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A Guide To Awadhi Cuisine In Lucknow


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Joellen Schramm



India is renowned for its diverse and vibrant cuisine, and the Awadhi cuisine from Lucknow holds a special place in the hearts of food enthusiasts. Awadhi cuisine is a rich culinary tradition that originated in the royal kitchens of the Nawabs of Awadh, who ruled the region during the 18th and 19th centuries. With its elaborate preparation methods, fragrant spices, and indulgent flavors, Awadhi cuisine is a true delight for the senses.


The distinction of Awadhi cuisine lies in its royal heritage and the meticulous attention to detail in its preparation. It is a perfect fusion of Mughal influences and local Awadhi flavors, resulting in a unique culinary experience that is loved by people all over the world.


Awadhi cuisine is known for its iconic slow-cooking techniques, which enhance the flavors and textures of the dishes. The use of aromatic spices, such as cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, and cloves, adds depth and complexity to the dishes. The generous use of dairy products, including ghee, cream, and yogurt, gives the cuisine its rich and creamy character.


One cannot talk about Awadhi cuisine without mentioning the royal biryanis and kebabs that have become synonymous with Lucknow. The biryanis are cooked with fragrant basmati rice, tender meat (often lamb or chicken), and a blend of spices, creating a fragrant and flavorsome dish that is fit for royalty. The succulent kebabs, whether it be the melt-in-your-mouth galouti kebabs or the juicy tunde kebabs, are a testament to the expertise of Awadhi chefs.


Not only is Awadhi cuisine celebrated for its savory dishes, but it also offers a delectable range of sweets and desserts. From the delicate and aromatic Shahi Tukda to the rich and creamy Sheer Korma, the desserts of Awadhi cuisine enchant the taste buds and leave a lasting impression.


Awadhi cuisine is not just about the food; it is a cultural experience that transports you to the regal era of the Nawabs. The hospitality and grandeur associated with Awadhi cuisine can still be experienced in the bustling streets of Lucknow, where age-old recipes are passed down from one generation to another.


In this comprehensive guide, we will take a closer look at the history, key ingredients, popular dishes, street food, traditional sweets, famous restaurants, and even cooking classes and authentic Awadhi food experiences in Lucknow. So get ready to embark on a gastronomic journey through the flavors of Awadhi cuisine.


History of Awadhi Cuisine

Awadhi cuisine has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the era of the Nawabs of Awadh. The Nawabs, who were renowned for their refined taste and opulent lifestyle, played a pivotal role in shaping the culinary traditions of Lucknow.


The cuisine of Awadh was heavily influenced by the Mughal Empire, particularly during the time of Emperor Akbar. As the Mughals established their presence in the region, they brought their culinary expertise and refined cooking techniques, which were then incorporated into Awadhi cuisine. The result was a unique blend of Mughal flavors and local Awadhi ingredients, creating a culinary sensation that is still savored today.


Under the patronage of the Nawabs, Awadhi cuisine flourished and reached new heights of culinary excellence. The nawabs were known for their extravagant feasts and lavish gatherings, where the best chefs were summoned to prepare elaborate meals fit for royalty. These chefs, known as “Bawarchis” and “Rakabdars,” were skilled in the art of slow cooking and had exceptional knowledge of blending spices to create exquisite flavors.


One of the defining characteristics of Awadhi cuisine is the “Dum Pukht” cooking technique. Dum pukht refers to cooking food in a sealed vessel over a low flame, allowing the flavors to develop slowly and infuse into the dish. This technique is used in preparing the famous Awadhi biryanis, where the meat and rice are cooked together with fragrant spices and saffron, resulting in a fragrant and flavorful rice dish that melts in your mouth.


Awadhi cuisine also incorporates a wide range of ingredients, making use of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Popular meats used in Awadhi cuisine include lamb, chicken, and goat. Seasonal vegetables are also given importance, and a variety of lentils and legumes are used to create delicious vegetarian dishes.


