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This delicious Indian feast uses simple shortcuts, so you can create a gorgeous Diwali party menu with a lot less work. 1 Base sauce means no standing to sauté the same aromatics again and again! 3 mindblowing dishes! Spiced lentil dal, cauliflower pea butter curry, chickpea spinach curry! All of these dishes are dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free and easily made gluten-free

plateful of food from the diwali party menu surrounded by the serving dishes
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It’s festival time! Diwali — an Indian Festival of Lights —is here, and it’s a time to celebrate with family, friends, and plenty of delicious food.

If you’re hosting a big Diwali party, and you’re trying to make several dishes along with rice and some condiments, it can get incredibly tiring. My solution is this easy Diwali party menu, where you make just one base sauce, and then you divide it to make three dishes.

Spiced onion lentils (Dal do pyaaza)

panful of dal do pyaza - Indian lentil curry- with vegan cream and cilantro on top

Cauliflower pea butter curry (Gobi Matar makhani)

panful of cauliflower pea curry - gobi matar with cilantro on top

Chickpea spinach curry (Chana Saag)

panful of chana saag after cooking with vegan cream and cilantro on top

This way, you’re not sautéing the spices and the aromatics again and again and again for three different dishes! The base sauce is basically a do pyaza or a double onion based sauce, and it’s incredibly delicious and versatile! We use a third of it to make Lentil curry (Malka Dal do pyaaza), another third to make Cauliflower pea curry(gobi matar Makhani), and thr last third to make Chickpea Spinach curry ( Chana saag).

Make some rice on the side use store-bought a flatbread or naan, or if you’re up for it then make my naan recipe. You can also use store-bought chutneys or an Indian pickle and make a quick yogurt raita dip and serve that as well.

serve with other condiments of choice, like mango chutney, mint chutney, or tomato chutney or some Indian pickle. You can make these in advance or buy them pre-made at the Indian market.

close-up of a plateful of food from the diwali party menu

It’s much easier, and then you have this amazing spread for any Indian dinner party or for Diwali with less stress. You can even make everything but the rice ahead of time, so there’s very little active cooking on the day of your Diwali feast. I always make rice fresh, because it tastes best when it’s fresh.

You can also use this spread for everyday meals, like for meal planning. Make the sauce over the weekend and use throughout the week for different dishes! The sauce keeps in the fridge for upto 4 days.

rice and peas in the pot after cooking

This menu is soy-free and easily made nut-free if you use a nut-free non-dairy yogurt. It’s also easy to make this gluten-free, if you use gluten-free naan or flat bread. For a no onion no garlic menu see here.

If you have any questions about any of the recipes, leave them in the comments below!

Don’t let the long Recipe card intimidate you. It has 4 recipes and many have the same spices. Once you have the ingredients, things move quickly.

plateful of food from the diwali party menu with flatbread on the side

Why You’ll Love this Diwali Party Menu

  • 3 flavor-packed courses, plus rice
  • just 1 simple base sauce saves you time in the kitchen
  • bonus recipes for quick and easy raita and salad
  • dairy-free and soy-free
  • easy to make gluten-free and nut-free
plateful of food from the diwali party menu

More Vegan Diwali Menus

Diwali Party Menu (Dal do pyaaza, Gobi matar makhani, Chana Saag)

5 from 6 votes
By: Vegan Richa
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 2 hours
Servings: 6
Course: dinner
Cuisine: dinner, Indian
This delicious, three-course Indian feast uses simple shortcuts, so you can create a gorgeous Diwali party menu with a lot less work. 1 base sauce makes 3 dishes! Dal do pyaaza, gobi matar makhani, Chana saag and cumin rice! All of these dishes are dairy-free and soy-free, and you can easily make them gluten-free and nut-free, too.
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Ingredients 
 

For the base sauce (Do Pyaza sauce)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups chopped red onion
  • 1 hot green chili, such as Serrano or Indian green chili, chopped, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces canned tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste, or use ten cloves of garlic and 1 1/2” ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves, , kasuri methi
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy yogurt

For the cauliflower and peas (Gobi Matar makhani):

  • 3 to 4 cups chopped cauliflower florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder, or use paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 ounces canned tomato puree
  • 1 cup full fat coconut milk, or other thick non dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup of green peas

For the brown lentils (Dal Do Pyaza):

