According to Wikipedia, there are 122 major languages in India (and over 1500 minor languages!). Hindi is the “official” language, along with English, and it is spoken by roughly 420 million people. Thus, the spelling of many Hindi words varies around the country, and there are numerous synonyms. I put together this brief dictionary for myself at first but thought it may be of use to others, so here it is as a work in progress. I’ve done my best to gather food terms, spellings, and definitions from dozens of websites and many cookbooks. If you find an error, please put a correction in a comment, as this page will evolve over time. I will also be adding this content in alphabetical order in the future. ~ Alonna

Cooking Terms (also see Dairy)

  • Balti: Bucket
  • Bawarchis: Chef
  • Belan: Rolling pin
  • Bharta: To mash
  • Bhuna/bhunao: To sauté or stir-fry
  • Chilke: Peel
  • Dhungar: To infuse smoke into a dish using charcoal
  • Degch/deg/degii: Round, deep pan used to cook dal, biryani, and kheer
  • Dum style: Steam
  • Fermenting: Batters often fermented to creates a better texture and flavor
  • Gosht: Usually referring to lamb or goat.
  • Haandi/handi: Earthenware cooking pot
  • Haddi: Bone
  • Kachcha: Raw/uncooked
  • Kaddu kas: Grater
  • Kadhai/karhai/kadai/karahi: Wok, a bowl-shaped frying pan
  • Kala: Black
  • Kappi kachal: The cooking of a bit of appam batter to help with fermentation
  • Kulambu: South Indian dal with vegetables in masala
  • Lagan: Aluminum or copper round pan used to make biryani, etc.
  • Makhani: Cooked with butter and cream
  • Mahha/maha: Mashed, macerated, or muddled
  • Marinating: Many meat dishes require marinating at least three hours to overnight. This adds flavor and moisture to a dish.
  • Masala dani/masala dabba: Spice box
  • Mirchi: Spicy
  • Mithai: Sweet
  • Pre-soaking: Lentils, grains and other pulses are frequently soaked prior to cooking
  • Sabji/bhaaji: Any vegetable dish
  • Shil Nora: Traditional grinding stone (similar to a mortar and pestle)
  • Tarka/tadka/chaunk/bagar/vagar/vaghar: Frying spices in oil to add flavor to a dish
  • Yahni/yakhni: Stock or broth

Chutneys and Pickles

  • Achar/aachar: Pickle or relish
  • Chutney: Flavorful sauce made from vegetables, herbs, spices, and sugar

Dairy

  • Cream (fresh): Amul is an often used brand
  • Dahi: Yogurt/curd
  • Doodh: Milk
  • Ghee: Clarified butter
  • Khoya/mawa: Dried whole milk/condensed milk
  • Makhan/makkhan: Butter
  • Malai: Cream/skin that forms on top of boiled milk
  • Mattha/chhaach/chach/chaas/chas: buttermilk
  • Mishti Doi: Bengali sweetened, caramelized yogurt
  • Naariyal ka doodh: Coconut milk
  • Paneer: Fresh cheese
  • Unda/baida: Eggs

Dishes (types of)

