The Intersection of Food and Culture in India

March 10, 2024

When someone says “Indian food”, they are not referring to a single dish or even a single type of cuisine. Instead, it is an umbrella term that includes several cuisines and a mix of flavours from the various parts of the country. Food and culture go hand in hand. The heterogeneity of Indian culture lends itself to the various food practices, folklore tales, food-related rituals and the eating culture. With the new fad of fitness and Western influence, the food culture of India is constantly changing.  Let us take a look at the long way it has come.

Regional Diversity in Indian Food 

Besides the coexistence of people who follow different religions, India is divided into multiple states, districts and cities, where the language and dialect keep changing. Add to these its large geographical and climate differences; there is diversity even in the kinds of crops that are grown in a particular place. When all these components are put together, food in every region is different and has its own speciality. For example, while people in Kerala cook their food with coconut oil and are known for their puttu, parotta and beef curry, Andhra Pradesh is famous for its symphony of spices. The Guntur chilli has a unique punch and heat which adds flavours to the spicy signature dishes of Andhra Pradesh. Likewise, each region has its own speciality and food culture, which leads to the diversity in Indian Food. 

How the Religion and Beliefs in India influence Indian Food?

Diwali: A Festival of Lights and Sweets

Diwali is a famous Indian festival that is celebrated by people across the globe. Often known as the Festival of Lights, like every other Indian festival, it has its roots in ancient legends. Besides regularly cleaning and decorating houses, people lit lamps and candles on Diwali. There are also ceremonies, rituals and prayers. The loveliest part of Diwali comes with the firecrackers that light up the sky. A beautiful set of dishes and sweets follow. People also share sweets and savouries during the festival as a token of love. With no specific sweets, halwa, laddu, gulab jamun, barfi, and others frequent the room. Some houses start the day with a special mix that offers you tastes of sweet, spice, bitter and more, indicating and urging you to accept that life is a mix of different flavours and we should learn to enjoy it. Besides these, we have Bhajis, Murukus, and Samosas for snacks. 

Holi: Colours, Thandai, and Gujiya

Holi sweets

This vibrant Indian festival is celebrated with colours, delicious food and drinks. It happens at the end of winter, marking spring’s arrival and the following summer. It is celebrated with a bonfire where old and redundant things are burned. The foods and drinks add more colour to this already colourful tradition. For instance, the drink Thandai is quite famous during Holi as people enjoy relishing this drink while playing. It is a sweet drink that acts as a cooling agent. Given that summer is about to come, the drink aids in controlling the heat in your body. It also has a mix of almonds, cardamom, watermelon seeds, saffron and more. Other drinks like lassi will also be included during the festival. 

Sweets are a very important part of Indian traditions and culture. During Holi, the main sweet is Gujiya which contains dry coconut, cardamom and many other flavours and is deep-fried in ghee. Barfi, Malpua, Dahi Vada, Ladoos, Puran Poli and more fill the table. 

Eid: Biryani, Kebabs, and Sheer Khurma


Eid is celebrated as a three-day festival that happens at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. After a month-long fasting, people relish the different foods which are considered a reward for their fasting. Like every social tradition, gifts and gifts of cash are given to children. While Biryani and Kebabs are a constant, the other foods vary with different cultures and regions. For instance, the sheer khurma, a sweet vermicelli dessert, is a favourite in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Mumbai and Delhi people love Nalli Nihari, a slow-cooked lamb shank curry. Other dishes like lentil and meat stew, haleem, lamb and beef sharks and more. Similarly, Hyderabad people love the kachche gosht ki biryani, which basically has marinated mutton. Based on the practices of different regions and their food culture, the biryani and the way it is cooked keeps changing. 

Indian Food and Global Culture

The Spread of Indian Cuisine Around the World

Based on several studies, Indian food is one of the most popular cuisines across the world. The spice trade between India and several other countries can be found in the pages of history. The cuisine has slowly influenced many other cuisines, including those from Britain, other parts of Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and others. If someone has to point out what makes Indian food special, it would be the spices and varied flavours. Across the globe, traditional Indian food is found in many major cities. The spicy chicken gravies, dosas and samosas are some of the spicy, delicate Indian foods that are famous around the world. 

Fusion Food: A Blend of Indian and International Flavors

Indians enjoy cuisines from different parts of the world, but most of these often have an Indian touch. While they love Italian pizzas, they do have their own varieties like a Paneer Tikka pizza which offers them a flavour of both worlds. Such blends of Indian and International Flavors are quite common. For instance, samosas are not fried in many other countries. Customizing the dish according to their preferences, people bake samosas. There are also Sushis that carry an Indian flavour, Thai curries but with Indian spices and more. Such fusion of culinary traditions is a major trend in the global food culture today.


While a lot of our traditions remain intact, we also begin to incorporate new habits that alter the food culture. In this digital world, where you don’t have to cross seas to try a cuisine or not even have to leave your house with everything available in a click, our ways of eating food, the different varieties and blends, and the overall food and culture keep evolving. You can sit and order food online without leaving your home.


What is the relation between culture and food in India?

India is a collective space of different regions. Each region and religion has a specific tradition and custom. Their cultures are unique. Based on the culture and region, the kind of food made and the way it is made varies. It is very similar to how people who live near the seashore tend to consume more fish. 

How does culture affect food in India?

India is known for its diverse cultures. The diversity is then visible in its food as well. Besides religious differences, the land and language influence a place’s culture. As a result, the food in India is also influenced by these cultures, where the produce on land is different, the way the dishes are cooked, the spices and even the way people eat is different. 

Why is there cultural diversity in food in India?

Cultural diversity in India is rooted in the different languages spoken by people from different states. Since Kings ruled India before the British invasion, each region had its own rules, traditions and habits. By the time we got independence, these demarcations became clearer as though the people identified themselves as Indians; their lifestyles were largely different. This diversity is reflected in food in India as well.

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