  • 1 black cardamom pod, opened slightly
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or Indian red chili powder, or omit if you want to keep it less spicy
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 15- ounce can brown lentils, drained or 1 1/2 cups cooked

For the chickpeas Spinach curry (Chana Saag):

  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk, or water
  • 2 cups of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained, or use 1 1/2 cups of cooked chickpeas
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon Kashmiri garam masala, or use regular garam masala and add generous pinches of ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and ground cardamom
  • 8 curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy yogurt

For the rice:

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 or 2 green cardamom pods, slightly opened, optional
  • 1 1/2 cups of white basmati rice, washed
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup green peas, use less or more to preference
  • cilantro and lime juice for garnish, oil as needed

Instructions 

Make the base sauce.

  • Using a very large skillet, add 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and cook until the cumin seeds are very fragrant and they have changed color significantly. They should darken to a dark brown. Then, mix in the bay leaves and add the onion and green chili and sprinkle in the salt. Mix in and continue to cook until the onions are golden brown, adding splashes of water in between, if the onions are starting to dry out. Or you can also add a few drops of oil here and there. This will all take anywhere from 17 to 20 minutes, so make sure you stir occasionally. (The time it takes will depend on the skillet that you're using. This is the most time-consuming step, but it’s important for the sauce to get that right flavor with golden caramelized onions)
  • Once the onions have caramelized, mix in the tomato puree, ginger-garlic paste, and the spices. Then, mix in non-dairy yogurt, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, then set the base sauce aside. You can cook some of the other parts of this Diwali menu on your other burners while the onion sauce cooks, so start with the cauliflower and peas.

Make the cauliflower and peas while the onions cook.

  • Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the cauliflower florets. Mix all the spices and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small bowl, and sprinkle them all over the cauliflower, tossing well to coat.
  • Continue to cook, uncovered, for about 3 minutes or until the cauliflower is starting to get a bit golden on some of the edges, then cover with the lid and continue to cook, opening the lid every 2 to 3 minutes to stir and flip the cauliflower. Do this until the cauliflower is tender-crisp to preference, about 7-9 mins. You want the cauliflower to get some nice golden brown edges and also steam at the same time to get tender-crisp.
  • Once the cauliflower is done cooking, add 1/3 of your base sauce (the do pyaza) that you cooked earlier into the cauliflower, add the 4 ounces tomato puree, the coconut milk, peas, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix really well. Cover with the lid and cook for 2 minutes to just bring the sauce to a boil. Cook longer if needed if the cauliflower isn’t cooked to preference
  • Switch off the heat and set it aside. There's going to be ambient heat in the skillet, even after removing the pan from the stove, so account for that in your cooking time.

Make the dal.

  • Add 1/2 teaspoon oil to another skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the black cardamom and cook for about 15 seconds or so, then add in 1/3 of the base do pyaza sauce that you made earlier. Add the non-dairy yogurt, cayenne, and salt, and mix really well. Then, mix in the lentils and 1/2 -1 cup of water or non-dairy milk.
  • Bring to a good simmer. Depending on the consistency of the dal that you like, you can add in more water or non-dairy milk. Simmer for 5 minutes or so over medium heat, and then switch off the heat. Taste and adjust salt and flavor. Add more heat or more garam masala as you like

Make the chana saag:

  • Combine the spinach, chickpeas, Kashmiri garam masala, curry leaves, and non-dairy yogurt into the remaining base do pyaza sauce in the skillet. Add 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk or water and mix in. Cook this over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the spinach is cooked down.
  • Taste and adjust salt and flavor, and then switch off the heat. You can cook it a bit longer, if your spinach is not done it. It depends on your skillet and how frozen your spinach was to begin with.

Make the rice:

  • In a saucepan, add 1 teaspoon oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds , cardamom pods and cloves and cook them for 2 minutes or longer, until the cumin seeds are very fragrant and dark brown.
  • Add the washed rice and toast for a few seconds, then add in the water and salt and mix in. Partially cover the pan, and bring the rice mixture to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover completely with a lid, and let this cook for about 10 minutes.
  • Mix in the peas. If your rice is almost done, then you can cook for another 1 or 2 minutes and then switch off heat. If it's still watery, then cook for another 3-4 minutes or so, covered, over low heat. Fluff the rice after a few mins and serve.
  • Make ahead instructions in notes. Store refrigerated for upto 3 days

