Wanting to change up your traditional Thanksgiving meal by offering your guests an Indian-inspired menu? With luck, there’s an abundance of Indian Thanksgiving recipes worth making that are a great way to add an Indian twist to your favorite Thanksgiving classics.
We’ve created the ultimate guide of Thanksgiving Indian food ideas to help you serve an entirely new holiday menu, from the simple salad appetizer to the best sweet potatoes you’ve ever tasted!
Indian cuisine isn’t what you’d typically find at a Thanksgiving table in the United States, but for those looking to bring new flavors to this holiday season, there’s loads of good food to choose from to make for a delicious meal. I absolutely love cooking with Indian spices; their aroma fills the whole house!
My husband is Indian, and with that being said, I learned to cook so many traditional Indian meals during our dating phase as well as for our guests who come and visit us (some who’ve come to the US for the first time from India). I love to cook and Indian food is one of my favorite indulgences.
With these Indian-inspired ideas, I hope to give you a bit of inspiration from my blended family to yours.
Thanksgiving Indian Food Ideas
Tandoori Turkey Breast
Let’s get straight to the main course: the turkey! Just in case you’re looking for a vegetarian meal, there’s a few of those below, too.
This is a recipe for a tandoori turkey breast, inspired by the Indian recipe I know for whole tandoori chicken.
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You can cook it in an instant pot and using only turkey breast saves you time waiting for a turkey to thaw. Plus, it still gives your Thanksgiving feast the roast turkey many at your dinner table have been asking about, tandoori-style.
- 3lb bone-in half turkey breast
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (1 used for brushing turkey)
- 2 tablespoons garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons ginger paste
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 ½ tablespoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 ¼ cups chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
Taste buds burst when they meet the tandoori spices mixed with the tangy yogurt! If you don’t want your tandoori turkey breast to be too spicy, you can always use paprika instead. For a dairy-free gravy, substitute the whipping cream for coconut milk.
To prepare this main dish, you’ll first begin by mixing the marinade in a medium bowl. Set aside for now. Pat the turkey breast dry, remove the skin if preferred, and place it into a gallon size Ziploc bag. Pour in the marinade, close, and massage into the turkey, coating each breast evenly. Marinate for 8 hours or overnight.
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The first thing that needs to be added to the instant pot is the gravy ingredients, and then of course the turkey, using a trivet with handles. Set to pressure cook at 18 minutes (follow 6 minutes per pound). After cooking, wait for a natural release for about 10 minutes, then do a manual pressure release. The turkey is done when it has reached 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Following the removal of your tandoori turkey breast, turn on saute for the gravy. Over in a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch and heavy whipping cream and add to the gravy. Broil the turkey in the oven for 5 minutes, brushing oil on top for a great way to add crispy goodness. Serve with a side of sweet corn, brussels sprouts, cranberry chutneys, and dinner rolls. Leftover turkey has never been better, but the last year I made this, there was none left behind to save!
Vegan Shami Kababs
Appetize your vegetarian guests by offering something hearty for the special occasion with these yummy vegan shami kebabs, otherwise known as kala chana kebabs. It’s always a good idea to offer an alternative to the traditional turkey on your Thanksgiving dinner menu too if you don’t know everyone’s preferences. Out of all of my vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes, this is such an easy recipe, I sometimes make it other times of the year too.
- 1 cup dried brown chickpeas, soaked, drained, and boiled until soft
- 1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 2 tablespoons chickpea flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- ¼ cup cilantro, finely shredded
- 1 medium potato, boiled and peeled
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
Mash together the brown chickpeas and potato in a large bowl, adding all the ingredients in except the oil. This delicious recipe can be made even more flavorful by just letting it sit for roughly 20 minutes. Form the mix into 20-24 patties.
Take as much oil as needed to coat the bottom of a wide, non-stick pan and warm over a medium heat. Shallow fry the patties until crisp, flipping at about 5 minutes each side. Serve with a cilantro mint chutney. This Indian dish works perfectly as a delicious holiday meal.
Garam Masala Sweet Potato Casserole With Marshmallows
A staple side dish to offer guests on your Indian Thanksgiving menu (that you’ve likely seen pictures on social media of if you’ve searched Indian inspired recipes for sweet potatoes) is this sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and garam masala. We’ll even be using jaggery, an unprocessed sugar made in India, to sweeten up the recipe. This is totally one of my favorite side dishes and alternatives to pecan pie!
