naysayers out there scoffing that veganism is not sustainable in the long run, well, you will need to find a new argument. Because potatoes are definitely cheaper than Wagyu any day!


Sonal says, “This recipe is in my cookbook because I want to save it for posterity. I lucked out on a traditional Kosha Mangsho recipe from my Bengali friend and home chef Iti Misra and then she was generous enough to teach me how to make it with this genius swap. Her whole family and I swear by it.”


    ½ tsp saffron soaked in hot water

    ¼ cup vegan yoghurt

    2 cups raw jackfruit (cubed)

    4 tbsp oil

    2 bay leaves

    2 cinnamon sticks

    4 cloves

    3 green cardamoms

    1 cup onion (grated)

    2 green chillies (chopped)

    Salt as per taste

    1½ tbsp garlic paste

    3 tbsp ginger paste

    2 tsp red chilli powder


• In a bowl, mix the saffron with the yoghurt and marinate the jackfruit in it for 5-6 hours.

• In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and add the bay leaves and other whole spices and allow them to crackle.

• Add the onion, green chillies and salt and fry till the onion is a light golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and red chilli powder and fry for 2-3 minutes.

• Add the jackfruit along with the marinade and fry for 5-6 minutes.

• Add 2 cups of water and stir well. Shut the pressure cooker and cook on medium heat for 4 whistles, then turn off the heat.

• Allow the pressure cooker to cool to room temperature.

• Check the doneness of the jackfruit, then transfer it into another pan to cook further if needed. Adjust the seasoning and serve hot.

Source: The Indian Vegan Cookbook