  • Achari: Pickle flavor
  • Appam: Thin pancake from rice and lentils
  • Avial: South Indian vegetable yogurt curry
  • Balchao: Goan sweet and sour dish; meat or vegetable
  • Barfi/burfi: Indian fudge
  • Bhaan: Fresh cannabis leaves used in dishes and drinks
  • Bhel puri: Street snack of yogurt, chutney, lentils
  • Bharta: Spicy mashed vegetable dish such as baingan bharta ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Bharwas/Bharwan: Mushrooms filled with various mixtures, an appetizer
  • Bhelpuri: Indian street food made from puffed rice, onions, chutney
  • Biryani/biryiyani/biriaini: Layered rice and meat or vegetables ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Bondas/vadas: Round, crispy, deep fried snack made of lentils and vegetables, served with chutney
  • Boti kabab/kebab: Marinate cubes of meat cooked in a tandoor
  • Chaat: Sweet and sour snack made from fruit, vegetables, crisp lentil crackers ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Chappati/roti: Unleavened flatbread made with whole wheat flour
  • Chatpata: Dishes with a hot and tangy flavor
  • Curry: Dish of meat or vegetables cooked in a sauce flavored with and infinite combination of spices. It is ALSO a mix of dry spices, which varies from region to region. The word curry comes from the Tamil ‘kari,’ meaning sauce. ~ TOP 20 Dishes: Shrimp Curry, Potato Curry, Chickpea Curry, Fish Curry!
  • Dal/daal: Soup made from lentils and spices
  • Dal chawal: Dal over a bowl of rice
  • Dhaba: Causal roadside restaurant in the Punjab, serving local cuisine.
  • Do pyaza: Mild creamy sauce made from onions and meat
  • Dosa: Thin, crispy pancake often filled with a dry masala
  • Dry (shookhi) vs Gravy: Dry curry (meat or vegetable dish) that has very little sauce or gravy
  • Firni/Phirni: Rice pudding made with coarsely ground rice
  • Gulab Jamun: Deep fried sweet similar to doughnuts, served in a sweet syrup
  • Halva/halwa: Sweet made from milk, vegetables, and spices
  • Idli: Steamed rice cakes made from a fermented rice and lentil batter
  • Jalebi: Orange sweet crisp round swirls, made from wheat flour and deep fried
  • Kachumber: Indian mixed vegetable salad
  • Kababs/kebabs: Marinated cubed or ground meat, skewered and grilled ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Kadhi: Yogurt gravy thickened with besan
  • Kalvan: Curry in the Marathi language, spoken in the west Indian state of Maharashtra
  • Karanji: Pastries made from whole wheat flour, filled with grated coconut and sugar
  • Kheer/payasam: Rice pudding
  • Khichadi/khichdi: Mildly spiced rice and lentil dish
  • Keema/kheema/Qeema: Ground meat
  • Khofta/kofta: Ground meat with spices formed into balls or logs, often simmered in a sauce thickened with nuts/poppy seeds.
  • Korma: Meat or vegetables in a mild yogurt or cream sauce with spices ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Kulcha: Flatbread often stuffed with onion or potatoes
  • Kulfi: Indian frozen dessert
  • Lassi: Sweet or savory yogurt drink flavored with fruit and spices
  • Maa ki dal: Dal made with whole black gram/urad dal
  • Makhani: Rich, creamy dish with butter or ghee
  • Masala: Blend of spices, dry or in a paste; same as the second definition of a curry described above
  • Meetha/meethe: Sweet as an adjective or dessert
  • Mishti doi: Fermented, sweetened yogurt
  • Modak: Cone shapped dumplings with with sweetened coconut
  • Murgh makhani: Butter chicken ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Murgh masalam: Mughal, North Indian whole chicken stuffed with eggs and cooked with onions and spices
  • Mutter Paneer: Peas and paneer in a sauce
  • Mutton: Goat meat; lamb makes a good substitute
  • Mysore pak: Fudge made from ghee and besan
  • Naan: Leavened flatbread similar to pita
  • Paan: Betel leaf stuffed with betel nut, lime, fennel seeds, and other spice. Often eaten after a meal.
  • Pakoras: Crisp, fried snack; a fritter made from vegetables and chickpea flour ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Paneer:  Fresh cheese, pressed to remove liquid, cut into cubes and added to sauces or used instead of meat ~ TOP 20 Dish! ~ Make your own at home!
  • Papadum/papad: Crisp lentil crepe served with a meal with chutneys
  • Paratha: Flaky unleavened flatbread made from whole wheat flour
  • Payasam/kheer: Indian rice pudding
  • Phalahaar: Meal of fruits
  • Pulao: Mild rice dish cooked with vegetables and spices
  • Puri/poori: Deep-fried whole-wheat puffy flatbread
  • Raan: Whole leg of lamb marinated in yogurt and spices
  • Raita: Cooling yogurt-based condiment flavored with vegetables, fruit, and herbs
  • Rasam: Thin spicy South Indian broth
  • Rasgulla: Balls of thickened milk, cooked in a sugar syrup
  • Restaurant-style vs Home-style cooking: Home-style is often lighter, ingredients and sauces may be fresher, more nuanced, and healthier than dishes cooked in a restaurant, which often serves up richer, thicker gravies
  • Rogan josh: Rich lamb curry ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Roti/chapati: Whole-grain, unleavened flatbread
  • Saag: Saucy dish of pureed leafy greens
  • Sabji/bhaaji: Any vegetable dish
  • Sambar/sambhar: Spicy South Indian lentil soup; often served with idli/dosa
  • Samosa: Fried stuffed pastry eaten as a snack or appetizer
  • Sev: Thin, small pieces of crunchy noodles made from gram/chickpea flour
  • Shahi: Royal, for kings
  • Sherbet: Drink
  • Sookhi: Dry curry
  • Tandoori: Any dish made in a traditional tandoor oven ~ TOP 20 Dish!
  • Thali: Round platter used to serve a meal, but also meaning a meal comprised of many small dishes.
  • Tikka: Cubes of meat, or a dish of vegetable patties that are fried and served as a snack
  • Undhiyu: Gujarati mixed vegetable dish
  • Upma: Spiced semolina cooked with vegetables, often eaten for breakfast
  • Varak: Thin edible silver foil, used to decorate dishes
  • Vindaloo: Portuguese meat dish (often pork) made with vinegar, spices and chilis ~ TOP 20 Dish!

