Friday, April 1, 2011


gajar halwa

My Indian physiatrist (he’s a muscle specialist, not a head shrink) waxed poetically for months about his favorite dessert, made by his grandmother in India.  He reminded me of a homesick school boy as he reminisced about the sweetness of the carrots,  the chewiness of the raisins,  the crunch of the pistachios, cashews and almonds, the warmth of the pudding as it came off the stove, and mostly how it satisfied his hunger and was a gift of love from his grandmother.  As I listened, I was amazed that he could be so excited about carrot pudding.  (That’s the literal translation of gajar halwa.  In Hindi, “gajar” is carrot and “halwa” is pudding.)  In India, it’s made with red carrots, which are sweeter than American orange carrots.  Still, it didn’t sound like anything I would like.  But, with his birthday looming, I decided to make him happy. 

After watching several You-tube videos on the subject and reading at least 10 different recipes, I had my plan formulated and my confidence boosted.  My first surprise was how very easy it is to make.  My second was how much I liked it.  This is a dessert I could easily get excited about.  It’s that good.  If you’re wondering what it tastes like, think carrot cake in pudding form.  The milk and sugar mix with the carrots and cook down into a subtly sweet pudding studded with pan-toasted nuts and raisins.  A touch of cardamom hides in the background.  You’ll be licking the plate for every drop.  It’s delicious warm or cold, and I hope you can stop at just one serving because it’s not exactly low-cal. 

So far, I’ve given you an appetizer and entree for your Indian meal.  This is your dessert.  And it will steal the stage, for sure.  I hope you enjoy your Indian dinner.

Gajar Halwa (Indian Carrot Pudding)
Adapted from
Rating:  10 out of 10

INGREDIENTS:  3 Tbsp. of ghee* or unsalted butter, divided use
1 Tbsp. broken unsalted cashews
1 Tbsp. unsalted pistachios
1 Tbsp. unsalted blanched slivered almonds
3 Tbsp. golden raisins
4—1/2 cups peeled, grated carrots (grated on large holes of box grater)**
2 cups whole milk or half and half
1 (14 oz.) container sweetened condensed milk
3-4 cardamom pods, deseeded, ground finely

In 10” or larger heavy sauté pan, melt 1 Tbsp. ghee or butter on medium heat.  Add nuts and raisins and cook, stirring, till cashews are golden brown and raisins plumped, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to bowl.

Add 1 Tbsp. butter to sauté pan and increase heat to medium-high.  Add carrots.  Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes, until the raw smell of the carrots turns into a yummy fragrance.  Add both milks and stir well to combine.  Stir occasionally for the first ten minutes, then stir more often as the mixture boils down. 
gajar halwa (11)

When the carrot and milk mixture begins to come together (about 30 minutes in all), starts to leave the sides of the pan, it is of halwa consistency (a little thicker than applesauce).  Taste it.  It should be pretty sweet.  If it is not sweet enough, add sugar (up to 1/4 cup) and stir for another few minutes to incorporate.  (I added 3 Tbsp. sugar.)  Off heat.  Add cardamom powder, nuts and raisins and the remaining tablespoon of butter.

Serve warm or cold.  Yield:  about 8 servings

*Ghee is clarified butter, or butter with water and impurities removed.
**Grating the carrots can go quickly if you hold the tapered end of the carrot and start grating with the fat end of the carrot on the grater.  
gajar halwa (8) 
Instead of standing the box grater up to do this, lay it down, so the carrot pieces fall into the grater.  Empty grater into measuring bowl as you go along. 
gajar halwa (9)


Ana Powell said...

This is lovely and very unusual.
Beautiful colour and wonderfully sweet.
Wishing you a great weekend ♥

teresa said...

i am so intrigued with this, it looks delicious!

Pat Palmer said...

Judy, I'm going to try this. We like Indian food, but we haven't had this.