This Instant Pot Gajar Halwa is an easy to make popular Indian dessert made with carrots, milk and sugar. It’s often flavors with cardamom, nuts and mawa (dried milk solids) and makes an indulgent treat!
While the traditional way to make gajar halwa yields amazing results, you can get the same results with less work using the Instant Pot!
I have very high expectations when it comes to Gajar Halwa (Indian carrot pudding). The reason is that I grew up around Delhi and you do get the world’s best gajar halwa there, like there is not even a comparison! And my mom made the absolute best gajar halwa ever! So, I am spoiled when it comes to this dessert.
It was like a winter ritual, as soon as those bright red carrots would start appearing in the market, we all would beg mom to make halwa. It was quite an elaborate process, first of all the halwa was made for around 10 to 15 people at my home. So there was a lot of grating and chopping.
And then mom cooked it for hours in the milk. The slow cooking was what gave the halwa such a rice taste. I can almost taste it as I type this! If you have never tasted gajar halwa made in Delhi during winters, then you have been missing out! In fact I would go as far as saying that if you haven’t eaten gajar halwa made especially with those sweet winters red carrots, then you haven’t really tasted a good gajar halwa until now.
The Winter Red Carrots
We only made gajar halwa in winters when the market was filled with those sweet red carrots. But when I first moved to US, I could only spot orange carrots here throughout the year. I remember craving for halwa and none of halwa I made or ate in restaurants made with those orange carrots satisfied that cravings.
I know you must be wondering, what’s so much in the color? It’s still carrot. But trust me, if you are from Delhi or grew up in the area then you know what I am talking about. It’s just not the color, it’s the whole taste which changes dramatically when you use red carrots.
These red carrots are sweeter, have less moisture and perfect for making halwa. For the last couple of years, I have finally been lucky enough to find red carrots here in the US. A company called Cal-Organic grows them and I find them at my local PCC market during January and February.
Honestly the first time I found them, I think I got 15 bunches of red carrots. I was that excited!
This Instant Pot Gajar Halwa is my favorite way to make this carrot pudding at home. This recipe was supposed to be in my cookbook and I tested it couple of times too. But I was not happy with the results (I think it had to do with my super high expectations as I mentioned above).
Finally after playing around few times, I am happy to share a version of halwa that I love. And trust me when I say this- it is very good! Take this from a girl who grew up eating bowls and bowls of gajar ka halwa every winter.
How To Make Instant Pot Gajar Halwa
Start off by pressure cooking the carrots with milk. This is the step that my mom did on stove top. She cooked carrots with milk on stove top until all of the milk was absorbed.
The roasting of carrots with ghee was done after that. I have followed exactly the same steps but used my Instant Pot for it!
Once you have pressure cooked the carrots, add in the sugar and roast until all the liquid evaporates.
Then comes the most important part, add ghee and roast the carrots for good 8 to 10 minutes. I know it might seem like a lot but trust me, you will end up with the most amazing halwa. Have patience, the end result will be worth it!
Red carrots: they are the star of this recipe and I highly recommending making this halwa with red carrots. If for some reason, you cannot red carrots, you can use orange carrots as well.
Ghee: it imparts a wonderful flavor to the halwa, you can also use butter.
Sugar: the halwa is sweetened with sugar, if you want you can also use brown sugar in place.
Milk: the halwa is cooked in milk, which also makes it creamy and rich.
Milk powder: to make the gajar halwa rich, I like using milk powder but you can definitely skip it if you do not have it on hand.
Flavorings: to flavor the halwa I have used some cardamom powder and cashews and raisins. If you are not a fan of either of these, feel free to skip.
1- Grate the carrots and set them aside. I highly recommend grating the carrot by hands and not use a food processor for the halwa.
2- Press the sauté button on your Instant Pot. Once it displays hot, add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of ghee to it. Add the cashews and raisins to the pot and fry for a minute until they turn golden brown in color (raisins will plump up). Remove the cashews and raisin from the pot.
3- To the pot now add the grated carrots. Sauté the carrots for 2 minutes.
4- Then add whole milk, stir and and close the pot with its lid.
5- Press the pressure cook/manual button and cook on high pressure for 4 mins, with the pressure valve in the sealing position. Let the pressure release naturally for 2 minutes and then do a quick pressure release by manually moving the pressure valve from the sealing to venting position.
6- Open the pot and give the halwa a stir. Now press the sauté button again and add in the sugar.
7- Keep stirring, after 3 minutes of stirring the sugar, add the milk powder.
