Gajar Halwa (Carrot Halwa)

5 from 4 votes
Time 2 hours
Servings 6
Calories 409
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Classic Indian dessert Gajar Halwa is made with carrots, milk, sugar and ghee!

It’s one of quintessential winter dessert especially in North India and is rich and decadent.

gajar halwa served in a copper bowl

You guys! After 9+ years of living in the US, I finally found red carrots here! I almost can’t believe it.

Remember how much I cry over orange carrots while making carrot halwa? Well, not anymore because I found the real deal! Seriously, I got over 4 kilograms of red carrots and even the cashier was like “what would you do with so many carrots”? lol.

It’s such a Delhi thing right, if you grew up in and around Delhi eating that gajar halwa made with winter red carrots, you can’t possibly ever enjoy the halwa made with orange carrots. It’s just no match!

The red carrots are so much sweeter, have a flavor of their own and that’s what makes them perfect for the halwa.

I remember being served gajar halwa (or gajrela as it’s also known in Punjabi) whenever I went to anyone’s house during winters. It’s like everyone in Delhi and around makes this during that time of the year. 

At my home, the halwa making process took hours. First of all, it was made with at least 3-5 kilograms of carrots and then those carrots were cooked in milk until the milk was completely reduced.

That process really took the whole day, I of course didn’t do anything other than eating it. But now that I made 3 kilograms halwa the other day, I realized that how much effort goes behind it.

I always liked the gajar halwa that was made in my house, I was never a fan of the halwa that was made in mithai/sweet shops. They were mostly loaded with khoya (dried solids) but always lacked the real taste.

After I got married, I also loved the halwa my mother-in-law made. After asking about the recipe, it turned out my mom and mother-in-law made the halwa in exactly the same way. So, I am sharing exactly the same recipe here.

Although this gajar halwa recipe might seem long and time consuming, it’s totally worth it. Also you kind of make this only once a year, so I feel it’s worth the effort. There’s a lot of hand work in this recipe so makes for a good arm workout ;)!

However, if you are looking for an easier recipe, then check out the instant pot gajar halwa recipe that I had shared some time back. That’s less time consuming.

But if you have the time, I highly recommend making it this way. It’s just the best!

bunch of red carrots

How To Make the Perfect Gajar Halwa

Use red carrots: for people in India, it is obviously no brainer. You get nice fresh winter red carrots and that’s what makes the best halwa.

For people in US, I know red carrots are hard to find but look at farmer’s market during the last week of January. You might be able to find them. Please use red carrots for the halwa if you can.

Grate the carrots by hand: I for one do not like using food processor for the halwa. The processor usually turns them carrots into a mush and that in turns has an effect on the final texture of the halwa.

The hand grater that I have has two sides, grate using the bigger side (with bigger holes), you don’t want the carrots very thick and you don’t want them extra thin too. 

Use whole milk: for best results, cook in whole milk. For this recipe, we first reduce the milk first to half and then add the carrots and then cook until all the milk reduces and coverts into milk solids.

You can use skimmed milk but since it has low fat, the solids won’t be enough and it’s won’t be as rich in taste.

Don’t take shortcuts: I love taking shortcuts when possible, but for this halwa which I make like once a year, I like sticking to the traditional recipe.

I grate the carrots by hand and then cook in milk until it’s reduced. Don’t use evaporated milk or condensed milk to cut short the process here for that authentic taste. 

Roast in ghee: the final bit of roasting the halwa in ghee adds a lot of flavor. It also adds a nice shine to the halwa and make it look bright red. 

So definitely don’t skip on that.

Optional- add mawa/milk powder for richer taste: I don’t add any of these since my mom never added them and that’s how it was made in my house. But adding khoya or milk powder will make it richer.

Ingredients

My mom said that we only need 3 basic ingredients for making gajar halwa- red carrots, sugar and milk.

Everything else including ghee was optional. I do use ghee, nuts and cardamom though for added flavor though but mom did make halwa without ghee a lot of times and it still tasted great.

red carrots, sugar, milk, ghee, cashews and cardamom placed on a plate

Carrots: I cannot stress enough how a good gajar halwa needs red carrots. I totally understand that you can’t find them in the US (I just got lucky this year) but if you can, you must taste the halwa made with red carrots.

You will never come back to the orange ones, I can guarantee that.

Milk: you need whole milk for this recipe. It makes the halwa richer and adds tastier.

Since we cook the milk until solids remain, you definitely should use whole milk as it has more fat. 

For 1 kg of carrot, the amount of milk can be anywhere between 1 liter to 1.5 liters. My mom used 1 liter and my mother-in-law uses 1.5 liters. Both versions don’t have much difference except the one with 1.5 liters will form more milk solids. They taste also same.

