Carrot Halwa, also called Gajar ka halwa, is a delicious dessert made with grated carrots, milk, sugar and cardamom. This is a healthy and light dessert from North India, which we will make in the Instant Pot and stovetop. This is the bright orange carrot pudding, the popular dessert you might have enjoyed at the buffet in Indian restaurants.
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 we don't get these carrots here in the US at all, so we will just use orange carrots to make our halwa.
What is Gajar ka Halwa?
Gajar ka Halwa, also called Gajrela, is an Indian carrot pudding, so rich and delicious. It is made with cooking carrots with milk, sugar and ghee.
Traditionally Carrot Halwa is made with cooking grated carrots with lots of milk, and cooking down the milk on the stovetop. This involved lots of stirring and monitoring. Here is my detailed gajar ka halwa recipe on the stovetop.
With our busy lives, it is hard to get the motivation to firstly grate the carrots and then actively monitor them for an hour or more on the stovetop. But this is such a delicious dessert! So let's see how we can harness the features of the Instant Pot to make Carrot Halwa.
Here are some more halwa recipes that you might enjoy:
Why not pressure cook Carrot Halwa?
I was seeing so many recipes where people have been pressure cooking carrots to make halwa, so I gave it a try. However my punjabi family (in particular my husband) would not approve of it. We felt that the carrots were overcooked and did not have the texture of the halwa we all loved (especially compared to my mom, she makes the best carrot halwa).
Here is my theory for why pressure cooking is not the ideal method for carrot halwa - For carrot halwa, we want to cook the carrots along with milk, however we also want to cook down all the liquid and make a dry halwa.
However when we pressure cook, the carrots cook quickly but all the liquid remains in the pressure cooker. Then we have to saute again for a longer time to cook down the excess liquid, which overcooks the carrots.
We will need very basic ingredients in this recipe:
Carrots: Use fresh carrots, red or orange whichever are available. Traditionally made with red carrots, however it is hard to find the red ones in the USA.
Milk: Milk is added to the carrots to cook it. I use whole milk in this carrot halwa recipe.
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.
Almond powder or Milk Powder: You can use milk powder or almond powder to get the dry grainy texture at the end. Use almond powder as a vegan substitute.
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 almonds.
How to make Carrot Halwa?
So let's look at the alternatives. I explored the Sauté and Slow cook settings in the instant pot. Slow cook mode worked with first having to boil the grated carrots in milk and then slow cooking for 4 hours. However I don't always have the patience to wait that long.
This led me to try the Saute(Low) mode which defaults to 30 minutes. This time was perfect to get the carrots cooked along with the milk. I covered the pot with a glass lid and stirred the carrots just once in between. Carrots release a lot of their intrinsic water when cooked, so they did not stick much to the bottom or burn.
After that, I added sugar, cardamom, almond flour (or milk powder) and ghee. I like to add almond flour to make the halwa healthier, however you can choose to add milk powder or khoa/mava too. Now it will take just 2-3 minutes of stirring on Saute (Normal) to have perfectly cooked carrot halwa. Garnish with sliced almond or pistachios. Enjoy it warm!
Did you notice I add ghee at the very end? I believe this is typical of carrot halwa made in North India. This gives a great final touch and taste of ghee to the Halwa. Carrot Halwa can be refrigerated for up to a week. It will also freeze well. I do not recommend to cut this recipe in half. If you do, then keep for half the time on saute (low) mode initially.
You might ask - What is the advantage of make halwa in the Instant Pot?
- It is a marginal advantage - I liked the controlled Saute(Low) temperature and that the instant pot defaults saute mode to 30 minutes. Due to which I hardly had to monitor for the first 30 minutes, and then the halwa for done in 2-4 minutes of active stirring.
- With the instant pot, the clean up is so easy. As the pot is deep, there is no spillage which to me is a big plus.
To make this recipe vegan, replace milk with almond milk and replace ghee with unsalted vegan butter and use almond flour to make the halwa.
This carrot halwa will store well for up to a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze it in an airtight container up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and microwave for 30 seconds to enjoy!
Enjoy this delicious Carrot Halwa as a healthy 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.
Instant Pot Carrot Halwa (Gajar Halwa)
- Add the grated carrots and milk to the instant pot. Stir them.
- Start the instant pot in Saute(Low) mode (Press Saute, then Adjust). Cover with a glass lid. The display will show HOT in 5-8 mins. Stir in about 20 minutes.
- The Saute mode defaults to 30 minutes. Instant Pot will shut off itself after 30 mins. The carrots will be well cooked and there would not be any liquid by this time.
- Add cardamom, sugar and almond flour. Mix well with the carrots.
- Turn on Saute (Normal) mode and let the carrots cook while stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes.
- Add ghee and mix with the carrot halwa. Turn off instant pot.
- Garnish with sliced almonds. Serve warm!
- The exact same recipe would work on stovetop, but would need more monitoring and stirring frequently so the carrots do not stick to the pan. Start with keeping on low flame until milk is completely soaked and carrots are cooked. Then add other ingredients and increase heat.
- I added almond flour to make the halwa healthier, however you can choose to add milk powder or khoa/mava too.
- Garnish with your choice of chopped nuts and raisins.
- Carrot Halwa can be refrigerated for up to a week. It also freezes well.
- Vegan Variation: Replace milk with almond milk and replace ghee with unsalted vegan butter and use almond flour to make the halwa.
Note: Nutrition values are my best estimates. If you rely on them for your diet, use your preferred nutrition calculator.
Check out the collection of 10 Instant Pot Indian Desserts from the best blogs.