You step into a sweet shop in India and you will be faced with a mind-boggling array of sweets or mithai as they’re referred to in the Indian sub-continent. You’ll be spoiled for choice because each one is yummy and unique in it’s own self. I’ve tried to limit my list here to 13 because so many cravings!
1. Gulab Jamun
An all time favorite dessert in India, Gulab Jamuns are made of milk solids that are deep-fried and then dipped in sugar syrup. No festival in the country is complete without at least one plate of these super yummy treat. You can eat them hot, cold, with vanilla ice cream or even flambéed!
Almost synonymous with Bengalis, Rasgullas are spongy little delights made of cottage cheese and cooked in a light sugar syrup. When eaten fresh, rasgullas are super spongy and very refreshing. Warning: it’s near impossible to eat just one.
A traditional sweet from Rajasthan, ghevar is best described as a sweet that looks like a honey comb and tastes absolutely delicious. Both crunchy and sweet, ghevar is one of my personal favorites!
A traditional rice pudding, phirni is another universal favorite. Made by cooking broken rice with milk, sugar, cardamom, saffron and adding shaved almonds as garnish, phirni is usually set in earthen bowls and served chilled. The perfect summer dessert really. Drool!
5. Motichoor Laddoo
Motichoor laddoos can be found everywhere in India and are actually made by shaping tiny sweet pearls (made of flour and soaked in a saffron infused sugar syrup). They’re usually distinguished by the rich orange color that saffron lends to the dish. No auspicious occasion is complete without a box of edible silver coated motichoor laddoos!
6. Besan Laddoo
Gram flour, sugar and ghee (clarified butter) come together and form one of my childhood favorites – besan laddoos. Simple enough and yet difficult to get it just right, besan laddoos are everyone’s guilty pleasure as far as I know.
7. Moong Dal Ka Halwa
Moong = split yellow gram. Halwa = soft pudding
A dish that needs immense amounts of patience, loads of ghee and a hearty appetite, moong dal halwa is a winter sweet originating in Rajasthan and is packed with flavor and texture. It also freezes very well and is almost always made in huge quantities because you really can’t have enough of a good thing can you?!
8. Gajar Ka Halwa
Another winter favorite, this a pudding made by cooking together grated red carrots, sugar, milk and ghee. Almost every Indian household will have homecooked gajar ka halwa all through the winter months. It’s almost as if red carrots were made for this purpose.
A very interesting sweet, usually associated with Agra (of Taj Mahal fame) in central India, the raw ingredient that goes into making petha is white pumpkin. It’s a translucent sweet and can be both dry as well as dripping in syrup. You also have several flavor variants, ranging from saffron to chocolate (a more modern flavoring). Either way, it’s quite yummy and I love it!
Another sweet from Bengal, sandesh is made from cottage cheese and sugar or jaggery. Plain, chocolate, rose and saffron are just some of the most popular flavors of this light and airy sweet. And like rasgullas, you can’t stop at one.
This is a sweet that is very close to funnel cakes except that it’s yummier and prettier. Best enjoyed piping hot, crisp and dripping with delicately made sugar syrup on a cool winter day, it remains one of the most popular sweets across the country.
An ice cream unique to the Indian subcontinent, kulfi is a childhood favorite of almost everyone I know. Different from western ice cream, kulfi has a thicker density and is traditionally made using flavors like cardamom, pistachios etc.
Extremely popular in the western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in India, shrikhand is made using strained yoghurt and mixing it thoroughly with sugar and spices like cardamom and saffron and is served chilled. No wedding feast in these states is complete without generous servings of this cool and delicious dessert.
Indians love their mithai and no meal is complete without at least a little nibble at the very end of something sweet. And with the vastness of the country comes a vast array of sweets, each unique and special and as finger licking good as the next. Have you had any Indian sweets? What was your experience?