Punjabi cuisine is a culinary style originating in the Punjab, a region in the northern part of South Asia, which is now divided in an Indian part to the east and a Pakistani part to the west. This cuisine has a rich tradition of many distinct and local ways of cooking.


A Punjabi woman cooking, Punjab, circa 19th century

The local cuisine of Punjab is heavily influenced by the agriculture and farming lifestyle prevalent from the times of the ancient Indus Valley civilization. Dishes similar to tandoori chicken may have existed during the Harappan civilization during the Bronze Age of India. According to the archeologist Professor Vasant Shinde, the earliest evidence for a dish similar to tandoori chicken can be found in the Harappan civilization and dates back to 3000 BC. His team has found ancient ovens at Harappan sites which are similar to the tandoors that are used in the state of Punjab. Physical remains of chicken bones with char marks have also been unearthed.[1][2][3] Harappan houses had keyhole ovens with central pillars which was used for roasting meats and baking breads.[4] Sushruta Samhita records meat being cooked in an oven (kandu) after marinating it in spices like black mustard (rai) powder and fragrant spices.[5] According to Ahmed (2014), Harappan oven structures may have operated in a similar manner to the modern tandoors of the Punjab.[6]

Basmati rice is the indigenous variety of Punjab, and various meat- and vegetable-based rice dishes have been developed using it.[7][8][9]

Chicken tikka is a popular dish in Punjabi cuisine
Mint paratha from Punjab, India
Lassi from Punjab

Style of cooking

There are many styles of cooking in Punjab. In the villages many people still employ the traditional methods and equipment for cooking purposes. This includes wood-fired and masonry ovens. Modern methods include cooking on gas cookers. Tandoori style of cooking involves use of the tandoor.[10] In India, tandoori cooking is traditionally associated with Punjab[11] as Punjabis embraced the tandoor on a regional level.[12] This style of cooking became popular throughout India after the 1947 partition when Punjabis resettled in places such as Delhi. According to Planalp (1971), "the Panjab-style underground oven known as tandur is becoming increasingly popular in New Delhi" pointing to the Punjabi style of the tandoor.[13][14] In rural Punjab, it is common to have communal tandoors,[15][16] which are also called Kath tandoors in Punjabi.

Staple foods

Punjabi food thali

Punjab is a major producer of wheat, rice and dairy products. These products also form the staple diet of the Punjabi people. The state of Punjab has one of the highest capita usage of dairy products in India.[17] Therefore, dairy products form an important component of Punjabi diet.

Dairy products are a staple in Punjabi cuisine.[18] Both cow milk and water buffalo milk are popular. Milk is used for drinking, to add to tea or coffee, to make homemade dahi (yogurt), for butter and making traditional Punjabi cottage cheese called paneer.[19] Traditionally, yogurt is made every day using previous day's yogurt as the starting bacterial culture to ferment the milk. Curd is used as dressing for many raita dishes, to prepare Kadhi, to prepare cultured buttermilk (Chaas), and as a side dish in a meal.[20] Buttermilk is used in making various kinds of Lassi.[21][22][23] It may also be used in curry preparations.[24] Milk is also the prerequisite ingredient for butter and Ghee (clarified butter).

Food additives and condiments

Food additives and condiments are usually added to enhance the flavor of the food. Food coloring as additive is used in sweet dishes and desserts. Starch is used as a bulking agent.

Common dishes


Aloo paratha/parontha with butter

Breakfast recipes with respect to different regions within Punjab varies. Common ones are chana masala, nan, chole kulche, aloo paratha, paneer paratha, gobi paratha, paratha with curd, paratha with butter, halwa poori,[25] bhatoora, falooda, makhni doodh, Amritsari lassi, masala chai, tea, Amritsari kulchas, dahi vada, dahi, khoa, paya, aloo paratha with butter, panjeeri with milk.

In the upper Punjab Pakistan the Lahori Katlama is famous for breakfast as well.[26]


Poultry, lamb and goat meat are the preferred meat sources in different regions of Punjab.

Many dishes of meat variety is available and some of them are named below.

Tandoori chicken


See also: List of fishes of India and List of fish in Pakistan

Since Punjab is a landlocked region, freshwater fish, and not marine fish, forms an important part of the cuisine.[29] Carp, rohu and catfish are the most commonly prepared fish. Other fish types include thela machi and tilapia. Recently, shrimp has been introduced.[30] Fish tikka is an Amritsari speciality.[27]


See also: List of vegetables, List of leaf vegetables, List of root vegetables, List of culinary fruits, and List of citrus fruits

Kulcha amritsari
Paneer, one of the South Asian cheese variants commonly used in cooking in Punjab


Raita and chutney

Along with all types of main dishes raita or chutney is also served.

Sweets and desserts

Gajrela (Gajar ka halwa), a dessert made from carrot

Further information: List of Indian sweets and desserts

Punjabi cuisine includes various types of desserts and Mithyai which include:


Punjabis eat a variety of breads. Flatbreads and raised breads are eaten on a daily basis. Raised breads are known as khamiri roti. Sunflower and flax seeds are also added in some breads occasionally. The breads may be made of different types of flour and can be made in various ways:

Herbs and spices

Mortar and pestle (Old method to mix spices)

Further information: List of Indian spices and List of Pakistani spices

See also: Spice mix

Indian subcontinent-based spices are used in Punjabi cuisine, which are ground in a mortar and pestle or a food processor.


