Maharashtrian cuisine

Maharashtrian (or Marathi) cuisine encompasses the cooking styles, traditions and recipes associated with the cuisine of the Marathi people from the state of Maharashtra in India. It has distinctive attributes of its own, but also shares much with the wider Indian cuisine. Maharashtrian cuisine covers a range from having mild to very spicy dishes. Wheat, rice, jowar, bajri, vegetables, lentils and fruit form staples of the Maharashtrian diet. Peanuts and cashews are often served with vegetables. Traditionally, Maharashtrians have considered their food to be more austere than that of other regions in India. Meat has traditionally been used quite sparsely or only by the well off until recently because of economic conditions and culture.

The urban population of Maharashtra in metropolitan cities such as Mumbai, Pune and others have been open to influence of recipes from other parts of India and abroad. For example, the Udupi dishes idli and dosa as well as Chinese and Western dishes are quite popular in home cooking and in restaurants.

Some of the distinctly Maharashtrian dishes include ukdiche modak, aluchi patal bhaji, and Thalipeeth.

Regular meals and staple dishes

See also: Thali
Maharashtrian cuisine

Location of Maharashtra in India

Map of Maharashtra with different regions and districts

The many communities amongst Marathi people result in a diverse cuisine. This diversity extends to the family level because each family uses its own unique combination of spices. The majority of Maharashtrians do eat meat and eggs, but the Brahmin community is mostly lacto-vegetarian. The traditional staple food on Desh (the Deccan plateau) is usually bhakri, spiced cooked vegetables, dal and rice. Bhakri is an Unleavened bread made using Indian millet (jowar), bajra or bajri. However, the North Maharashtrians and Urban people prefer roti or chapatti, which is a plain bread made with Wheat flour. In the coastal Konkan region, rice is the traditional staple food and wet coconut and coconut milk is used in many preparations. In South Konkan, near Malvan, an independent cuisine has developed called Malvani cuisine, which is predominantly non-vegetarian. Kombdi vade, fish preparations and baked preparations are more popular here.In the Vidarbha region, little coconut is used in daily preparations but dry coconut, along with peanuts, are used in dishes such as spicy savjis or mutton and chicken dishes.

The regular meals and dishes of the Maharashtrian lacto vegetarian cuisine are based on six main class of ingredients. They include grains, legumes, vegetables, dairy products, spices. The non-vegetarian cuisine will include a variety of animal products.[1]


The staple dishes of Maharashtrian cuisine are based on a variety of flat breads and rice. The flat breads can be wheat-based, such as the traditional trigonal Ghadichi Poli[2] or the round chapati more common in urban areas. Bhakri is a bread made from Ragi, or millet, including jwari and Bajri, and forms part of daily meals in rural areas.[3]


Traditionally, the staple grains of the inland Deccan plateau have been the millets, Jwari[4] and Bajri.[5] These crops grow well in this low rain and drought prone region. In the coastal Konkan region the finger millet or Ragi is used for making bhakri.,[6][7] The staple meal of the rural poor had traditionally been as simple as Bajri Bhakri accompanied by just a raw onion, a dry chutney, or a Gram flour preparation called Jhunka.[8] This meal has, however, become more fashionable among the urban classes too.


Increased urbanization has seen the popularity of wheat increase.[9] Wheat is used for making the flatbreads called chapati, the deep fried version called puri or the thick paratha. One of the ancient sought after bread in Maharashtra was Mande.[10] As with rice the flat breads are accompanied in a meal by a variety of vegetables or dairy items.


Rice is the staple in the rural areas of coastal Konkan region. Rice is also popular in all urban areas.[4] Local varieties like the fragrant Ambemohar has been popular in Western Maharashtra. Rice in most instance is boiled on its own and is part of a meal that will include a variety of other items. A popular simple dish is Varan bhaat where steamed rice is mixed with plain dal made with pigeon peas, lemon juice, salt and ghee.[11] Khichdi is a popular rice dish made with rice, mung dal and spices. For special occasions, a dish called masalebhat made with rice, spices and vegetables is popular.


