Not mad about nuts? Or have allergy concerns? I'm not normally one to say don't eat curry, but bad reactions to nuts can be really dangerous to certain individuals, and foods containing nuts are not always obvious, so it pays to take special care. Today I'll answer the question does Indian food contain nuts? And tell you everything you need to know.
Often, Indian food does contain nuts. Several Indian dishes feature nuts as an ingredient. These can often be pretty obvious, like flaked almonds, peanut garnishes and whole cashew nuts. There are also other subtle ingredients like peanut oil and ground nut flour. It is best to check before eating.
Which Nuts are Used in Indian Cooking?
While not all Indian dishes contain nuts, they feature quite heavily in many different forms. There are several types of nuts that you'll commonly see used in Indian cooking. This list is not exhaustive, and different places use different ingredients. They are as follows: -
Almonds are oval-shaped nuts that are normally blanched then roasted. They have a slightly sweet taste and a relatively crunchy texture.
Almonds are pretty much top of the bill for nuts that feature in Indian curries. You'll often find them used in various Indian dishes as a garnish. They are normally roasted and then finely sliced to add a little crunch and texture to the dish.
They can also be used as one of the main ingredients in a few types of curry, and it isn't always obvious that they are there. See below for some of the Indian curries that can feature nuts.
You will also find some Indian dishes that contain cashew nuts. This nut species is native to India, so it makes sense that they would appear in some recipes. In fact, you can occasionally find a dish called a 'cashew nut curry'… This is definitely one to avoid if you are avoiding nuts!
Cashew nuts are around 2cm long and pale in colour. They have a curved kidney shape and a fairly chewy texture.
Occasionally you may see peanuts that feature in the odd Indian curry or two. They are nowhere near as prolific as you'll see in Japanese and Thai curries. As a point to note, peanuts are not actually a true 'nut' and are actually a pulse (a posh word for 'bean').
One Indian dish that you need to be mindful of is Bombay mix. This crunchy snack is really tasty and is made out of several different ingredients. It is easy to miss the peanuts, especially when everyone crunching through a handful.
While nut oils aren't traditionally used in Indian cooking, this can vary from place to place. So it is well worth asking. If your chosen curry house uses peanut oil, it can be pretty tricky to avoid in most dishes.
The problem with nut oils is that they are not readily obvious and can be hidden within dishes without the consumer realizing it.
Nut flours are a staple of British Indian cooking. If you've had a creamy curry or a sweet curry, then there is a good chance that somewhere along the way, it has had some form of ground nuts added to it.
The most popular choices are almond flour and coconut flour. Occasionally you will also see cashew paste feature too.
While you might not spot pistachio dishes in your main course, when eating Indian food, you need to keep a good eye out at dessert.
Pistachio nuts are a key component of many Indian desserts. They can be used whole, but it is more likely that you will see them roughly chopped or crushed into a powder and used as a garnish.
Which Indian Dishes Contain Nuts?
There are several Indian dishes that nearly always contain nuts as part of the 'standard' recipe. While it is always important that you check beforehand, here are a few that will almost certainly contain nuts in one form or another: -
Type of Indian Food
Types of Nuts Commonly Used
|Almond Flour/Coconut Flour|
Almond Flour/Coconut flour
|Almond Flour/Coconut flour|
|Potentially cooked in nut oil|
|Ground almonds. Ground Cashews|
The above list is by no means exhaustive.
If you are eating or ordering out, it is well worth checking beforehand with the chef or manager. There is also the possible risk of cross-contamination for those suffering from a severe nut allergy if the kitchen prepares any dish with nuts. So, better not to chance it unless you can be absolutely certain.
Can People with Nut Allergies Eat Indian Food?
Many Indian foods contain nuts, and the chances of cross-contamination, especially in a busy kitchen, can be quite high. As a general rule, for these reasons, it is best to avoid Indian cuisine if you have allergy concerns.
It just isn't worth the risk.
While restaurants are becoming more aware of nut and food allergies risks, accidents can often unintentionally happen.
What Are the Symptoms of a Nut Allergy?
If you are worried about allergic reactions from certain foods, it pays to be aware of the signs and symptoms. That way, you can act in good time should you or someone else suffer an attack.
According to the National Health Service Website, the symptoms of an allergic reaction to nuts are: -
- An itchy or uncomfortable feeling in your mouth, throat or ears
- Swelling of the area in and around the mouth
- Facial swelling
- Raised itchy rashes
- Breathing difficulties
- Trouble swallowing
- Dizziness and feelings of disorientation
- Anaphylaxis (severe allergic shock)
Should you suspect yourself or others are suffering from an allergic reaction, call the emergency services immediately.
It is also worth noting that allergic reactions can get more severe with each exposure. If you have experienced mild symptoms before, this is no guarantee that they won't be more severe next time.
Is Coriander a Nut?
You'll be pleased to know that coriander is not a nut. Coriander is a leafy herb used in a lot of Indian cuisines. It has a light and citrusy flavour and is used as a garnish and an ingredient. The coriander plant seeds are used similarly to some nuts, being roasted and ground down into a fine powder and is often used in curry powder.
Again though, you need to exercise some caution. Coriander allergies are often experienced by those who are allergic to nuts. And again, there is always the risk of cross-contamination if your chosen establishment grinds coriander powder in the same space as they do peanuts or almonds.
Indian Food and Nuts | The Bottom Line
When it comes to nut allergies and avoiding nuts completely, Indian food is not the best choice. While it is tasty and not all dishes feature nuts, there is a greater risk than usual that nuts or cross-contamination could find their way into your dish. There could be a solution, however! Cook your own authentic curry, and then you'll know for sure what's in it. Why not take a look at one of my guides and follow the recipe for a curry dish that is every bit as good as an Indian takeaway, completely nut-free!