The Best Snacks and Drinks to Buy at an Indian Grocery Store

From mango juice to masala noodles to dairy milk chocolate.

indian grocery store snacks
Photo by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist
Photo by Chineme Elobuike for Thrillist

I loved Netflix’s original Never Have I Ever. Devi Vishwakumar’s Gen Z problems ran the gamut from getting draped in a three-yard saree to attend a puja to being subjected to endless eye rolls from Indian aunties to hiding her nose piercing from her mother. Essentially, Mindy Kaling nailed my idea of what it means to be a desi girl in America.

Though the show doesn’t show much of what Devi eats at home (except for dosa and chutney), I secretly imagine her eating a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate at lunch break, slurping on Frooti after PE class, and her mother ensuring she gets a spoon of chyawanprash before school—all with the hope to feel a little more Indian-ish.

When it comes to food, it’s not just the traditional recipes that have sentimental value. It is also the cult brands that you engage with in your time in the home country. It’s the things you have eaten at your cousin’s home in Punjab or Gujarat on a summer vacation. It’s the brand names you have picked from stories in your grandparents’ narrations or from desi jingles that still ring in your ears—food memories are eternal.

This list of the most iconic snacks and grocery items to buy at an Indian store is not just for the desis out there. It is also for the experimental eater who wants to navigate the world of an Indian supermarket with the confidence of Kim K. in her Balenciaga shroud.

Our favorite Indian snacks and drinks

You rarely meet an Indian who doesn’t have an affinity for mangoes. No wonder then this mango-flavored drink is hugely popular in India and abroad. Frooti was the first-ever drink in India that was sold in PET bottles. It launched in 1985 and this was the first time they could get their hands on a bottled fruit juice in the country. Even today, desi parents proudly recycle Frooti bottles, using them to store everything from water to lemonade.

Parle G
Parle-G is one of the top selling biscuit brands not only in India, but also in the world. At par with an Oreo, the non-cream biscuit holds a cult status for desis across the globe and, without a doubt, they taste better when coupled with glasses of milky chai. Parle-Gs are to Indians what Tim Tams are to Australians—a treat you grow up eating and continue to eat no matter how old you get.

Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia
Bhujia refers to a fried flour snack that resembles broken shards of noodles. It’s the same width as a vermicelli and can be sprinkled on other Indian foods like a chaat (savoury canapés) or even potato and turmeric-hinted sandwiches. It’s value is multiplied when the bhujias come from Haldiram’s, an 80-year-old company that makes a variety of other stellar snacks like potato chips, papadams, and pickles.

Amul Butter
Amul launched in India just a year before the country got independence. And ever since, it has remained a leading dairy brand in India. The butter—smooth, golden, and rightly salty—remains a go-to product for bakers and breakfast lovers alike. The brand is so iconic, it seldom advertises in a mainstream way. Clearly it doesn’t need to, as the company is ranked sixth in the global butter market.

MDH Spices
Every Indian dish (sometimes even dessert and drinks) has a handful of spices that form its core flavor. While traditional Indian cooks always prefer making spice blends from scratch—for dishes like chole, pav bhaji, paneer masala, tandoori chicken and even chai—MDH offers relief. A 102-year-old brand, MDH spices include the pav bhaji mix, made with a combination of dry mango powder, coriander seeds, and pepper. We promise it will transport you straight to the streets of Mumbai.

Dairy Milk
A British chocolate made by Cadbury, Dairy Milk is kind of like an emotion in India. You just feel better unwrapping the foil paper to reveal the milky-tasting bar of chocolate neatly tucked inside. It’s hard to separate Indians from traditional confectionery known as a mithai, but Dairy Milk has slowly taken over that market, too, replacing desserts like ladoo (sweet globes made of chickpea flour) and peda (a reduced milk-based dish) in traditional festivities.

Dabur Chyawanprash
An ancient Indian adaptogen, chyawanprash is a jam-textured mixture made of ingredients like gooseberry, brahmi, long pepper, yashtimadhu, and other superfoods that are recommended even by Ayurveda. Indian moms are known to hand out a spoonful of this goop to kids every morning, like an ice cream man giving chocolate scoops in the summer. If you can get past it’s peculiar taste that is herby, nutty, and spicy, you’ll love it for its immunity-building property.

Kohinoor Basmati
Behind every successful biryani, there is basmati rice. Slender grains that lift up the texture of dishes like pilafs, basmati is a must-have in an Indian kitchen. A grain qualifies as basmati if it’s precooked length is 6.61mm, so expect really long strands of rice that hold flavor and color, both beautifully. The best way to eat them is to paint them with a milky concoction of sweet saffron strands and a big spoon of clarified butter. Or temper it with cumin seeds and add peas. Either way, basmati chawal never disappoints.

Vandevi Hing
Bright blue and yellow cases of Vandevi’s hing jars are another must-have in an Indian pantry. Asafoetida is a variety of gum that is added to the base of many Indian curries, dals, and vegetable stir fries. It has high antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and is known to be rich in antioxidants. Cooks love it for its piercing aroma that gets hidden quickly, once you add other ingredients to the dish. Essentially, it’s a savory flavor enhancer you should buy if you plan on cooking a lot of Indian food—because a little will go a long way.

Lijjat Papad
Started as a seven-women collective rolling out papads (sun-dried wafers made of dried lentils) on a terrace in Mumbai, Lijjat now has a network of more than 40,000 working women across India. Lijjat papads are important to an Indian meal experience, adding a nice crispy texture to the plate filled with veggies, bread, and meat curries. Roast your Lijjat papads on an open flame for best results.

Where to shop for Indian products

Patel Brothers is the largest Indian grocery chain in the U.S. and is your one-stop shop for all Indian food items. From flours to make your rotis, to semolina to make dessert, practically all ingredients can be found here.

If you’re looking online, try iShopIndian, a virtual market of groceries, baby food, cooking equipment, and frozen foods that are helpful when putting together an Indian feast.

For snack needs like jumbo Punjabi samosas that are ready to be fried, or an idli flour mix, dried chillies for tempering, or nankhatais to be enjoyed with chai, GroceryBabu stocks up on regional Indian groceries.

We knew that IndianGrocery was for keeps when we spotted the South Indian dessert Mysore pak here—a golden square made of gram flour and ghee, it’s not easy to find it even in India. Besides that, this website stocks several brands of Indian coffee, honey, tea, sugar, falooda mix, and everything you’d need to complete your Indian pantry.

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Sonal Ved is a Thrillist contributor and the author of Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine. She is the content lead at India Food Network and Tastemade India, and the food editor at Vogue India.