The Best Canned Goods to Get at an Indian Supermarket

updated May 24, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Chitra Agrawal, the cookbook author behind Vibrant India and the creator of a line of authentic Indian condiments called Brooklyn Delhi, also has a blog: It’s called the ABCDs of Cooking (and it’s not because the URL for the ABCs of Cooking was already taken). According to Chitra, ABCD stands for “American Born Confused Desi, a term sometimes used to describe a South Asian born and brought up in the U.S.”

As her blog name cleverly suggests, Chitra not only aims to coach people through basic cooking techniques, but also to acquaint people with cherished family recipes that are a major part of her identity. Because Chitra is intimately familiar with the ingredients necessary to bring those recipes to life, we asked her for some of her favorite canned goods shortcuts — all of which you can find in an Indian grocery store.

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1. Swad Kesar Mango Pulp, $30 for six, 30-ounce cans

“I am crazy for Indian mangoes. Every summer, my father would cut up those sweet gems into perfect little cubes. When mangoes are not in season, I opt for canned Indian mango pulp found in Alphonso or Kesar varieties, which are known for being sweet and juicy. I first look for the unsweetened version — Swad makes one. If you can’t find the unsweetened version, just adjust any additional sugar in your recipe. My favorite way to cook with them is by making mango and coconut milkshakes, or mixing in shrikhand, which is a rich and creamy yogurt dessert.”

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2. Swad Drumsticks in Brine, $3 for 14 ounces

“Another ingredient I’ll buy canned (if I can’t find it fresh or frozen) is drumstick, a vegetable used most often in sambar, a South Indian spicy lentil stew. Drumstick is a long, green, fibrous vegetable which is revered and treated like a delicacy. To eat it, you suck out the flesh, very similarly to how you would eat an artichoke. Swad has a good canned version.”

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3. Savoy Coconut Cream, $24 for six, 14-ounce cans

“When I can find it, I also buy Savoy Coconut Cream — it’s like coconut milk’s fatty cousin. It has a lot more bang for your buck, too. I like to fold it into curries, shakes, and oatmeal. When you whip it, it’s an amazing vegan topping for desserts.”

Have you ever picked up any of these items? What did you make with them?