The best side dishes to serve with a curry

Made a delicious Indian spice pot but stuck for something to serve it with? Read our definitive list of accompaniments and never be short on sides again…

The best side dishes to serve with a curry

Whatever the time of year, we can guarantee that bbcgoodfood.com users absolutely love a curry. When we indulge in a tasty spice pot, we like to load our plates up with lots of side dishes to complement the inevitably oversized mound of curry, and we’re not just talking about that old jar of mango chutney that’s loitering at the back of the cupboard. Read how to create authentic accompaniments to an Indian spread, whether you want something takeaway-esque or super swish and slow-cooked.

Our favourite Indian sides...

Bread

Naan bread in a stackIf you love to mop up curry sauce with a pillowy naan, we have recipes that’ll tickle your brinjal pickle. If you’ve never made your own bread before, Indian flatbreads are a good place to start. Our quick mango chutney naan recipe couldn’t be simpler – the dough only needs to sit for fifteen minutes, then balls of dough are roughly flattened ready to be grilled for mere minutes. The Punjab region of India boasts some of the best flatbreads in the country, and while Anjum Anand’s version takes a few hours for the dough to rest, the grilled naans are packed with a heady mix of spices, including ajwain seeds, which are a little like a extra-pungent thyme. Alternatively, our classic naan bread recipe is made in a frying pan – once tried, you'll never go back to shop-bought.

RotiIf you’re nervous about working with dough, we have ideas for sprucing up shop-bought naans too. These cheese and chilli naans make Indian pizzas out of supermarket breads, while Roopa Gulati gave us three more ways of jazzing up naans – with rosemary, garlic and mint or harissa. Don’t forget about other regional breads. Thepla bread is popular in the Guajarati region, where it’s eaten for breakfast. Our version features courgettes and is made in a frying pan. Versions of unleavened, pancake-like roti or chapati bread are eaten across the world, but in India it’s sometimes used as a kind of cutlery, to scoop up other food. Our bhaji and roti combo could be served as a rather dashing starter.

Rice

Keralan riceWhile some people prefer to serve curry with unadorned rice, so as not to distract from the main event – if you fall into that camp, you may want to watch our video guide to cooking rice to master your craft. For those who want a little extra kick, there are more ways of flavouring rice than you could shake a bag of basmati at...

Some of our favourites include this stovetop Keralan-style pilau with saffron and curry leaves, while our version of kitchari – a hodgepodge yet restorative mix of beans and rice – is good enough to be served as a main course. This lightly spiced pistachio pilau uses fried onions as its base, while this 20-minute rice with frozen peas could be knocked up as you wait for a takeaway main to arrive, and we guarantee it’ll go with every curry type you can imagine.

Dhal

Makhani dhalThere’s something uniquely nourishing about a dhal (or dal, or indeed daal), and we can't think of many other ways of elevating a humble pulse to such dizzying flavour heights. However, as Indian cooking is so diverse and regional, it’s not as simple is picking up the first bag of pulses you see. Some dhal recipes require split lentils, and others need them whole. Then there are different colours to chose from, with red (masoor), black (urad) and green lentils holding different flavour and texture qualities.

On the other hand, chana dhal is actually made from chickpeas, while toor dal is made from yellow-coloured split pigeon peas. If this all sounds a bit complicated, you can’t go wrong with a makhani dhal made from black lentils, tonnes of spice, indulgent double cream and some kidney beans for added pulse power, although as you’re cooking with dried pulses, pre-soaking and slow-cooking is key. If you’re eating curry in a hurry, we do have a cheat’s version – our 20-minute lime & coconut dhal is made from canned lentils.


Potatoes               

Sag alooSpuds carry plenty of flavour, are abundant and fill you up quick-time, so it’s no wonder they’re popular in Indian cooking. There’s no definitive recipe for spicy Bombay potatoes, although we have a riff on it, which has peas woven through for added veg credentials. ‘Sag aloo’ means spinach and potato (infact, wherever you see aloo on a menu, you know you’re talking tatty), and this classic side dish will contain a blend of spices, garlic and ginger, fried in a pan with potatoes until soft. If you’re more of an Anglo-Indian fusion fanatic, try our Indian oven chips – these wedges are flavoured with turmeric, fennel seed, garlic and ginger, and they’re the optimum shape for scooping up sauces.

Greens

Broccoli and paneerNot every Indian side is a carb-fest – green vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and spinach absorb spices like a sponge. Our Gujurati cabbage recipe has a deep spice profile and contains asafoetida, a pungent root that should be used sparingly but is a gateway spice into truly authentic Indian cuisine. Our broccoli side dish contains paneer, another specialist ingredient, this time a hard cheese that, like halloumi, withstands cooking over heat. It's neutral in flavour, so good for spices like mustard seeds, mace and curry leaves, although if you want to ditch the dairy, our Indian spiced greens can be made with any leaves you can lay your hands on.

Samosas

SamosasWe adore anything covered in pastry, so it stands to reason we’re a fan of samosas, the Cornish pasty of Indian cuisine. Traditional samosas might be made with ghee and refined maida flour, but our recipes use cheat’s filo pastry. Our spinach samosas are even baked, so you forego the indulgent bath in bubbling oil. When it comes to filling, samosas will generally contain vegetables or mince, or a combination of both, mildly spiced with garam masala and other traditional Indian flavours. Our lamb samosas can be made ahead and frozen, ready to pop in the oven for your next curry night. If you're a slave to the deep fry, you're bound to love crumbly bhajis and nibble-worthy pakoras, too. 

Chutney

Tomato chutneyIndian cuisine excels in many fields, but when it comes to pickles and chutneys, it seriously knocks the ball out of the park. Shop-bought mango chutney is often super saccharine, but it’ll always have a special plate on our dinner tables, while specialist supermarkets are a great place to turf up exotic condiments like tamarind-rich chutneys and super-potent mango and lime pickle. For those nights when you reach for the chutney only to discover you’re running low, we have instant recipes for you to replicate that tangy, sweet flavour that so sets off Indian food. Our fresh tomato chutney is a little like salsa, while our pea green herb chutney is made from coriander, mint, roasted pistachios and green chilli.

Something cool

RaitaWith all the myriad flavours having a spicy jig on your tongue, what’s ultimately needed to mellow out a curry spread is something yogurt-based and neutral. Our raita recipe contains tomatoes, onions, cucumber and subtle spice, although we also have less authentic but equally as delicious versions with beetroot, orange and fig. We also love this toned down raita, which ditches the strong red onion in favour of mellow fennel seeds and a touch of citrus.

Have we whet your apetite? Check out our how to video and try out a Thai curry and curry paste

What do you like to serve with your curry? Have we missed anything off? Let us know... 

Comments, questions and tips

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toastedgarlic
25th Feb, 2016
One of my favourite cooling accompaniments is a dish of chopped tomatoes, onions and coriander. More of a salsa Mexicana really, but it fits well with Indian. And no mention of poppadoms? They are best shallow fried, but curl up very quickly and end up unevenly cooked. To prevent this, place two in the pan at the same time, hold down with a spatula, and when the one underneath is done, flip over to do the other one. Alternatively, and nearly as good, is to brush them with oil and place under a very hot grill (one at a time, in this case).