Food is what gives life flavor. And especially in a diverse country like India, the panoply of gastronomic delights comes across as a plate full of the most interesting flavors. Eating isn’t just about subsistence either, it’s also about indulgence. That is why beyond the need for healthy meals and carefully selected recipes, there is another world of delicacies that our Indian people eat as snacks. This snack routine is also a no less limitless scenario for us to explore with options that are presented as the most authentic and traditional preparations. At the same time, although this cultural roots do not always load them with goodness, sometimes they are as healthy as they are delicious, other times nutrition is abandoned in favor of flavor.
Healthy or unhealthy, we all love them. Here are our top 5 picks of both to help you make the best decisions for your cravings:
All-star India, even in its regional origins, is a lot of snacks that smack of an essence of guilt-free indulgence. Go all out with these 5 picks that are all kinds of delicious.
This is a puffed rice snack from the southern state of Karnataka. But it is also widely enjoyed everywhere. A no-cook preparation that makes it instant and easy while being healthy and flavorful, churumuri involves mixing ready-made puffed rice with tomatoes and onions and seasoning it with some chili peppers. Sprinkle a little salt to taste, add a splash of lemon juice and even a little oil if you feel like it and you are ready.
The gluten-free and low-fat character of the snack makes it particularly unique. It is also vegan and even healthier in its easy home preparation and has the most delicious taste which appeals to the Indian palate.
Pitha is part of the culinary identity of certain eastern Indian states, including Assam, where it is prepared with a special type of rice. The local variant of sticky rice called bora saul is ground into flour to cook different pitha recipes. Generally steamed or grilled with absolutely no oil, even though fried preparations also exist within the traditional realm, pithas can be made sweet or savory according to one’s preferences. But even in its sweetness, the health quotient is explained by making use of brown sugar. They go particularly well with a cup of tea, but you can eat them anyway and at any time of the day, they are that good!
The healthiness of pithas is more than obvious in their way of cooking without oil. But what makes them particularly “good” is that they are also filling enough. They are also quick fixes for those sweet tooth cravings that you sometimes experience even with a snack.
From the state of Gujarat, famous for its variety of snacks called farsan, comes the healthy Khakra snack. Of course, the most popular selection of dhokla is more than healthy itself. But the crunchiness of the khakra cracker is what makes it the perfect snack. Made from wheat flour with other equally healthy ingredients on the list, these are made much like rotis, only crispier and more flavorful. They are also available in a variety of flavors and can be easily made at home and are also some of the most convenient “long-lasting” snacks.
Khakras are low in oil, fat and calories, and are beneficial for weight loss. They are also rich in fiber, suitable for diabetics and heart healthy and very addictive.
A North Indian winter favourite, but eaten throughout India as a snack throughout the year, it is the simplest and humblest recipe for gur chana. To be honest, it’s not even a real recipe. You can simply add some dry roasted chana and a piece of brown sugar and have them together as a nutritious treat. But, of course, you can also take the trouble to top the roasted chana with a little brown sugar and enjoy it as a more “proper” snack. Either way, the tradition of keeping health in good taste will definitely continue as its signature flavor.
Heart-healthy, immune-boosting, weight-loss aids, and many other benefits characterize this snack that is rich in vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, as well as fiber and protein. This is definitely one of the healthiest traditional Indian snacks.
Bafauri may not be among the most popular Indian snacks, but it is healthy and delicious enough to give it a try. A lentil-based preparation from central India that is made from a batter almost similar to pakodas, it is the steaming process that ensures bafauri retains the goodness of its ingredients. It might be a bit of a time consuming recipe, but the taste of bafauri is what makes it worth the effort.
Rich in protein due to dal element which also makes it filling and nutritious, oil free, low calorie and such claims make it healthy. Add to this the many possibilities of the accompanying chutneys and bafauri, it might even make you ditch the deep-fried fritters altogether.
not very healthy options
The most popular traditional Indian snacks are also some of the worst offenders. They may have earned a legion of fans across the country and even beyond, but they fail us all when it comes to health. It is not very clear if that is enough information for us to ‘disown’ them, since the chances are greater of looking for the type of romance that makes us die eternally for love.
Mumbai’s vada pav is one of India’s most iconic snacks. But it is also one of the most unhealthy. The main ingredient in white bread is the obvious culprit for all your nutrient-depleted maida. No less useful is the fried essence, which is what makes it taste so good that it makes us crave from time to time.
An Indian favorite with no defined place of origin, pakodas are deep-fried delicacies, which is what makes them tasty and unhealthy at the same time. Regardless of the ingredients that go into it, which are usually some really nutritious vegetables or lentils, the copious amounts of oil each pakora contains means they are a health threat, even in every single, small piece.
High amounts of oil and maida are hallmarks of some of the most delicious Indian snacks, including the regional identities of samosas and kachoris. Kachoris could be more versatile in its larger choice of traditional filling, including a certain sweet indulgence from the Rajasthani mawa kachori. But unfortunately, they are also a health disaster. The evils of refined flour and deep frying work together to create recipes that wreak havoc on the human body.
One of the country’s oldest desserts that nonetheless adheres more to the description of a snack than a sweet treat, malpúas are the epitome of indulgence. However, that does not mean the same for human health. Even when made from whole wheat flour, each malpua achieves its irresistible flavor in the deep-frying process. That already leads to some disappointment, even when the sugary syrup they’re dipped in to serve as juicy, syrupy offerings even to the gods themselves makes malpuas a sad portion to avoid.
Papad represents more of a side dish than a snack, but it is also often served as a snack due to its crunchy and salty character. Along with tea and potatoes they can be suitable snacks, as all of India attests. But papads have to be fried which makes them unhealthy. Other than that, the high sodium content of this national specialty makes it an even less healthy option to bite into. Roasted papads may give the impression of being partially healthy, but the chemical reactions that occur during the roasting process can make the papads toxic to some extent.
That’s a big surprise discovery – that papad isn’t healthy, for example, or that something like bafauri exists as healthy snacks – but that’s just something very integral to Indian identity, so unique that it would surprise you at every turn, and with every recipe!