Sugar: I have used granulated white sugar here. Red carrots have a natural sweetness, so the amount of sugar can vary to taste.

For 1 kg carrots, you can add anywhere between 1 cup to 1.5 cups sugar (200 grams to 300 grams). It really depends on taste, 200 grams is on the lighter side, I prefer somewhere in between.

Ghee: as I mentioned my mom sometime made this halwa without ghee and it was still very good. But ghee adds to flavor and make it tastier. I definitely recommend adding little ghee to the halwa and roasting it in ghee for few minutes.

You can always cut down on the quantity and use very little of it but do use. On the other hand, you can also add couple of tablespoons extra if that’s what you prefer.

Cardamom: adds a wonderful aroma to the halwa. I like grinding fresh cardamom powder using my spice grinder, it’s just so much better that way.

But you can use store-bought cardamom powder.

Nuts & Raisins: I always love my halwa with lots of nuts and raisins. But I know a lot of people who don’t like them, so it’s optional. I love adding cashews, almonds, golden raisins. 

You can add all or none, it’s all optional.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How much mawa can I use in the recipe?

If you want, you can add around 1/4 cup of crumbled khoya/mawa (or even more) to the halwa at the last step.

Can I skip on the ghee?

I wouldn’t recommend it. Please use at least 1 tablespoon of ghee at the end, it adds to taste and brings out that nice bright red color.

Can we make this in the Instant Pot?

Not the same recipe, but I have a different Instant Pot Gajar Halwa recipe that you can check out! 🙂

How to serve the halwa?

I love eating this halwa warm so I always heat it up in a microwave before serving. But some people also like it cold.

You can serve it with some vanilla ice cream on top, it’s so good! 

Can this recipe be doubled?

Yes, I have doubled this recipe easily. Everything doubles, including the time! Since there is much more milk, it takes double the time to reduce. I made 3 kilograms halwa and it took me around 2.5 to 3 hours! 

Method

1- Peel and grate the carrots using a hand grater (use the thicker side of the grater). Add the grated carrots to a pan and turn heat to medium-high.

2- Stirring often, sauté the carrots for around 10 minutes until all the moisture dries out. Note: we do not add any ghee or anything here, just dry roasting the carrot to remove the moisture.

You will notice that the color of the carrot will change from red to orange at this point, that’s fine. Remove pan from heat and set it aside.

3- To a heavy bottom pan, add milk. Please do use a heavy bottom pan here otherwise you will have trouble and the milk might burn. You can start this process of boiling the milk on the side when you are sautéing the carrots. 

With heat on medium-high, stir the milk often and let it come to a boil. I have used 1.25 liter (1250 ml) of milk here for 1 kg carrots, you can use anywhere between 1-1.5 liters. 

4- Once the milk comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and let the milk boil and reduce until it reduces to at least half or a little bit more than half. Remember to stir very often else milk might get stuck to the bottom of the pan and burn.

step by step picture collage of making gajar halwa

5- Meanwhile, fry cashews in 1 tablespoon of ghee until they turn golden brown in color and set aside.

6- Back to the milk, after around 30-35 minutes, the milk will reduce to less than half (this is for 1-1.25 liters, if using 1.5 liters it will take little more time). At the point add the grated carrots and stir. I like to scrape the sides of the pot (which has that malai/thickened milk stuck to it) and mix it with the halwa.

7- Now after this point you have to be extra careful and not leave the halwa unattended. Keep stirring the halwa often on medium heat and cook until all the milk is absorbed by the halwa and it reduces to milk solids.

You will see small particles of milk solids in the halwa. This will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes.

8- At this point add in the sugar.

step by step picture collage of making gajar halwa

9- The amount of sugar is to taste, if you like less sweet add 1 cup (200 grams) of granulated white sugar, if you like really sweet add 1.5 cups (300 grams). I usually prefer it in between and add 250 grams.

10- Once you mix in the sugar, the sugar will melt and the halwa will become very liquid-y again.

11- Continue to cook the halwa, stirring constantly until the sugar liquid is all soaked up, this can take 15 minutes or so. Yeah this recipe is excellent hand work-out! Don’t let the halwa dry out a lot since it will continue to thicken as it cools down.

Once that’s done, then add the cardamom powder and the 2 tablespoons of ghee (or more if you want) and roast for 3-4 minutes. 

12- Add in the nuts, give a final stir and done.

step by step picture collage of making gajar halwa

Serve gajar halwa warm!

gajar halwa served in a small copper bowl with a small spoon

If you’ve tried this Gajar Halwa Recipe then don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also follow me on FacebookInstagram to see what’s latest in my kitchen!