Drinks

  • Chai/chaa: Tea
  • Feni/Pheni: Goan liquor
  • Lassi: Yogurt-based drink

Fruit (phal)

  • Aadu/aadoo/adoo/aaru: Peach
  • Aam: Mango
  • Aam papad: Dried mango pulp
  • Amla: Indian gooseberry
  • Amrood: Guava
  • Ananas: Pineapple
  • Anjeer/anjir: Figs
  • Angoor: Grapes
  • Chakotra/shaddock: Pomelo
  • Chikoo/sapoldilla: Sapota
  • Jaitoon/zetoon/zaitoon: Olives
  • Kela: Banana
  • Kachch kela: Green banana
  • Kharbooja: Melons
  • Khubani/khumani/jardaloo/khurmani: Apricot
  • Nariyal: Coconut
  • Neelbadri: Blueberries
  • Nimboo: Lime or lemon
  • Santra: Orange
  • Papeeta: Papaya
  • Nashpati: Pear
  • Makhanphal: Avocado/butter fruit
  • Mosambi: Sweet lime
  • Rasbhari: Cape gooseberry/ground cherry
  • Seb: Apples
  • Tamatrar: Tomatoes
  • Tarbooj/kalingad: Watermelon

Fruit (dried), Nuts, & Seeds

  • Akhrot/akroot: Walnuts
  • Badam: Almonds
  • Chhuar: Dried Dates
  • Chilgoza: Chestnut
  • Kaju: Cashews
  • Kanthal: Jackfruit
  • Kishmish: Raisins/Currants
  • Pista/green Piste: Pistachio
  • Khajur: Dates
  • Kishmish: Golden raisins
  • Khumani: Apricot
  • Moong Fali/moomphali: Peanuts/Groundnuts
  • Nariyal: Coconut
  • Neembu/nimbu: Lemon or lime
  • Phool makhana: Lotus seeds
  • Til: Sesame seeds

Meat and Poultry

  • Buttak/battak: Duck
  • Gosht: Red meat (beef, lamb, or mutton)
  • Maans: Meat
  • Murgh/murghi: Chicken
  • Suar ka: Pork

Oils

  • Ghee: Clarified butter
  • Kusan/kusumbo: Safflower oil
  • Makhanphal tael: Avocado oil
  • Narial ka tael: Coconut oil
  • Saron ka tael: Mustard oil
  • Tel: Oil

