Desi-inspired Vegetarian Dishes to Try at Christmas

Christmas is a time to enjoy great food but it can be difficult for vegetarians. Here are some delicious Desi vegetarian options.

Desi-inspired Vegetarian Dishes to Try at Christmas f

there are a number of options that are packed with flavour

Food during Christmas is one of the best things to look forward to. But for vegetarians, sometimes it can be hard to find something that is both delicious and filling.

Christmas dinner is an extensive meal, ranging from starters to dessert. And in each course come a variety of options.

The essence of Christmas dinner is to bring family and loved ones together around the dinner table to enjoy some fantastic food.

A traditional British Christmas dinner features a particular type of meat, potatoes and vegetables.

Fortunately, there are a variety of meat-free options available, whether it be a meat substitute or vegetables.

And with many British Asians enjoying the traditional Christmas dinner, why not put a Desi spin on your vegetarian Christmas dinner?

Here are some Desi-inspired dishes that are suitable for vegetarians.


Desi-inspired Vegetarian Dishes to Try at Christmas - balchao

Balchao is traditionally made with prawns or fish in a spicy vinegar sauce and is often served with rice.

But this version is made with baby corn and paneer instead, making it ideal for vegetarians.

This vegetarian twist on a classic dish is perfect for the colder months and for Christmas.


  • ½kg paneer
  • 8 Baby corns
  • 12 Dry red chillies, stemmed and broken
  • 10 Garlic cloves
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 8 Cloves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1-inch stick of cinnamon
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup malt vinegar
  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 2 Tomatoes, chopped
  • ¾ cup tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp oil


  1. Cut the paneer into diamond-shaped pieces and set aside.
  2. Boil the baby corn. Once done, cut into small pieces and set aside.
  3. Grind the red chillies, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, cloves, mustard seeds, cinnamon and salt with a quarter cup of malt vinegar into a fine paste.
  4. Heat oil in a pan then lightly fry the onions. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for five minutes.
  5. Add the baby corn, tomato puree and masala paste. Add salt and sugar and half a cup of water and cook for four minutes.
  6. Add the paneer and stir well. Pour in the remaining malt vinegar and stir. When the paneer is cooked through, serve.

This recipe was inspired by Sanjeev Kapoor.

Vegetarian Roasts

The centrepiece of a Christmas dinner tends to be the roast meat, whether it be turkey, chicken, lamb or beef.

But for vegetarians and vegans, there are a number of options that are packed with flavour and are bound to please your family members.

Roasted Stuffed Cauliflower

Desi-inspired Vegetarian Dishes to Try at Christmas - cauli


  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp breadcrumbs

For the Stuffing

  • 250g kale, chopped
  • 1 tbsp milled linseed
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ small pack sage, leaves chopped
  • ½ small pack rosemary, leaves chopped
  • 150g cooked chestnuts, finely chopped, plus 30g for the topping
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • good grating nutmeg


  1. Trim and discard the cauliflower leaves. Turn the cauliflower upside down and carefully cut out the stalk and core, leaving a cavity.
  2. Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil then cook the cauliflower for seven minutes. Once done, carefully remove and set aside to steam dry.
  3. Add the kale to the pan and cook for a min or so until wilted. Drain, then run under cold water to cool. Squeeze out the excess liquid and roughly chop.
  4. To make the linseed ‘egg’, mix the ground linseed with three tablespoons of water and set aside for 10 minutes until gluey.
  5. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan then add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened then stir in the remaining stuffing ingredients, including the kale, and cook for a minute.
  6. Remove from the heat and season, then put into a blender with 150ml water and the linseed ‘egg’. Blend into a thick puree then transfer to a piping bag.
  7. Pipe the stuffing mixture into the cauliflower, getting in as much of the puree as you can. Transfer to a baking tray lined with parchment.
  8. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan.
  9. Mix the remaining chestnuts with the breadcrumbs and some seasoning. Spoon the remaining oil all over the cauliflower, then pat on the breadcrumb chestnut mix.
  10. Roast for 45 minutes until golden brown and tender. Serve with any crisp bits that have fallen onto the baking tray.

This recipe was inspired by BBC Good Food.