Another hallmark of Awadhi cuisine is the focus on intricate flavors and attention to detail. The chefs take great care in selecting the freshest ingredients and balancing the spices to create a harmonious blend of flavors. No meal is complete without finishing touches of fragrant saffron, rose water, and aromatic spices.


Over the centuries, Awadhi cuisine has retained its royal charm and continues to be enjoyed by food lovers around the world. The heritage of Awadhi cuisine is preserved in the culinary traditions passed down through generations of families in Lucknow, who proudly maintain their recipes and cooking techniques.


Today, Awadhi cuisine is not limited to the royal kitchens or the homes of locals but has also found its way into the menus of renowned restaurants across the globe. It is a testament to the enduring legacy of Awadhi cuisine and its ability to captivate the taste buds of people from different cultures and backgrounds.


Key Ingredients in Awadhi Cuisine

Awadhi cuisine is renowned for its robust flavors and aromatic dishes, which are achieved through the skilled use of a variety of key ingredients. These ingredients not only add depth and complexity to the dishes but also contribute to the unique identity of Awadhi cuisine.


1. Aromatic Spices: Spices play a vital role in Awadhi cuisine, elevating the flavors to new heights. Key spices used in Awadhi cooking include cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, mace, nutmeg, and saffron. These spices are used in varying combinations and proportions to create a harmonious blend of flavors in each dish.


2. Ghee: Ghee, or clarified butter, is a staple ingredient in Awadhi cuisine. It is used for cooking as well as for adding richness and flavor to various dishes. The use of ghee gives a distinct aroma and velvety texture to the preparations, making them indulgent and satisfying.


3. Milk and Dairy Products: Awadhi cuisine makes generous use of milk and dairy products like cream, yogurt, and khoya (reduced milk solids). These ingredients add a creamy and luscious texture to the dishes and balance out the spices. Milk is also used to make refreshing drinks like thandai, a traditional Indian beverage.


4. Meat and Poultry: Non-vegetarian dishes are a key feature of Awadhi cuisine, with a focus on meats like lamb, chicken, and goat. The meat is marinated in flavorful spices and cooked slowly to tenderize and infuse the flavors into the dish. The result is succulent and aromatic meat dishes that are loved by food enthusiasts.


5. Aromatic Herbs: Awadhi cuisine incorporates a variety of aromatic herbs to enhance the flavors of the dishes. Fresh herbs like coriander, mint, fenugreek, and curry leaves are used in both marinades and garnishes, adding a burst of freshness and vibrancy to the preparations.


6. Nuts and Dry Fruits: Awadhi cuisine often includes an assortment of nuts and dry fruits, such as almonds, cashews, raisins, and pistachios. These ingredients lend a subtle sweetness and textural contrast to the dishes, making them more indulgent and satisfying.


7. Fragrant Basmati Rice: Basmati rice is the preferred choice for making biryanis, pulao, and other rice-based dishes in Awadhi cuisine. The long-grain rice has a distinct aroma and fluffy texture that complements the flavors of the spices and meat or vegetables used in the dish.


8. Saffron: Saffron, also known as the “king of spices,” is a prized ingredient in Awadhi cuisine. Its vibrant color and delicate flavor elevate the dishes, adding a touch of luxury and enhancing the overall visual appeal of the cuisine.


These key ingredients, along with the expertise of the chefs, contribute to the unique and delectable flavors of Awadhi cuisine. Each ingredient brings its own distinct character to the dishes, resulting in a culinary experience that is truly unforgettable.


Popular Awadhi Dishes

Awadhi cuisine boasts a wide range of delectable dishes that are beloved by food enthusiasts around the world. With their rich flavors, delicate aromas, and unique cooking techniques, these dishes showcase the culinary excellence of Awadhi cuisine. Here are some of the most popular Awadhi dishes that you must try:


1. Awadhi Biryani: The Awadhi biryani is a culinary masterpiece that has gained global recognition. Made with fragrant basmati rice and tender meat (usually lamb or chicken) marinated in a blend of spices, the biryani is slow-cooked in a sealed vessel, allowing the flavors to meld together. The result is a heavenly combination of rice, meat, and spices that is aromatic, flavorful, and utterly satisfying.