Pulses, Beans, Peas, & Grains

  • Arhar dal/toor/tuvar/togre bele: Pigeon peas
  • Atta: Whole wheat flour
  • Bajra: Pearl miller
  • Besan: Bengal gram flour/gram flour made from brown chickpeas
  • Bhat: Boiled rice
  • Chana/Chole: Whole chickpeas/garbanzo beans
  • Chana dal/kala chana dal: split, skinless black chickpeas/ Bengal gram/yellow gram
  • Chana kala: Bengal gram or black chickpea
  • Chawal/chaval: Rice
  • Cholia/Hara (Green) Chana: Chickpeas
  • Chane ka atta/Besan: Gram flour
  • Dal: Split lentils
  • Dalia/samba rava: Cracked wheat
  • Gehun: Wheat
  • Jwar: Sorghum millet
  • Lobia/lobhia/chawli: Black eyed peas/cowpeas
  • Kabuli chana: White gram/chickpeas
  • Kala/kali chana/kalaith/kulthi: Horse gram/black chana/chickpeas
  • Kurmura: Puffed rice
  • Makai ka atta: Cornmeal/maize flour
  • Masoor dal: Split red lentils
  • Maida: All-purpose flour/refined flour/fine Wheat Flour
  • Moong dal: Split green gram/small yellow lentils
  • Poha/chiwda: Beaten/flattened rice
  • Quinoa: Quinoa
  • Ragi: Finger millet
  • Rajma: Red kidney beans
  • Saboodana/shudhana/sabudana: Sago, starch from the sago palm
  • Sabut moong: Whole moong beans/green moong
  • Sooji/suji/rava: Semolina
  • Urad/urid dal/dhuli: Black gram split and skinless
  • Urad/urid dal with chilka: Black gram split with skin
  • Urad/urid dal/sabut: Black gram whole
  • Vaal dal/sem/papri/valor papdi: Fava/hyacinth/horse beans
  • Vatana: Dried white peas

Seafood (machli/machchhi)

  • Bumallo/bombil: Bombay duck (small fish)
  • Chingri: Shrimp/prawn
  • Machli ke ande: Fish roe
  • Paplet/pabda/pupta machli: Butter fish
  • Rui/rohu machli: green carp
  • Samudra-pheni/feni: Squid
  • Saranga: Silverfish/pomfret

Spices, Herbs, & Seasonings

  • Adrak: Ginger
  • Ajinomoto: Monsodium glutamate
  • Ajwain: Carom seeds
  • Amchoor/amchur: Dried mango powder
  • Anardana/anardhana: Pomegranate seeds
  • Araroot/paniphal/tikora: Arrowroot
  • Asafetida/asafoetida/hing: Dried fetid resinous gum
  • Chakra phool: Star anise
  • Cheeni/chini/shakkar/saakar: Sugar
  • Chironji/charoli: Almond flavored seeds
  • Dalchini: Cinnamon
  • Deghi mirch: Dried red chili
  • Desi/mithi mirch: Paprika
  • Dhania powder: Coriander powder
  • Dhania patta: Coriander leaves/cilantro
  • Chhoti ellaichi: Green cardamom
  • Gamboge/garcinia xanthochymus: Kokum
  • Ganthoda: From the root of a long pepper; natural remedy
  • Ganna: Sugar cane
  • Garam masala: Spice mix
  • Gulab: Rose
  • Gulab jal: Rose water
  • Gur/gud: Jaggery/jagary is a dark brown palm sugar
  • Haldi/huldi: Tumeric
  • Hara dhania/dhaniya: Cilantro/coriander leaves
  • Hari mirch: Green chili
  • Hing/heeng: See Asafoetida
  • Imli: Tamarind
  • Gur: Jaggery (dark brown palm sugar)
  • Javitri/javetry/javaitry: Mace
  • Jaiphal/jyfal: Nutmeg
  • Jeera: Cumin seeds
  • Kababchini/kebabcheeni: Piper cubeb
  • Kala jeera/shahi jeera:  Black cumin seeds
  • Kala namak/sanchal: Black rock salt
  • Kali elaichi/Illaichi/bari/badi: Brown/black cardamom
  • Kali mirch: Black pepper
  • Kali tulsi: Basil
  • Kalonji: Nigella seed/black onion seed
  • Karipatta: Curry leaves
  • Kasoori methi: Dried fenugreek leaves
  • Kesar: Saffron
  • Khus khus: Poppy seeds
  • Lal mirch: Red chili
  • Lambee mirch: Long pepper
  • Lasan/lassan/lahsun/lahsun: Garlic
  • Laung/loang: Cloves
  • Methi dana: Fenugreek seeds
  • Namak: Salt
  • Nimboo ka Sat: Citric acid
  • Panch phoron/paanch phoron: Bengali spice blend
  • Pudina: Mint
  • Safed mirch: White pepper
  • Sarson/sarason/raai/raee: Mustard Seeds
  • Ratan jot/alkanet: Root used as red food coloring
  • Saunf/saumph/moti/shatphool/dodd jeera: Fennel seeds
  • Sendha namak: Rock salt
  • Shabdkosh: Poppy seeds
  • Sirka: Vinegar
  • Siya jeera: Caraway seeds
  • Tej patta: Bay leaf
  • Tulsi: Holy basil