This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in January 2015.

Gajar Halwa

gajar halwa served in a copper bowl
Manali
Gajar Halwa is a quintessential Indian dessert made with carrots, ghee, milk, sugar and flavored with cardamom. It's rich, creamy and do decadent!
5 from 4 votes
Follow me on YouTube!Subscribe to my channel and never miss my video again.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6
Calories 409 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 kilogram red carrots grated, around 15-16 medium size carrots
  • 1.25 liters whole milk around 5 cups
  • 3 tablespoons ghee 45 ml, divided
  • 1-1.5 cups granulated white sugar 200-300 grams, adjust to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 2 tablespoon chopped cashews raw

Instructions
 

  • Peel and grate the carrots using a hand grater (use the thicker side of the grater). Add the grated carrots to a pan and turn heat to medium-high.
    Stirring often, sauté the carrots for around 10 minutes until all the moisture dries out. Note: we do not add any ghee or anything here, just dry roasting the carrot to remove the moisture.
    You will notice that the color of the carrot will change from red to orange at this point, that's fine. Remove pan from heat and set it aside.
    grated carrots in a pan
  • To a heavy bottom pan, add milk. Please do use a heavy bottom pan here otherwise you will have trouble and the milk might burn. You can start this process of boiling the milk on the side when you are sautéing the carrots. 
    With heat on medium-high, stir the milk often and let it come to a boil. I have used 1.25 liter (1250 ml) of milk here for 1 kg carrots, you can use anywhere between 1-1.5 liters. 
    Once the milk comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium and let the milk boil and reduce until it reduces to at least half or a little bit more than half. Remember to stir very often else milk might get stuck to the bottom of the pan and burn.
    milk in a steel pot
  • Meanwhile, fry cashews in 1 tablespoon of ghee until they turn golden brown in color and set aside.
    fried cashews in a pan
  • Back to the milk, after around 30-35 minutes, the milk will reduce to less than half (this is for 1-1.25 liters, if using 1.5 liters it will take little more time). Please remember to stir the milk very often when it's reducing.
    At the point add the grated carrots and stir. I like to scrape the sides of the pot (which has that malai/thickened milk stuck to it) and mix it with the halwa.
    grated carrots added to a pot of milk
  • Now after this point you have to be extra careful and not leave the halwa unattended. Keep stirring the halwa often on medium heat and cook until all the milk is absorbed by the halwa and it reduces to milk soilds.
    You will see small particles of milk solids in the halwa. This will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes.
    grated carrots in a pan
  • At this point add in the sugar.
    The amount of sugar is to taste, if you like less sweet add 1 cup (200 grams) of granulated white sugar, if you like really sweet add 1.5 cups (300 grams). I usually prefer it in between and add 250 grams.
    sugar being added to a pot of grated carrots
  • Once you mix in the sugar, the sugar will melt and the halwa will become very liquid-y again.
    grated carrots being stirred in a pot
  • Continue to cook the halwa, stirring constantly until the sugar liquid is all soaked up, this can take 15 minutes or so. Yeah this recipe is excellent hand work-out! Don't let the halwa dry out a lot since it will continue to thicken as it cools down.
    Once that's done, then add the cardamom powder and the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee (or more if you want) and roast for 3-4 minutes. 
    ghee being added to grated carrots
  • Add in the nuts, give a final stir and done. Serve gajar halwa warm!

Notes

  1. You can add khoya or milk powder at the end to make the halwa richer.
  2. Other than cashews, you can aslo add almonds, golden raisins to the halwa.

Nutrition

Calories: 409kcalCarbohydrates: 60gProtein: 9gFat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 40mgSodium: 206mgPotassium: 834mgFiber: 5gSugar: 52gVitamin A: 28181IUVitamin C: 10mgCalcium: 293mgIron: 1mg
Keyword gajar halwa
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25 thoughts on “Gajar Halwa (Carrot Halwa)

  1. Happy New Year Manali! I feel the same way, -posting more recipes and getting fitter are definitely on my resolution list!
    This carrot pudding sounds and looks delicious! Pinned!

  2. Hi Manali! Happy 2015! Gajar Halwa was one of the first Indian desserts I tasted and I loved it. I made my own version of it, without ghee because it’s kind of impossible to find it here

    1. Wish you the same Azu! Oh yes unsalted butter works as well…you can try to find ghee in Indian grocery stores. In fact I now find it in American grocery stores as well! Gajar Halwa is one of my absolute favorites too! 🙂

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