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Cakes

Desi-inspired Vegetarian Dishes to Try at Christmas - cake


  • 1¼ cups sweet potato mash
  • 1½ cups chickpeas, cooked
  • 2 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ¼ cup spring onions, chopped
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  1. Add all the ingredients, except the oil, to a food processor. Blitz until the mixture has combined and the chickpeas have broken down but still have texture.
  2. Shape the mixture into six patties.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet. When hot, place the patties and cook for about five minutes per side then serve.

This recipe was adapted from Food 52.

Tofu ‘Turkey’


  • 450g extra-firm tofu, crumbled
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Red onion, finely diced
  • 1½ cups celery, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • A pinch of dried sage
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ¼ cup tamari
  • 3 cups prepared herb stuffing
  • ½ cup sesame oil
  • ¼ cup tamari
  • 2 tbsp miso paste
  • 5 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tsp honey mustard
  • ½ tsp orange zest
  • 3 Sprigs of fresh rosemary


  1. Line a medium-sized, round colander with cheesecloth. Place the tofu in the colander. Place another cheesecloth over the top of the tofu.
  2. Place the colander over the top of a bowl to catch the liquid. Place a weight on top of the tofu.
  3. Refrigerate for three hours.
  4. To make the stuffing, fry garlic, sage, thyme, salt and pepper, rosemary and a quarter cup of the tamari. Stir well and cook for five minutes. Add the prepared herb stuffing and mix well. Remove from heat.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with parchment.
  6. In a small bowl, combine half a cup of sesame oil, tamari, miso, orange juice, mustard and orange zest. Mix well.
  7. Remove the weight from the tofu and hollow it out until there is one inch of tofu still lining the colander.
  8. Place the scooped-out tofu in a separate bowl.
  9. Brush the tofu lining with a small amount of the miso seasoning. Scoop the stuffing into the centre of the tofu shell.
  10. Place the leftover tofu on top of the stuffing and press down firmly.
  11. Turn the stuffed tofu onto the prepared baking tray, with the flat side facing down.
  12. Gently press to form a more oval shape.
  13. Brush on the sides of the “turkey” to form a more oval shape. Brush the tofu with half of the oil-tamari mixture. Place the sprigs of rosemary on top of the tofu and cover with foil.
  14. Bake for an hour then remove the foil and baste with the remaining oil-tamari (reserving four tablespoons).
  15. Return to the oven and bake for another hour.
  16. Once golden-brown, place the tofu on a serving tray and brush with the remaining oil-tamari mixture.

This recipe was inspired by All Recipes.

Nut Roast


  • 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Onions, finely chopped
  • 6 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 300g chestnuts, finely chopped
  • 220g granola
  • 2 Carrots, grated
  • 270g kidney beans, rinsed
  • 150g frozen cranberries, chopped
  • 270g puy lentils, rinsed
  • 1½ tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp mixed dried and fresh herbs, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste

For the Onion Gravy

  • ½ Red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tbsp coconut sugar
  • 100ml red wine
  • 1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1½ tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 250ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp rosemary
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 Garlic clove


  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the chestnuts and carrots. Cook for five minutes.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and mash to combine.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the loaf tin and cook for 45 minutes until the outside develops a crust and the inside is firm.
  5. To make the onion gravy, prepare half a litre of vegetable stock and set aside.
  6. Add the oil to the frying pan and sauté the onion with the coconut or brown sugar, garlic and herbs for 10 minutes.
  7. Once it becomes sticky in texture, pour in the wine, balsamic vinegar and tamari sauce. Simmer until the stock has reduced by half.
  8. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for a further 10 minutes until you are left with a thick, dark gravy.

This recipe was inspired by Vegan Food and Living.

Mixed Vegetable Biryani

Desi-inspired Vegetarian Dishes to Try at Christmas - biryani

Biryani is a well-known and loved dish but it’s not the first thing you think of when it comes to Christmas dinner.

But it is a royal dish that is ideal for the occasion.

There are many variations but an assortment of vegetables makes this dish ideal for vegetarians.

For a festive spin on this dish, why not add fresh cranberries?