Vegetables

  • Ajavaayan: Celery
  • Adrak: Ginger
  • Aloo/aaloo/alu: Potatoes
  • Arbi/cocoyam/colocassia/taaro: Taro root
  • Baingan/brinjal: Eggplant/aubergine
  • Bathua: White goose foot/lamb’s quarters
  • Bhein: Lotus root
  • Bhutta sabut: Corn on the cob
  • Bhindi: Ladies’ fingers/okra
  • Chachinda/chirchir: Snake gourd
  • Chawli bhaji: Amaranth leaves
  • Choli: String beans
  • Chukandar: Beetroot
  • Dhania patta: Fresh coriander/cilantro
  • Dosakaya: Yellow/curry cucumber
  • Gajar: Carrot
  • Ganth gobi/knol/khnol: Wild cabbage
  • Gawar phalli: Cluster beans
  • Gobi: Cauliflower
  • Gucchi: Wild mushrooms
  • Haathe chak: Artichoke
  • Hara pyaz: Spring onions/scallions
  • Hari mirch: Green chillies
  • Hari phoolgobhi: Broccoli
  • Jimikand/ratalu/chena: Elephants’ foot yam
  • Kaddu: Pumpkin
  • Kakadi/kakari: Thin cucumber (Armenian melon)
  • Kamal kakadi: Egyptian bean/lotus root
  • Kantola/kakoda: Spiny/teasle gourd
  • Karela: Bitter gourd
  • Kari patta: Curry leaves
  • Kheera: Cucumber (gourd)
  • Khumb/kukurmutta: Mushrooms
  • Kundri: Ivy gourd
  • Laal ainthan: Red amaranth
  • Lauki/doodhi: Bottle gourd
  • Lahsun/lassan/lasan/lahsun/lehsun: Garlic
  • Lobia: Cowpea (see grains)
  • Makai/makka/makki: Corn
  • Methi: Fresh fenugreek leaves
  • Mirch: Chilli (see hari, shimla mirch)
  • Mooli/moolee: Radish
  • Moomphali: Fresh chickpea
  • Mutter/matar: Peas
  • Pudina: Mint leaves
  • Parmal: Pointed gourd
  • Patta/patha/band gobhi/gobi: Cabbage
  • Palak/saag: Spinach
  • Petha/kaddu: Ash/wax gourd/winter melon
  • Phali: Beans
  • Pharas: String beans
  • Phool/phul Gobi: Cauliflower
  • Poohi: Ceylon spinach/Malabar spinach
  • Pyaz/pyaaj/piaaz: Onions
  • Rajgira/ramdana/seel: Amaranth
  • Sarson/sarason ka saag: Mustard greens
  • Shakarakand: Sweet potato
  • Shalgum/shalajam/sakartam: Turnip
  • Shalajam/sakartam ka saag: Turnip greens
  • Shatwar/halyan/sootmooli: Asparagus
  • Sheem: Broad beans
  • Shimla mirch: Capsicum/bell peppers
  • Tamatar: Tomatoes
  • Tinda: Apple gourd
  • Tindora/kovakkai: Bitter gourd/ivy gourd/scarlet gourd/kowal fruite
  • Tori/turai: Ridge gourd

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