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Broaden your palate and ignite your senses with these colorful and flavorsome Indian fruits and vegetables that are used in so many dishes throughout the country.
Some are native to India, others have come to the country via Asia and other continents, and all have an important role to play in making Indian cuisine one of the most creative, sensual, and utterly delicious cuisines in the world.
Indian Fruits and Vegetables
1 – Mango
Nothing says India quite like the mango does. This sweet, tart, juicy fruit is considered the King of Fruit in India, and rightfully so. Mango season is usually in the summer when the whole country blooms with many different varieties of fruit.
Mango is the national fruit of India. Both its skin and stone are inedible, but its flesh is wonderfully sweet, tart, and delicious.
There are more than 1000 varieties of mango, including Alphonso, Banganapalli, Neelam, Totapuri, Malda, and Kesar. Each type of mango has a different shape, taste, and even texture and is used for different purposes. Some mangos are eaten raw with spices, some are pickled, and some are made into shakes, desserts, and juices.
2 – Wood Apple
Wood Apple, also called Bael or Monkey Fruit, is a summer fruit that blooms in the warmer months. Rich in fiber, antioxidants, proteins, and carbohydrates, the wood apple has many health benefits and is even said to help prevent sunstroke.
It has a hard outer layer, brown coating, and pulpy flesh. While the fruit can be eaten as is, it is not very sweet; hence some add sugar or jaggery to the flesh before eating it.
The wood apple resembles a small coconut and has a very strong and distinct smell. Wood apple is most commonly used for its juice and is also often used as an offering in temples.
3 – Mosambi
Mosambi also goes by the name sweet lime and is an extremely popular Indian citrus fruit. Its juice is drunk all over the subcontinent, especially during the humid summer months.
Mosambi is sweeter than regular limes and lemons and is not as acidic. Like most citrus fruits, the skin is discarded, and the pulpy fruit inside is used to make juices or used with many different dishes.
Mosambi juice is the most popular and common byproduct of this sweet lime, and there are numerous ways to make and consume mosambi juice. The fruit is also known by other names, such as sathukudi, mausambi, and battayi, among others.
4 – Sapota
Another unique and delicious Indian fruit is the sapota, or chikku, as it is often called. It has a fibrous, brown outer layer, and soft, fleshy pulp. While sapota is sweet and delicious, the fruit contains black, glossy seeds that shouldn’t be swallowed.
Sapota is usually consumed raw and is also the key ingredient in Sapota or chikku milkshake, which is hugely popular in India. The fruit not only tastes great but also has numerous health benefits.
5 – Gooseberry (Amla)
Indian gooseberry, popularly known as amla in Hindi, is a green, tart, Indian berry. The gooseberry grows in abundance, and once ripe, it can be eaten right off the tree, with the skin and all.
The gooseberry is extremely sour but has plenty of health benefits and is a staple in Ayurveda. The gooseberry can be eaten raw, pickled, and also added to curries and sauces. The berry is also found in stores as amla powder, which can be mixed with water and consumed.
6 – Guava
While guavas were originally found only in the Americas, the fruit was introduced to India in the 17th century. It has since become one of India’s favorite fruits.
Guavas have yellow or green skins, and the flesh inside is either white or vibrant pink dotted with a number of seeds. The fruit is sweet when ripe but can be tart if not fully ripened.
Allahabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh is famous for its guava and even exports the delicious varieties grown there all over the world.
7 – Jackfruit
The jackfruit is a big, green fruit with small tubular protrusions, similar to blunt spikes, all over its outer membrane. The inside of the jackfruits consists of a number of smaller “fruits” or pods, which can be removed individually and eaten.
The flesh of a ripe jackfruit is yellow, and the fruit is pleasantly sweet. An unripe jackfruit has off-white flesh inside and is mostly flavorless.
