Hands down the most popular Indian dessert in winters is Gajar ka Halwa ( carrot halwa)! And I have here my mother's incredibly easy recipe, with a small twist, for you to try.
The winter months bring a beautiful bounty of vegetables to the market. Red carrots are the sweetest at this time of the year. And absolutely essential for this halwa, in my opinion. Which is based on my parent's (very) strong opinion! This dessert has no charm for me, personally, with "out of season" carrots. It is indeed one of those recipes that really make a case for seasonal eating.
By the way, this halwa tastes great with black carrots too. These are available for a short period of time in North India during winters and are very popular for making kanji...a fermented carrot drink.
Ingredients For This Halwa
Other than the seasonal red carrots, the only other ingredients required are milk, sugar and a handful of nuts. Every home has its own take on gajar ka halwa, also known as gajarela.
Some people like to add ghee, others like to make it very rich with khoya ( evaporated milk solids) or condensed milk. A small change here and there makes a marked difference to the taste. That's the wonderful part about cooking, isn't it? Every recipe has a mark of tradition handed down from one generation to the next.
I make it my gajar ka halwa according to my mother's instructions...with just a couple changes. I cook the carrots in homemade almond milk. This is only to keep my lactose-intolerant tummy happy and the only sweetener here are dates! Yes, you heard that right. The carrots are really so sweet, and the almond milk also adds a tad bit of its natural nutty sweetness, so we ( mom and I) decided to get rid of sugar in this halwa all together. I promise you won't miss it!
How To Make Gajar ka Halwa
The process is a bit time consuming, but it is well worth the effort. You start with cooking grated carrots and chopped dates with milk, on low heat. Once the milk has been absorbed, stir in cardamom powder and nuts. That's it!
Even though I used almond milk, traditionally,full-fat milk is used. You can add some ghee to the cooked mixture once the milk is almost absorbed if you like.
You can add sugar, if using, at this point too.
Jaggery works very well too in this recipe. It gives a deeper, earthier taste which is very delicious.
Khoya is usually stirred in right at the end and cooked for about 15 - 20 minutes.
So there you go, one recipe with so many twists and variations!
While grating carrots, keep in mind to grate them thickly so they will retain some texture after getting cooked.
You can use a food processor for grating the carrots. I just go with a box grater, as I make it in small quantities.
This halwa freezes very well. Simply thaw and reheat in a pan whenever required.
Gajar ka Halwa tastes the best when served warm or hot. A bowlful of this delightful, healthy dessert, on a cold winter evening, is like a hug from your mother...full of love and comfort.
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Gajar ka Halwa
- 500 gms Red Carrots, thickly grated
- 750 ml Almond milk ( 3 cups) You can use full fat milk too
- 15-18 Dates, pitted and chopped
- 1 tsp Cardamom powder
- Raisins, Almonds, Cashewnuts, Melon Seeds For Garnish
- Combine the carrots, chopped dates, and milk in a thick bottomed pan or kadhai.
- Cook on low heat until all milk is absorbed. You will need to keep stirring frequently. Do not leave the pan unattended, this mixture can get scorched easily.
- Stir in the cardamom powder. Cook for another minute or so.
- Take it off the heat and garnish with raisins, almonds, cashews and melon seeds. Serve hot. Enjoy!