Luxurious, rich, creamy.
Gajar Ka Halwa.
Save this recipe for a day when you’ll be at home, because this baby requires time, patience and a whole lot of stirring! And preferably a food processor to grate the carrots.
But believe me when I say it is worth every minute. You will be left with a decadent, nutty and distinctly fragranced dessert that will impress everyone including yourself! I’ll be honest and say I was totally blown away by how delicious this turned out on my first attempt! Please everyone, use ghee! There are no substitutes for it (well, you can use oil but it won’t come even close to tasting as good as the ghee version, sorry!)
Here’s a fun fact I posted on my Instagram a few days ago. Carrot Halwa with ice cream was served at my wedding. But, by some sadistic twist of fate, for some reason unknown to me I didn’t get any!! To this day my friends tell me it was the best dessert they’re ever had at a wedding. I don’t mean to sound like a moaning, whining little brat of a bride, but I love dessert and you’d think you’d get treated to a pretty memorable complete dinner on your big day, no? But it’s alright. Whenever the thought of this sad memory comes crawling into my mind, I will make myself some Gajar Ka Halwa, serve it with some icecream and pretend like it tastes just like the one served at my wedding (Although, I will never know if it really does).
What is Gajar ka Halwa?
Gajar ka Halwa is a Pakistani/Indian dessert made using carrots and milk. It is usually garnished with nuts and raisins.
Let me tell you, this is one of my favourite Pakistani desserts – the sweet flavour and texture of the carrots once it has been cooked down is out of this world! It becomes almost fudgy, which makes it so so delicious when it is served warm on a cold winter day.
Gajar ka Halwa is a popular dessert to serve at weddings and parties. It is considered a winter dessert due to the abundance of carrots available in the winter season in Pakistan/India and also due to the warming properties of carrots – some households make a point to cook Gajar ka Halwa at least once a year in winter.
Strangely, you may have seen it garnished with boiled eggs at some point if you’ve been served Gajar ka Halwa in Pakistan or in a Pakistani household? Why? I have absolutely no idea, but it’s a thing! I think it could be because Gajar ka Halwa is viewed as a ‘winter’ dessert and eggs are also ‘warming’ – just a hunch! Let me know in the comments if you know the answer to this!
How do you make Gajar ka Halwa?
My method of Gajar ka Halwa uses a very simple recipe using just carrots, sugar, milk, ghee, cardamom seeds and nuts. I don’t use anything fancy like khoya or condensed milk and that’s purposeful – I wanted to make this recipe more approachable and accessible to those who may just have to hand basic ingredients.
The recipe starts off by dry-heating the raw, grated carrots and cardamom seeds in ghee.
Once some of the moisture has dried off (there will be A LOT), we add in the milk and then leave this to cook on a low heat for between 2-3 hours. The milk will reduce significantly, and this is how we get the decedant, creamy texture that is to-die-for!
Eventually, the milk will have dried off and what will be left in the pot will be a thick mixture of the carrots and milk. At this stage, we add the ghee and sugar and this is where the magic will happen. In Pakistani and Indian food, a lot of emphasis is given on the frying part of any recipe. This is where all the flavour-making happens. We will give the carrot mixture a lovingly thorough fry off – the colour will deepen, it will begin to look glossy and the flavours of the ghee, carrots, milk and sugar will all marry together and become the Gajar ka Halwa we all love and want. We finish by stirring in some nuts and ideally serving this hot!
A few tips on achieving Gajar ka Halwa greatness:
- The quality of the carrots really matter here. Make sure you’re using fresh, good quality carrots. In the UK, it is rare to find carrots that look red/pink in colour – those are the best variety to use. If you can get your hands on those, definitely opt for those – they look like the carrots you get in Pakistan/India!
- Definitely don’t make the mistake of stepping away for more than a few minutes from the carrots and milk when they are cooking. Gajar ka Halwa needs pretty much constant attention and stirring and scraping of the bottom of the pot, otherwise it can boil over or burn
- If you have a grater in your food processor, using that will save you LOADS of time and energy. If you don’t have the grater option, then I really do not recommend you grind your carrots in the food processor. Grated carrots are essential for the texture of Gajar ka Halwa, ground carrots will just not cut it. Sorry!
How to achieve a beautiful, bronze/orange shade
Edited 04/12/2021: Over the years, a common question I’ve received is ‘how do you achieve the shade of orange shown in pictures?’
The more you fry the Gajar Ka Halwa mixture in the ghee, the darker the colour will be. This is a tip that can be generalised for other Halwas too, including Sooja Ka Halwa. More frying + more ghee = darker shade.
Similarly, if you’re after a lighter, brighter shade, reducing the fry time will enable this.
Want a creamier, luxurious Gajar ka Halwa? Read on
- You can really make this dessert a much more luxurious affair by adding condensed or evaporated milk alongside the milk. Your cook time will change depending on how much moisture you will need to dry off, and you may also need to adjust the sugar. I didn’t use condensed milk in this recipe to make sure this was a simple, easily approachable recipe, but it really does kick things up a notch!
- Similarly, to add more luxury, you can also add khoya. Add this in when you add the sugar.
- This definitely is not a recipe to try and be low calorie for. Don’t use skim milk, you will miss out on the decadence of this. Save the skim milk for something else
PS: Want to try this with beetroot? Go ahead! You can substitute beetroot kg for kg in this recipe to end up with a luxurious, purple-hued chikander ka halwa which is also great to serve as a winter dessert!
Enjoy, with love x
- 2 kg carrots
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 1/4 cup ghee, 1/4 for initial sauteing and 1 for the end
- 1 1/2 cups suugar
- 1 handful nuts, optional but highly recommended
- 6 cardamom seeds (elaichi)
- Trim the ends of the carrots and grate them. If you have a food processor, you can use the grater settings to grate the carrots (this is what I did).
- In a large pot, heat 1/4 cup of ghee on medium heat.
- When heated, add the cardamom seeds and grated carrots and mix in.
- Allow the carrots to cook, stirring occasionally. The carrots will release A LOT of steam. We want to dry out the carrots as much as we can before adding the milk. This will take about 30 minutes.
- Add the milk. Bring to an almost-boil then reduce the heat to medium.
- Continue to cook, uncovered, until the milk evaporates. This may take between 2-3 hours, depending on how much moisture is in your carrots and on your heat. It took me 2.5 hours. Remember to stir occassionally, especially during the last 30 minutes when the mixture will be drier and may begin to stick to the bottom of the pot. If you pull the halwa to one side of the pot and see some milk release from the sides within a few seconds, this means the halwa is still too moist and needs more drying out.
- Once most of the moisture has evaporated, add in the ghee and sugar.
- Continue to cook on medium heat, stirring often, for about 25 minutes. You may begin to see the Halwa change colour to a deep autumn shade of orange and the ghee may begin to separate at the sides from the carrots - this is normal and what we want!
- When done, turn off the heat and chop in half of your nuts. Garnish with the remaining nuts.
- Serve warm, on it's own or with ice cream 🙂