Cheap and Quick Desi Meals for Students

For students, time and money may prevent a satisfying meal but here is a selection of delicious Desi meals that are quick and low-cost.

Cheap and Quick Desi Meals for Students f

It is a great way to spice up potatoes

For students, time and money are two important factors. Thankfully, there are delicious Desi meals that fit both factors.

Students have busy university schedules, filled with lectures and assignments.

As a result, it can be difficult for them to enjoy delicious meals, leaving them reaching for frozen food.

Fortunately, there are a number of Desi meal recipes that are delicious, quick and cheap.

These recipes are inspired by the ingredients that are typically found in cupboards.

Each dish has its own array of spices and flavours, ensuring a satisfying meal after a long day of assignments and lectures.

Here is a selection of Desi meals that are quick and cheap, ideal for the busy student.

Bombay Potatoes

Cheap and Quick Desi Meals for Students - potatoes

This is a fast Desi meal to cook if you are a student as it requires potatoes and spices that are already in your cupboard.

It is usually eaten as a side dish but it can be a main meal if you prefer. The soft potatoes have a slight crispiness when they are fried.

It is a great way to spice up potatoes but ideally, you want to serve delicious cubes of potato, so try not to stir them too much.


  • 3 Potatoes, cut into medium-sized cubes
  • 1 Onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 Garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 Tomato, quartered
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ¾ tsp cumin seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Add the potatoes and boil until just tender, check by piercing them with a fork. They are ready if the fork slightly goes through.
  2. Blend the ginger, garlic and tomato until it reaches a smooth consistency.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. Allow them to sizzle, then add the onion and cook for one minute.
  4. Add the ginger-garlic mixture, the powdered spices and salt. Gently cook for two minutes until it becomes fragrant.
  5. Gently add the potatoes and cook for five minutes until they are fully coated in the spices. If you prefer crispier potatoes, fry for longer.
  6. Remove from the heat and enjoy with fresh roti or naan.

This recipe was inspired by Anjum Anand.

Aloo Gobi

Cheap and Quick Desi Meals for Students - gobi

Aloo Gobi is a classic within Desi cooking and perfect for the busy student.

The dish uses potatoes and cauliflower which come together along with the spices for a well balanced vegetarian meal.

The earthy potatoes are an ideal contrast to the hint of sweetness from the cauliflower, but the ginger and garlic add an intense depth of flavour.

It is quite easy to make and promises a plethora of unique flavours combined into one dish.


  • 1 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 2 Potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
  • 1 Green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • A small bunch of coriander, chopped


  1. Wash the cauliflower. Leave to drain and make sure that it is completely dry before cooking.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the cumin seeds.
  3. Add the onions and garlic when the cumin seeds begin to sizzle. Fry until they become soft and slightly brown.
  4. Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, ginger, salt, turmeric, chilli and fenugreek leaves. Cook until the mixture has fully combined and it begins to form a thick masala paste.
  5. Add the potatoes and stir until they have been coated in the paste. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the cauliflower and stir until it is well mixed with the other ingredients. Cover and let it cook for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through.
  7. Gently stir occasionally to prevent the vegetables from going mushy.
  8. Add some garam masala, mix and garnish with coriander before serving.

This recipe was inspired by Hari Ghotra.

Chana Masala

Cheap and Quick Desi Meals for Students - chana

Chana masala or cholay is a North Indian curry made with chickpeas and can be made according to your preference.

It can be dry or in a thick gravy. This particular vegetarian curry recipe has a deliciously spiced gravy that is rich in flavour.

Every bite is full of flavour, making this a cheap and quick Desi meal for students.


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1½ Onions, finely diced
  • 3 cups chickpeas, cooked, drained and rinsed
  • 4 Garlic cloves
    1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 4 Dried red chillies
  • 2 Green cardamom pods
  • 2 Cloves
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried mango powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until they soften.
  2. Add the ginger, garlic, red chillies, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Stir constantly so the garlic does not burn.
  3. Add the coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala, turmeric, black pepper, salt and mango powder. Mix well and cook for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Partially cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce the heat and remove the whole spices if possible.
  6. Garnish with butter and coriander. Serve with rice and naan.

This recipe was adapted from The Curious Chickpea.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Cheap and Quick for Students - tikka

Chicken tikka masala may sound like a time-consuming dish as it requires the chicken to be marinated beforehand.

However, this simplified version cuts out a lot of the time.

It is a flavourful, one-pot dish suited for busy students.


  • 500g chicken, boneless and diced
  • 3 Onions, diced
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp green chilli
  • 1½ tsp garlic-ginger paste
  • ¾ tin chopped tomatoes, blended
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp garam masala


  1. Heat oil in a pan on a medium heat.
  2. Add the chopped onions and fry until they become translucent. Add the ginger-garlic paste and stir fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Slowly add the diced chicken into the pan and cook until it has browned.
  4. Add red chilli powder, turmeric, green chilli, coriander powder, salt and one teaspoon of garam masala.
  5. Mix thoroughly until the chicken is evenly coated with the spices.
  6. Add the blended tomatoes and stir. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens.
  7. Sprinkle the other teaspoon of garam masala over the tikka masala. Serve with boiled rice or naan.

Chicken Kathi Rolls

Cheap and Quick for Students - kathi

Kathi rolls are a popular Indian street food item but can easily be enjoyed at home, especially if you are a student.

They consist of either chicken, lamb or even marinated vegetables rolled inside a paratha with peppers and onions.

They are simple to make but what makes this Desi meal great is that you can enjoy them on the go.


  • 200g chicken breast
  • ¼ cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp tandoori masala
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • Chaat masala
  • 1 sliced green pepper
  • Pack of frozen paranthas


  1. Slice the washed and cleaned chicken breast into strips.
  2. In a bowl, mix the chicken with the salt, ginger-garlic paste, tandoori masala, lemon juice and yoghurt.
  3. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat then add the peppers and onions. Fry for 30 seconds then add in the chicken and the remaining masala from the bowl and cook for another four minutes.
  4. Cover and cook until the chicken has fully cooked.
  5. Place the cooked chicken mixture into a bowl and set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, add a few drops of oil into a frying pan and cook the frozen paranthas until golden and heated through.
  7. Once they are cooked, place the chicken mixture onto one parantha, sprinkle some chaat masala on top and simply roll it.
  8. Enjoy with salad or masala fries.

These Desi meals use a variety of ingredients and are prepared in different ways but all of them are delicious.

They are also cheap and quick to make, meaning they are perfect for busy students.

For those who do not have a lot of time to cook, try out these recipes.

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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