The presence of Indians (south Indians and north Indians) is quite significant in the United States – with an about 4.5-million community, they constitute 1.3% of the entire US population.
Although now a part of the US society, local Indians preserve their customs and culture and pass their heritage on to their children. And among the key cultural aspects that are passed down generations is Indian cuisine.
There is hardly a shortage of anything in the US, but when it comes to such sophisticated cuisines as that of India, it may be exceptionally difficult to find traditional Indian dishes or ingredients in American stores. Well, this is your chance as an Indian store owner.
Making up an assortment of products to sell is quite a challenging task. Your resources are probably limited, but the Indian cuisine’s riches are virtually boundless.
Well, to bring something concrete to your plans of running an Indian grocery store in the US, allow us to present you to a few grocery products that should definitely be stocked on your shelves for customers to buy.
Indian Grocery Store: What Should They Sell and What We Sell
Everything that we listed below (and 100s of other items) are available on our store here. Simply use the search bar to find what you are looking for.
Ghee is a kind of clarified butter that is a key ingredient in many Indian dishes. It is very commonly used in the preparation of Indian sweets such as Mysore pak or laddu. But more commonly, it is used as a topping or addition to other dishes. Ghee is typically used quite generously, so it certainly is a necessary product to have in a grocery store. Mysore pak is an Indian sweet prepared in ghee that is very popular in south india.
Jaggery is a sweetener used in Indian cuisine as an alternative to refined sugar. This sweetener is also produced from sugarcane, but because it is unprocessed and free of chemicals, jaggery is known as a healthy substitute to sugar. Adhirasam or ariselu , manoharam is a traditional sweet made out of jaggery.
As a sweetener, jaggery is primarily used in Indian desserts. With this in mind, any sweet-oriented Indian grocery store should have it available in abundance.
Aside from desserts, jaggery is sometimes added to dishes to balance their spiciness, saltiness, or sourness.
3. Rice mixes and Pickles
Pickles or achaar are exceptionally popular in Indian cooking. Remarkably, Indian pickles are made from a wide range of fruits, including gongura, tomato, mango, lemon, garlic, onions, coconuts, and ginger. The flavors of Indian pickles are varied as well because they are pickled with lemon juice, oil, vinegar, or simply water. Rice mixes are used to make instant ready to cook meals. Grand sweets & snacks tomato thokku, Vathakozhambu thokku, kothamali thokku, Chettinad Garlic Karakuzhambu, lemon rice mix, mor kuzhambu mix, pulikachal rice mix, onion thokku are very delicious rice mixes that has longer shelf live.
Some Indian families even have their own pickle recipes that they’ve passed down through generations!
4. Seer Bakshanam Paruppu Thengai Koodu
Seer Bakshanam are sweets and snacks present in many ceremonies in South India. Paruppu Thengai is one of the most popular Seer Bakshanam used on special occasions such as Upanayanam, Gruhapravesam(housewarming), seemandham(baby shower), Ayush homam(1st birthday) or Sapthiabthapoorthi(60th birthday). Most importantly, Paruppu Thengai or seeru koodu is a key part of South Indian weddings or kalyanam. This sweet is presented during all stages of a wedding.
Paruppu Thengai is composed of a pair of cones filled with sweets such as manoharam or manogaram, kaladai urundai, boondi paruppu thengai, cashew paruppu thengai and others. The presence of two cones signifies the couple, while the sweets inside represent their children. It’s also thought that the sweets inside bring good luck.
5. Hand Murukku (Kai Murukku)
Kai Murukkuis yet another South Indian snack popular with festivals and special events. Because “Kai” translates to “hand” in Tamil, his snack may be sold as Hand Murukku in some places. Besides, “Murukku” translates to “twisted”, which is characteristic of the snack’s shape.
You could use both names (Hand & Kai Murukku) in your store to avoid confusion and let people know what they are dealing with.
It’s perhaps important to know that Kai Murukku is a variation of Murukku. The key feature of Kai Murukku is that it’s made by hand with a stiffer dough.
Kai Murukku is fairly simple in preparation and has a neutral flavor that makes it a good addition to any festive table. It’s also made in various shapes and sizes, allowing it to satisfy the meal needs of various people.
6. Seer Murukku
Seer Murukku is one of the variants of Kai Murukku we’ve mentioned above. This snack consists of several spiral circles of Kai Murukku placed one inside another – usually, Seer Murukku include 7 or 9 circles of Kai Murukku, though fewer or more circles may be used as well.
