Going Gluten Free on an Indian Diet

It’s one thing to change your diet/lifestyle out of choice and an entirely different story when you have to change the way you eat due to health reasons. Recently more and more households are choosing to be Gluten-free (whether it be by choice or by recommendation from a health professional). When my friend Raj became gluten free I remember her having major food heartbreak. Today she is guest posting and sharing tips with my readers for going gluten free on an Indian diet.


Hello! I’m Raj from Pink Chai Living, and today I’m visiting Love Laugh Mirch to share my experience of switching to a gluten free diet. If your diet consists mainly of Indian food and you are considering a gluten free lifestyle, these tips might help you out. Just remember, I’m not a healthcare professional so be sure to consult your doctor before making any major dietary changes.

My decision to go gluten free was as a result of being diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder called Hashimoto’s disease. Cutting gluten out my diet helped with some of the emotional and physical symptoms of Hashimoto’s and the inflammation caused by my Rheumatoid Arthritis. If you are quitting gluten because you ‘have to’, my first tip is to give yourself time to process the emotional ramifications of giving up bread (or in my case roti). Believe me; no one understands your pain better than this Punjabi girl who basically survived on a steady diet of roti, naan, and aloo de paranthe before quitting gluten. It’s okay to feel bad for a couple of days, but don’t let the pity party go on for ever.

Going Gluten Free on an Indian Diet

1. Look at other regions of India for inspiration

This was by far the most eye-opening discovery for me. As a North Indian my diet relied heavily on wheat based food, but once I discovered South Indian and Gujrati food I was floored by the gluten-free options. These days I happily snack on medhu vada and khata dhokla instead of samosas.

2. Try using a variety of flours in your cooking

Before going gluten free my knowledge of flours in Indian cooking was very limited. I made the occasional maki (corn flour) roti but otherwise whole wheat was my go-to. Now that I’ve opened myself up to different flours I make rice flour roti, dahi vadas with lentil flour, and also cook with amaranth, buckwheat, and coconut flour.

If you want to try different flours in small quantities, you can usually find them at Trader Joes. However, they are usually much more affordable at your local Indian grocer. Check the section where they keep their ‘vrat ka khanna’ {fasting foods}, there are usually small packages there.

3. Check your spice cabinet

Most commercial spices are cut with wheat flour to save on costs; I learned this the hard way with some low grade hing (asafetida) that was making me sick. I now buy most of my spices from a good quality natural food store and grind my own masalas. This may not affect you if you are just cutting out wheat for preference, but it is vital for those with Celiac.

4. Quinoa, brown Rice, and tapioca are your new best friends

Every Sunday I make a batch of quinoa, brown rice, and Nisha’s saboodana (tapioca) and aloo tikkis. This is what keeps me going when I’m starving and it would be much easier to reach for a slice of pizza that my family is having for lunch than make something fresh. With rice in the fridge I always have an option. (I also try to make a big pot of dahl on Sundays so I have something to fall back on.

5. Plan ahead for events and relatives

The hardest part about going gluten free for me was explaining it to well-meaning relatives (my Nani in particular). What do you mean you aren’t eating roti, how are you surviving then? Or, try going to Gurudwara and explaining that you can’t eat the parsad (oh the horror!).

The best advice I can give you in this department; eat a lot before you get to a family function or event so you aren’t tempted by all the food, or if it’s close family offer to bring a dish. My Indian potluck favorite is poha (which I also learned from Nisha).

I hope these tips help you with the process of going gluten free. If you are interested in reading anymore about my journey, you can read about my diagnosis story here.

9 thoughts on “Going Gluten Free on an Indian Diet

  1. We went gluten for a year, a couple of years ago, when my son had a wheat allergy that he’s now thankfully outgrown. We did miss our rotis and paranthe, but I made quick dosas to mop up our curries with! Surprisingly for us us, our Indian meals didn’t feel too much different. It was the usual bread, pizza and burger buns that we missed a lot!

    I was never able to find a brand of Hing that was devoid of wheat, so had to cut it out completely. Would you mind sharing which brand you use? Thanks so much, it’s a wonderfully written post!

    1. Hi,
      Nice post! Very useful , I am dealing with this for my daughter. For gluten free hing, try block hing instead of powder. You get at most Indian stores (at least in the U.S of A). You can microwave it for 10-30 secs, make pieces and store it in an airtight container.

    2. Leela, if you have any friend from Karnataka, ask them if they can get actual hing. Natural hing is a gum like extract and most south Indians prefer this way as it gives you the actual aroma and concentrated hing with no mixture of any other content AFAIK. Good Luck.

  2. Hi,
    This is a great article. I recently got diagnosed with celiac disease and its been a hard journey for me. Although there are plenty of options available in the whole foods market but everyday at home where family is eating regular meal and I cant eat it because the spoces state ‘they might contain gluten’ is a hard process for me. I am finding it very hard to find gluten free spices that are used in our daily home made dishes. I found a few from this brand called ‘Badia’ but those taste different. I want to ask whether all spices contain gluten e.g. what about whole spices like zeera and whole garam masala?

    1. Hi Bushra, I thought most spices were Gluten Free but I think it would be best to double check with a Doctor as they would know best 🙂

    2. Hi Busha, I am suffering from celiac. I typically buy khada masalas and make all spices at home. Plus support it with Badia and other American GF spices to make other non-indian dishes. To be honest, these home made spices are best because they also taste fresh. When I visit family and friends and if they making any dish, I ask them to go natural and add green chillies and khada masala instead of ground ones. I am very careful of everything which is in grinded form available in marketplace.

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