Celebrating A Compassionate Diwali with Vegan Richa
Diwali (also called Divali or Deepavali), the “festival of lights,” is a religious holiday that celebrates a triumph of good over evil and light over dark. During the five-day celebration, people feast on special treats and dishes, pray, light beautiful clay lamps called Diyas, or candles, shoot fireworks, bond with family, and exchange gifts.
Festival of Lights Traditions
Every Diwali, my mom would start with cleaning the house, reorganizing, and lighting the oil lamps (diyas). We would cook up many snacks, sweets, nuts, and savories, then plan the gifting. Each day was planned with visiting family and friends, getting decked up in new clothes, exchanging gifts, and elaborate dinners.
Diwali gatherings are filled with foods to exchange and enjoy, from savories, sweets and desserts, and snacks. All the holiday visitation also means elaborate Diwali dinners with spreads of several curries, sides, and condiments. While many dishes traditionally contain animal-based products, it is easy to celebrate a compassionate Diwali with these vegan recipes from my blog, Vegan Richa.
When planning a Diwali dinner, choose one or two main dishes, two to three side dishes, legumes, one rice, and one flatbread. Add papadums, chutney, or a Raita (with nondairy yogurt), and your spread is ready! Take time to plan and make the sauces, tofu, and veggies beforehand. Mix and reheat with a bit of nondairy milk if they have thickened too much and serve. Rice is best made fresh. It is also easy to make most of these desserts ahead of time.
Below is a variety of vegan Diwali recipes that are delicious and easy to make. Click on the photo of most recipes below to find a video walk through from my Vegan Richa Youtube channel, or click on the recipe name for an easy-to-follow vegan recipe on my blog.
Main Dishes for Diwali
Indian holiday spreads usually have a couple of mains, curries, or veggie dishes that are both decadent and filling. Choose a couple that complements each other in flavor and save time by prepping ahead. The tomato-based sauces are often similar enough to use just one main sauce for multiple dishes with various spices and additions. For example, you can make my Bhuna Masala sauce and use it to make Malai Kofta, Chana Masala, and Butter Tofu and add some to Dal Makhani.
Malai Kofta is a delicious main course is made from crispy potato chickpea dumplings simmered in creamy Indian gravy. It is also nut-free and gluten-free.
Dal Makhani is filled with black gram lentils and kidney beans. This creamy dish is also gluten-free, soy-free, and Instant Pot friendly.
Gobi Musallam is the perfect centerpiece for any Diwali gathering. This whole roasted cauliflower head is baked in a Mughlai-inspired Makhana sauce, which makes it a decadent, buttery main dish.
Palek Tofu Paneer is a versatile spinach-based dish that is quick and easy to prepare. It is gluten-free and can easily be made soy-free by substituting tofu for veggies or cooked chickpeas.
Butter Tofu Paneer is a masala-based sauce that includes tomato, ginger, and cashews. This main dish is a great gluten-free option.
Paneer Lababdar with Tofu is a lighter sauce than Butter sauce but has similar ingredients. It is gluten-free and can easily be made nut-free, soy-free, and oil-free.
Gobi Do Pyaza combines a rich double onion sauce with pan-fried cauliflower. This Gobi Curry recipe is gluten- and soy-free and offers a nut-free option.
Aloo Gobi is a popular, hearty dish made from spiced potatoes and cauliflower. This restaurant-style version calls for the chef to serve it with the sauce mixture already in the dish, making it a perfect vegan main for Diwali.
Diwani Handi Vegetables includes mixed vegetables and cashews simmered in a delectable tomato sauce. This dish is gluten and soy-free and contains a nut-free option.
Navratan Korma is a tofu dish with veggies, chopped nuts, and raisins in a rich cashew cream sauce. It is gluten-free, with recipe options for soy and nut-free guests.
Vegan Diwali Flatbread Recipes
Whether you like to serve your vegan Diwali food spread with fluffy Naans or easy flatbreads, be sure to make them ahead and reheat them when serving. Everyday Indian food doesn’t usually include Naans but is traditionally served with unleavened flatbreads like Rotis or Parathas. Flatbreads are great sides and a perfect dipper for all the delicious thick sauces. Some spiced rice also is an easy side that goes great with curries.
This vegan Naan recipe is a versatile yeast-based bread that replaces vegan yogurt with animal-based dairy ingredients. The bread can be baked in the oven or cooked on a stovetop.
The Broccoli Chickpea Stuffed Flatbread recipe is a paratha bread filled with shredded broccoli, mashed chickpeas, and a mix of spices.
Gluten-free Naan is the perfect recipe for gluten-intolerant guests. This recipe only uses one bowl and is yeast-free and grain-free, with soy-free and nut-free options.
Spinach Paratha has blended spinach added directly into the dough to create a moist flatbread with a beautiful green tint.
This Vegan Stuffed Spinach Potato & Cheese Naan recipe uses dairy-free yogurt and baking powder as a substitute for yeast. It is nut-free and soy-free, with an option to make it gluten-free.
Diwali Rice Dishes for Vegans
Rice dishes are the perfect addition to every vegan Diwali feast. These rice recipes are a great addition to any spread with delicious ingredients like vegetables and Indian spices.
Baked Vegan Chana Pulao is a baked chickpea rice pilaf that is easy to make and only takes one pan for the entire recipe. This recipe is gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free.
Curry Fried Rice is versatile and straightforward to make with just a single pot. Chefs can use other cooked grains or spice blends to create a variety of flavors. This rice recipe is gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free.
