The best side dishes to serve with a curry
Made a delicious curry but stuck for something to serve it with? Read our definitive list of accompaniments and never be short on sides again.
Whatever the time of year, we can guarantee that bbcgoodfood.com users absolutely love a curry. When we enjoy a warming, well-spiced dish, we like to load our plates up with lots of side dishes to complement the 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 delicious accompaniments to your favourite Indian recipes, whether you want something similar to a takeaway, swish and slow-cooked. For a little something afterwards, also check out our Indian sweets.
Our favourite side dishes for curry
If 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. Tom Kerridge's quick flatbreads couldn’t be simpler – the dough doesn't require any resting and, after kneading for a couple of minutes and dividing, the balls of dough are roughly flattened ready to be fried.
Anjum Anand’s grilled flaky naans will need a few hours for the dough to rest, but the naans are packed with a heady mixture of spices, including ajwain seeds, which are a little like an extra-pungent thyme. Alternatively, our easy easy naan bread recipe is made in a frying pan.
If 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 gives us three more ways of jazzing up naans – with rosemary, garlic and mint or harissa.
Thepla bread is another popular Indian flatbread. Our version of this Indian bread with courgettes & coriander is made in a frying pan. Versions of unleavened, pancake-like roti or chapati bread are also ideal accompaniments to spiced sauces.
Some people prefer to serve curry with unadorned rice, so as not to distract from the main event. Try our easy pilau rice, bursting with fragrant spices, or check out John Torode's spiced rice which is flavoured with curry paste and topped with almonds.
Watch our video guide on how to cook the perfect, fluffy rice:
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 easy turmeric pilau with golden onions, while our tomato & spinach kitchari – a restorative mixture of lentils 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.
There’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, achieving true dhal success means 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 choose from, with red (masoor), black (urad) and green lentils holding different flavour and texture qualities. Try our satisfying creamy black dhal with crispy onions for a warming feast of flavours.
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 moong dhal makhani which uses mung beans that are cooked in milk, and gently spiced. 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.
Spuds 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 few tasty variations. Our simple spicy potatoes have peas woven through for added veg credentials. ‘Sag aloo’ means spinach and potato (in fact, 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. Similarly, aloo chaat is a popular street food dish, comprised of crispy potato cubes, fried in spices, dressed in a date and tamarind sauce, then topped with a coriander relish and pomegranate seeds. If you’re a fusion fan, 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.
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. Or whip up a bowl of the takeaway favourite, saag paneer for a heartier side, spiced with turmeric and garam masala. Paneer cheese is neutral in flavour, so good for taking up spices and frying it gives a delicious crispy texture. If you want to ditch the dairy, our Indian spiced greens can be made with any leaves you can lay your hands on.
We adore anything covered in pastry, so it stands to reason we’re a fan of samosas. 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 bath of bubbling oil. When it comes to filling, samosas will generally contain vegetables or mince, or a combination of both, mildly spiced with garam masala or other spice blends. 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 onion bhajis and nibble-worthy pakoras, too.
Indian cuisine excels in many fields, but when it comes to pickles and chutneys, it seriously knocks the ball out of the park. Shop-bought products are often saccharine, so try our easy mango chutney for a stunning homemade version. Specialist supermarkets are a great place to source condiments such as tamarind-rich chutneys and 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. 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.
With 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 is a classic creamy accompaniment, although we also have less authentic but equally as delicious versions with beetroot, orange and fig. Check out our collection of raita recipes for more inspiration.
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What do you like to serve with your curry? Have we missed anything off? Let us know...
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