2. Galouti Kebab: Galouti kebabs are a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy that originated in the Awadhi kitchens. Made from finely minced meat blended with a mixture of fragrant spices, these kebabs are known for their delicate texture and exquisite flavor. Traditionally made with mutton, galouti kebabs are a true delight for meat lovers.


3. Tunde Kebab: Tunde kebabs are another iconic Awadhi dish that should not be missed. These kebabs are made with finely ground meat, mixed with a secret blend of spices and raw papaya to achieve a tender and succulent texture. The kebabs are shallow-fried on a griddle and served with mint chutney and roomali roti, creating a perfect harmony of flavors.


4. Kakori Kebab: Kakori kebabs are renowned for their delicate and exquisite taste. Made from finely minced meat, combined with aromatic spices and a hint of saffron, these kebabs are skillfully cooked on skewers over a charcoal grill. The resulting kebabs are incredibly tender and flavorful, making them a true gourmet delight.


5. Lucknowi Biryani: Similar to the Awadhi biryani, the Lucknowi biryani is another popular variant of this beloved dish. It features succulent pieces of meat (usually chicken) cooked with fragrant rice and a blend of spices. What sets it apart is the addition of caramelized onions, which adds a rich and sweet flavor to the biryani.


6. Nihari: Nihari is a slow-cooked meat stew that originated in the royal courts of Awadh. Typically made with tender beef or lamb, the meat is simmered for hours in a flavorful gravy, resulting in a rich and aromatic dish. Nihari is traditionally eaten for breakfast, accompanied by naan or sheermal, a sweet saffron-flavored bread.


7. Rogan Josh: Though commonly associated with Kashmiri cuisine, Rogan Josh holds a special place in Awadhi cuisine as well. This hearty meat curry is made with slow-cooked lamb, flavored with a blend of aromatic spices, including Kashmiri red chili powder, fennel, and ginger-garlic paste. The dish is known for its vibrant red color and robust flavors.


These are just a few highlights from the extensive repertoire of Awadhi cuisine. Each dish is a testament to the culinary finesse and the rich heritage of Lucknow. Whether you’re a meat lover or a vegetarian, Awadhi cuisine has something to offer that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.


Street Food in Lucknow

Lucknow, the culinary capital of India, is renowned for its vibrant street food scene. The streets of this bustling city are lined with food stalls and carts that offer a wide array of mouth-watering delicacies. From savory kebabs to indulgent sweets, street food in Lucknow is a delightful experience for food lovers. Here are some of the must-try street food items in Lucknow:


1. Tunday Kebabs: Tunday Kebabs are the epitome of Lucknow’s street food culture. These succulent kebabs, made with finely minced meat and a blend of aromatic spices, are known for their melt-in-your-mouth texture. Served with roomali roti (thin bread) and mint chutney, Tunday Kebabs are a delight that will leave you craving for more.


2. Basket Chaat: Basket Chaat is a popular street food item in Lucknow that combines tangy and spicy flavors with crispy textures. It is made with a variety of crunchy fried snacks, such as sev (crispy chickpea flour noodles), papdi (fried dough wafers), and bhalla (lentil fritters). Topped with yogurt, tamarind chutney, and a mix of spices, the chaat is served in a basket-shaped edible container, adding a unique touch to the overall experience.


3. Lucknowi Biryani: Lucknowi Biryani is a street food favorite that showcases the culinary finesse of Awadhi cuisine. Fragrant long-grain basmati rice is cooked with tender meat (usually chicken) and a blend of aromatic spices. The biryani is slow-cooked in a handi (traditional earthen pot), infusing the flavors into every grain of rice and piece of meat. This delightful dish is often served with raita (yogurt dip) and a side of korma.