A high percentage of people in Maharashtra are lacto-vegetarian either by choice or economic necessity. This makes the role of milk very important in the staple food.[12] Both cow milk and water buffalo milk are popular in the state. Milk is used mainly for drinking, to add to tea or coffee or to make homemade yogurt. The yogurt is used as dressing for many salad or Koshimbir dishes, to prepare cultured butter milk or as a side dish in a thali. Butter milk is used for making a drink called Mattha by mixing it with spices or is used in many curry preparations.[13]


Common vegetables used in Maharashtra as seen on a Market Cart in Pune

Until recently, canned or frozen food was not widely available in Maharashtra and the rest of India. Therefore, vegetables used in a meal depended on the seasonal availability. For example, Spring (March–May) is season of cabbage, onions, potatoes, Okra, Guar Tondali[14], Shevgyachya shenga, Dudhi, Marrow, and Padwal. The Rainy Monsoon Season (June - September) brings green leafy vegetables, such as Aloo (Marathi: आळू), Gourds like Karle, Dodka and eggplant. Chili peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cauliflower, French beans, peas, etc. become available in the cooler climate of October to February.[15]

Vegetables in Maharashtra are typically used in making Bhaajis. Some Bhaajis are made with a particular vegetable or while others with a combination of vegetables. Bhaajis can be "dry" like stir fry or "wet" like the well known Curry". For example, Fenugreek leaves can be used with mung dal to make a dry bhhaji or mixed with Besan flour and butter milk to make a soup like curry preparation. Bhaaji requires the use of Goda masala, essentially consisting of some combination of onion, garlic, ginger, red chilli powder, green chillies, turmeric and mustard seeds. Depending on the caste or specific religious tradition of a family, onions and garlic are excluded in cooking. For example, a number of Hindu communities in Maharashtra and other parts of India refrain from eating onions and garlic altogether or during Chaturmas (which broadly equals the rainy monsoon season).[16]

Leafy vegetables like Fenugreek, Amaranth, Beetroot, Radish, Dill, Colocasia, Spinach, Ambadi, Chuka, Chakwat, kardai and Tandulja are either cooked in a stir-fry fashion or made into a soup type preparation using buttermilk and gram flour,[17][18][19]

Many Vegetables are also used in salad preparations called Koshimbirs or Raita.[20] Most of these have yogurt as the other main ingredient. Koshimbirs popular in Maharashtra include those based on Radish, Cucumber and, Tomato -Onion combination. Many raita require prior cooking of the vegetable by either boiling or roasting as in the case of egg plant. Popular raita includes those based on carrots, egg plant, pumpkin, dudhi and beetroot.


Along with green vegetables, another class of food stuff popular in Maharashtra is various beans, either whole or split. The split beans are called Dal and used in a variety of ways. such as turned into amti or thin soup, added to vegetable such as Dudhi or cooked with rice to make Khichadi. Whole beans are cooked as it is or more popularly soaked in water until sprouted. Unlike Chinese cuisine, the beans are allowed to grow sprouts for only a day or two.Curries made out of sprouted beans are called Usal and form an important source of proteins for the mostly vegetarian population . The beans commonly used in Maharashtra includes peas, Chick peas , Mung , Matki, Urid kidney bean, Black-eyed pea (black eye bean), Hulga or Kulith and Toor (Pigeon peas).[21] Out of the above Toor and Chick peas form part of the staple diet in a variety of ways.[4][22] The Urid bean is the base for one of the most popular types of Papadum in Maharashtra as well as in other parts of India.

Cooking Medium

Peanut oil and safflower oil are the primary cooking mediums in Maharashtrian cuisine, although sunflower oil and cottonseed oil are also used.[23] However, depending on the type of food, clarified butter (ghee) is often used to give distinct flavors.