8- Continue to stir for 4 more minutes until the liquid dries out. So after adding the sugar you would have stirred for around 7 minutes by this point. Then add the remaining 1.5 tablespoons (22 ml) ghee to the halwa and mix.
9 & 10- Continue to roast the carrots on sauté mode with the ghee for around 8 to 9 minutes more. Be patient, it takes a little time but is worth it. You will notice the color of the halwa changing to a darker shade of red. This roasting is important for the flavor and color.
11- Then add the cardamom powder and mix. Stir in the fried cashews and raisins back into the pot.
12- Stir and unplug the pot. Garnish gajar halwa with more nuts and serve warm!
Tips for Making Good Gajar Halwa
1. Grate the carrots with your hands: I know it’s not fun but it’s important. Don’t use your food processor and turn carrots into a mush, the halwa will never taste that good. I have done that so many times!
I understand we all have those lazy days where we just want to put the carrots in the food processor and be done with it. But you hand grate it and see the difference in texture. We don’t make desserts like this everyday so the extra effort may be worth it, right?
2. Add mawa/milk powder/almond meal for added taste and richness: You can add either of these three after adding the sugar. Mawa is dried milk solids and is often added to gajar halwa. I added some dried milk powder in mine and I highly recommend it.
You can also use almond meal in case you don’t have milk powder or mawa.
3. Don’t cut down on the ghee: Now is not the time to cut down on those calories! Ghee imparts wonderful flavor to the halwa.
4. Roast the carrots with ghee at the end: This is important and my mom always did it. Roasting with ghee gives the halwa such a nice flavor. You must not skip this!
5. Always serve it warm: Since we use ghee in the halwa, it all solidifies as it cools down. If you don’t end up eating the whole bowl immediately and have leftovers (seriously?!), always remember to heat it first before serving. Microwave works best here!
6. Use red carrots: you definitely need red carrots for the best gajar halwa. But if you can’t find them, you can use orange carrots. I have made halwa with orange carrots as well and it turns out fine (although never as good as the one with red)!
I have made this halwa with Oat milk and it comes out well. So, to make it vegan do the following:
- replace ghee with coconut oil.
- replace whole milk with oat milk (plain).
- and either skip the milk powder or add almond meal in place.
Doubling The Recipe
This recipe can be doubled. The pressure cooking time will remain same.
However since everything will be doubled, it will take much more time for the liquids to reduce and reach that halwa consistency on sauté mode. So, keep that in mind.
- If you do not like cashews and raisins in your gajar halwa feel free to skip it.
- You can replace the milk powder with mawa (dried milk solids) or almond meal.
- I recommend using red carrots for gajar halwa but if you can’t find it, you may use the orange ones.
This post has been updated from the recipe archives, first published in October 2018.
Instant Pot Gajar Halwa
- 2.5 tablespoons ghee 37 ml, divided
- 7-8 raw cashews broken
- 1 tablespoon golden raisins
- 500 grams carrots grated, 3 heaping cups grated carrots, around 8 large carrots
- 3/4 cup whole milk 6 oz
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar 100 grams
- 1/4 cup milk powder 25 grams, optional but recommended
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
- Grate the carrots and set them aside. I highly recommend grating the carrot by hands and not use a food processor for the halwa. It's important for the texture.
- Press the sauté button on your Instant Pot. Once it displays hot, add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of ghee to it. Add the cashews and raisins to the pot and fry for a minute until they turn golden brown in color (raisins will plump up). Remove the cashews and raisin from the pot.
- To the pot now add the grated carrots. Sauté the carrots for 2 minutes.
- Then add whole milk, stir and and close the pot with its lid. Press the pressure cook/manual button and cook on high pressure for 4 mins, with the pressure valve in the sealing position.
- Let the pressure release naturally for 2 minutes and then do a quick pressure release by manually moving the pressure valve from the sealing to venting position.
- Open the pot and give the halwa a stir. And then press the sauté button and add in the sugar.
- Keep stirring, after 3 minutes of stirring the sugar, add the milk powder. You may also use mawa (dried milk solids) or almond meal in place of the milk powder.
- Continue to stir for 4 more minutes until the liquid dries out. So after adding the sugar you would have stirred for around 7 minutes by this point. Then add the remaining 1.5 tablespoons (22 ml) ghee to the halwa and mix.
- Continue to roast the carrots on sauté mode with the ghee for around 8 to 9 minutes more. Be patient, it takes a little time but is worth it. You will notice the color of the halwa changing to a darker shade of red. This roasting is important for the flavor and color.
- Then add the cardamom powder and mix. Stir in the fried cashews and raisins back into the pot. Stir and unplug the pot. Garnish the gajar halwa with more nuts and serve warm!