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 easily, so we will just use orange carrots to make our halwa.
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What is Gajar ka Halwa?
Gajar ka Halwa, also called Gajrela, is an Indian carrot pudding that is rich and delicious. It is made by cooking carrots with milk, sugar, and ghee.
Traditionally Carrot Halwa is made by 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 first to 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 the Carrots?
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.
That said, we can still take advantage of the instant pot to make carrot halwa. Let me show you how!
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 your 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, it 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 do 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/mawa. Now, it will take just 2-3 minutes of stirring on Saute (Normal) to have perfectly cooked carrot halwa. Garnish with sliced almonds or pistachios. Enjoy it warm!
Did you notice I added 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 initially keep on saute (low) mode for half the time.
You might ask – What is the advantage of making 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 this, I hardly had to monitor for the first 30 minutes, and then the halwa was 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 is a big plus to me.
To make this recipe vegan, replace milk with almond milk, 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 for 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 or pistachios. Serve warm!
- I added almond flour to make the halwa healthier. However, you can add milk powder or khoa/mawa.
- 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, replace ghee with unsalted vegan butter, and use almond flour to make the halwa.
Check out the collection of 10 Instant Pot Indian Desserts from the best blogs.