Spices and herbs

Depending on the region, religion and caste, Maharashtrian food can be mild to extremely spicy. The most common base vegetables and herbs in the cuisine are garlic, onion, coriander leaves, ginger, Curry leaves, and green chilli pepper. Spices include asafoetida, turmeric, mustard seeds, coriander, cumin, dried bay leaves, and chili powder. Other spices used especially for Garam masala include cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, cardamon, and nutmeg. Ingredients used in Maharashtrian cuisine to impart sour flavor to the food include yoghurt, tomatoes, tamarind paste, Aamsul skin[24] or unripe mangoes.

Meat and poultry

Chicken and goat are the most popular meats for non-vegetarian dishes in Maharashtra. Eggs are also popular and exclusively come from chicken. sources. Beef and pork are mainly consumed by the Christian minorities and some Maharashtrian Dalit communities,[25] however, do not form part of the traditional Maharashtrian cuisine.


Seafood is a staple for many communities that hail from the coastal Konkan region.[26] Most of the recipes are based on marine fish varieties of different kind, prawns and crabs. A distinct Malvani cuisine of mainly seafood dishes is popular. Popular fish varieties include Bombay duck,[27] Pomfret, Bangda and Surmai /Kingfish. The seafood is used in recipes such as curries, pan-fried dishes and pilaf.

Miscellaneous ingredients

Apart from the ingredients described above, the cuisine makes widespread use of oil seeds such as flax, Karale,[28][29] coconut, peanuts, almonds and cashew nuts. Peanut powder and whole nuts are used in many preparations including, Chutney, Koshimbir and bhaaji. The more expensive nuts like almonds and cashew are used for sweet dishes. Flax and Karale seeds are used in making dry chutneys. Traditionally, Gul was used as the sweetening agent but that has been replaced by Cane sugar for many recipes. Fruit such as mango are used in many preparations including pickles, jams, drinks and sweet dishes. Bananas and jackfruit are also used in a variety of ways.

Food preparation Methods and Equipment

Maharashtrian Kitchen

Just like cuisine from other parts of India, open stove cooking is the most commonly used method for food preparation for Maharashtrian cuisine. Open stove is used for cooking in many different ways:

Other methods of food preparation include:

Typical menus

Urban Maharashtrian menus have wheat and rice in form of chapatis and plain rice respectively as the main part of the menu, whereas the traditional rural household would have millet in form of bhakri on the deccan plains part of Maharashtra and rice on the coastal Konkan as the respective staples.[35]

Typical Maharashtrian breakfast items include Misal, Pohe, upma, Sheera, Sabudana Khichadi and Thalipeeth. These items are also widely available in restaurants and roadside cafes and food carts. In some households the leftover rice from the previous night is fried with onions, turmeric and mustard seeds for breakfast. It is called phodnicha bhat. In addition to the above, typical Western breakfast items such as cereals, sliced bread and eggs, as well as South Indian items such as idli and dosa are also popular. Tea or coffee is also served with breakfast.

Urban lunch and dinner menus

A Maharashtrian Vegetarian meal with a variety of items

The contemporary vegetarian lunch and dinner plate in urban areas will have a combination of the following:

Apart from bread, rice, chutney etc., the other items may be substituted with each other. Families that eat meat, fish and poultry may have a combination of vegetarian and non-veg dishes with rice and chapatis remaining as the staples. All the vegetable or non-veg items are essentially dips for the bread or mixing with the rice.

Rural lunch and dinner menus

a typical simple Maharashtrian meal with Bhaaji, Bhakari, raw onion and pickle

On the Konkan coastal area, boiled rice is the staple with a combination of the veg and non-veg dishes described under urban in the lunch and dinner menu. In other areas of Maharashtra such as Desh, Marathwada and Vidarbha, the traditional staple was bhakri with combination of dal, and vegetables. The bhakri is increasingly being replaced by wheat based chapatis as the staple.[9]

Special dishes

There are a number of dishes made for religious occasions, dinner parties or available mainly in restaurants or as street food. These can be either vegetarian or non-vegetarian fares[36]

Meat and Poultry

Chicken and goat are the most popular meats for non-vegetarian dishes in Maharashtra. Beef and pork are consumed by different religious minority communities including Christians but do not form part of the traditional Maharashtrian cuisine.