Punjab has a diverse range of beverages. Some are dairy-based such as lassi and buttermilk. Water buffalo milk-based products are especially common around Punjab.[44] Examples are mango lassi,[45][46] mango milkshake,[47][48] and chaas.[49][50] Others are juices derived from vegetables and fruits, such as watermelon shakes,[51] carrot juice and tamarind juice (imli ka paani). Shikanjvi and neembu paani drinks are especially preferred during the summer. Jal-jeera is also common as well.

Sattu is a traditional North Indian drink that is also traditionally consumed in the Punjab. Sattu is made by roasting barley grains and then grinding them into powder, mixed with salt and turmeric and water.[31]

The local regional drinks in Punjab also include Doodh soda (milk soda),[52] Desi Daaru (a local form of alcohol in India) and Bantay (a local soda drink) in Pakistan.

Fermented foods

See also: Zymology

Further information: Pickling, List of fermented foods, and Pickles in India and Pakistan

Achar gosht, a famous dish made from chicken and pickles mixture

Fermented foods are common in Punjabi cuisine. Also fermented foods are added in the preparation of some dishes as well.[53] Mango pickle is especially famous in many villages of Punjab.[54][55]

Cooking methods

A traditional Punjabi stove (Chulla) and oven (Bharolli)

Traditional and modern methods are employed for cooking Punjabi cuisine. The traditional stoves and ovens used to cook Punjabi food include:


The traditional name of the stove in the Punjabi language is chulla.[56] Traditional houses also have ovens (wadda chulla or band chulla) that are made from bricks, stones, and in many cases clay. Older communities in Punjab also used earth ovens (khadda chulla), but this tradition is dying out now. [citation needed]


A masonry oven is known as a bhathi. Outdoor cooking and grilling have many different types of bhathi. A bhathi is used to roast wheat or corn for which Kalsi (1992) describes as a "special oven with an open pan in which sand is heated to roast corn."[57]


A hara is a six-foot-tall oven with its own roof. The hara is traditionally used to slow-heat milk or slow-cook pulses such as chickpeas.[58]


Further information: Tandoor and Punjabi tandoori cooking

According to Ancient Pakistan - An Archaeological History by Mukhtar Ahmed,[59] Harappan oven structures may have operated in a similar manner to the modern tandoors of the Punjab. The tandoor is traditionally made of clay and is a bell-shaped oven, set into the earth and fired with wood or charcoal reaching high temperatures. According to Roy Hayter[60] the original versions of the tandoor "in the Punjab, a province in the north-west of India, were sunk neck deep in the ground". He further states that modern versions can also rest above the ground.

Modern methods

Etiquette of Punjabi dining

Etiquette of eating is considered a major part of the cuisine. Every Punjabi household follows certain regional etiquette. The word etiquette has many local names depending on the particular region of Punjab. Though certain etiquette varies regionally, there are many etiquette practices that are common throughout Punjab. Communal dining is a norm in Punjabi families.

Bringing and sending fresh fruits, sweets and food items as gifts to family members is a common practice in Punjab, particularly during the spring season. Food items are distributed among neighbors as well on special occasions and as a sign to show hospitality. Mango is considered a delicacy and produced widely in Punjab,[61] and mango parties are common during the fruit's harvest season. Watermelon and radish at food stalls are shared among friends and relatives.

Major features of etiquette

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See also: Table manners and Eating utensil etiquette

An invitation to a meal or tea is typically distributed few days beforehand. Denying the invitation for no major reason is considered a breach of etiquette.

Table setting is done before the arrival of the guests.

Family members or any occupants within one home make sure to eat together during the dinner. If any other person is present in the vicinity, then they are offered meals as a way of giving respect. It is considered rude to start eating food without asking others to participate in a meal. It is customary to offer food to anyone in your vicinity before eating. The invited guest or elder person is given special respect and attention. Usually the invited guest is requested to start the meal. It is considered rude if the host starts eating without taking into account the attendance of all guests.

Punjabi families use a hybrid style of South Asian and European utensil etiquette most of the times. The bread and rice are eaten with the hands. Desserts are eaten with spoons. Soup spoons are used for consuming soup and forks are used for eating noodles. Chewing food with one's mouth open and burping in front of others is considered rude. In the villages of Punjab, an additional common plate is usually placed on the table for any bones left from the consumption of bone meat. Placing leftovers on the floor or on the table floor is considered bad etiquette.

Punjabi dhaba

See also: Dhaba, Truck stop, and Cafeteria

The roadsides often serve as suburban eatery centers. They can also be a communal place to sit and chat. Some serve on the same concept of the greasy spoon.

Punjabi restaurants

Selection of signature dishes at New Punjab Club[62]

Punjabi cuisine has spread internationally. Punjab in London has been family-run since 1946 and is the UK's oldest North Indian restaurant.[63] The New Punjab Club,[64] located in Hong Kong, became the world's first Punjabi restaurant to earn One Michelin Star in 2019.[65]

See also


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