  • ¼ cup onions, grated
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables of your choice, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 cup rice, boiled to almost done
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • A handful of coriander, to garnish
  • A handful of cranberries (optional)


  1. Heat oil and add the cumin seeds to a large pot. When they sizzle, add the onions and ginger-garlic paste. Fry until brown.
  2. Stir fry the vegetables over a low heat until they have slightly softened. Add coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric, chilli powder and green chillies. Cook for five minutes then mix in the lemon juice and half of the coriander.
  3. When the water has evaporated, remove half of the vegetables and layer with half of the rice.
  4. Cover with the rest of the vegetable mixture and the rest of the rice.
  5. Place the lid on the pot and allow it to cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Once done, garnish with the coriander and serve.

This recipe was inspired by NDTV Food.

Allahabadi Fruitcake

Fruitcake is a very popular Christmas dessert and throughout India, there are many variations.

Often served warm, its sweet, fruity taste and moist texture make it irresistible no matter the variation.

Most versions contain the likes of nutmeg and cinnamon as well as the traditional mix of dried fruit.


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups petha
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ a jar of marmalade
  • A pinch of black cumin seeds
  • 1½ cup mixed candied fruits
  • 2 cups rum
  • ½ cup warm water


  1. In a pan, melt the sugar in a pan until it caramelises. Then remove from the heat and add the water. Return to the heat and stir until combined then set aside.
  2. In a bowl beat together sugar and butter then add one egg. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir well.
  3. Grease a cake tin and pour in the batter. Bake in a 180°C oven for one hour.
  4. Once done, place on a wire rack to cool. When able to handle, remove from the tin and decorate with mixed nuts.

This recipe was inspired by Times of India.


Kuswar is a selection of sweet and savoury snacks served on a platter.

During the festive period, they are part of the Goan Catholic community of Goa, and the Mangalorean Catholic community of Karnataka.

There are as many as 22 different traditional recipes that form a kuswar.

Some dishes include:

  • Nevri – They are crescent-shaped puffs with a sweet filling of nuts, spices and raisins then fried.
  • Kalkal –  A Goan pastry made of egg, coconut milk and flour. It is rolled into shapes.
  • Rose Cookies – Also known as Achu Murukku, this sweet dish is often shaped into spirals. They are made with a simple batter of flour, rice flour, coconut milk and eggs. They are then fried on a mould and coated in powdered sugar.


Vegan Indian Dessert Recipes to Make - bebinca

A cake-like pudding originating in Goa, bebinca is popular during Christmas.

It is made of plain flour, coconut milk, sugar, ghee and egg yolk.

What makes this dessert so unique is its layered arrangement.

Usually, it has seven layers but it can have up to 16 layers in total and it is soft and sweet. It can be enjoyed on its own but a scoop of ice cream intensifies its taste.


  • 250g plain flour
  • 700ml coconut milk
  • 24 Egg yolks
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 1½ cups Ghee
  • Almond slivers (to garnish)


  1. In a bowl, mix the coconut milk and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they become creamy. Add the coconut milk and mix well. Gradually add the flour to the mixture to ensure that there are no lumps.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to medium.
  4. Put a tablespoon of ghee in a baking pan that is at least six inches deep. Place under the grill until the ghee melts.
  5. Once the ghee has melted, remove from the grill and pour some of the batter to form a quarter inch thick layer.
  6. Place into the grill and cook until the top is golden.
  7. Once done, remove from the grill and add another tablespoon of ghee onto the layer.
  8. Pour another layer of batter of the same thickness as the previous one. Grill until golden.
  9. Repeat the process until all the batter has been used up.
  10. When you reach the last layer, spoon the final tablespoon of ghee and grill.
  11. When done, remove from the grill and turn the bebinca over on a flat dish and garnish with almond slivers.
  12. Cut into equal slices and serve warm or cool.

This recipe was inspired by The Spruce Eats.

In South Asian countries, finding non-meat dishes is not difficult as the majority of the population is vegetarian.

But for those who celebrate Christmas, especially those in the UK, searching for dishes that are both meat-free and delicious can get frustrating.

Thankfully, this selection of dishes will ensure vegetarians can enjoy a satisfying Christmas meal.

Sophie studies Journalism and is interested in current affairs, music, movies, and art. She enjoys reading non-fiction books and watching documentaries. Her motto is "Sometimes you’ve just got to lick the stamp and send it."

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