indian international students
One of the most satisfying and easiest Indian vegetarian dishes for international students on a budget: aloo gobi. Source: Shutterstock

Indian food is the stuff dreams are made of.

It’s spicy, it’s complex and it inspires all sorts of appreciative, guttural sounds from us. It uses plenty of spices, giving a good boost to our immune systems and metabolisms for hours after finishing our meals.

Indian vegetarian food is all of the above but even better as it comes sans all the caloric and industrial meat-eating guilt.

The problem is, it takes some time to make or good money to splash in a restaurant. When abroad, these two things can make it difficult for the Indian student abroad to satisfy their cravings and dietary requirements whenever they want.

The good news, however, is being such a wide and varied cuisine, there are seemingly unlimited dishes you can cook using the various ingredients, herbs and spices synonymous to Indian cooking.

So here are five dishes that are not only vegetarian but easy to whip up and contain affordable ingredients for Indian students on a budget abroad using pantry staples that you can find at specialty or local supermarkets.

These are also great for other students on vegetarian diets looking to add some spice into their life and start learning the basics of Indian cooking.


Chances are, your mother, grandmother, aunty and older cousin have probably told you to load up on rasam – after all, it is the secret elixir to a strong immunity, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Those unfamiliar with Indian cooking may find this thick and tangy soup intimidating to cook, but it’s actually very easy. It will only take you approximately 30 minutes to make a big batch of rasam which you can also freeze in portion sizes.

The main ingredients for rasam are tomato, coriander, garlic, ginger, pepper, chili, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, curry leaves, and tamarind paste (which can be substituted with lime juice). These ingredients can be easily found at supermarkets at cheap prices.

Pour a generous helping of rasam over cooked white rice and voile! A classic comfort Indian vegetarian food to reinvigorate your soul and make your mother back home proud.

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If you’ve got the common Indian spices in your pantry, you’ll be able to make a variety of Indian dishes easily. Source: Manjunath Kiran/AFP


Every dining table in India has a big, steaming bowl of this on the table and yours, in whichever campus you may be now, should be no exception.

Known as sambar in South Indian and dahl in the North, this popular lentil-based curry is a versatile staple. More importantly, it’s easy to make.

The main difference between the two is that sambar is made from yellow lentils with added vegetables, whereas dahl can be made with a variety of different lentils.

There are many variations and recipes, where some require you to have a pressure cooker to cook the lentils, but you can easily cook up a delicious pot of dahl without having one. Simply soak the lentils for at least an hour beforehand if you don’t want to spend much time boiling them.

Other common ingredients besides lentils you would need on hand to make dahl or sambar are curry leaves, mustard seeds, sambar powder/garam masala, onions, garlic, ginger, and coriander powder. If you’re making sambar, you can also add in vegetables like carrots, potatoes and eggplant.

Both dahl and sambar last a few days in the fridge and can also be frozen, making it a great idea for a quick and filling dish you can pair with rice, ready to go during exam season.

Chana Masala

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Chana masala is a popular Indian dish that goes well with poori and chapati, also an easy dish for international students to make. Source:
Narinder Nanu/AFP

Also known as chole, this popular Indian dish features chickpeas, the protein-rich morsels every vegetarian swears by.

We love how you don’t need to spend time soaking and pressure-cooking chickpeas – just use canned ones which can be found at almost every supermarket!

Other basic ingredients you would need to make a delicious batch of chana masala – which pairs nicely with roti or white rice – are tomatoes, onions, cardamom, ginger, garlic, garam masala, turmeric, and coriander powder. Other optional spices include bay leaves, cinnamon, and cloves.

Get cooking and impress your housemates!

Aloo gobi

This dish is a testament of how Indians are able to take the blandest, cheapest and most humble vegetables and turn it into an oh-so-satisying dish.

Plus, it’s also easy and quick to make. All it needs is basic ingredients you would already have in your pantry if you frequently cook Indian food, such as tomatoes, onions, cumin seeds, coriander, chili powder and garam masala.

It’s the perfect budget-friendly dish for the Indian vegetarian student abroad.

Really, is there any reason not to love aloo gobi?

Yogurt/curd rice

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Classic comfort food for indian international students who are vegetarian: curd rice. Source: Shutterstock

Yogurt and rice is the combination you never knew you absolutely need in your life.

So simple and delicious – it’s no wonder it’s a hit among Indian vegetarians from South India.

Indian students abroad can make this by just mixing mushy or overcooked rice with yogurt/curd and salt, then add tempered spices for flavour – such as mustard seeds, asafoetida. urad dahl, curry leaves, green chili, onion, and ginger. You can also add grated carrots.

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