4. Pani Puri: Pani Puri, also known as Golgappe, is a popular street snack found all over India. In Lucknow, the Pani Puri is a burst of tangy and spicy flavors. It consists of crispy hollow puris filled with a mixture of spiced potato and chickpeas, and then immersed in a tangy and minty flavored water. Each bite-sized puri is a burst of flavors that creates a sensation of deliciousness.


5. Kulfi Falooda: To beat the heat in Lucknow, indulge in a refreshing Kulfi Falooda. This traditional dessert is made with a deliciously rich and creamy kulfi (Indian ice cream) served with vermicelli noodles and topped with rose syrup, nuts, and falooda seeds. The combination of the creamy kulfi, sweet syrup, and crunchy toppings makes for a delightful treat.


6. Lucknowi Paan: No street food journey in Lucknow is complete without trying the famous Lucknowi Paan. Paan is a betel leaf preparation that is commonly consumed as a mouth freshener after meals. In Lucknow, paan stalls offer a wide variety of paan flavors, including special combinations of betel leaf, areca nut, tobacco, and various sweet and tangy fillings. It is a unique cultural experience to savor a freshly prepared paan in the streets of Lucknow.


Street food in Lucknow is not just about the tantalizing flavors but also about the vibrant atmosphere and the rich culinary heritage of the city. The chaotic streets, the sizzling grills, and the aroma of spices create an unforgettable culinary experience that will leave you wanting to explore more of Lucknow’s street food delights.


Traditional Sweets of Awadhi Cuisine

Awadhi cuisine is not just known for its savory delights but also for its delectable assortment of traditional sweets. From delicate confections to rich and creamy desserts, Awadhi sweets are a true indulgence for those with a sweet tooth. Here are some of the traditional sweets of Awadhi cuisine that you must try:


1. Sheermaal: Sheermaal is a saffron-infused bread that is a specialty of Awadhi cuisine. It is made with flour, ghee, yogurt, and topped with a generous sprinkle of saffron strands. The bread is baked in a tandoor or oven, resulting in a soft and flaky texture with a beautiful golden hue. Sheermaal is often enjoyed as a breakfast or as a sweet accompaniment to a hearty meal.


2. Shahi Tukda: Shahi Tukda, also known as Double ka Meetha, is a popular dessert that originated in the royal kitchens of Awadh. It is made with deep-fried bread slices that are soaked in a fragrant sugar syrup and topped with a layer of thickened milk, flavored with cardamom and saffron. The dish is garnished with finely chopped nuts and silver varq (edible silver leaf), making it a luscious and visually appealing dessert.


3. Malai ki Gilori: Malai ki Gilori is a unique sweet from Awadhi cuisine that captures the essence of rich and creamy flavors. It is made by thickening milk to create a solid milk slice, which is then filled with a mixture of khoya (reduced milk solids), nuts, and aromatic spices. The filled slice is then shaped into a roll and garnished with pistachios and saffron strands. Malai ki Gilori is a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy that is cherished for its indulgent taste.


4. Meethi Sewai: Meethi Sewai is a popular sweet dish that is made with roasted vermicelli noodles, cooked in ghee and infused with sugar syrup and milk. It is flavored with cardamom, saffron, and a variety of dry fruits, giving it a rich and aromatic taste. Meethi Sewai is often served on festive occasions or as a special treat during celebratory meals.


5. Makhan Malai: Makhan Malai is a traditional dessert from the streets of Lucknow that is highly popular during the winter season. It is a light and airy dessert made with clotted cream, flavored with rose water, cardamom, saffron, and garnished with pistachios and silver varq. Makhan Malai has a delicate texture and a subtly sweet taste, making it a refreshing and delightful treat.


6. Luki ki Launj: Luki ki Launj is a sweet dish made from bottle gourd (lauki) that is grated and cooked with a mixture of milk, sugar, and ghee. It is flavored with cardamom and garnished with nuts. Luki ki Launj has a soft and melt-in-your-mouth texture, with a mildly sweet taste that is perfect for those who prefer lighter desserts.


