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Living with lactose intolerance doesn’t mean missing out on the flavors of Indian cuisine. In this blog post, we delve into the world of lactose-free Indian food, where aromatic spices and vibrant ingredients take center stage. Whether lactose intolerant or simply exploring dairy-free options, join us on a delicious journey through the diverse and mouth-watering world of Indian cuisine.

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive disorder wherein the body lacks the necessary enzyme, lactase, to effectively break down lactose, the sugar in dairy products. The condition often leads to discomfort, bloating, and other digestive issues.

Indian cuisine is renowned for its vibrant flavors, rich spices, and diverse dishes. From aromatic curries to delectable street food, Indian cuisine offers a treasure trove of culinary experiences.

Since dairy products are commonly used in Indian cooking, it is crucial to develop lactose-free options to accommodate individuals with lactose intolerance. Lactose-free Indian food allows everyone to indulge in the flavors of this cuisine without compromising their well-being.

Common sources of lactose in Indian cuisine

Traditional Indian recipes often incorporate dairy products such as milk, yogurt, ghee (clarified butter), and paneer (Indian cottage cheese). These ingredients contribute to the richness and creaminess of many Indian dishes.

Besides obvious dairy products, lactose can also be present in hidden forms, including milk powder, cream-based sauces, and certain spice mixes. Awareness of these concealed sources is essential when preparing or ordering Indian food.

Lactose-intolerant individuals may face difficulties navigating Indian cuisine due to the prevalence of dairy-based ingredients. However, with a little knowledge and creativity, it is possible to enjoy the authentic flavors of Indian food while avoiding lactose.

Lactose-free alternatives in Indian cooking

Substitutes for dairy products in Indian recipes:


    • Plant-based milk alternatives: Almond, coconut, and soy milk are excellent substitutes for cow’s milk in Indian recipes. These dairy-free alternatives provide a similar creamy texture and add a subtle nuttiness or coconut flavor to your dishes. Whether making a flavorful curry or a creamy dessert-like kheer, these plant-based milk enhance the taste and consistency of your favorite Indian recipes.

    • Dairy-free yogurt alternatives: When it comes to replacing traditional yogurt in Indian recipes, there are a couple of options to consider. Soy yogurt, made from soy milk, offers a smooth and tangy alternative that can be used in recipes like raita, marinades or as a base for creamy dressings. Coconut yogurt, on the other hand, lends a rich and tropical twist to your dishes. It works well in savory and sweet recipes, adding a touch of creaminess and a hint of coconut flavor.

    • Non-dairy cheese alternatives: While Indian cuisine doesn’t heavily rely on cheese, there are some dishes where you may want to add a creamy and cheesy touch. Luckily, there are various non-dairy cheese alternatives available, especially nut-based cheeses. These cheeses are made from ingredients like cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts and can be used in recipes like vegan paneer tikka or stuffed parathas. Additionally, commercially available lactose-free cheese options can bring richness and flavor to your favorite Indian dishes without the dairy.

Lactose-free spices, herbs, and condiments:


    • Use lactose-free ghee or vegetable oils: If you enjoy the rich and nutty flavor of Indian cooking, you can still savor it while being lactose-free. Look for lactose-free ghee options available in the market. Alternatively, opt for vegetable oils like olive oil, coconut oil, or mustard oil as a lactose-free alternative. These oils not only provide a healthy cooking medium but also lend their unique flavors to your dishes.

    • Fresh herbs and spices as flavor enhancers: One of the most exciting aspects of Indian cuisine is the extensive use of aromatic spices and fresh herbs. Embrace the vibrant qualities of fresh cilantro, mint, curry leaves, and basil to enhance the flavors of your lactose-free Indian dishes. Incorporate spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and cinnamon to create a symphony of tastes that will shine your dishes. These natural flavor enhancers add depth, complexity, and freshness to your culinary creations.

    • Homemade lactose-free sauces and chutneys: Sauces and chutneys play a crucial role in Indian cuisine, adding tanginess, heat, and complexity to dishes. Create your lactose-free sauces and chutneys using simple and flavorful ingredients. For example, prepare a tomato-based sauce infused with aromatic spices to accompany your curries. Make a refreshing chutney using fresh mint leaves, cilantro, green chilies, and tangy lemon juice. Using lactose-free ingredients such as tomatoes, herbs, and spices ensures that your homemade sauces and chutneys are free from lactose content while still imparting incredible taste to your dishes.

Traditional lactose-free Indian food

Examples of naturally lactose-free Indian dishes:


    • Rice-based dishes: Delight in the aroma and flavors of fragrant biryanis and pulao, naturally lactose-free. Basmati rice is the foundation for these delectable dishes, infused with a harmonious blend of aromatic spices like cumin, cardamom, and cloves. Add a medley of vegetables, such as peas, carrots, and bell peppers, or incorporate protein sources like tofu, chickpeas, or mushrooms for a hearty and satisfying meal.

