Indian cooking uses a lot of dairy, whether the flavorful clarified butter, ghee, the cream or the paneer cheese. You can surely make Indian meat dishes with dairy substitutes, but this is the perfect time to spice up your dairy meals.

Let’s talk about ghee, which is used in most Indian food. You can definitely substitute regular butter for Ghee, but there would definitely be something missing. And if you are going dairy, go all out.

Ghee is a clarified butter that you might find in the store, but is just as easy to prepare at home. To prepare ghee, butter is melted in a pot over medium high heat. The butter begins to melt, forming a white froth on top. It is then simmered, stirring occasionally and the froth begins to thin slowly and the color of the butter changes to a pale yellow shade. Then it is cooked on low heat until it turns a golden color. The residue solids settle at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, golden and translucent and fragrant, is ready. The ghee is then filtered, and it will solidify when completely cool. Ghee can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided it is kept in an airtight container.

On to paneer, the delicate soft cheese abundant in Indian cooking. It actually looks a lot like tofu, and for a meat meal you can easily use tofu as a substitute, but of course it will lack the creamy depth of flavor that comes from paneer. Look for the Cheese Guy’s kosher paneer, or search online to make your own. It is much easier than you would think.

Now that we have the ghee and paneer, you might still need a quick trip to the spice market for mustard seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and more. Check your recipes before you go. Tip: if you buy them whole, they last longer.

We have quite a few Indian recipes on Joy of Kosher, but for today I’ll start you off with two easy recipes (that don’t even use ghee or paneer!) just to get you used to the flavors. Try my easy Spinach Pakora, made like spiced spinach pancakes, and my favorite Aloo Gobi, Cauliflower and Potatoes. I would serve both of these with basmati rice and yellow daal. Enjoy.

Aloo Gobi (Indian Cauliflower and Potatoes)

Servings: 4


  • 2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste, recipe below
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1 large serrano pepper, split down the middle
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly minced cilantro leaves, to garnish


  1. Mix the ginger-garlic paste (recipe below), coriander, turmeric, and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. This is a simple wet masala (spice mix). Set aside.
  2. In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add the serrano pepper, wait 30 seconds, and then add the cumin seeds and wait until they’re done spluttering.
  3. Add the wet masala (careful, it will also splutter). Cook until the paste thickens, deepens in color slightly, and oil oozes out of the perimeter of the masala, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add the cauliflower and potatoes, stirring to coat the vegetables with the masala.
  5. Season with salt and add 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. Remove the lid, stir, and cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  7. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Ginger Garlic Paste


  • 1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peleled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1/4 cup canola oil


  1. Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste.
  2. Save whatever you don’t use in a small glass jar. It should last in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. It’s a delicious addition to marinades, pasta sauces, stir fry sauces, slow-cooker recipes, gravy etc. We always had a jar of this stuff in our fridge growing up.

Spinach Pakora

This Indian appetizer is easy, kid friendly. gluten free and vegan. Enjoy.

Prep Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 10 min

Ready Time: 15 min

Servings: 4


  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup gram flour (chickpea flour or besan)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 green chili (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying


  1. Mix all ingredients except for the oil in a bowl, add water just enough to moisten. The batter should turn sticky.
  2. Heat frying pan with oil over high heat.
  3. Place spoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil, flatten with fork. When browned, flip and cook the other side until brown.
  4. Remove to a plate covered with paper towels.
  5. Serve with chutney of choice.