If you love preparing Indian cuisine at home, the chances are that you already have a few of the cooking utensils needed to make fabulous, authentic meals.
Special equipment isn’t a requirement to successfully cook Indian foods, but it can certainly make it easier and more efficient to do so!
Below, we’ve listed 20 essential pieces of equipment found within our own kitchen and why we think you should consider adding them to your own.
1. Karahi Pan (Kadai/Kadhai)
A karahi is a deep, circular pan used throughout the Indian subcontinent. Similar to a wok in appearance, karahi’s are an essential item in the Indian kitchen, used daily to cook and serve meals.
One key difference between a wok and a karahi is that a karahi usually has steeper sides. This is because they are commonly used for deep-frying snacks like samosas and bhajis, as well as for simmering curries and stews.
Available with or without handles in an extensive range of sizes, karahis are made using a variety of materials, including aluminum, iron and stainless steel.
Traditionally, cast iron was most commonly used, which becomes naturally non-stick once the pan is seasoned, has excellent heat retention and is highly durable.
However, more modern non-stick designs are increasing in popularity and commonly use aluminum topped with a non-stick coating. These pans are usually quicker to heat, lighter and dishwasher safe.
Tip: Choose a kadai that is a suitable size and material for your hob. Cast iron is great for induction surfaces!
2. Chapati Pan (Tava/Tawa)
A tava is a large, flat frying pan with a concave base used for cooking flatbreads such as chapati, roti, dosa, kulcha and paratha.
Comparable in size and design to a crepe pan, tavas have the same even heat distribution as a good frying pan but allow for far better control when turning a flatbread or spreading batter for dosa.
Available in sizes of 24cm – 30cm, we’d recommend getting a larger tava if you have the space. Making authentic-looking dosas can be a challenge with a smaller surface!
Tip: A cast-iron Tawa should be seasoned with oil before and in between use.
3. Spice Containers (Masala Dabba)
Traditional Indian recipes use a combination of spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves to produce intense flavours in aromatic dishes. Sometimes one spice will dominate. For example, biryani, a popular rice and curried meat dish, relies heavily on cloves for its distinct taste.
To ensure that these different seasonings retain their aroma and pungency, they should be kept in airtight containers and stored in a dark, cool location. In India, that location is within a masala dabba, a box most commonly made from stainless steel or fine quality rosewood.
They feature individual compartments (usually at least 7) so that you can keep the spices you keep most frequently at your fingertips – although most do come with a spoon!
Tip: Keep your spice collection where it is accessible and away from sunlight, heat and moisture.
4. Spice Roasting Pans (Tadka)
Mastery of spices is essential to producing the complex flavours found within Indian cooking, and this isn’t possible without mastering the different techniques that help bring these flavours to life.
A tadka pan looks similar to a small ladle and is named after the technique of grinding and roasting (tempering) spices in ghee (clarified butter) to add flavour and texture to dishes such as curry or sambar, a lentil and mixed vegetable stew. Made from anodised steel or aluminium, the pans are extremely durable and non-stick.
Tip: Sprinkle a little salt into the hot oil or butter when it starts to heat to prevent it from spitting.
5. Chapati Board and Rolling Pin (Chakla Belan)
A chapati rolling pin and board are used in combination to roll out the kneaded dough into chapati, roti or parathas. The flat, smooth circular board (chakla) – usually made from stone, marble or wood – is used with a wooden rolling pin (belan), approximately 30 to 35cm long, to shape and flatten the mixture evenly.
Belan also come in different materials such as steel, wood, glass, ceramic and marble, and in different shapes, depending on the recipes it will be used for.
Tip: Never soak your Belan in soapy water. Instead, apply a tiny amount of oil regularly and rub it in.
6. Chapati Press
Looking for a time-saving alternative to a chakla belan? A chapati press could be for you!
Chapati presses are available in traditional wooden designs and more modern metal alternatives. You can also now get electric chapati makers, which will both press and cook your flatbreads. This makes the process effortless and provides far better consistency in colour and shape.
Tip: For perfectly formed and flattened dough, knead your dough and leave it to rest for 1 -2 hours.
7. Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker reduces cooking time significantly, which can be very convenient and much more economical in the amount of power used when compared with ordinary cooking methods.
Preparations involving rice, dry lentils or beans, frying vegetables, steaming rice cakes and braising meat for curries: these can all withstand the high temperatures of a pressure cooker, and the results are tastier too.
Made from hard-anodised aluminium and stainless steel, and available in different sizes and capacities, meals can be cooked super-fast for the whole family. Some have self-regulating safety features and stay-cool handles.
Tip: Meat cooked in a pressure cooker does not brown, so do this at the start of cooking before adding liquid and putting the lid on.
8. Chapati Warmer (Roti/Chapati Dabba)
Chapati dabba are ideal for keeping chapatis warm and moist. Used in traditional Indian kitchens for centuries, chapati boxes are usually made from stainless steel and aluminium or handcrafted from sheesham (indian rosewood).
As they are usually displayed on the table during meals, we recommend a wooden design which usually feature beautiful, intricate designs.
Tip: Stack your chapatis in a Chapati Dabba if not serving straight away.
9. Mortar and Pestle
Mortar and pestle sets are essential pieces of Indian cooking equipment. They are highly effective for pounding ingredients to a very fine paste. The mortar (a cup-shaped bowl) and pestle (a heavy broad-based tool with a rounded end) come in varying sizes to be used for freshly grinding large or small amounts, depending on the recipe.
Made from granite, marble, clay, ceramic or wood, they are ideal for crushing nuts and spices such as coriander, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and cumin seeds for spice blends such as garam masala.
Tip: Use dry white rice to remove smells and stains from strong spices. Grind a small amount in the mortar and repeat until odour-free.
10. Appam Pans or Moulds (Paniyarakkal)
This versatile shallow pan serves many purposes but is primarily used to make a type of crispy South Indian pancake or dumpling: appam (appe).
A mixture of rice dough and coconut milk is poured into the greased moulds and steamed until golden brown. The dumplings are a popular breakfast dish and may be served with idli, a type of savoury rice cake, or pongal, an Indian dish with dal and rice.
Appam or appe and paniyaram pans come in a large range of materials, including non-stick and cast aluminium. They are easy to use and keep clean, plus they can be used on most stoves.
Tip: Why not try using this popular Indian cooking utensil for making other favourite deep-fried recipes such as falafel, sweet banana paniyaram or a masala omelette?
11. Idli Maker
An idli maker and idli stands/steamers are used to make the tasty savoury rice cakes made from rice and black lentils.
The tiers of stainless-steel trays and moulds that contain the batter mix are stacked together and placed in a covered pot with boiling water to steam. They can be bought with many plates for large family gatherings or with just one or two, suitable for one person.
Another versatile traditional Indian cooking utensil, an idli-maker or steamer can also be used to make various steamed dishes such as modak, an Indian sweet dumpling dish, and dhokla, a vegetarian dish of chickpeas, pigeon peas, urad dal and rice, and beetroot idli.
Tip: Keep the water and heat levels low to avoid ruining the mixture on the bottom trays.
12. Sev Maker (Sev Sancha)
No Indian kitchen would be without this indispensable traditional cooking tool. A sev sancha made in modern stainless steel or traditional brass designs is used especially for making popular savoury and spicy snacks for the festival seasons, including murukku, chakli, bhujia, ghatiyas and gathiya, to name a few.
With 6-15 different disc plates (jalis), this handy multi-purpose utensil can easily be operated to create perfect shapes for Indian snacks. Handles are specifically designed to provide a firm, easy, and comfortable grip to force out the dough through the discs.
Tip: Grease the part of the sev press with a little oil before using.
A deep earthenware clay or copper pot that is ideal for a variety of cooking purposes, especially slow-cooking Indian dishes such as saag aloo, an irresistible dish of spiced potatoes and spinach.
The traditional Handi is also considered one of the best cookware for Indian curries like coconut fish curry. It can also be used for making and storing (curd) yoghurt.
Tip: If using a clay pot, wash with plain water (not soapy water), as clay is absorbent.
