Updated: May 17
Indian cooking can seem to most like a daunting task. Perhaps not, if you have been cooking Indian food for a long time. That's why I have put together this post on 7 tips for Indian Meal Prep.
It's not as scary and complicated as one might think. I find that just like most things, if you organise yourself and plan in advance it is very easy.
I grew up on Indian food and therefore I spent very little time cooking it. When I moved out and was studying I would eat what typical college kids eat, unhealthy stuff. It's only when I had kids that I started making a real effort to explore my own heritage.
My biggest challenge was time. I spent so much time cutting vegetables and making purees on the spot, that every meal ( easily two or three dishes per meal) was a three hour affair.
Nowadays I am more organised and I wanted to share with you the things I changed.
I divided Indian meal prep into seven basic elements.
1. Prepare the chutneys:
The two most common chutneys are the green and the red ones. The green chutney is mint and coriander based. The red chutney is Tamarind based. There are many different types of Chutneys and you can find the recipes on many Indian cooking blogs. I recommend making the chutneys ahead of time and refrigerating them. If you store them properly, they can last you four to five days in the refrigerator.
2. Grind your masalas:
Masala literally means mixture. So, a masala is a mixture of spices. Different curry and dishes can use different masalas. These days it is easy to buy ready made ones from the supermarket. However, many Indians prefer to make their own at home by roasting whole spices and then grinding them into a powdered mixture. The flavour is incomparable to what you get in the supermarkets.
I often grind my own masalas and store them in air tight jars. Masalas keep quite well in the refrigerator or freezer. If you put aside one day in the month to inventory your masalas, you will never run out mid cooking.
3. Prep your pastes:
Almost every Indian dish will use some sort of Ginger, Garlic and/or onion paste. These are easy to make and can be frozen for a month. I usually make a large batch and freeze them in ice cube trays. Once they have frozen I transfer the cubes into a ziplock bag. If you prep and freeze for the month, you will save a lot of time. Peeling ginger and garlic can be very time consuming so planning is key.
4. Prepping vegetables:
This is perhaps the most time consuming task of all. I used to struggle with getting food ready on time because I never planned for the time it takes to prep vegetables. My husband and I now divide the shopping and meal prep. He goes out and shops and I do the meal prep. For one person to do both is unnecessarily exhausting. To help save even more time, I bought a nicer dicer. This has saved me so much time, it's amazing and one of my favourite kitchen gadgets!
Decide on your meals and add up all the common ingredients. Prep all the vegetables and herbs you will need for the day of cooking. I never prep and cook on the same day. I prep the vegetables first. I peel, cut and store away everything in the refrigerator. The next day, I have more energy to cook and clean post cooking.
5. Pre-Soak lentils:
Depending on your meal plan, pre soaking your lentils in batches can really save time. I often soak lentils for the week all on one evening and leave them overnight. The next day, I rinse, cook and store them either in the refrigerator or the freezer. Lentils freeze very well and work well in soups.
You can also sprout them them use them in salads. A classic example of sprouted lentils is the Moong lentil.
By Cereals, I mean rice, wheat and other grains that come in flour or whole form. Indian food uses many different types of cereals. If you're new to Indian cooking, I would suggest starting with Basmati rice. Whole cereals need to be soaked for a few hours before cooking. When working with flour, you can make the dough a day or two in advance and keep it in the refrigerator.
Many people confuse spices as being spicy or hot. This is not the case. Different spices infuse a different flavour and medicinal purpose in Indian cooking. Whether it be turmeric, coriander or cumin, they each serve a function in the meal. If you cannot eat spicy food, then tone down on Ginger, pepper and any form of chillies. Spices in general, impart a lot of flavour to a dish.
Keeping your pantry stocked with spices will mean you will never run out mid prep. There are many spices in Indian cooking, many more than can be listed in this post.
These seven elements of Indian cooking will become second nature when practiced regularly. It is only through planning and good management that a meal prep of any kind can be successful.
I hope this post was able to inspire you to take on more exotic flavours and cuisines.