Punjabi food is one of the most famous cuisines in the world. It is highly sought after not just in India but also in countries like the U.K., Australia, the U.S., and Canada. In fact, authentic Punjabi food has become so popular that it has even become a part of Western popular culture. If you are wondering what makes this cuisine so widely known, then here is everything you need to know about traditional Punjabi food.

What is Punjabi cuisine?

The Indian state of Punjab is famous for its music, whole-heartedness, and of course, food. Punjabi food is part of the best North Indian delicacies that leave you yearning for more. Authentic Punjabi dishes is characterised by large servings of ghee, butter, and fresh cream, making it one of the richest and most nutrient-packed cuisines of India. Authentic Punjabi food also stands out for its use of the tandoor, a clay oven. This traditional cooking method of Punjabi dishes gives its dishes their distinctive smoky flavour.

Let us take a look at seven of the most mouth-watering dishes that make authentic Punjabi food so delicious.

  1. Butter Chicken

This flavoursome dish is easily the crown jewel of the popular Punjab cuisine. This dish is not just popular across the entire country, but also widely known in Western countries as the go-to Indian dish to have without any regrets. 

It is essentially juicy, marinated pieces of chicken braised in a tantalising sweet, spicy and tangy gravy. It is known as butter chicken because of the addition of large dollops of butter and fresh cream, which give its gravy a rich and smooth creamy texture.

  1. Makki ki Roti and Sarson da Saag

Makki ki Roti and Sarson da Saag is a typical Punjabi dish that is also considered a staple in many Punjabi households. Since traditionally Punjabis were avid cultivators, they have been preparing and consuming this staple dish for several decades. 

Today, this duo of maize flour flatbread and a gravy made from spinach may look mundane. However, with the abundance of flavours and seasonal availability, it has become one of the most iconic traditional and best Punjabi dishes out there. 

  1. Chhole Bhature

This dish is usually served on a large plate to accommodate the equally large bhatures, which are soft and fluffy Indian bread. Bhatures are accompanied by a spicy chickpea curry known as chhole. 

These two are a match made in heaven and can easily sum up everything good in Indian cuisine because this dish is not only a delicacy of Punjab but is also a fast food served all over the country. You can find chhole bhature at a roadside fast-food stall in Amritsar, as well as at an upscale Club Mahindra restaurant in other parts of the country.

  1. Machhli Amritsari

Although fish is not a major part of the Punjabi diet, there are a select few dishes of fish that are popular in the state. For example, Machhli Amritsari (or Amritsari Fish) is a tangy and spicy dish made with any choice of river fish. It can be consumed as a main course dish with rice or as an appetizer. 

This popular dish is also served at many of the Club Mahindra resorts across the country. Due to its popularity, Macchli Amritsari has also become an international dish that can be found in several luxurious and boutique restaurants around the world.

  1. Dal Makhni

While most food enthusiasts may not find a plain lentil dish as appealing as something more extravagant like chicken, Dal Makhni has earned its rightful place in Punjabi cuisine. It is because of this that Dal Makhni is often referred to as the queen of all lentil dishes. It is one of the authentic Punjabi foods.

This rich and creamy lentil dish is made with black lentils and red kidney beans. It is satisfyingly smooth in texture with a wholesome mouthfeel. Loaded with thick fresh cream and simmered for hours, Dal Makhni has a flavour that is deep enough to mesmerise anyone who tastes it for the first time.

  1. Paneer Tikka

Paneer or cottage cheese is one of the most loved food items in Punjab, and because of this, any paneer preparation is widely appreciated by Punjabis. This love for paneer has caught on throughout India and paneer tikka, which is traditionally a food of Punjab, is now rated one of the best Punjabi dishes and is available in almost every corner of the country. 

Just like the popular chicken tikka, paneer tikka is also prepared in a traditional earthen oven (known as tandoor). Before being placed into the tandoor, the cubes of paneer are doused in a spicy marinade and then skewered. The cooked cubes of paneer are then plated with freshly cut vegetables like onion, cucumber, and tomato, and served with a mint sauce (chutney).

  1. Rajma Chawal

Rajma Chawal, which is the final entry on this list, is less of a speciality dish and more of a regular diet in Punjab. Although the origin of Rajma Chawal is from Kashmir, it has long been integrated into Punjabi cuisine. 

If you wish to get a glimpse of the rich flavours of this cuisine, then sampling a plate of rajma chawal can sometimes be enough. This dish is essentially made from a tomato puree and a generous helping of red kidney beans. It is high in plant-based proteins and is also not too strong on the stomach.

  1. Paratha

Most likely, you've tried a paratha at least once. This is a renowned authentic Punjabi food. Whether it's plain or stuffed, Punjabi families often have this bread. When people travel, they usually choose a paratha at roadside eateries (Dhabas). In Punjab, many prefer frying it in desi ghee. Eating it with cold curd and pickle is a simple yet delightful combination.

Parathas can be filled with various ingredients like potatoes, onions, cottage cheese, keema, and even unconventional ones like bottle gourd!

  1. Amritsari Kulcha

Hailing from the city of Amritsar in Punjab, the Amritsari Kulcha is one of the best Punjabi dishes. Its crispy outer layer and flavourful, soft interior make it a delightful treat. Stuffed with a blend of mashed potatoes, spices, and occasionally peas or paneer, this kulcha is traditionally baked in a tandoor, lending it a smoky essence. 

