Indian food is uniquely delicious. However, there are numerous American recipes and dishes that are similar in nature and looks to Indian ones. At least that’s how it seems.

In a Washington Post article a few years back, a band of researched worked their way through 2500 recipes to gather data on why Indian food is immensely enjoyable globally. The major takeaway was that Indian food is uniquely delicious in that it inhibits a complex and varied “pairing logic” of ingredients, something that Western cuisines don’t practice as they often “combine ingredients with like flavors.”

Yet, a lot of American and other dishes look and feel similar to Indian ones. Are looks deceiving enough, though? Or does taste triumph everything?

Go through our list of dishes and let us know which ones you prefer. Feel free to do it via taste testing, you know, for science.

Savory Dishes

1. Loaded Nachos or Papadi Chaat?

Loaded Nachos
Loaded Nachos

Maybe it’s the layers and layers of different textures, the amalgamation of crunch, sauces, herbs, and garnish that can be found in both of these dishes, but these two seem very similar in concept if not in taste. Want to “chaat” more about it?
Read Chaat: What it is and How You Can be a Chaat Party Bawse.

Papdi Chaat

2. Loaded Potato Skins or Aloo Papdi Chaat

Loaded Potato Skins

Like nachos and papdi chaat, loaded potato skins and aloo papdi chaat also share the same concept: some form of dairy, herbs, and crunch on a bed of potato.
Read 13 Hella Good Aloo Recipes for more potato goodness.

Aloo Papdi Chaat
Aloo Papdi Chaat

3. Tex-Mex Style Chicken Fajitas or Chicken Kati Roll?

Text-Mex Style Chicken Fajitas
Tex-Mex-Style Chicken Fajita

The similarities in this are a no-brainer: sauteed chicken with spices enveloped in a flatbread. They’re practically twins! Looking for a quick kati roll recipe, or chicken fajita recipe for that matter recipe,  to make in a jiffy? Use rotisserie chicken!

Read Put That Store-Bought Rotisserie Chicken to use With These 3 Masala-Packed Recipes to find out how.

Chicken Kati Roll

4. Sloppy Joe or Keema Pav?

Sloppy Joe
Sloppy Joe

These two are almost twins separated at birth. Perhaps the only thing differentiating a sloppy joe from keema pav is that sloppy joes are traditionally made from beef or pork cooked with a bevy seasonings along with onions, tomato, and Worcestershire sauce. Keema pav, on the other hand, is usually minced lamb or goat and masala. When you break it down as such, they are different in nature but they sure do look similar!

Read 9 Indian Dishes that Get Sex’d Up with an Egg on Top for a delicious spicy lamb keema pav recipe.

Keema Pav

5. Jalapeno Poppers or Paneer Chilli Pakora?

Jalapeno Poppers

Like the others on this list, these two look very similar. Both have similar prep procedures of hollowing out peppers or chilies and stuffing them with cheese which is then battered and deep fried. Traditional jalapeno poppers typically encase a mix of cream and cheddar cheese, whereas paneer chilli pakora encase paneer, a type of curd cheese.

Read 7 Pumpkin Recipes that aren’t Traditional but are Damn Good for a unique paneer recipe.

Paneer Chilli Pakora

6. Potato Cakes or Aloo Tikki?

Potato Pancakes

Potato pancakes are grated aloo mixed with eggs, flour, salt, pepper with perhaps a kick of cayenne and fried, typically served with applesauce or sour cream. Its desi cousin aloo tikki gets a little bit more added to it. OK, let’s be real, it actually gets A LOT more flavor added to it. Aloo is seasoned with chili, coriander, cumin, ginger, garlic, garam masala, and mango powder along with fresh herbs and then it’s fried and eaten with chutney or served as a foundation for chaat.

Aloo Tikki

7. Mozzarella Sticks or Paneer Pakora?

Mozzarella Sticks

Like aloo tikki before it, these two are very similar in concept, though not in execution. On a rudimentary level, one could describe both of these dishes as deep fried battered cheese: one recipe encases mozzarella, the other paneer. The batters are very different though. Mozzarella is typically dredged in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs to make America’s beloved mozzarella sticks. Paneer pakora in its traditional form is paneer battered in masala-seasoned besan or gram flour and deep fried to golden perfection.

