As a working college student, quick and easy microwavable meals are the way to go for dinner or lunch. While I'm not a fan of the excess packaging (as I try to be as low-waste as possible), they are very convenient and often taste really good. Indian food is one of my favorite types of cuisines- and not just because it can be found easily on the shelves of most grocery stores. The amount of options can get a little overwhelming, so I thought I'd try a bunch of different instant vegetarian Indian meal varieties from four brands and see how they ranked up for taste, speed, and cost efficiency. Here's what I discovered! 

Trader Joe's Tikka Vegetables 

Main Ingredients: potatoes, carrots, peas, onion, spices, etc. 

Cook time: 1 min 

Cost: $1.99 (2 servings)

Review: This instant meal is just alright; the taste is similar to other Trader Joe's soups. The veggies don't have much structure and the color is an unappealing brown. There definitely could be better seasoning as well. This meal does have dairy, so it is sadly only checks the vegetarian box. Sorry vegans! 

Trader Joe's Yellow Tadka Dal

Main Ingredients: yellow lentils, butter, water, and spices

Cook time: 1 min

Cost: $1.99 (2 servings)

Review: Pretty good! The lentils were very mushy, but not bad as far as taste goes. I would definitely recommend adding in some steamed spinach/kale and maybe roasted chickpeas for some texture. I normally top this over rice for some good carbs. Sadly, it does have dairy (which is not great for my lactose-intolerant self). 

Tasty Bite's Channa Masala

Main ingredients: tomatoes, onions, chickpeas, spices. 

Cook time: 1 min

Cost: $2.99 (2 servings)

Review: This one is actually pretty good! The chickpeas hold their shape and the spices are at a good level. You can't really taste the onions though, and there is some residual 'sludge' of a sauce after cooking the mix. 

Deep Indian Kitchen's Chickpea Masala

Main Ingredients : chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, peppers. 

Cook time: 4 mins (2 mins cook, let stand, 2 mins cook again)

Cost: $3.99 (SRP) (2 servings)

Review: I actually really enjoyed this! It's vegan and the chickpeas hold their shape. I didn't feel like I had to add any extra spices to make it taste good- unlike some of the other meals. This meal, along with all of the others, seem more like one serving rather than a full two, but I thought it was quite good and still reasonable for price. 

Mackenzie Laverick

Maya Kaimal's Red Lentil & Butternut Squash Dahl

Main ingredients: red lentils, squash, coconut cream, spices. 

Cook time: 90 seconds

Cost: $3.79 (2 servings)

Review: I was surprised by this product! It's still a little runny since the base includes soft lentils and squash, but I really liked the flavor and would rank this above Trader Joe's version. When I make this as a full meal, I like throwing in some kale, roasted tempeh, and nutritional yeast and serving it with a side of sweet potato fries or rice. Plus it's vegan!

Mackenzie Laverick

Maya Kaimal's Black Lentil Dal

Main ingredients: black lentils, tomatoes, spices

Cook time: 90 seconds

Cost: $3.79(2 servings)

Review: This was probably my favorite of all of the instant meals. The spices were the best for this one, and the black lentils held their shape better than the yellow lentils so the texture was much better. Plus the product is vegan, so no stomachaches from dairy!

Final Thoughts

Overall I'd say the least costly was Trader Joe's ($1.99 a pouch) but I'd say for taste and cost, Deep Indian Kitchen's was the best. I did receive a free sample of the chickpea masala from Deep Indian Kitchen along with another of their products, Pea and Potato Samosas (which are more of a side rather than a meal but also delicious). I would definitely go out and buy both of those products, along with Maya Kaimal's instant meals and handy instant curry sauces, which are great for mixing in to whatever veggie/protein stir fry you want to create for an instant curry.

I would rank Maya Kaimal's instant meals the best for flavor, but they are the most expensive of the products. While all of the instant meals say they contain around two servings, often I would eat the whole thing in one meal. I would also recommend serving all of these products with some extra vegetables like kale or spinach, which you can add while you're microwaving to steam them. You can serve over rice or with a side of potatoes to get a balanced meal.