The most important rules and principles to planning a Hindu-friendly menu. Follow Hindu food etiquette to prepare a menu that your guests will enjoy. Avoid embarrassment and be an ideal host.
What Hindu food etiquette is
Hindu food etiquette is the set of rules to plan a menu that is appropriate for guests who follow a Hindu diet. Such rules include:
- The allowed foods and ingredients.
- How to ask about dietary restrictions.
- How to deal with your guests’ diets.
If you are hosting, respect Hindu food etiquette to properly plan a menu that your guests will enjoy and to avoid any embarrassments.
If you are a guest, follow Hindu food etiquette to politely deal with your hosts and the other guests.
Hindu food etiquette rules
1) Respect Hindu dietary restrictions in your menu
The Hindu religion does not set dietary laws. However, the principles of the Hindu faith suggest the avoidance of some foods.
The interpretation of such principles varies. A person may include or exclude some foods due to health, faith, or personal concerns. A large number of people in the Hindu faith follow a vegetarian, vegan, or lacto-vegetarian diet.
Meat is allowed in the Hindu diet
Cows are widely seen as sacred animals. Thus, the Hindu diet commonly avoids beef.
However, many Hindus allow the meat of other animals in their diet. Such as poultry, goat, or sheep. Pork meat is not popular and almost absent from Hindu diets.
However, a large number of people in the Hindu faith avoid meat altogether. Similar to the interpretation in the Buddhist diet, many Hindus avoid eating meat as it implies the killing and suffering of living beings.
Fish and seafood are allowed foods in the Hindu diet
Hindus normally can eat fish, seafood, or shellfish. However, some Hindus do not eat them.
Dairy products and cheese are allowed
Milk, dairy products, and cheese are normally included in the Hindu diet. Hindus can almost always eat dairy products, as long as their production excludes the animal rennet.
Eggs are often excluded, and honey is allowed
Eggs are usually excluded from a Hindu diet. Some Hindus eat eggs, but the majority seem to exclude them.
Honey is widely accepted.
Vegetables and fruit are always ok
In general, the Hindu diet allows all vegetables and fruit. However, some Hindus do not eat plants with a strong smell. Such as onion, garlic, shallots, or leeks.
Grains are ok
In general, Hindus can eat any type of grain. Rice. Pasta. Couscous. Quinoa. Amaranth. The same applies to bakery products and bread. Hindus can eat pizza too.
Condiments are almost always ok
Hindus can normally consume oil, vinegar, salt, and spices. Hindus that do not consume alcohol may not consume wine vinegar.
Sweets and desserts are generally ok
A Hindu diet can include most types of sweets or desserts.
Drinks are ok, but alcohol could be excluded
A Hindu diet usually allows soft drinks, tea, and coffee.
Hindus may or may not drink alcoholic beverages. While alcohol is not expressly forbidden, some Hindu texts define alcohol as intoxicating as of negative effect. Thus, often Hindus do not consume alcohol.
2) Etiquette for asking guests about their Hindu diet
It is perfect etiquette to ask your guests about their Hindu dietary restrictions. The interpretation of the Hindu principles towards food is rather flexible. Thus, it is actually best to always ask your guests about their personal preferences.
In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to please inform the hosts about any dietary requirements.
In informal invitations, a simple “do you follow any diet or have any dietary restriction?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food.
It is against etiquette to ask further questions. Such as why someone follows the Hindu dietary rules. Or why someone excludes or includes a certain food.
If you have a genuine curiosity, you may ask such questions. However, it is polite to justify your curiosity. In other words, state why you are curious about it. Be apologetic. Never judge or question the answers you get.
3) Hindu food menu planning etiquette
Follow these key principles to deal with guests’ Hindu dietary restrictions.
Serve each food on its dedicated plate
Do not serve multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, separate them. Assign a plate and serving utensils to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separated from food.
This way you allow guests to pick the foods that they can eat. Or to avoid the foods that they cannot eat.
Include safe options
Some foods are allowed in almost every diet. Such as vegetables and fruit. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. As an example, only a few people say no to baked potatoes or salad.
Avoid risky foods
Many foods are not allowed in several diets. Pork meat. Alcohol. Beef. Crustaceans.
If you are unsure about your guests’ diet, play safe. Avoid cooking these foods altogether. Or, at least, plan one or two dishes without them.
4) Hindu food guest etiquette
Guests following Hindu dietary rules should respect etiquette too. Otherwise, they risk disrespecting their host or the other guests.
Do not expect the host to guess your diet
If you do not eat some foods, clearly state it with your host.
It is bad etiquette to expect a change in the menu based on your needs. Instead, you may ask if there may be some options suited for a Hindu diet. Be apologetic in your requests. It is rude to do otherwise. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled.
Be accommodating. Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to provide guests with Hindu diet options.
Politely refuse food that you do not eat
If the host serves food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”.
Provide additional detail only if someone asks you. It is good etiquette to be brief. Otherwise, do not discuss your dietary restrictions in length.
Do not impose your diet on the other guests
Never expect others to adjust to your diet. Do not expect your hosts to change their menu to accommodate your needs. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order.
Hindu food etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst Hindu food etiquette mistakes.
- 9/10. Not accommodating Hindu dietary restrictions.
- 7/10. Imposing your diet on others.
- 5/10. Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.
- 5/10. Asking personal dietary questions.
- Eight-in-ten Indians limit meat in their diets: pewresearch.org