Turmeric Lemon Rice is bursting with turmeric, lemon, and mustard seeds that cook in ten minutes. It is a gluten-free and soy-free Diwali dish option.
Snacks and Appetizers for Vegan Diwali
Indian snacks are a sub-cuisine in itself. There are simple savory pastries like samosas, healthier snacks like steamed Idli and Dhokla, and street-style snacks like Pav Bhaji. There’s also a category of snacks called chaat. Chaat has layered snacks with various flavors and textures. Try a few of these simplified snacks and appetizers.
Samosa Pie is a spicy potato pastry that is just like eating a giant veggie samosa. This recipe also includes gluten-free and nut-free options.
Kachori Pinwheels are a fun, bite-sized snack. These savory and spicy lentil pinwheel pastries are nut-free, soy-free, and have the option of being gluten-free.
Sweet Potato Bhel is a crisp rice puff snack salad with sweet potato, mint, and tamarind chutney. This recipe can be made in twenty minutes and can be gluten-free and nut-free.
Indian Spiced Smashed Potatoes with Mustard Ginger Tempering is a spiced potato snack that includes ginger, turmeric, and mustard seeds. It is gluten-free and is an excellent addition to any Diwali table.
These vegan Onion Pakoras are restaurant-style crispy baked onion fritters served as an appetizer or a snack.
Khaman Dhokla is a savory chickpea flour cake that can be baked or steamed. This vegan recipe is also gluten-free and soy-free.
Condiments to Serve for Diwali
Tomato Chutney is a simple, delicious condiment that goes great with Parathas or Rotis.
Spicy Mango Chutney is an addictive chutney that makes a delicious dip or side for Diwali. This recipe is from my latest book: Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot Cookbook.
Mint Cilantro Chutney is an excellent dip for Diwali foods like snacks, pakoda, chaat, samosas, and more.
Diwali Vegan Desserts
Indian desserts are often very dairy heavy. Many Burfis use milk to make the bulk, in thickened milk form or milk powder or cream, etc. I have been veganizing Indian desserts since 2010. Some are already vegan or can easily be made plant-based, while others require a new approach and treatment. Try these veganized Indian sweets for your Diwali celebration.
Gulab Jamun starts as a dry mix for these tasty doughnut holes soaked in cardamom saffron syrup. These donut balls are the ultimate indulgence for Diwali celebrations and can easily be made gluten-free.
Layered Coconut Halwa Coconut Burfi Bars combine two of Richa’s favorite Indian desserts into one delicious treat. This Diwali recipe is gluten-free but can also be a nut-free dessert.
Wheat Laddoo is a recipe that traditionally calls for heavy amounts of Ghee or clarified butter, but this recipe is not only vegan but is also oil-free. It’s easy to turn these soy-free desserts into gluten-free options by swapping whole wheat flour with gluten-free flour.
Ras Malai Tres Leches Cake is the ultimate dessert to pre-make for Diwali. Its light sponge cake center is soaked with cardamom and saffron-scented vegan milk that gets tastier as time passes.
Pistachio Cookies are a delectable treat made with spiced cardamom, saffron, and a mix of flour and nuts. They are easy to make gluten-free and are an ideal treat for Diwali cookie swaps.
Brown Rice Kheer is a vegan rice pudding recipe made with cardamom, currants, raisins, roasted nuts, and almond-cashew milk. You can find the Instant Pot version of Rice Kheer in Richa’s latest book Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot Cookbook.
Richa’s Almond Halwa is an oil-free almond flour pudding prepared on the stove or in the Instant Pot. This yummy dessert is made with only six ingredients and is gluten-free, grain-free, and soy-free.
Besan Laddoo is a sweet dessert ball made from chickpea flour with cashews and raisins. This recipe is gluten-free and soy-free. Find Richa’s Besan Laddoo recipe for the Instant Pot in her latest book Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot Cookbook.
Bonus Diwali Dessert Recipes found in Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook
Traditionally Kalakand is made with lots of dairy products, but Richa’s vegan Kakakand recipe gives Diwali guests all the flavor without the cruelty.
Mysore Pak is a rich chickpea flour fudge that will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth.
And for even more plant-based Diwali recipes, check out Vegan Richa’s 45 Vegan Diwali Dinner Recipes
Diwali is as much about connection and family as it is about celebrating the goodness in the world. Share the love and compassion with friends and neighbors, invite them in, and share the compassion with the people and animals who may get exploited. May there be peace, compassion, and happiness in the world.
Holidays have traditionally been occasions for family and friends to gather over hearty meals centered around animal products. The FARM Buzz and FARM Animal Rights Movement want to provide people with the tools to evolve animal-based food traditions into more compassionate choices. That’s why we started Compassionate Holidays. The Compassionate Holidays website offers recipes and tips for changing hearts and minds no matter what holiday you celebrate.
About Vegan Richa
Richa, an award-winning recipe developer, blogger, author, and photographer, loves to transform traditional animal-based dishes into delicious vegan feasts. Her first book Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, about easy and tasty Indian Vegan recipes, was a #1 Best Seller on Amazon for several years. Vegan Richa’s Everyday Kitchen, her second book, covered various cuisines. Her third book Vegan Richa’s Instant Pot Cookbook released this year with 150 recipes and 400 pages, with half the book dedicated to Indian pressure cooking. It introduced several ways to use the instant pot for cooking several meals simultaneously using pot in pot, making pasta, burgers, desserts, and more. Richa’s readers love the variety of whole food recipes, giving them many options to eat plant based. She donates the bulk of her book proceeds to several charitable causes.