Video

Notes

This menu is naturally dairy-free and soy-free. To make it nut-free, choose a nut-free non-dairy yogurt. For a gluten-free option, simply use gluten-free naan or flatbread.
Pair these dishes with some flatbread, naan, or pita bread. Just warm those up when you’re ready to serve, and brush some vegan butter on them and sprinkle some chopped cilantro on the bread and over each of these dishes for a beautiful presentation. Drizzle some non-dairy cream, cashew cream, or thinned out non-dairy yogurt over the lentils and the chana saag. Serve it with mango chutney or tomato chutney, raita dip or an Indian pickle. I usually serve an Indian green or red chili pickle on the side.
To make the raita dip, take 1 cup of unsweetened, non-dairy yogurt and add 1/4 cup or more water to thin it out . Mix 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in, and sprinkle some chopped cilantro over it. You can also add in some shredded cucumber, if you like.
Usually there is a side salad served with an Indian feast, as well, which is just sliced up or chopped up onion, tomato, radishes, and cucumber or other crunchy veggies of your choice. Add it on your table, and your feast is ready!
Make-ahead directions: You can make the sauce ahead and then make the 3 dishes the day-off. Or, you can make all 3 dishes and refrigerate them for upto 3 days in containers that can go into the oven. or freeze them in closed containers. 
Reheat: On the day of my Diwali party, reheat them all in the oven at about 310° F (155° C) to heat up for 15 to 20 minutes(350 deg F(180c) if frozen).
In the meantime, make rice. I don’t recommend making the rice ahead of time, because it tastes best fresh. Heat up flatbreads, plate salads and condiments and you are done! 
Bake the sauce for less active time! add everything except tomato purée and non dairy yogurt to a large baking dish. Mix and spread out and bake at 400 deg F for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Stir once in between. Then add the tomato purée and non dairy yogurt and bake again for 8-9 mins. You can bake the cauliflower tossed with the spices and oil at the same time!  
 
 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 624kcal, Carbohydrates: 87g, Protein: 23g, Fat: 17g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Sodium: 678mg, Potassium: 1295mg, Fiber: 19g, Sugar: 17g, Vitamin A: 1531IU, Vitamin C: 87mg, Calcium: 240mg, Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this recipe? Rate and comment below!
vegan diwali menu ingredients in bowls on a kitchen counter

Ingredients and Substitutions

  • oil – To saute.
  • whole spices – Cumin seeds, bay leaves, green and black cardamom pods, cloves, and curry leaves are the first flavor layer in these dishes. You won’t use them all in each one.
  • aromatics – This is your second layer of flavor, coming from onion, garlic, ginger, and green chilis.
  • ground spices – Coriander, Garam Masala, fenugreek, Kashmiri chili powder, cayenne, and Kashmiri garam masala, are the finishing flavor layer for these various dishes.
  • tomato puree – For the base sauce (do pyaza) and for the gobi mutter (cauliflower and peas).
  • non-dairy yogurt – Adds creaminess to the base sauce, dal, and chana saag. For a nut-free menu, use nut-free non-dairy yogurt.
  • veggies – This Diwali party menu has plenty of veggies! The gobi mutter stars cauliflower and peas and the chana saag is packed with spinach.
  • coconut milk – To add creaminess to the cauliflower curry.
  • lentils – The base for the dal.
  • non-dairy milk – Adds moisture and creaminess to the dal and the chana saag.
  • chickpeas – The base for the chana saag.
  • rice – Make sure to rinse your rice before using for the best texture. It really does make a difference!

Tips

  • Don’t feel like you have to make each dish one after the other. The onions take a long time to cook down, so start the cauliflower and peas while those cook. While one dish finishes cooking, start on the next, so you’re making the most of your downtime.
  • When toasting spices or cooking the aromatics on high heat, make sure to stir frequently, so nothing burns.
  • split up the menu for great everyday meals! Make smaller batch of the sauce and make either of the 3 dishes with it! Or make a meal plan. Make the sauce over the weekend and use throughout the week for different dishes!

How to Make a Vegan Diwali Feast with Step pictures

Make the base sauce first.

