Gajar ka halwa is a popular Indian dessert made from grated carrots cooked in milk and sugar, laced with cardamom and garnished with roasted nuts. Learn how to make authentic, rich and creamy carrot halwa!
Have you seen the bright orange or red carrot pudding at Indian restaurants? This gajar ka halwa is the popular dessert you might have enjoyed at the buffet in Indian restaurants.
It is a healthy-ish dessert from North India. The winter months in North India are the season for beautiful red carrots, which are much sweeter than the orange carrots we get year round. Typically these red carrots are used to make carrot halwa. Unfortunately I could never find these carrots here in the US until recently.
However recently I saw that at the Indian grocery store. And I had to make carrot halwa the authentic way on the stovetop like my mom does.
I could never completely enjoy the halwa made with orange carrots. Even my husband frowned, but being a sweet lover he ate the halwa anyway.
There have been times I have gotten homemade carrot halwa on my way back from our India trip and freezed it. It is so good!
Now I can make the perfect carrot halwa here in my own kitchen. And of course, I have to share the recipe with you all.
If you want to try the quick version, here is a link to my instant pot carrot halwa recipe.
What Is Gajar ka Halwa?
Gajar ka Halwa, also called Gajrela, is an Indian carrot pudding, so rich, creamy, and delicious. It is made with cooking carrots with milk, sugar and ghee. I like to also add some ground cardamom which adds wonderful aroma and flavor to the pudding.
Gajar ka Halwa can be enjoyed as is, or serve it warm with a scoop of ice-cream topped with slivered pistachios. It is heavenly!
You won't believe, but carrot halwa needs just 5 basic ingredients which are easily available.
Carrots: Use fresh carrots, red or orange whichever are available. Traditionally made with red carrots, which definitely have the best authentic taste. But use whatever you can find. I am able to find red carrots at indian grocery stores in December and January in Bay Area.
Milk: Milk gives the rich creamy texture to this halwa. I use whole milk in this carrot halwa recipe. It gives the best results.
Ghee: We will add ghee at the end to get the perfect nutty flavor in the halwa.
Sugar: I use sugar as a sweetener in this recipe. But you can use dates or jaggery too. I have included details in recipe notes.
Cardamom: Add cardamom powder for the perfect aroma and flavor.
Nuts: You can use any nuts of choice to garnish at the end. I used sliced pistachios. You can also add raisins.
How To Make Gajar Halwa
The steps to make gajar ka halwa are very simple. However it needs some constant stirring and patience.
The best carrot halwa is made by cooking the carrots in milk until the milk evaporates. Then some sugar, ghee and cardamom create the magic to give the most flavorful carrot pudding.
Peel & Grate Carrots
Start with washing the carrots. Then peel them using a peeler.
Then we have to grate the carrots. You can use a hand grater or a good processor. The main thing to note is to use the thicker grate.
The fine grate makes the halwa too mushy, and does not result in the right texture.
Same if grating using a food processor, use the large grating blade. if there is no option for large grating, then may be best to grate by hand.
Saute & Cook Carrots
Add the grated carrots to a large pan and turn heat to medium-high. Saute the carrots for 5 minutes so that some of the moisture is removed.
Now add the milk to the same pan and let the milk (with the carrots) come to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium flame, and let the it cook.
Cook the carrots until all the liquid is evaporated. Stir frequently as you don't want the halwa to scorch the bottom of the pan. This will take about 35-45 minutes.
Now add the sugar to the halwa. The sugar will release water and make the halwa a little liquidy. Cook until the halwa becomes dry again.
Now add the cardamom powder, and remaining ghee and mix will the carrot halwa. This gives a great final touch and taste of ghee to the Halwa. Roast for a couple of minutes for the ghee to mix into the halwa.
Gajar ka halwa is ready to be enjoyed!
It is so good. Enjoy it at chai time or as a post-dinner dessert.
Instant Pot Carrot Halwa
I have a complete detailed recipe to make carrot halwa in the instant pot.
Vegan Carrot Halwa
To make this recipe vegan, replace milk with almond milk or cashew milk. Replace ghee with unsalted vegan butter.
Gajar ka halwa with Khoya
Using khoya can reduce the amount of time needed to cook the halwa to half.
Reduce the amount of milk added to the carrots to half liter. Add 1 cup khoya (grate it after measuring) along with sugar. Other than that, follow the recipe as is.
Gajar ka halwa with Milk powder
Many people like to add milk powder to the halwa for a richer taste. In this case, I would still add at least ½ liter milk for 1 kilogram of carrots. Then add 1 cup milk powder along with sugar to the carrots.
Carrot Halwa with Condensed Milk
This is a shortcut version to make carrot halwa. For 1 kg carrots, use one 14oz tin of sweetened condensed milk. In this case, skip adding any sugar.
Saute the carrots so their moisture dries out for 10 minutes. Then add the condensed milk, and saute until the halwa gets the right consistency.
Carrots: Use red carrots if you can find them. You want fresh, tender, carrots which don't have too much fiber. If the carrots are old, the halwa won't be as delicious.
Milk: I highly recommend to use full-fat whole milk. However if you want to make it low fat, you can use milk with 2% or 1% fat. You can also reduce the amount of ghee to make it lighter.
Grating carrots: Grate carrots using the thick grate of the food processor or a hand-held grater. If you grate them thin, the halwa gets too mushy.
Don't forget to stir: Stir the halwa at regular intervals while it is cooking. You don't want it to get stuck to the bottom of the pan. It is a hand work, but trust me, it is worth the effort.
How to serve halwa, hot or cold?
Enjoy this delicious Carrot Halwa as a healthy-ish post dinner treat.
If you want to serve it at a party or when you have company, pair warm carrot halwa with vanilla ice-cream. Top with some dried rose petals and slivered pistachios for the exotic look.
To make sugar free halwa, you can use dates. Soak 1 cup dates in water for 30 minutes, or boil them on the stovetop, then blend to a paste. Then use in place of sugar in the recipe.
Sure, you can replace sugar with the same quantity of jaggery in this recipe. Remember that the color of the halwa might be a bit darker if you use jaggery.
Let the halwa cool down completely to room temperature before storing. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in an airtight container. To store for longer, freeze for up to 3 months.
Reheat the amount needed in a small bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Or you can reheat in a pan on the stovetop. I would recommend to add a teaspoon of ghee when reheating.
Yes, typically you can eat carrot halwa during Navratri fast.
More Indian Desserts
Gajar ka Halwa (Carrot Halwa)
- Wash, peel and grate carrots using the thick side of a hand grater or food processor.
- Add 1 tablespoon of ghee to a pan on medium heat. Add the chopped pistachios (and other nuts) and roast until they become lightly golden in color. If adding raisins, add them now. Roast for 15 seconds more, take out and set aside.
- Add the grated carrots to a large pan and turn heat to medium-high. Saute the carrots for 5 minutes so that some of the moisture is removed.
- Now add the milk to the same pan and let the milk (with the carrots) come to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium flame, and let the it cook. You want to cook the carrots until all the liquid is evaporated. Stir frequently as you dont want the halwa to scorch the bottom of the pan. This will take about 35-45 minutes.
- Now add the sugar to the halwa. The sugar will release water and make the halwa a little liquidy. Cook until the halwa becomes dry again.
- Now add the cardamom powder, and remaining ghee and mix will the carrot halwa. Roast for a minute for the ghee to blend into the halwa.
- Garnish with the roasted nuts. Serve warm as is or topped with vanilla ice-cream!
Note: Nutrition values are my best estimates. If you rely on them for your diet, use your preferred nutrition calculator.