Awadhi cuisine’s traditional sweets are a testament to the culinary artistry and cultural richness of the region. Each bite of these delectable treats will transport you to the regal era of the Nawabs and leave you craving for more of the sweet delights that Awadhi cuisine has to offer.


Famous Restaurants in Lucknow serving Awadhi Cuisine

Lucknow is home to numerous renowned restaurants that offer a chance to savor the authentic flavors of Awadhi cuisine. These establishments have gained popularity for their commitment to preserving the culinary traditions and delivering a memorable dining experience. Here are some of the famous restaurants in Lucknow that specialize in serving delectable Awadhi cuisine:


1. Tunday Kababi: Tunday Kababi is an iconic restaurant in Lucknow that has become synonymous with authentic Awadhi cuisine. Known for its mouth-watering Tunday Kebabs, this eatery has been serving these melt-in-your-mouth kebabs for over a century. The secret blend of spices and the tender texture make their kebabs a must-try for any food lover visiting Lucknow.


2. Royal Café: Royal Café is a legendary establishment that has been serving Lucknow’s iconic street food for decades. Famous for its Basket Chaat, this place offers a variety of chaats, kebabs, and other street food delicacies that showcase the flavors and vibrancy of Awadhi cuisine. The bustling ambiance and the delicious fare make it a popular spot among locals and tourists alike.


3. Dastarkhwan: Dastarkhwan is a name that resonates with Awadhi culinary excellence. Known for its authentic flavors and warm hospitality, this restaurant offers a range of Awadhi dishes that are cooked to perfection. From the famous Awadhi biryani to the flavorsome kebabs, each dish at Dastarkhwan showcases the rich heritage of Lucknow’s cuisine.


4. Sewa Restaurant: Sewa Restaurant is a popular name in Lucknow known for its delectable vegetarian Awadhi cuisine. With a focus on local flavors and traditional recipes, Sewa offers a wide range of vegetarian Awadhi dishes that satisfy even the most discerning palate. Their Rajma Galawati Kebab and Paneer Pasanda are highly recommended.


5. Oudhyana: Oudhyana, located in the Taj Mahal Hotel, is a fine-dining restaurant dedicated to presenting the authentic flavors of Lucknow. With its opulent ambiance and impeccable service, Oudhyana offers a royal culinary experience. The menu features traditional Awadhi delicacies like Nihari, Dum Pukht Biryani, and Shahi Tukda, all prepared with precision and finesse.


6. Naushijaan: Naushijaan is a popular destination for those seeking an indulgent Awadhi feast. With its elegant decor and extensive menu, this restaurant presents a wide variety of Awadhi dishes, from kebabs and biryanis to curries and desserts. The Galouti Kebabs and Chicken Dum Biryani are highly recommended for a satisfying meal.


These are just a few of the many exceptional restaurants in Lucknow that serve authentic and delectable Awadhi cuisine. Each of these establishments showcases the rich flavors and culinary heritage of the region, ensuring a memorable dining experience for anyone wishing to explore the delights of Awadhi cuisine.


Cooking Classes and Authentic Awadhi Food Experiences

For those who want to delve deeper into the world of Awadhi cuisine, Lucknow offers a range of options to learn the art of cooking authentic Awadhi dishes and to experience the culture and traditions behind them. Here are some cooking classes and authentic Awadhi food experiences in Lucknow:


1. Awadhi Cooking Classes: Several cooking schools and culinary institutes in Lucknow offer hands-on cooking classes that focus specifically on Awadhi cuisine. These classes are led by experienced chefs who share their knowledge of traditional Awadhi recipes, cooking techniques, and the proper use of spices. Participants get to learn how to prepare signature dishes like Awadhi biryani, kebabs, and desserts. It is a great opportunity to not only learn the recipes but also to understand the cultural significance and historical context of Awadhi cuisine.


