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Maharashtra is one of the largest states in India, with its capital as a metropolitan city like Mumbai. The diversity in the people and the lifestyles is apparent in the wide mix of food it has to offer! You can get to sample food from all over the world here at the same time be blown away by the culinary delights of this great culture. Maharashtra lies on the west coast of India and different parts of the state have very different types of dishes to offer. Like the spicy non vegetarian curries from Kolhapur to the exotically delicate vegetarian cooking from the Brahmin community and the exciting seafood recipes from the Konkan coast.

Maharashtrian hospitality is legendary. In ancient times, meals in the more affluent homes of Maharashtra would mean an elaborate process which would often begin around noon and go on up to sunset. The guests sat on a floor rug or wooden seat known as a patla and ate from silver or metal thalis and bowls placed on raised short-legged decorative tables around which colourful and auspicious rangolis would be drawn. Till date, a traditional formal meal will be a sit-down affair with a specific order of serving of savouries and sweets, curries and rice or rotis.

A typical lunch or dinner usually starts with poli (bread), accompanied by one or more bhajis (vegetables) and a koshimbir (salad) along with some accompaniment usually pickle. This is usually followed by a second course of varan (thick dal), aamti (sour dal) or rassa (curry) with rice. The plate served has a specific place for each food item served. The bhaji is served in the plate on the right hand side while the chutney, koshimbir are served from left going up the periphery of the circular plate. The rice and poli served at the bottom of the circle, closest to diner, to make it easy to eat. The puran is served at the top in the inner concentric circle. The amti, rassa is served in separate bowls placed on right hand side of the diner. Water is placed on the left hand side. Like in the rest of India, food is eaten with the right hand. 

The taste of Maharashtrian cuisine

Groundnut oil is predominantly used as a cooking medium. Though the guiding principle while cooking is that the oil should not be seen in the prepared dish hence more often the vegetables are steamed. This helps to retain the nutritive value and flavour of the vegetables. Combination of jaggery and tamarind render a sweet-sour taste in the vegetables and pulses. Tamarind and kokum are the souring agents that are used in this cuisine and the taste is often prominent in several recipes.

There are quite a few different types of bread prepared in Maharashtra. Poli is a thin wheat flour roti that is eaten in almost all meals. White rice flour rotis are known as Amboli are the staple bread in most rural Maharashtrian areas. Bhakris made of jowar are typical and are eaten with a gram flour or chick pea based mix known as jhunka! Vadas are deep fried multi grain puris that are mostly eaten with a spicy chicken curry. Pav is also a common item on a Maharashtrian menu.

When it comes to vegetarian recipes Maharashtra offers a large variety of dishes that vary in flavor and taste depending upon which region of Maharashtra they are coming from. Typically vegetarian dishes are flavoured with the very popular goda masala which is a mix of onions, garlic, ginger, chilli powder, green chillies and mustard. Another variant of vegetables dishes in Maharashtrian cuisine is characterized by the kaala masala, which is a black coloured spicy masala mix. A slightly runny version of a bhaji is called a rassa and is eaten with rice. Rassa is made by adding water or coconut milk to what is typically a bhaji recipe. Brinjals, potato, cauliflower, broad beans and several lentils like broad white beans and green gram bhaji’s are regular features during Maharashtrian meals. Varan and amti are the two typical types of dals. While varan is a basic dal, made with boiled mashed lentils and often served topped with a dollop of clarified butter, amti is a more glorified version of it typically consisting of the lentil or dal stock, flavoured with goda masala, tamarind or amshul, jaggery and in some cases coconut as well.

Non vegetarian food is a very important part of traditional Maharashtrian cuisine. Chicken, mutton and eggs are prepared and eaten in several forms. Kombdi vada is a classic Marathi recipe from the malvani region of Maharashtra. Deep fried multi flour puris are eaten with spicy chicken or mutton curries. A spicy hot mutton dish called as mutnacha rassa from Kolhapur is a very popular recipe. The curry made in Pandhra rassa is a white coloured rassa that is made with a yogurt base, but can be equally spicy in taste. Saoji dishes from the Vidarba region are spicy robust curries made with chicken, mutton or vegetables in a clove and pepper based spice mix.

A large part of Maharashtra lies on the coastline. The food in these cities and villages makes the coastal influence apparent. Seafood is eaten in plenty. Dishes like a crisp batter coated bombil fry or the spicy mori or baby shark masala, bangda fry, paplet saar or pomfret fish curry are some of the common seafood recipes of the region. Tiger Prawns, tiny shrimps, crabs and shellfish are all found and eaten in abundance in the region. They are usually fried or made in a rich coconut based curry.

Rice is the staple food grain of the Maharashtrian region. Rice is known as bhaat and is eaten at all meals along with the several different types of curries. Rice mixed with flavourful masalas is known as masala bhaat and is a very popular recipe. Vaangi bhaat is very similar to this with the addition of brinjals. Different types of flavourful pulao made with vegetables, chicken seafood or mutton are prepared in the Aurangabad region of Maharashtra.