This meal has meat in red and white gravies, solkadhi (pink), chapatis, lemon and onion

The dishes are prepared in a variety of ways:

Seafood dishes from coastal Maharashtra

Fried Bombay duck

Seafood is a staple for many communities that hail from the coastal Konkan region.[26] Most of the recipes are based on marine fish varieties of different kind, prawns and crabs. A distinct Malvani cuisine of mainly seafood dishes is popular. Popular fish varieties include Bombay duck, Pomfret, Bangda and Surmai /Kingfish. The seafood is used in recipes such as curries, pan-fried dishes and pilaf.

Some popular dishes are:

Solkadi and Bangda Fry

Curries and gravies eaten with rice

In Maharashtrian cuisine, various vegetable curries or gravies are eaten with rice as part of a complete meal, usually at both lunch and dinner. The level of spice used varies depending on the region as well as family culture. Peanut powder is often added to the many curry recipes. Some popular types include:

Pickles and condiments


Kairiche Panhe (a summer drink based on unripe mango and jaggery)

Traditional offering to a guest in Maharashtra used to be water and jaggery. This has been totally replaced by tea or coffee. These beverages are served with milk and sugar. Occasionally, along with tea leaves, the brew may include spices or just freshly grated ginger,[39][40] or lemon grass.[41] Coffee is also served with milk. The milk amount can vary from small to being the sole liquid for the coffee. At times coffee may be served with ground nutmeg.[42] Other beverages include:

Sweets and desserts


Desserts are an important part of Marathi festival and special occasion food. Typical Maharashtrian sweets include lentil & jaggery mix, stuffed flat bread called puran poli, a preparation made from strained yogurt, sugar and spices called shrikhand, a sweet milk preparation made with evaporated milk called basundi, semolina and sugar based kheer, and steamed dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery called modak. Traditionally, these desserts were associated with a particular festival, for example, modak is prepared during the Ganpati Festival.

Other sweets popular in Maharashtra, as well in other regions of India, include: kaju katli, gulab jamun, jalebi, various kinds of barfi, and rasmalai.

Popular Street food, restaurant and home made Snacks

In many metropolitan areas of Maharashtra, including Mumbai and Pune, the pace of life makes fast food very popular. The most popular forms of fast food amongst Marathi people in these areas include bhaji, vada pav, misalpav and pav bhaji. More traditional dishes are Sabudana Khichadi, pohe, upma, sheera and panipuri. Most Marathi fast food and snacks are purely lacto-vegetarian in nature.

Some Maharashtrian dishes including sev bhaji, misal pav and patodi are distinctly regional dishes within Maharashtra.

Maharashtrian snacks and street foods are very popular throughout the state, but most especially in Mumbai. The variety and types of snacks and street food is diverse and can be either sweet or savory in nature.

Pav Bhaji
Cooked Pohe/Pohay
Kothimbir Wadi
Batata vada

Like most Indian cuisines, Maharashtrian cuisine is laced with lots of fried savories. Some of them include:

Special occasions and festival delicacies on Hindu festivals

Makar Sankrant

Two types of tilgul, a Maharashtrian sweet snack.

This festival being based on the solar calendar always falls on January 14 of the Gregorian calendar. Maharashtrians exchange tilgul or sweets made of jaggery and sesame seeds along with the customary salutation, Tilgul ghya aani god bola, which means "Accept the Tilgul and be friendly. Tilgul Poli or gulpoli are the main sweet preparations made on the day in Maharashtra. It is a wheat-based flat bread filled with sesame seeds and jaggery.,[57][58]


Marathi Hindu people hold a fast on this day. The fasting food on this day includes chutney prepared with pulp of the kavath fruit (Limonia).[59]


As part of this festival that falls on a full moon evening in March or April, a bonfire is lit which symbolizes the end of winter and also the slaying of a demon in Hindu mythology. In Maharashtra, people make puran poli as the ritual offering to the holy fire.[60] The day after the bonefire night is called Dhulivandan. Unlike the tradition in North India, Marathi people celebrate with colors on the fifth day after the bonefire on Rangpanchami.