Using a very large skillet, add the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and cook until the cumin seeds are very fragrant and they have changed color significantly. They should darken to a dark brown. Then, mix in the bay leaves and add the onion and green chili and sprinkle in the salt. Mix in and continue to cook until the onions are golden brown, adding splashes of water in between, if the onions are starting to dry out. Or you can also add a few drops of oil here and there.

adding onion to the pan

This will all take anywhere from 17 to 20 minutes, so make sure you stir occasionally, so that they don’t scorch. The time it takes will depend on the skillet that you’re using. This is the most time-consuming step, but it’s important for the sauce to get that right flavor. You really need some golden, caramelized onions.

onion in the pan, after cooking

Once the onions have caramelized, mix in the tomato puree, ginger-garlic paste, and the spices. Then, mix in non-dairy yogurt, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook for another three to four minutes, stirring occasionally, then set the base sauce aside.

adding tomato to the pan of onions
adding non-dairy yogurt to the pan of tomato and onion
adding the ground spices to the do pyaza sauce
do pyaza sauce in the pan after cooking

You can cook some of the other parts of this Diwali menu on your other burners while the onion sauce cooks, so start with the cauliflower and peas. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add the cauliflower florets. Mix all the spices and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a small bowl, and sprinkle them all over the cauliflower, tossing well to coat.

cauliflower and spices in the pan, before cooking

Continue to cook, uncovered, for about three minutes or until the cauliflower is starting to get a bit golden on some of the edges, then cover with the lid and continue to cook, opening the lid every two to three minutes to stir and flip the cauliflower. Do this until the cauliflower is tender-crisp to preference. You want the cauliflower to get some nice golden brown edges and also cook and steam at the same time to get tender-crisp.

cauliflower and spices in the pan, after cooking

Once the cauliflower is done cooking, add 1/3 of your base sauce that you cooked earlier into the cauliflower, add the four ounces tomato puree, the coconut milk, peas, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and mix really well. Cover with the lid and cook for two minutes to just bring the sauce to a boil. You don’t want to cook the cauliflower too much in the sauce to make it too soft. You want the cauliflower to still have shape and bite.

adding tomato puree and do pyaza sauce to cauliflower in the pan
cauliflower after cooking down in the sauce
adding peas to the cooked cauliflower in the pan

Cook for a few mins longer only if the cauliflower isn’t cooked to preference. Switch off the heat and set it aside. There’s going to be ambient heat in the skillet, even after removing the pan from the stove, so account for that in your cooking time.

gobi mutter in the pan, after cooking

Now, make the brown lentil dal (malka do pyaaza)

Add 1/2 teaspoon oil to another skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the black cardamom and cook for about 15 seconds or so, then add in 1/3 of the base do pyaza sauce that you made earlier. Add the non-dairy yogurt, cayenne, and salt, and mix really well. Then, mix in the cooked lentils and the 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk or water. 

Bring to a good simmer. Depending on the consistency of the dal that you like, you can add in more water or non-dairy milk. Simmer for five minutes or so over medium heat, and then switch off the heat.

toasting the whole spices in the pan
adding the do pyaza sauce to the whole spices
adding ground spices to the do pyaza sauce
adding ground spices to the do pyaza sauce
adding yogurt and ground spices to the do pyaza sauce
sauce for the dal, after mixing in the yogurt
adding lentils to the creamy tomato-yogurt sauce

Taste and adjust salt and flavor. Add more heat if you like. If you want to add more spice, then you can add in some more garam masala or chana masala spice blend, based on whatever flavor profile that you like.

dal after cooking

Make the chana saag.

Combine the spinach, chickpeas, Kashmiri garam masala, curry leaves, and non-dairy yogurt into the remaining do pyaza sauce in the skillet. Add 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk or water and mix in. Cook this over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the spinach is cooked down. 

spinach in a frying pan
adding yogurt and spices to the pan
spinach after stirring in the yogurt mixture
adding cooked chickpeas to the pan of creamy spinach

Taste and adjust salt and flavor, and then switch off the heat. You can cook it a bit longer, if your spinach is not done it. It depends on your skillet and how frozen your spinach was to begin with. 

chana saag in the pan, after cooking

Make the rice while that cooks.

In a saucepan, add the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds, cloves and cardamom pods and cook them for two minutes or longer, until the cumin seeds are very fragrant and dark brown. 

Add the washed rice and toast for a few seconds, then add in the water and salt and mix in.  Partially cover the pan, and bring the rice mixture to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover completely with a lid, and let this cook for about 10 minutes.