Jackfruit, especially when unripe, has, in recent times, become a great meat alternative due to its chewy, fibrous texture. Jackfruits are packed with nutrients but do have a very strong, often unpleasant aroma, so be careful when trying them.
8 – Phalsa
Phalsa or Falsa are small berries grown in India believed to have been first found in the holy city of Varanasi. These berries are small and resemble blueberries, and although they are sweet, they are also highly acidic and have a strong, almost-astringent-like aftertaste.
Phalsa are widely available in the summer. The berries are a deep purple color and have a single seed. The berries are most commonly made into juices or sherbet.
9 – Mangosteen
The mangosteen is a purple-colored tropical fruit that is common throughout South East Asia. The fruit has a rich, purple outer shell, encasing a white, fleshy pulp that is sweet and tangy.
Mangosteen, though not very well-known, is believed to have health benefits because of its nutritional value and anti-inflammatory properties while also being packed with antioxidants. The fruit can be found in Indian and Asian markets both on the continent and throughout the world.
10 – Ice Apple
Ice apple grows on a particular type of palm tree that is native to Asia, and in India, it is found in the south. Ice apple is a small, sweet, delicious fruit that tastes like a cross between lychee (litchi) fruit and tender coconut.
The fruit has dark outer skin and white, jelly-like inner flesh. The fruit is extremely sweet and is loaded with minerals and is great for combating the Indian heat. Ice apple is also called toddy palm and wine palm.
11 – Bitter Gourd
Bitter gourd, known as karela in Hindi, is packed with nutrients like folates, vitamin C, flavonoids, and phytonutrients. While it is very nutritional, it tastes very, very bitter.
Bitter gourd is a small, green gourd with a spiky exterior and a hard, white pulp with seeds that need to be removed before cooking. The bitterness is usually reduced while cooking and with the addition of various spices and seasonings.
When cooked correctly, karela can taste really delicious, and hence is used in curries, stews, sauteed vegetable dishes, and even made into chips.
12 – Lauki
Lauki, also known as doodhi, goes by calabash, bottle gourd, opo squash, or white gourd in English. It is thick, long, and green with a white, fleshy, seeded pulp and belongs to the cucumber family.
Lauki, when cooked, releases a lot of water. It is a rich source of vitamins and is not only tasty but renowned for its health benefits. Due to its high water content, it is often made eaten and prepared during the summer to help deal with the heat, especially because it is so light and easy to digest.
Lauki is often cooked along with lentils and flavored with spices. It is used in vegetable dishes, stews, soups, and even used in desserts like halwa.
13 – Ivy Gourd
Ivy gourd goes by tindora in Hindi and is a small, hard, green vegetable that grows on vines and is part of the gourd family. Tindora is found in abundance in Asia and Africa and is a popular, everyday vegetable in most Indian households.
The tindora is grown all year round and usually has green skin and a white fleshy interior with a slightly bitter taste. Sometimes when the tindora is overripe, the flesh tends to develop a pink hue, but this does not affect the taste or lifespan of this delicious, nutritious little vegetable.
Tindora is packed with vitamins, proteins, fibers, and antioxidants. It is used in curries and vegetable stir fries, but it takes a long time to properly soften and cook. However, when cooked correctly, it releases so much flavor.
14 – Chayote
Chayote is a squash that is native to Mexico but is now grown, produced, and consumed in large quantities in the Indian subcontinent. Chayote is most commonly called Chow Chow in India. It has a thin, green skin that can also be peeled and used to make dips and chutneys.
The flesh is pale and off-white with a white seed and center, which is discarded. The chayote has a very mild flavor on its own and takes on spices and seasonings very well, giving it a wonderful taste.
The squash is versatile and can be cooked in many ways. It is popular all over the country for its taste and nutrients.
15 – Snake Gourd
Indian markets are flooded with gourds and squashes, and the snake gourd is a common sight. The snake gourd belongs to the pumpkin family and is a long, thin, often winding gourd, resembling a snake, hence the name.