Seer Murukku is as simple to make as Kai Murukku, with the exception that one will have to make several pieces of Kai Murukku to make this snack.
Thattai murukku or chekkalu are crispy south indian snacks from Tamil cuisine. They are traditionally deep-fried from rice flour, urad dal flour, salt, and plenty of herbs.
Interestingly, Thattai have salted and sweet versions. Both are commonly prepared for the Sri Krishna Jayanthi festival or Janmashtami.
As an Indian store owner, it’s important to know that Thattai are also called Nipattu in Karnataka and Chekkalu in Andhra Pradesh/Telangana.
Also known as Kajjaya in Kannada, Anarsa in Marathi, or Ariselu in Telugu, Adhirasam is a sweet from the Tamil cuisine. It’s also highly popular in the cuisines of Marathi, Telugu, and Kannada (as you could’ve guessed from the fact that it has different names in these cuisines).
This doughnut-shaped pastry is often prepared for the Deepavali festival. During the festival, it is offered to relatives at home and in temples in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Seedai are traditionally prepared for Krishna Janmashtami, the festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna. Like many other Indian snacks, seedai has both sweet and savory variants.
Seedai have a simple recipe but are fairly tricky to make because they can be burst while being fried. With trial and error, it’s not too difficult to take this snack under control, but many people prefer to purchase them from a store rather than waste time trying to master them.
Well, this is where you should come in as an Indian grocery store. Be sure to incorporate uppu seedai, vellai seedai, and seepu seedai in your store assortment.
10. Laddu or Ladoo
Laddu is similar to another popular Indian sweet, peda, but is made a little differently – boondi ladoo are prepared from flour, fat, and sugar. Some recipes also add dried raisins or chopped nuts for an enhanced flavor.
Although perhaps not as healthy as other Indian sweets due to the presence of oil (such as ghee), laddus are very popular in India. Like pedas, they are often used as prasadam. Aside from that, it is often used at family events like weddings.
Boondi laddu, a subtype of laddu, is popular in South India. Its difference from traditional laddu is that it is made from boondi based on Bengal gram floor, hence the name.
Thenkuzhal is yet another Murukku variant. Unlike the ones listed above, Thenkuzhal has a crispier texture and is made from lighter flour.
Thenkuzhal is prepared by many for Diwali or Krishna Jayanthi, but it may be made for any other special occasion as well.
12. Ribbon Pakoda
Ribbon Pakoda is a highly popular South Indian snack traditionally prepared during Diwali and the festive season. It’s also commonly used as a tea-time snack by South Indians.
A unique thing about Ribbon Pakoda is that a special piece of equipment called “Sev Sancha” or “Murukku Maker” is required to make them. Sev Sancha is passed from generation to generation in most South Indian homes and is intended to serve a lifetime.
Those who don’t have Sev Sancha have a few options to get Ribbon Pakoda, one of them being to purchase them from an Indian grocery store. Well, you know what this means for you!
13. Butter Murukku
There is no end to Murukku variants, and the next one on our list is butter Murukku. This variety of Murukku is very light, crunchy, and has a hint of butter flavor. Butter Murukkus are usually so light that they aren’t sold in spirals – rather, they are sold in broken pieces sized about 3 inches each.
14. Manoharam Urundai
Originating from Brahmin, South India, Manoharam Urundai basically is Thenkuzhal dipped in jaggery syrup and rolled into balls. Like Thenkuzhal, Manoharam Urundai have a crispy texture, but they also have a sweeter flavor thanks to the syrup.
Chandrakala gets its name from its shape – “Chandran” means “Moon”, which, as you may notice, comes from the half-moon shape of this dessert.
Chandrakala boasts a rich flavor thanks to its stuffing made from dry fruits, raisins, coconut, almonds, cashews, semolina, sugar, and many others. This sweet is similar to Gujiya, another popular Indian sweet, but has a richer taste and a smoother, more round appearance.
Chandrakala is very popular in North India and is traditionally made during Diwali and Holi.
Suryakala is a variation of Chandrakala made in a circular shape. More precisely, this dessert is shaped like the sun – its name comes from the word “suryan”, which means “sun”.
In terms of flavor and preparation, Suryakala isn’t much different than Chandrakala. In fact, their base recipes are pretty much identical. Like Chandrakala, Suryakala is often prepared during Diwali and Holi as well.
