Why Is Indian Food So Expensive? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Rich in taste, texture, and variety, Indian food has a distinct appeal that makes it an in-demand cuisine worldwide.

However, if you are a fan of Indian food, you must have noticed that it costs more than the average Thai and Chinese food. Why is that? I looked into it, and here is what I found!

Why Is Indian Food So Expensive?

Indian food is expensive because it typically requires 20 to 30 ingredients to make. Additionally, these ingredients are costly, and most are imported from India. Preparing these ingredients takes a while, and the best Indian restaurants require the leadership of experienced chefs. Furthermore, there are too few Indian restaurants to meet consumer demands.

If you are interested in learning more about the ingredients, preparation time, and overhead costs that make Indian food so expensive, keep on reading!

1. Indian Food Involves A Lot Of Ingredients

Most Indian foods are made with at least 20 ingredients, significantly more than what typical American and even Chinese dishes use.

Granted, most of these ingredients are spices, but each is necessary for achieving the distinct flavor and consistency of each Indian food.

Moreover, Indian restaurants are likely to purchase these ingredients in bulk. Even with discounted prices, these ingredients are bound to be costly.

Therefore, when you consider the type and quantity of ingredients needed, as well as their acquisition and storage, it makes sense that Indian food is so expensive.

2. Indian Food Uses Imported Spices & Vegetables

Many of the ingredients used in Indian foods are not native to America, and some are even considered exotic, which is especially true with spices like cardamom and turmeric.

As such, these ingredients either have to be imported by the Indian restaurants themselves or bought from specialty stores.

Moreover, with tariffs involved and special storage and transportation requirements to keep the ingredients fresh, the fees add up and make Indian food expensive.

3. Indian Food Requires Elaborate Preparation

Given the number of ingredients used in each Indian dish, it should not be surprising that Indian food takes a long time to prepare.

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For example, most Indian restaurants take the whole morning to prepare the ingredients just to cut back on cooking time once the orders come in.

For this reason, most Indian restaurants do not open until later in the day. Even then, slicing, mincing, and mixing will be done in the background to prepare a single dish.

Overall, all the hard work that goes into preparing Indian food increases the number of workers and resources utilized by each Indian restaurant.

Therefore, covering these costs makes it necessary to sell Indian food at higher rates.

4. Indian Restaurants Require More Workers

Hiring a large number of workers is essential to keep things operational and go smoothly in an Indian restaurant.

Further, depending on the size and popularity of the Indian restaurant, the kitchen alone may necessitate more than a handful of skilled and highly experienced staff.

So, if the restaurant chooses to hire workers that are not trained in Indian cuisine, the restaurant has to dedicate time and effort to their training.

Moreover, when an Indian restaurant cultivates an efficient kitchen staff, preparing and cooking Indian food becomes easier, albeit still costly and time-consuming.

Assembling such a staff is a considerable investment, so most Indian restaurants sell Indian food for a higher price.

5. Indian Restaurants Have Fewer Competitors

5. Indian Restaurants Have Fewer Competitors

Given the cost of procuring, preparing, and cooking the ingredients of Indian food, few entrepreneurs dare to take on the task of starting an Indian restaurant.

Moreover, those who do attempt it are often overwhelmed by the expensive operational costs and close their business within the first year.

So, when there are few options for Indian food in a specific location, those that do provide Indian food can command higher prices.

After all, paying more is easier than driving to the next town or city just to eat in a cheaper Indian restaurant.

6. Indian Restaurants Necessitate Bigger Spaces

Indian food is popular worldwide, and the more popular an Indian restaurant, the bigger the staff it needs to keep operating to satisfactory speed and results.

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So, making room for the staff, loads of ingredients needed to make Indian food, and the dining area mean Indian restaurants have to buy or lease larger spaces.

Naturally, the bigger the space you buy or lease, the more costly it is, and compensating for this cost requires selling Indian food at a hefty price tag.

7. Indian Restaurants Are Patronized By Indian People

Indian restaurants are patronized mainly by Indian families and professionals in the United States, and the same can be said with Indian immigrants in other countries.

Typically, Indian immigrants secure high-paying jobs that give them the freedom to spend on authentic Indian food, regardless of how pricey.

On account of this, Indian restaurants are confident about selling Indian food at the rates that Indian immigrants are comfortable paying, making Indian food expensive.

8. Indian Cuisine Attracts Vegans & Vegetarians

While Indian food is not strictly vegan or vegetarian, it is easier for people who conform to these diets to enjoy varied and delicious food when dining in Indian restaurants.

After all, there are a lot of Indian foods that do not contain meat or animal products, and most are made with vegetables and plant-based proteins.

Therefore, with the growing popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets across the globe, people are becoming more and more interested in trying Indian foods.

Further, this increase in demand gives Indian restaurants the right to sell Indian food at higher prices.

9. Indian Cuisine Is Difficult To Recreate

Indian food is not something everyone can recreate at home. Generally, this is because procuring fresh, high-quality spices is not within everyone’s financial capabilities.

Moreover, using these spices properly and developing the techniques necessary for cooking Indian cuisine requires a lot of practice.

Consequently, good Indian food can often be found only in reputable Indian restaurants, making Indian food expensive.

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10. Good Indian Food Is Hard To Come By

Even Indian restaurants can have difficulty producing satisfactory Indian food if they do not hire an experienced chef and kitchen staff.

Often, capturing the essence of authentic Indian food necessitates hiring an Indian chef and sourcing all the ingredients fresh from India.

However, the best efforts of some Indian restaurants can still fall short for lovers of Indian cuisine and Indian people.

Therefore, when an Indian restaurant can consistently serve high-quality authentic Indian food, they can justify the costs of Indian dishes on the menu.

11. You Will Rarely Find Indian Fast-Food Restaurants

Most restaurants that sell food at really low prices are fast-food chains. Unfortunately, it is difficult—or even impossible—to fit Indian foods into that mold.

Additionally, most Indian restaurants are family-owned and are rarely successful enough to warrant franchising.

However, this popular business model suits the entrepreneurial preferences of Indian immigrants and preserves the authentic tastes of Indian food.

Therefore, when Indian restaurants are family-run and cannot be classified as fast-food restaurants, expect that the Indian food will not be cheap.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why Funyuns are so expensive, why Wingstop is so expensive, and why Magic Spoon is so expensive.

Conclusion

Indian foods are challenging to make, especially when restaurants do not hire the right cooking staff and procure the correct ingredients.

Furthermore, the ingredients necessary to make a single Indian dish can be as many as 20 to 30, and these ingredients are often imported from India.

Lastly, alongside the high cost of operating an Indian restaurant and the lack of competition, Indian foods are commonly sold with heftier price tags than other cuisines.

Author

  • Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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