Sweetmeats in Maharashtra are particularly identified with festivals. Diwali is considered one of the most auspicious festivals in Maharashtra, inspiring a variety of mouth-watering preparations like karanji, kodbali, anarse, shankarpali, chiroti, and variety of laadoos like dink laadoo, besan laadoo, shingdana laadoo, rava laadoo etc. Ganapati bappa moriya… this joyous cry rents the air in the month of September when Maharashtrians go all out to celebrate the birthday of their favourite god! The most delectable offerings during Ganesh Chaturthi are modaks, small rice or wheat flour dumplings stuffed with coconut and jaggery. They are best when served with ghee. People enjoy a puran poli, a sweet, stuffed chapatti made of chana dal and refined flour, served warm with ghee or a bowl of milk. Shrikhand is a sweetened yogurt preparation that can be flavoured with several; fresh fruits and dried fruits. 

Regional diversifications

Everybody knows about the unbeatable taste of the Mumbai’s chaats! But there is so much more to explore and savour in the other regions of Maharashtra.

Konkan: The traditional crops of the Konkan region, the west coast of Maharashtra, are coconuts, mangoes, cashewnuts, rice and a variety of pulses. The region also grows a great quantity of kokum, a sweet-sour fruit. Fish is available in vast varieties and seafood is in abundant supply. All these ingredients find place in the traditional and exotic Konkani food.

South Maharashtra: This region is rich in sugarcane fields, rice farms and milk. In the winter months, southern Maharashtra is busy in the production of jaggery and sugar from the abundant sugarcane juice. Winter also means plenty of milk, and typical milk sweets like basundi, masala milk, srikhand and kheer. Milk, nuts, rough bhakris of jowar, hot meat curries and chilli-spiked snacks are favourite foods here.

Vidarbha: Though the Konkan strip and southern Maharashtra have their own excellent cuisine, the cuisine of northern Maharashtra, Vidarbha and Khandesh, too has a lot to offer. The central Indian plateau is not as lush as the coast; therefore, coconuts and mangoes do not grow here. But Vidarbha is rich in peanuts, rice and, most of all, citrus fruit, like oranges and sweet limes. The ingredients commonly used are besan, or gram flour, and ground peanuts.

Pune: Home to the Peshwas and Brahmin communities, Pune is a historic city. The food of these communities is delicate, sparsely designed and entirely vegetarian. Puneri missal, thalipeeth, puri bhaji and dalimbi ussal are not only tasty and nutritious, but inexpensive to make.

Kolhapur: Kolhapur is as famous for its spicy mutton curries as its Mahalaxmi temple or palaces. Popularly called matnacha rassa, this pungent dish is not for the weak hearted! Kolhapuri missal is also one of their spicier dishes.

Aurangabad: The cuisine of Aurangabad has been highly influenced by the North Indian method of cooking, as a result of the long Moghul rule in the region. Aurangabad’s food is much like Moghlai or Hyderabadi food, with its fragrant pulaos and biryanis. Meat cooked in fresh spices and herbs is a speciality, as are the delectable sweets.

Nagpur: The city of Nagpur has great historical inheritance and is emerging now as a gourmet city. There are unusual snacks, curries, pulaos and sweets to pamper the demanding palate. The food is generally spicy, with a good amount of ghee, and peanuts, dried coconut (khopra) and dal are often the basis of the flavours. Nagpur is also famous for its spicy non-vegetarian preparations known as saoji preparations that are generally made by using clove-pepper paste instead of red chilli powder. 

Popular recipes of Maharashtra

Vada pavThese are masaledar potato mixture coated in gram flour and deep fried. They are eaten just like or stuffed between bread. It is commonly referred to as the common man’s burger as they are cheap and easily available in every nook and corner of Maharashtra.

Mumbai Pav Bhaji This is a dish that is eaten all across the country but the origin lies in Mumbai. A mash of boiled vegetables and spices prepared on a tawa eaten with bread is a favourite fast food!

Kothimbir WadiThey are spiced gram flour and coriander cakes that are first steamed and then fried till they get a crisp outer covering. They are eaten at breakfast, during tea time or along with meals.

SolkadiSolkadi is a mildly spicy refreshing beverage that is drunk all through the year. It has a light pink colour, because of the kokum and coconut milk it uses. It is topped with cilantro and should be drunk cold.

Ussal or Missal Ussal is a spicy curry made with sprouted beans and eaten with pav. Missal is the same curry topped with a crispy mixture called as farsan and is easily available in the market.

ThechaThis is a spicy chutney that is very important in al Maharashtrian meals. It can be made with green chillies or with garlic based red chutney.

ThalipeethThalipeeth is a traditional Maharashtrian multiflour pancake. They are mostly eaten with a dollop of white butter or sweetened curd and thecha.

Pohe Poha is a snack recipe that is made with flattened rice. The most common type of poha in the region is made with onion and is known as kande pohe. 

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MasterChef Sanjeev Kapoor

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is the most celebrated face of Indian cuisine. He is Chef extraordinaire, runs a successful TV Channel FoodFood, hosted Khana Khazana cookery show on television for more than 17 years, author of 150+ best selling cookbooks, restaurateur and winner of several culinary awards. He is living his dream of making Indian cuisine the number one in the world and empowering women through power of cooking to become self sufficient. His recipe portal is a complete cookery manual with a compendium of more than 10,000 tried & tested recipes, videos, articles, tips & trivia and a wealth of information on the art and craft of cooking in both English and Hindi.