17. Sweet Somas
Sweet Somas is yet another sweet traditionally prepared for Diwali/Deepavali. Note that this sweet is known under different names – Somas, Somasi, or Karchikai in Tamil, Kajjikayalu in Andhra Pradesh, and Karanji in Maharashtra.
Aside from the names, what differs between these regional varieties of sweet somas is the stuffing, Traditional fillings incorporate coconut, sugar, and cashew nuts, but they may also be enhanced with cardamom, dry fruits, and other flavorings.
Jangiri is a sweet made from vigna mungo flour batter soaked in sugar syrup. This sweet usually has a circular flower shape.
What may make marketing this sweet a little more confusing is the variety of names it is known under. Aside from Jangiri, it is also called Imarti, Amriti, Emarti, Omritti, Amitti, Jahangir, and a few other similar names.
Jangiri is a very popular sweet at weddings and festivals. The city of Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh is particularly famous for its delicious Jangiri sweets. Jilebi is another variation of Jangiri.
19. Sambar powder and rasam podi
Homemade Sambar podi also known as south india curry powder is a must for all south Indian households being used on a daily basis. The tamil brahmin sambar podi is made of roasted coriander seeds, toor dal, chana dal, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds that gives the unique taste. Arachuvitta Sambar is a traditional south Indian sambar that has authentic taste. Other podi like paruppu podi, ellu podi, karuveppilai podi, coconut podi and garlic podi can be mixed with rice.
When it comes to flavor variety, barfi is one of the most remarkable Indian sweets. Although the base of all barfis is the same – condensed milk and sugar – they can be enhanced with fruits like mango or chocolate barfi, coconut, nuts like peanuts or pistachio, or spices such as rosewater and cardamom.
Thanks to their adaptability, barfis may be used in a variety of occasions. Besides, barfis are likely to cater to the taste of many buyers, so they definitely are a must-have in any Indian grocery store.
21. Kaju Katli
Kaju Katli is very similar to barfi, hence its alternative name Kaju Barfi. The word “Kaju” means “Cashew”, and as this might lead you to believe, Kaju Katli are prepared with cashew nuts.
Aside from cashew nuts, Kaju Katli often includes ghee, saffron, or/and dried fruits. And notably, the nuts are soaked in water overnight and then ground to a paste before preparation.
As a storeowner, you should know that Kaju Katli aren’t long-lasting. In summer, they last only 3-4 days, so you should make sure to have as little of this dessert in stock as you can. In winter, the dessert can last up to about 7 days, which isn’t terribly long either.
22. Badam Kathli
Badam Kathli or Katli is very similar to Kaju Katli. One of the differences between these two Indian desserts is their thickness – Kaju Katli are traditionally made light, while Badam Kathli may be made thick or light based on your preferences. But most importantly, Badam Kathli are prepared with almonds rather than cashew nuts, hence the name Badam Kathli (“Badam” means “almonds”)
23. Soan cake
Soan cake is widely associated with Diwali – gifting this dessert is an inseparable part of the Diwali festival.
The recipe of the Soan cake is simple yet produces one of the most delicious desserts that you may ever have the chance to taste. Furthermore, since this dessert doesn’t require much sugar for preparation, it’s relatively healthy, especially compared to those Indian sweets that are drenched in sugar syrup or oil.
Of course, Soan cake also incorporates sugar and ghee, but they are used fairly sparingly.
Some varieties of this cake also contain coconut, cardamom, pistachios, or rose petals. You may start with selling the base Soan cake, but we strongly suggest that you also include its varieties as your store grows.
24. Bombay Kaja
The Bombay Kaja dessert is very popular in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Like many other Indian desserts, it is traditionally prepared for Diwali.
Aside from Maharashtra, Bombay Kaja is also popular in South India, especially in Andhra Pradesh. Here, Bombay Kaja is known as Khaja or Madatha Kaja.
Notably, Bombay Kaja has a shelf life of 2 weeks if kept in a tight container. This means that you could have a considerable stock of this dessert pretty safely.
25. Pavakkai chips
Made from bitter gourd, Pavakkai chips have a bitter taste, which might seem like a weird flavor for chips. Still, their crispy texture is quite the delight.