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- 2 lbs sweet potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 1 cup pecans, chopped
- 6 oz mini marshmallows
- ½ cup jaggery
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel, dice, and cibe the sweet potatoes and steam them in a large pot with ¼ cup water. Bring to a simmer and cover, steaming the potatoes for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain and move them to a mixing bowl to mash, adding the butter, eggs, jaggery, milk, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, garam masala, nutmeg, and half the pecans and stir.
In a baking dish that has been sprayed with olive oil, pour in the sweet potato mixture and top with marshmallows and the remaining pecans. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until you see the marshmallows start to turn golden brown.
Green Beans Poriyal
Another delicious recipe to add to your list of vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes is this green beans poriyal, one of the side dishes that I have made a bit over the past year that was always a huge hit! You’ll fry over high heat some fresh green beans to make this tasty Indian food, but the frozen ones work, too.
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- 1 lb green beans, trimmed
- 8 curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons oil (for frying)
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon asafetida
- 2 teaspoons urad dal
In a medium skillet over high heat, heat the oil until shimmery. First, add the mustard seeds and allow to pop, then add the urad dal, curry leaves, red chili, and asafetida. Stirring frequently, cook until fragrant or about 1 minute, then add in the green beans and salt. Cover and crisp for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then pour in the coconut. Serve next to steamed butternut squash or roasted red bell peppers!
Rice Pilaf with Nuts and Dried Fruit
One Indian food I’m always thrilled to make and share with dinner guests is this rice pilaf which quickly became my go-to recipe when paired with a main course like pork chops. For an occasion like a Happy Thanksgiving, I’ll usually make this easy recipe instead of a wild rice salad. Last year was the first time I cooked this delicious food and haven’t stopped coming back to it since. It always comes to mind when thinking of Thanksgiving Indian food ideas!
- 1 cup basmati rice
- 1 ¾ cups of vegetable or chicken broth/stock (I like this veggie one the best)
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Parsley, finely chopped
- ⅓ cup pistachios, shelled
- ½ cup dried sultanas or raisins
- ¼ cup dried apricots
- ⅓ cup slivered almonds
- 1 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
Begin by roasting the nuts in a large saucepan over medium high heat, removing as soon as a fragrance appears. Melt butter in another large saucepan and add the garlic and onion. Saute, then add rice for 30 seconds, then add all of the spices. Mix in the broth and dried fruits, cover with a lid, and bring to a simmer. Then, turn the heat down to medium low and cook for 15 minutes or until all the liquid has absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, add the nuts and top with parsley, and serve!
Garam Masala Pumpkin Tart
If you already planned on serving the garam masala sweet potatoes, I’d opt for maybe an apple pie or various ice creams for dessert. However, this easy recipe for garam masala pumpkin tart is one of the best desserts I have ever tasted! Not to mention it’s a nice alternative to pumpkin pie.
- 1 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-inch ginger, minced
- Grated zest of 3 lemons
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- Whipped cream or vanilla frozen yogurt for serving (I use this unsweetened yogurt and add vanilla extract)
In a food processor, pulse the flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ⅓ of the lemon zest, adding the butter and continuing to pulse until mixture becomes mealy.
Pour in 2 tablespoons of water and continue to pulse, adding more water if necessary until a dough forms. Then, on a lightly floured surface, turn the dough into a smooth disk that you’ll wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Once removed, roll dough on the floured surface to be roughly 12 ½ inches in diameter. Fit into an 11-inch straight-sided, loose-bottom tart pan without stretching, trimming any excess dough, then refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
Place pastry weights on top after you’ve lined the pastry with foil and bake for 8 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the foil and weights and bake 6 minutes more, removing from the oven and allowing to cool on a wire rack.
Take a large bowl and beat the eggs, adding all other ingredients and whisking until thoroughly mixed. Put the pastry-lined tart pan on a baking sheet and pour in the filling.
Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes until almost set and jiggly in the center. Cool for half an hour before topping with whipped cream or frozen yogurt!
We wanted to cultivate an entire holiday menu full of the finest Thanksgiving Indian food ideas. I’ve made sure to add a few to my dinner table this year, and next year, I may go all out and serve a full Indian Thanksgiving menu!