Do Parsis Eat Beef? A Closer Look at the Cultural and Religious Influences on Parsi Cuisine

Parsis are an ethno-religious group descended from Persian Zoroastrians who originally settled in India over a thousand years ago. Known for their contributions to business, philanthropy, and culture, the Parsi community developed a unique cuisine that blends Persian and Indian influences. This leads many to wonder do Parsis eat beef?

The answer is more nuanced than a simple yes or no. Parsi cuisine has been shaped by both cultural promises and religious doctrine. Let’s explore how these factors influenced the Parsi relationship with beef.

The Parsis’ Promise to the People of Mumbai

When Parsis first arrived in India fleeing religious persecution in Persia, they made a promise to the Hindu locals when settling in Mumbai To show respect for Hindu customs, the Parsis pledged to abstain from eating beef, since cows are sacred in the Hindu religion

Most Parsis upheld this promise, avoiding beef and adapting their cuisine to ingredients more acceptable to Hindus like vegetables, legumes, and goat meat. This had a significant impact in shaping Parsi cuisine over centuries.

Religious Influences on the Parsi Diet

In addition to cultural promises, the Zoroastrian religion also provides guidance on food customs. Zoroastrian teachings prohibit consumption of meat for a period of 11 days every month.

During these days, Parsis rely on vegetarian proteins like legumes and eggs. Fish is permitted, however, and forms a major part of the Parsi diet.

These religious directives encouraged Parsis to explore diverse vegetarian options while allowing fish as an acceptable protein substitute during holy periods.

The Modern Parsi Relationship with Beef

Today, not all Parsis abstain from beef. Some members of the younger generation and Parsis living abroad do consume beef regularly.

However, many Parsis still honor the promise made centuries ago and refrain from eating beef out of respect for Hindu customs. Others avoid it due to religious mandates.

So while beef is not categorically forbidden, cultural and religious influences resulted in most Parsis traditionally avoiding beef, even if they ate other meats like goat, chicken or fish.

Signature Ingredients in Parsi Cuisine

Parsi cuisine skillfully combines Persian and Indian flavors using signature ingredients:

  • Spices: turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, ginger
  • Herbs: mint, coriander, parsley
  • Vegetables: tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, okra
  • Fruits: mangos, apricots
  • Nuts and seeds: cashews, almonds, pistachios
  • Legumes: lentils, chickpeas
  • Eggs and dairy: paneer, yogurt, eggs
  • Seafood: prawns, fish
  • Goat and chicken: for non-vegetarian dishes

The use of turmeric, coriander, nuts, and fresh produce gives Parsi food a unique medley of sweet, savory and tart flavors.

Popular Parsi Beef Dishes

While beef consumption is limited, some signature Parsi beef dishes include:

  • Lagan nu Beef: A wedding specialty of slow cooked beef curry and vegetables.

  • Beef Chilly Fry: Cubes of beef sautéed with chilies, vinegar and spices.

  • Beef Cutlets: Ground beef mixed with mashed potato, breadcrumbs and spices, breaded and fried.

These beef dishes often appear at celebrations, weddings and festivals, although vegetables, fish and goat remain more commonplace ingredients.

Parsi Classics Made Without Beef

Many quintessential Parsi dishes are completely beef-free. Popular options include:

  • Patra ni Macchi: Fish steamed in chutney stuffed banana leaf parcels.

  • Sali Boti: Tangy lamb or chicken with apricots and potatoes.

  • Dhansak: Lentils simmered with mutton, pumpkin and spices.

  • Malido: Sweet cream of wheat pudding with nuts and raisins.

  • Lagan nu Custard: Cardamom infused baked custard.

Parsi cuisine showcases how rich flavor and tradition can be maintained without relying on beef. Creative use of spices, fresh ingredients and alternate proteins resulted in a remarkable cuisine without the need for beef.

The Verdict: It’s Complicated

  • Historically most avoided it out of respect for Hindus.
  • Religious rules restrict meat during holy times.
  • Some modern Parsis do consume beef more regularly.

Yet beef remains relatively rare in traditional homemade Parsi meals. Cultural promises and religion encouraged creative approaches to food that largely exclude beef from this rich and revered cuisine.

Who Are The Parsis| What Is Parsi Food | Parsi Community In India | Parsi Cuisine


Is beef allowed in Zoroastrianism?

After fleeing to India, many Zoroastrians stopped eating beef out of respect for Hindus living there. The lands of Zoroaster and the Vedic priests were those of cattle breeders. The 9th chapter of the Vendidad of the Avesta expounds the purificatory power of cow urine.

Can Parsi eat pork?

Some foods and drinks that Parsis typically avoid include: Beef and Pork: Consumption of beef and pork is generally avoided as cows are considered sacred in Zoroastrianism, and pork is considered impure.

Do Parsi eat non-veg?

Parsi are non-vegetarian, with sheep and goat dishes on most menus.

What is the holy food of Parsis?

Nuts, apricots and other dry fruit is widely used in Parsi kitchens, and yet another Persian tradition is the use of rosewater or the mixing of rose, saffron and nuts in milk. The famous Parsi Dhanshak evolved from the Iranian dish Khoresh Esfenaj which a stew made with meat, lentils and vegetables.

What is Parsi cuisine?

Parsi cuisine refers to the traditional cuisine of the Parsi people who had migrated into the Indian subcontinent from Persia, and currently spread across the modern-day South Asian republics of India and Pakistan. The basic feature of a Parsi lunch is rice, eaten with lentils or a curry.

Do Parsi eat meat?

Animal protein is so fundamental to the Parsi diet that even during the holy month of Bahman, when Zoroastrians are supposed to abstain from meat, they’re permitted fish and eggs. Vegetables, on the other hand, are almost never eaten in isolation.

What to eat in Parsi?

The basic feature of a Parsi lunch is rice, eaten with lentils or a curry. Curry is made with coconut and ras without, with curry usually being thicker than ras. Dinner would be a meat dish, often accompanied by potatoes or other vegetable curry. Kachumbar (a sharp onion-cucumber salad) accompanies most meals. Popular Parsi dishes include:

What do Parsis eat?

The Parsis also have a habit of putting meat into pretty much everything, creating unique dishes such as bottle gourd cooked with meat; meat cooked with spinach, fenugreek leaves and peas; okra with meat; keema (mincemeat) with peas and potatoes, and many other strange and wondrous concoctions.

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