Ganesh Chaturthi

Modak offered to Lord Ganesha

Modak is the favorite food of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh. An offering of twenty-one pieces of this sweet preparation is offered on Ganesh Chaturthi and other minor Ganesh-related events.[61]* Modak is a steamed dumpling filled with a coconut and jaggery filling. In some instances, the modak is deep-fried instead of steamed.[45][38][60]



A typical Diwali plate of snack (faral). Clockwise from top: Chakali, Kadboli, Shev, Gaathi, chivda and in the center are yellow besan and white rava ladu respectively.

Just like most other parts of India, Diwali is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. In Maharashtrian tradition, during days of Diwali, family members have a ritual bath before dawn and then sit down for a breakfast of fried sweets and savory snacks. These sweets and snacks are offered to visitors to the house during the multi-day festival and exchanged with neighbors. Typical sweet preparations include Ladu, Anarse, Shankarpali and Karanjya. Popular savory treats include chakli, shev and chiwda.[63] Being high in fat and low in moisture, these snacks can be stored at room temperature for many weeks without spoiling.

Champa Sashthi

Many Maharashtrian communities from all social levels observe the "Khandoba Festival" or Champa Shashthi in the month of Mārgashirsh. This is a six-day festival, from the first to sixth lunar day of the bright fortnight. Households perform Ghatasthapana of Khandoba during this festival. The sixth day of the festival is called Champa Sashthi. For many people, the Chaturmas period ends on Champa Sashthi. As it is customary for many families not to consume onions, garlic and eggplant (Brinjal/Aubergine) during the Chaturmas, the consumption of these food items resumes with ritual preparation of Vangyache Bharit (Baingan Bharta) with rodga, which are small round flat breads prepared from jwari (white millet).[64][65]

Traditional Marathi Hindu Wedding Menu

Until a few decades ago, the traditional menu among Maharashtrian Hindu communities for wedding day used to be a lacto-vegetarian fare with mainly multiple courses of rice dishes with different vegetables and dhals. Some menus also included a course with puris. In some communities, the first course was varanbhat (plain rice and dal) with masala rice (Masale bhat[66]) served in the next course. The main meal typically ended with plain rice and mattha. Some of the most popular curries to go with this menu and also with other festivals were those prepared from taro (Marathi: अलउ) leaves. Buttermilk, with spices and coriander leaves, called mattha is served to go down with the meal. Popular sweets to go with the wedding menu were shreekhand, Boondi Ladu, and jalebi (Jilebi in Marathi).,[67][68][69]

Hindu Fasting cuisine

A large number of Marathi Hindu people hold fasts on days, such as Ekadashi, in honour of Lord Vishnu or his Avatars, Chaturthi in honour of Ganesh, Mondays in honour of Shiva, or Saturdays in honour of Maruti or Saturn.[70] Only certain kinds of foods are allowed to be eaten. These include milk and other dairy products (such as yogurt), fruit, and New world food items such as sago (sabudana),[71] potatoes,[72] purple-red sweet potatoes (called ratali in Marathi), rajgira (Amaranth seeds), nuts (such as peanuts),and varyache tandul (Shama millet).[73] Thus a calorie and carbohydrate-rich fasting menu can be prepared by selecting from the items listed above. Popular fasting dishes include Sabudana Khichadi or danyachi amti (peanut soup).[74]



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Sadhana Ginde:

Reejhsinghani, Aroona (1975). Delights from Maharashtra. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing. ISBN 81-7224-518-1. 

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