Carrot halwa is an Indian dessert made of grated carrots, whole milk, cream, pure ghee, sugar, cardamom, almonds and cashewnuts. Intensely flavourful and impossible to resist!
There is no word in English for 'halwa'. I realized this when I was trying to translate 'gajar ka halwa' into English. I couldn't proceed beyond 'gajar' which obviously means carrot. For some words, of course, there are no English equivalents, but it still came as a slight surprise. So, I'll try my best to describe it to you.
There are lots of varieties of halwa but the one common thing among all of them is that these are very dense desserts made by cooking the main ingredient (in this case, carrot) in milk first and then roasting it in pure ghee (clarified butter) and sugar. Other goodies are added, but by and large, this is the basic technique of making halwa.
At this point, a little bluntness is in order 😉
Traditional Indian desserts are not for the faint-hearted. (Did you wince already at the ingredients?) This carrot halwa is not for you if you want something quick and light and healthy. No sir, it's not any of those things.
It's a seriously sweet confection that's got loads of sugar and fat (not more than your average chocolate bar though). But, have it once and your senses are going to explode in delight, I can promise you that! It's that intensely addictive combination of milk, sugar and pure ghee that creates the magic. However, as I always say, if you behave yourself and eat healthy MOST of the time, you can indulge ONCE in a while.
I don't make carrot halwa more than once or twice in a year, usually around the festive season. When I do, everyone at my place goes berserk. Yes, it's that good 🙂
How to make carrot halwa
Grate the carrots - It takes hours to grate carrots by hand plus it's totally exhausting, so don't even think about it! It's easier to grate them in a food processor and be done with it. This is the result: finely grated carrots in 15 minutes.
Grind the nuts - Don't forget to soak them first for an hour or two. It makes for much easier grinding and a finer paste. Put the nuts in a small blender along with a little milk or water and blend.
Cook grated carrots in milk - Heat milk and add grated carrots. Cook until all the milk has been absorbed.
Prepare the ghee tempering - Heat ghee and add whole spices (cardamom and cloves). Pour this spice infused ghee into the cooking halwa.
Add the rest of the goodies - Tip in the almond-cashew paste prepared above, sugar, cream, cardamom powder and coconut powder. Saute until the halwa turns glossy.
Carrot halwa is ready!
carrot halwa (gajar halwa)
Carrot halwa is an Indian dessert made of grated carrots, whole milk, cream, pure ghee, sugar, cardamom, almonds and cashewnuts.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 2 hours
- Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 12-14 servings 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: Indian
- 2 liter whole milk
- 2 kilograms or 4.4 pound carrots
- 350 grams or 12.3 ounce white, granulated sugar
- 1.5 cups pure ghee
- 3 green cardamom
- 3 cloves
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 1 tbsp dry coconut flakes + extra for garnish
- 12 almonds (soaked in water for an hour) + 5 almonds, slivered for garnishing
- 12 cashewnuts (soaked in water for an hour)
- Grate the carrots and keep aside. Grind the almonds and cashewnuts together in two tablespoons milk or water and keep aside.
- Pour milk in a large and heavy Dutch oven and add grated carrots. Cook on medium heat until all the milk is absorbed by the carrots. (1 to 1.5 hours)
- Melt ghee in a pan and add cardamom and cloves. After one minute, pour this spice-infused ghee in the carrot-milk mixture.
- Add sugar, cream, cardamom powder, coconut powder and the ground almonds and cashews. Roast on medium to high heat till the carrots turn dark and glossy. (1 hour)
- Garnish with slivered almonds and coconut flakes. Serve warm.
- Don't leave the carrot and milk mixture unattended for prolonged periods. You can let go for a few minutes; there's enough liquid in there to cook on its own for some time. But do check and give it a good stir with a wooden spoon every now and then!
- Make sure all the milk has been absorbed by the carrots before adding ghee and sugar (see picture). If the carrots are still liquidy, the halwa will not turn out that good.
- Pure ghee is available in Indian stores. It is semi-solid at room temperature. Measure 1.5 cups of ghee in this semi-solid state, and make sure to pack it tightly in the cups to give an accurate measure.