Enjoyed alongside tangy chole and served with yogurt and pickles, Amritsari Kulcha encapsulates the culinary richness of North India.

  1. Punjabi Dal Tadka

Punjabi Dal Tadka is known for its robust flavours and is a quintessential part of the authentic Punjabi cuisine. This lentil-based curry combines yellow or red lentils (usually masoor dal) with a tempering of aromatic spices like cumin, mustard seeds, garlic, and ginger. 

The tadka is a crucial step, enhancing the dish with a smoky and aromatic touch. Finished with a splash of lemon juice and garnished with fresh coriander, Punjabi Dal Tadka is often enjoyed with rice or Indian breads for a wholesome and comforting meal.

Surely, your mouth is watering by now, reading about all these spicy, tangy, creamy, best Punjabi dishes. But, hold on!

You still have dessert and drinks on the list.

Desserts and Drinks of Punjab

The list of authentic Punjabi food also includes desserts and the famous Punjabi drink, Lassi. 

  1. Pinni

After a tasty meal, let's talk about dessert! Pinni is a sweet treat and a part of the authentic Punjabi cuisine. It is made with desi ghee, jaggery, and wheat flour. It's topped with nuts like almonds and pistachios. 

People usually make it in winter for the energy and warmth it gives during cold nights in Punjab. Just a heads up, it's rich, so enjoy it in moderation!

  1. Malai Lassi

Punjabis love their lassi, a drink you can find in every Punjab home and restaurant. It is mostly served with some of the best Punjabi dishes

Traditional Punjabi lassi is sweet and creamy, often topped with malai (cream). You can enjoy lassi in different flavours like mango, strawberry, and rose. It's the perfect refreshing drink for a hot summer day, especially to neutralise spicy flavours or if you're out sightseeing.

These are the ten most popular dishes that make Punjabi cuisine so delicious and give it the fame that it rightly deserves. 

You can sample any of these delectable dishes on your next visit to Punjab because they are easily available even at roadside Dhabas in the state. 

Club Mahindra has a resort in Amritsar - Fortune Ranjit Vihar Resort

Located in the heart of Ranjit Avenue in Amritsar, Fortune Ranjit Vihar beautifully combines natural beauty with modern design. This luxurious retreat is ideal for a peaceful family holiday, providing a uniquely crafted staying experience. 

You can also delight your taste buds with an array of authentic Punjabi food, from traditional Punjabi dishes to mouth-watering specialities that showcase the essence of the city's vibrant food culture. Whether savouring the iconic Amritsari kulcha, relishing aromatic curries, or experiencing the unique blend of spices, the property ensures an immersive and satisfying dining experience of some of the best Punjabi dishes.

How to Get to Punjab for Authentic Punjabi Food Experience 

  • By Air: 

The fastest way to reach Punjab from other parts of India is by air. Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore have direct flights to airports in Punjab such as Amritsar and Chandigarh.

  • By Train:

Indian Railways connect Punjab with various parts of the country. Major railway stations include Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Chandigarh. You can check train schedules and book tickets online through the official Indian Railways website or at railway stations.

  • By Road:

Punjab has a well-developed road network. You can travel by bus or hire a taxi from neighbouring states. Major highways connect Punjab with Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir.
Travelling by road in Punjab provides you with numerous opportunities to experience authentic Punjabi food.

Punjab is known for its vibrant Dhaba culture. As you travel along highways, you will come across many Dhabas offering some of the best Punjabi dishes. Stop at these roadside eateries to savour specialities like parathas, dal makhani, and lassi.

Best Time to Visit and Try Some Authentic Punjabi Cuisine

Winter: Optimal visitation occurs from October to March, with temperatures ranging between 14°C to 20°C. Those visiting in March may have the chance to partake in the vibrant Holi festival, transforming the state into a colourful spectacle.
Best time to indulge in some of the best Punjabi dishes like Sarson da Saag and Makki di Roti.

Summer: The period from April to June experiences intense heat, with temperatures peaking at 44°C. It's the perfect time to cool off with refreshing Lassi.

Monsoon: July to September brings the rainy season to Punjab. Despite a temperature of around 18°C, heavy rainfall discourages sightseeing, leading tourists to avoid this period.

Despite the unsuitable weather, one can still savour comforting dishes that are a part of authentic Punjabi cuisine. You can enjoy dishes like Dal Makhani or Butter Chicken, which bring warmth and flavour to rainy days.

So, what are you waiting for? Plan your trip to the colourful state of Punjab now!  Indulge in the authentic Punjabi cuisine - a sensory journey through rich flavours and vibrant traditions. From savouring iconic dishes like Amritsari kulcha and aromatic curries to immersing in the diverse street food offerings, every meal becomes a celebration of Punjabi hospitality. 

The combination of hearty Punjabi cuisine, warm spices, and the unique blend of flavours creates a memorable and delightful dining experience.

However, do remember to try the above-mentioned best Punjabi dishes.

About Club Mahindra

Mahindra Holidays & Resorts India Ltd. (MHRIL), a part of Leisure and Hospitality sector of the Mahindra Group, offers quality family holidays primarily through vacation ownership memberships and brings to the industry values such as reliability, trust and customer satisfaction. Started in 1996, the company's flagship brand ‘Club Mahindra’, today has over 250,000 members , who can holiday at 100+ resorts in India and abroad.

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