14. Kulfi Moulds (Ice-Lolly Moulds)
Kulfi mould sets come in different sizes and materials. Traditional cone-shaped aluminium moulds or sets made from food-grade silicone are ideal for freezing popsicles or homemade kulfi, a delicious Indian dessert similar to ice cream.
Some can also be used in the ovens to make cakes. Durable and easy to use, kulfi moulds are perfect for birthday parties and get-togethers all year round.
Tip: Allow kulfi mixture to cool at room temperature for 1-2 hours to prevent ice crystals from forming.
15. Dal Ghotni (Wooden Masher)
A dal ghotni is an Indian kitchen utensil made from high-quality wood and used for effectively hand mixing, blending and mashing all kinds of food. The circular wooden disk at the end of the long handle can mash potatoes and tomatoes to a pulp and also whisk lentils into a creamy consistency.
By simply taking the handle between both palms and twisting the dal ghotni, this flexible kitchen tool is excellent for crushing ingredients like herbs and spices, dal, and chaas (buttermilk). It can also be used for breaking down saag (greens).
Tip: Salt, baking powder and vinegar are effective in cleaning stains such as turmeric from wooden utensils.
16. Medu Vada Maker (Soft Fritter Maker)
Investing in some good-quality Indian cookware will save you time and labour in the kitchen whilst also enhancing your culinary experience. This is why a stainless steel Medu Vada maker is a must when it comes to making South Indian breakfast pancakes or fritters, such as uttapam or medu vada, eaten on puja days and during festivals in India.
This innovative kitchenware product is ideal for shaping batter into perfect spheres and whipping up batches of pancakes or even doughnuts for all the family. Just push the lever to release the batter into the hot oil in your Kadai and watch your mixture become golden brown and crispy.
Tip: For an authentic Indian morning snack, enjoy medu vada with coconut chutney or sambar.
17. Roti Jari (Chapati Wire Grill/Cooling Rack)
Grilling on a round multi-purpose cast iron or stainless steel roti jari enables food to heat up quickly.
The implement provides both an effective and safe surface to cook on and can be used to make roti, chapatti, brinjal, papadam or appalam.
Unlike a chapati pan, which is commonly used on a hob, roti jari are designed for use with a tandoor oven (or any other method of fire cooking).
Tip: Keep a quality grill scraper or brush handy to avoid food build-up on the wire grill.
18. Chimta (Kitchen Tongs)
These high-quality, sturdy iron or stainless-steel kitchen tongs are suitable for tossing or turning flatbreads during cooking. They can also be used to handle hot foods from the Tawa and for keeping a firm grip on chapati or paratha).
Rust-resistant and easy to clean and maintain, chimta are essential for grilling directly on a gas flame.
Tip: Kitchen tongs can be useful for picking up hot Indian cooking utensils too.
19. Boondi Jhaara (Skimmer)
This practical Indian cooking utensil is mainly used to skim cooking liquids and for making fried foods such as bonda, a deep-fried South Indian potato snack, or medu vadas, crisp, fried doughnut-shaped fritters.
The flat, perforated sieve-like scoop is usually made from high-quality stainless steel and has a firm handle that can also be used for lifting ripened cream from milk, scooping up pasta, noodles and vegetables, or for draining oil from foods cooked in a pan.
Tip: Removing burnt or over-cooked food debris with a boondi jhaara will help extend the oil life.
20. Tandoor Oven (Clay Kiln)
A Tandoor oven is perfect for cooking chicken fish, beef and lamb at very high temperatures.
Traditionally made of clay with a fire built into the bottom, the oven is allowed to heat up gradually to high temperatures (480° C – 900° F; 750 K) and left to cool before the food is added. These high temperatures help to add a subtle smokiness to grilled meats such as chicken tikka masala or kebabs and flatbreads (naan bread).
Tandoor ovens include electric and mini charcoal tandoors for your stove-top, and the heat means food is cooked exceptionally quickly. Very little oil is needed as the ingredients don’t touch the surfaces.
Tip: Using large skewers, you can cook almost anything in a tandoor but always put a small piece of raw potato at the end to stop ingredients from slipping off.