Celebrate Diwali with traditional Hindu foods

Celebrate Diwali with traditional Hindu foods
Shrikhand", a chilled pudding made from home-made yogurt cheese; and mixed vegetable curries.

A beautiful celebration even if you are not Indian

Diwali, aka, the Festival of Light is being celebrated throughout India and other parts of the world today Wednesday, November 7, with other  celebrations spanning from Monday, November 5 to Friday, November 9.

Diwali is the time to celebrate new beginnings. Diwali or Deepavali means “row of lamps” in Sanskrit.

This is the third and most important day on the Hindu calendar. The day is typically celebrated with worship, fireworks, food and traditions.

The Hindu diet is characterized by salty, sweet, creamy, spicy, hot and pungent flavors. The basic menu usually comprises starch, a meat (never beef as the cow is scared) or a fish main dish, vegetables, and chutney.

Diwalk puran poli.

Diwalk puran poli.

Traditionally, Indian flatbread or basmati rice complements the other dishes highlighting a balanced spectrum of flavors. 

It is easy to add an Indian accent to a menu using Indian spices such as curry, cumin (sometimes called jeera or jira), turmeric (haldi), cloves, black pepper and cinnamon.

Onions, garlic, turnips, and mushrooms along with beef are typically forbidden.

Staples of the Indian diet include roti (flatbread), dosas (thin crepes made of lentils) or idlis (steamed rice-dough pancakes), coconut, mustard seed, dried red chilis and dips and chutneys flavored with traditional spices.

Traditional foods served during Diwali include Lapsi, a large-grain cracked wheat often sautéed with ghee and sugar. It is often served with a curry of yard-long beans symbolizing longevity.

A popular food to ward away evil spirits is the labor-intensive anarasa or an easier choice would be a milky rice pudding called kheer.

Puran poli is a sweet Indian bread deep-fried in ghee is often served on the third of the festival which is Diwali Day.

Another popular combination is “puris” paired with “shrikhand”, a chilled pudding made from home-made yogurt cheese; and mixed vegetable curries.



On Day 5 of Diwali women traditionally make their brother’s favorite foods while the brothers thank them with luxurious gifts. The colorful tray of Mithai, pictured above, would fill the bill.

If all this seems like too much work, Chicago is home to many Indian restaurants including one simply called Diwali which seems like the perfect spot to celebrate the holiday.

If you’re looking to celebrate at home or just want to learn more about Diwali, here are some of the popular traditions and rituals:

Clean your house (always a good idea) but the “fall cleaning” ritual as part of Diwali is a way to honor new beginnings.  The ritual often includes the purchase of a new broom that is used to “sweep up” especially at midnight to signify that poverty is being swept away.

Other traditions include buying and wearing new clothes, visiting old friends, forgetting or forgiving old grudges, lighting up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside the house and the giving of gifts including silver and gold.

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