Paneer Pakora

8. Jambalaya or Biriyani?


Jambalaya and biriyani can look deceivingly similar. On a very base level, both dishes can be defined as a seasoned rice-based dish mixed with meats, seafood, and/or vegetables depending on the recipe. And cosmetically, these two dishes can sometimes share the same deep brown and red hues due to both containing liberal amounts of spices. But to say these two dishes are exactly the same is too reductive.

Their flavor profiles differ wildly though they can look like culinary twins. Jambalaya recipes usually call for a seasoning mix of cayenne, paprika, garlic, thyme, and oregano with a further dimension of flavor from andouille sausage and seafood. Biriyani’s heat comes from a different medley of spices which can further differ regionally if you’re talking about Hyderabadi, Lucknow, Sindhi, Bombay, etc. Still so, chili powder, cumin, coriander, ginger-garlic paste, and green chilies are the usual suspects. Want to make your own less carby, masala “rice” dish? Click here.


9. Scrambled Eggs or Burji? 

Scrambled Eggs

Perhaps this question is a bit of a cheat as asking if you want scrambled eggs versus burji is essentially asking if you like your scrambled eggs plain or chock full of spices and herbs. Click here for more anda recipes.


10. Mashed Potatoes or Aloo Bharta?  

Mashed Potatoes

Like the scrambled eggs before it, aloo bharta can be described as spiced mashed potatoes. We would be remiss if we didn’t delve into what makes aloo bharta a highly kicked up version of creamy American-style mashed potatoes. Firstly, after the aloo is boiled and mashed, it’s typically cooked fragrant mustard oil which imparts an obviously different flavor than butter. Aloo bharta also differs in texture. Though the potato itself is mashed, its usually mixed with finely chopped onion, chilies, and coriander leaves which give it a textured mouthfeel feel. Get a fool-proof recipe for aloo bharta here.

Aloo Bharta

11. BBQ Chicken or Tandoori Chicken?

BBQ Chicken

Both BBQ chicken and tandoori chicken can be bright brown or red and could really be mistaken for one another in many cases. Yet southern-style bbq chicken has a sweet and tangy taste from its molasses and garlic marinade that differs from tandoori chicken’s more earthy and spicy yogurt-masala based marinade. Cooking methods differ, too, as evident in their names.

BBQ chicken is cooked on grill versus tandoori chicken spending its time in a tandoor or clay oven. These different cooking methods most definitely impart different flavor and texture as well.

Read 9 American Comfort Foods with a Desi Twist for more American southern-style fusion recipes.

Tandoori Chicken

Sweet Dishes

12. Banana Pancakes or Malpua? 

Banana Pancakes

Whereas banana pancakes are usually cooked in a skillet in shallow oil or even butter, malpua is deep fried, often in ghee or shortening. Banana pancakes are a common breakfast staple in American versus malpua’s status as a more special, cooked only for pujas or festivals-type dish. Both classically get topped with syrups, pancakes with maple syrup and malpua with sugar syrup and pistachios.


13. Rice Pudding or Kheer? 

Rice Pudding

Again, we’re cheating with this one as kheer is rice pudding sans eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon and instead cooks with cardamon and jaggery.


14. Funnel Cake or Jalebi?

Funnel Cake

Funnel cake, an American fair food darling, really is jalebi’s cousin. Funnel cake is a mix of white flour, eggs, milk, and a vanilla extract made into a batter and piped and deep fried in oil usually finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. Jalebi is not too different in essence. It’s made with maida, besan, and spices and also piped into oil in a similar circular overlapping fashion. It’s finished off by soaking in a warm sugary syrup which is why it looks like a glossy funnel cake.


15. Doughnut Holes or Gulab Jamuns?

Doughnut Holes

Like jalebi, gulab jamun looks like a glossy version of its American counterpart and that’s because it, too, is cooked dough which steeps in a sugar syrup. Want more of this syrupy desi doughnut? Hit up 5 Ways the Internet is Using Gulab Jamun as a Sub-Ingredient.

Gulab Jamun

Maybe you don’t have to choose. See how chefs are fusing Indian and American culinary traditions by reading Brown in the South’ Series Celebrates the Fusion of Indian and Southern Cooking and 8 Recipes Using Butter Chicken as a Sub-Ingredient in American Comfort Foods.

All images courtesy of Pinterest. 



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