Its white flesh is somewhat bland but means it absorbs flavors well. As the fruit matures, it takes on a reddish hue and develops a slightly bitter taste. The snake gourd is native to India and other parts of South East Asia and Australia and is now grown in Africa as well.
16 – Raw Banana
Raw banana is a type of green plantain found in India that is cooked, spiced, and seasoned to make a delicious savory dish. Raw bananas can also be dry-fried, sauteed, made into gravies and curries, or batter-fried into a popular Indian snack called bajji or pakora.
Called by different names in different parts of the country, like vazhakkai, and kacha kela, to name a few, these green plantains are loaded with potassium, minerals, vitamins, and fibers and packed with other nutrients, making them both healthy, filling, and delicious.
17 – Drumsticks
Drumsticks are the pods of the Moringa tree, used extensively in Indian cuisine, particularly South Indian cuisine. These long, green, pods can be cut into pieces and then torn into strips when cooked and eaten.
Drumsticks are considered a superfood and are most often used in Indian stews and gravies like sambar and avial, as well as in dry, fried dishes. The drumsticks are cooked with spices, seasonings, and sometimes other vegetables and lentils.
The leaves of the moringa plant are also loaded with nutrients and are often used in making dals, curries, or in soups. The drumstick has a thick, green outer layer that is cooked but is discarded, while the inner flesh is soft and tasty.
18 – Yardlong Beans
Also known as asparagus beans, yardlong beans are grown in several parts of Asia, including India and China, Africa, and South America. Yardlong beans look like regular green beans but are thinner and much longer and commonly found in Indian cuisine.
Yardlong beans are often cooked, seasoned, and consumed like regular green beans and are similar in taste. These beans are found in gravies, vegetable curries, and even made into fries.
Yardlong beans are a good source of protein, vitamins, magnesium, folate, riboflavin, and thiamin and have plenty of health benefits.
19 – Ridge Gourd
The ridge gourd, which also goes by the names Chinese okra, sponge gourd, and silk gourd, is found in abundance across Asia. It is long, green, and thin, resembling a zucchini or cucumber, but with ridges.
In India, ridge gourd is used in a variety of ways. It can be used in gravies, sambars, curries, as a fried and sauteed vegetable, and even as a chutney or dip.
The skin of the gourd is not consumed and is always peeled and discarded. The flesh of the ridge gourd is white and, although bland, absorbs flavors beautifully, and when seasoned and spiced properly, ridge gourd dishes are both delicious and nutritious. Ridge gourd is also called turiya, peerkangai, jinge, and beerakaya, in different parts of the country.
20 – Mustard Greens
Mustard greens, also referred to as sarson in Hindi and Punjabi, are a type of spinach grown in India, South East Asia, and Africa.
The state of Punjab is synonymous with mustard fields, and the yellow flowers of the mustard plant paint the whole countryside in a vibrant, yellow shade.
Mustard greens are packed with nutrients and are a staple in Punjab, Rajasthan, states in North East India like Sikkim and Assam, as well the Kashmir valley. If you’re looking to try it, Sarson ka Saag is the most famous dish made with mustard greens and spices.
Indian Fruits and Vegetables Summary
Indian cuisine simply isn’t what we know and love with the vast amount of fruits, vegetables, spices, and many other fresh ingredients that go into all of its dishes, no matter how they are made.
These fruits and vegetables, be they native to the country or originating from other parts of Asia, Africa, and the world, bring an amazing spectrum of textures, flavors, and aromas to Indian cooking, and all have found a home in this unique, vast, and truly delicious cuisine.
When in India, do your best to visit local food markets and street vendors, and see how many of these fruits and vegetables you can try, either as they are, or in a wide range of sides, mains, desserts, and dishes.
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Contributor: Nandhini Parthib is an Indian content writer, deeply passionate about Indian culture, travel, and cuisine, who is keen to share more about India through her writing.