2. Heritage Food Walks: Embark on a culinary journey through the narrow lanes of Lucknow with heritage food walks. These guided tours take you through the historical parts of the city, where you can explore the vibrant street food scene and savor traditional Awadhi dishes prepared by local vendors. The walks also provide insights into the stories, legends, and cultural significance associated with the food and its preparation. It’s an immersive experience that allows you to interact with locals, taste authentic flavors, and learn about the culinary heritage of Lucknow.


3. Home Dining Experiences: For a more intimate and personalized encounter with Awadhi cuisine, consider a home dining experience. Some local families in Lucknow open their homes to visitors, offering them the opportunity to dine with the family and savor homemade Awadhi dishes. This cultural experience allows you to be part of a traditional family setting, where you can interact with the hosts, learn about their cooking techniques, and enjoy a wholesome meal prepared with love and authenticity.


4. Culinary Festivals and Events: Lucknow hosts various culinary festivals and events that celebrate Awadhi cuisine. These events bring together renowned chefs, food enthusiasts, and tourists to immerse themselves in the flavors and aromas of Awadhi dishes. The festivals often feature live cooking demonstrations, culinary competitions, food stalls, and cultural performances, providing an opportunity to taste an array of Awadhi delicacies and witness the art of Awadhi cooking in action.


5. Food Trails: Join a guided food trail in Lucknow to explore the hidden gems of Awadhi cuisine. These trails take you to local markets, street food stalls, and traditional eateries, where you can sample a variety of Awadhi dishes under the guidance of knowledgeable food guides. It’s a fun and immersive way to discover the culinary treasures of Lucknow, interact with locals, and experience the authentic flavors of Awadhi cuisine.


These cooking classes and authentic Awadhi food experiences in Lucknow offer a chance to go beyond just tasting the dishes and to truly immerse yourself in the culinary traditions of Awadhi cuisine. Whether you choose to learn from skilled chefs, explore the streets, or dine with local families, these experiences will leave you with a deep appreciation for the flavors, history, and cultural significance of Awadhi cuisine.



The culinary journey through the flavors of Awadhi cuisine in Lucknow is a delightful experience that showcases the rich heritage and culinary finesse of the region. From the royal kitchens of the Nawabs to the bustling streets, Awadhi cuisine has evolved and flourished, creating a legacy that continues to captivate food enthusiasts from around the world.


The history of Awadhi cuisine is rooted in the royal courts of Lucknow, where the expertise of the chefs and the influence of the Mughals created a truly unique culinary tradition. The slow cooking techniques, aromatic spices, and generous use of dairy products form the foundation of the cuisine, resulting in dishes that are known for their indulgent flavors and exquisite textures.


Whether it’s the succulent kebabs, the fragrant biryanis, the mouth-watering street food, or the delectable sweets, every bite of Awadhi cuisine is a sensory delight. The flavors transport you to a bygone era of grandeur and opulence, where food was not just sustenance but an art form.


Lucknow boasts a wide range of famous restaurants that specialize in Awadhi cuisine, offering an opportunity to savor the authentic flavors and experience the warmth of true Awadhi hospitality. From traditional recipes passed down through generations to modern interpretations of classic dishes, these establishments showcase the depth and richness of Awadhi cuisine.


Furthermore, the cooking classes and authentic food experiences in Lucknow provide a hands-on opportunity to learn and immerse oneself in the art of Awadhi cooking. From culinary schools to heritage food walks, these experiences offer a unique insight into the cultural significance and techniques behind the cuisine.


In conclusion, Awadhi cuisine is a treasure trove of flavors, techniques, and cultural heritage that continues to enchant food lovers. Whether you are exploring the streets for delectable street food, dining at renowned restaurants, or learning how to recreate the dishes in your own kitchen, the flavors of Awadhi cuisine will leave an everlasting impression and a longing for more.


Embark on a gastronomic adventure through Lucknow’s Awadhi cuisine, and be prepared to be transported to a world where food is not just a meal, but a sensory experience that celebrates tradition, history, and the art of indulgence.