    • Lentil-based dishes: Dive into the comforting world of lentil-based dishes that are nourishing and lactose-free. Dal, a staple in Indian cuisine, encompasses a variety of lentils such as masoor dal (red lentils), toor dal (pigeon peas), or moong dal (yellow lentils). These lentils are perfectly cooked with a blend of spices, tomatoes, and onions, resulting in a flavorful and creamy dish. Similarly, savor the South Indian specialty sambar, which combines lentils, vegetables like drumsticks, carrots, and eggplant, along with a tantalizing tamarind-based broth.

    • Vegetable curries without dairy: Experience the vibrant flavors of vegetable curries that are naturally free from dairy products. An irresistible combination of potatoes and cauliflower simmered in a fragrant tomato-based sauce in dishes like aloo gobi. Bhindi masala, another popular option, features tender okra sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and an array of aromatic spices. These vegetable curries showcase the versatility and richness of Indian cuisine without the need for any dairy ingredients.

Regional lactose-free specialties:


    • South Indian dosas and idlis: Indulge in the beloved South Indian delicacies of dosas and idlis, which are naturally lactose-free. Dosas are thin, crispy fermented rice and lentil crepes often served with chutneys and sambhar, a flavorful lentil and vegetable stew. Idlis, conversely, are soft and fluffy steamed rice and lentil cakes, perfect for dipping into coconut chutney or sambhar. These gluten- and lactose-free specialties are delicious and provide a wholesome and satisfying meal.

    • Gujarati dhoklas and theplas: Delight in the unique flavors of Gujarati cuisine with dhoklas and theplas, which are lactose-free options. Dhoklas are steamed chickpea flour cakes with a tangy and slightly sweet taste. They are often served with a drizzle of tempering made from mustard seeds, curry leaves, and green chilies. Theplas, on the other hand, are fenugreek, or spinach-flavored flatbreads made using whole wheat flour and spices. These lactose-free Gujarati specialties are perfect for breakfast, snacks, or light meals.

    • Rajasthani dal baati churma: Experience the rustic flavors of Rajasthan with this traditional lactose-free dish. Dal baati churma consists of three components. The dal is a flavorful lentil soup prepared with a blend of spices, such as cumin, coriander, and turmeric. Baati refers to the baked bread rolls made from whole wheat flour, ghee (lactose-free ghee or vegetable oil can be used), and spices. Churma is a sweet dish made from crumbled wheat, jaggery (or alternative sweeteners), and ghee (lactose-free or vegetable oil can be used). Combining these three elements creates a hearty and satisfying meal that people across Rajasthan love.

Tips for dining out or ordering lactose-free Indian food

Communication with restaurant staff is essential when dining out with lactose intolerance. Start by informing the restaurant about your lactose intolerance when making a reservation or upon arrival. Communicate your dietary requirements and the need for lactose-free alternatives or customized dishes.

Politely ask the staff if they have lactose-free options available or if they can accommodate your needs by modifying dishes. Most restaurants are willing to make substitutions or adjustments for dietary restrictions. For example, you can request your beverages’ lactose-free milk or dairy-free alternatives.

When perusing the menu, carefully read the descriptions and inquire about ingredients if necessary. Avoid dishes that likely contain lactose, such as those with creamy sauces or desserts. Instead, opt for naturally lactose-free options like grilled meats, vegetable stir-fries, or plain rice and lentil dishes.

However, always double-check with the staff to ensure the dish is lactose-free. If needed, don’t hesitate to ask for modifications, such as omitting dairy-based ingredients or substituting them with lactose-free alternatives like almond milk, coconut milk, or lactose-free cheese. Throughout the process, maintain a polite and appreciative attitude towards the staff, expressing gratitude for their efforts to accommodate your dietary needs and make your dining experience enjoyable and lactose-free.

Where to order lactose-free Indian food on Brick Lane?

If you’re looking for a place to order lactose-free Indian food on Brick Lane, Bengal Village restaurant is an excellent choice. Inform the staff about your lactose intolerance when placing your order, and we will gladly assist you. We have experience catering to dietary restrictions and can provide lactose-free alternatives or modify dishes accordingly. Enjoy the vibrant flavors and exquisite tastes of Bengal Village while ensuring a lactose-free dining experience on Brick Lane.


Indulging in the vibrant flavors of Indian cuisine doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your lactose-free lifestyle. With the right knowledge and a touch of creativity, you can savor the rich aromas and tastes of Indian dishes without discomfort. Explore the vast array of lactose-free Indian recipes, experiment with alternative ingredients, and embrace the joy of dairy-free cooking.