How India Became a Nation of Eggetarians

The egg’s prominence in the Indian vegetarian diet is a point of contention. The perennial question is: are eggs meat?

Mehr Singh

January 24, 2023

How India Became a Nation of Eggetarians
A vendor displays eggs as a chicken stands nearby at Chennai's Pallavaram market on September 11, 2020. (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

In India, pastry shops carry cases with a small, green sticker with one simple word: “eggless.” Along with trays full of delights such as fruit cake studded with jujubes and salty-sweet caramel toffee, these bakeries often feature endless eggless versions of their tastiest treats. The word “eggless” is to Indian bakeries what “chocolate” is to bakeries in the West — you wouldn’t be in business without it. 

Many assume that India is a country of vegetarians, but that’s miles from the truth: 69% of Indians eat meat, and about 23% are egg eaters. Of this latter group, 9% identify as “eggetarians,” or vegetarians who eat eggs. 

Humans have been eating chicken eggs for 6 million years. People domesticated jungle fowl in the Indian subcontinent starting around 3200 B.C. Yet, millions of Indian vegetarians did not add eggs to their daily diets until the early 1980s. So, how did a country stratified by religious and gastronomic differences become an egg epicenter?