Mix in the peas. If your rice is almost done, then you can cook for another one or two minutes and then switch off heat. If it’s still watery, then cook for another 3-4 minutes or so, covered, over low heat

rice and peas in the pot before cooking
rice and peas in the pot after cooking
plateful of food from the diwali party menu

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this Diwali dinner menu allergy friendly?

This menu is naturally dairy-free and soy-free. To make it nut-free, choose a nut-free non-dairy yogurt. For a gluten-free option, simply use gluten-free naan or flatbread.

Can you make any of this ahead?

You can make the sauce ahead and then make the three dishes the day-off. Or, you can make all 3 dishes ahead and refrigerate them in containers that can go into the oven. That’s what I usually do. I usually make it ahead, because I get tired when I’m cooking this much, and I don’t want to not enjoy the party. I have limitations with my health, so I do that.

Reheat: On the day of my Diwali party, reheat them all in the oven at about 310° F (155° C) to heat up for 15 to 20 minutes(350 deg F(180c) if frozen.

In the meantime, I’ll make rice. I don’t recommend making the rice ahead of time, because it tastes best fresh. When the rice is ready, heat up the flatbread and plate up any condiments.

That’s my husband’s job: he puts out the condiments, heats up the flatbread, chops up the salad, and gets the table ready. Then we serve everything. And because the spices have now had a day to infuse more, the flavors come out even more, and the dishes smell amazing. And they taste even better! It just works out really well this way. 

Can I freeze some or all of it?

Yes the sauce as is and the lentils and chickpea spinach curry dishes are freezer friendly. I would make the cauliflower peas on the day of the event or a day or so before and refrigerate, as the cauliflower will be tender crisp that way. Reheating after freezing the cauliflower will cook it a bit more. But it works out fine even when frozen, thaw on the counter for half an hour and bake until heated through for best results.

About Richa

Hi, I'm Richa! I create flavorful plant based recipes that are inspired by my Indian upbringing, including many gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free options.

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14 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    5 stars
    This was delicious! I made this entire meal plus your whole wheat naan, the tomato cucumber salad, and the fudgy cardamom squares from your cookbook (also made mango sorbet in my ninja creami). Everything tasted wonderful. I made the cumin rice in the zojirushi rice cooker (but first sauteed the spices on the stove). Also added mushrooms to the cauliflower chickpea dish. I really appreciated how you laid out the instructions to allow me to make these dishes a day in advance. Your recipes are always great!

    1. Vegan Richa Support says:

      Wow! That’s amazing. Thank you for your kind words.

  2. Sri says:

    Richa! I am making this for tonight’s Deepavali dinner. OMG everything is so delicious! We will eat like kings tonight. Thanks for all the great instructions to make this so simplified and not overwhelming. I also have your Everyday Kitchen cookbook and have loved everything I have made! – Sri

    1. Vegan Richa Support says:

      YAY! glad you enjoyed! thanks so much for your kind comment!

  3. Diana Peterson says:

    5 stars
    I absolutely loved this. Most recipes don’t take prep time into account but I made this within 2 hours without any early prep. I didn’t have fenugreek so used fennel and mustard seeds. It made 9 servings for us. I will certainly do it again.

    1. Richa says:

      Awesome!!!!!! I am so happy you made Everything!

  4. Lisa says:

    5 stars
    I wasn’t planning a huge feast, just a Sunday family dinner. So I cut the base recipe in half and used it to make the dal. Oh wow! The flavours were incredible. Without being heavy or too rich, the dal delivered on the flavours I would expect from an amazing Indian restaurant.
    I made the basic naan recipe as well (which was very popular with my kids). It was easy to make, I used the pizza stone method and it turned out so lovely.
    Thank you!

    1. Richa says:

      Yay!! Awesome!!

  5. Shannon says:

    5 stars
    This is a great idea. I know restaurants do this and it’s useful to see how it can also work in a home kitchen.

    1. Richa says:

      Yes make the sauce on the weekend and use it during the week!

  6. Shirley says:

    What is the base sauce used for? Is it a condiment or for dipping naan bread into?

    1. Richa says:

      It’s used to make the 3 mains, a third goes into lentils, another third in cauliflower peas and the remaining in chickpea spinach curry

  7. Sue says:

    5 stars
    Everything looks delicious and quite doable. Thanks Richa! Happy Diwali. xo

    1. Vegan Richa Support says:

      yay! thank you!