After reading my last article about ice cream, my Indian grandparents insisted I write something on the numerous delicious sweets in India. So, I did just that, I looked back and remembered all the foods I have eaten at every holiday and countless visits to India.
A simple search on Wikipedia renders a very, very long list of delicious sweets. The concept of dessert does not necessarily exist in India, and more commonly dessert foods are eaten as little treats during holidays.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty more than just 10 worth noting, but these are my favorites which are all must-try sweets. Every one of these treats brings back fond memories of family friends. These sweets were always made with love, I don’t recommend eating them any other way.
You can find these sweet balls at any Indian celebration. They are milk-based, deep-fried, and served in a sugary syrup. Gulab Jamun packets are the easiest ways to make these balls at home. To me, nothing finishes a cool winter day like a small bowl filled with warm gulab jamun.
My favorite one on the list. I won’t get into the details, but rasmalai is basically curd cheese soaked in clotted cream. It might not sound good, but it is, I promise. Cool and creamy, these sweets remind me of summer.
Rabdi is defined as sweetened thickened milk with layers of cream. As always, spices and nuts can be added for flavor. Somehow, rabdi ends up tasting better when eaten with loved ones.
The ultimate sugar rush, jalebi are bright orange sugary rings. This treat is actually eaten in many parts of Asia and Africa made by deep frying a wheat flour and soaking it in a sugar syrup, resulting in a chewy, sweet delicacy. Many a time, my mom would return from our local Indian store, with a styrofoam container filled with jalebi.
Though the most popular variation is made with rice; wheat, tapioca or vermicelli can be used. The rice is soaked in milk and can be mixed with cardamom, raisins, saffron, and nuts. Kheer would many times accompany meals in my home. If you want to make some at home, try this recipe.
Another dairy-based sweet, shrikhand is a type of yogurt many times colored yellow by saffron. It can be eaten as a side dish with a type of bread or alone as a dessert. Sometimes, I would eat shrikhand with puris (type of bread), for a quick lunch.
Around here you might have heard this as “Indian ice cream,” but kulfi is unique in its own way. Because kulfi is not whipped, it ends up being creamier and denser. Make sure to try this one in a classic flavor like pistachio, rose, saffron or mango.
Mysore pak originated in Mysore, India and its name literally means sweet. The main ingredients are ghee (clarified butter) and sugar. Fat and sugar, I mean what’s not to like? I remember sneaking pieces of these throughout the day when we had a box at home.
If you tried a bite, you’d never be able to tell that this sweet was made from carrots, the reason behind its bright orange color. Since this halwa is made by cooking carrots, a vegetable, among other things, you can pretend it’s healthy while digging in.
These ones are made from coconut and dry fruit. Variations include ladoos made from chickpea flour, wheat semolina and cream. Every time my family leaves the temple, we make sure to pick up some golden yellow ladoos filled with nuts. Random fact: the world’s largest ladoo weighed in at more than 24,000 pounds.