In the US, Pavakkai chips are difficult to make at home because bitter gourd isn’t readily available in many of the country’s areas. This means that for many lovers of Indian cuisine or just Indians residing in America, purchasing Pavakkai chips is the only option.
26. Masala chips
Masala chips are an Indian take on French fries. Unlike traditional French fries, Masala chips are filled with spicy flavors, which makes them an excellent snack for tea or coffee time.
Like French fries, the basis of Masala chips is potato. For the spicy flavor, the recipe of Masala chips incorporates chili powder. And for an even more sophisticated taste, Masala chips often include cumin seeds as well.
27. Badam halwa
Badam halwa is a traditional Indian sweet made with ground almonds (hence the name “Badam halwa”), sugar, ghee, saffron, and cardamom. Thanks to its rich recipe, Badam halwa boasts no less rich flavor properties.
Badam halwa is a popular dessert in South Indian cuisine. In fact, it’s a popular gift snack during weddings and religious ceremonies. Besides, Badam halwa is commonly prepared for other special events as well.
28. Mysore pak
Mysore pak is among those Indian sweets that shouldn’t be eaten too often. Made of generous amounts of sugar, ghee, and gram flour, Mysore pak has a heavenly flavor but certainly isn’t a healthy snack. This dish delightfully melts on your tongue while delivering irresistible sweetness. sri krishna sweets mysore pak is one of the most popular in south india.
Mysore pauk is a traditional snack at weddings and is very popular in baby showers. Interestingly, this dish is believed to have been made accidentally. With little time to serve the King a dessert, the creator of the dish, chef Kakasura Madappa wished to present him with an unusual dish. When asked the name of the dessert, Madappa answered “Mysore pak” – the first thing that came to his mind.
Jalebi is an ancient Indian sweet that is traditionally shaped like a pretzel, though it may sometimes also made in circular shapes. Jalebis are made by deep-frying flour batter and then soaking in sugar syrup. This sweet is also commonly colored with food dyes, as well as enhanced with rosewater, citric acid, or lime juice.
Badusha (badushah) is essentially the Indian glazed doughnut – the two desserts are fairly similar, but badusha has a somewhat different texture and taste. Badushas are made from all-purpose flour, ghee, and baking soda.
If you didn’t know, badushas are a subtype of balushahi. The difference lies in their recipes – balushahi are made from maida flour deep-fried in butter (often ghee) and dipped in sugar syrup.
Boondi is made from sweetened chickpea flour. It’s generally very sweet and can thus be stored for only about a week, so you should be conscious about your stock. There also is a savory variation of boondi called Khara or Tikha.
Boondi has high cultural and religious value because it is very often served on Tuesday. In Hinduism, Tuesday is the day of worshipping and praying to Ganesh, Durga, Kali, and Hanuman.
32. Ellu Urundai
Ellu Urundai is a pastry-like snack traditionally made from jaggery, roasted peanuts, and black sesame seed. This dessert is commonly associated with the festival of Diwali. And thanks to its minimalist recipe, Ellu Urundai is a fairly healthy sweet.
Interestingly, sesame seeds are generally considered to have healing properties – particularly, they are thought to reduce blood pressure.
Finally, consider adding chikki to your grocery store assortment as well. Chikkis are also often called peanut jaggery balls or kadalai urundai.
Chikki is a brittle Indian sweet usually made from jaggery and peanuts. A notable feature of chikkis is that it has many varieties that include additional ingredients like puffed rice, sesame, and other types of nuts like pistachios or almonds. Some recipes may involve more exotic ingredients like strawberry or cranberry.
34. Appalam, Vadam and Vathal
Applam (papad, also called papadam), vadam and Vathal are a big part of traditional south Indian meal. They are thin crisp flatbread made out of urad or rice flour. They are usually fried and eaten as an appetizer.
That’s it for our little top of must-have items in an Indian grocery store in the US!
As a sweet-oriented grocery store, our list is more focused on sweets and desserts. You don’t need to sell exclusively sweet things in your grocery store, though the items that we’ve featured should be sold in any Indian grocery store, in our opinion.
There are many, many more items that you may add to your grocery store assortment. However, starting small wouldn’t hurt in the beginning, especially given that your budget is likely limited.
In the end, you may follow our list as-is, or you may just use it an inspiration in making your own Indian grocery store list. No matter what you choose to sell, make sure that your quality of service is excellent. There aren’t too many grocery stores in the US in the first place, so you should make yours a gem in the area you serve.