Winters…. time to stay warm and also the best time to cook and enjoy some hearty meals and winter delicacies that are not only finger lickingly yummy but are also packed with the nutrients that keep our body warm and immune.
Gajar Ka Halwa(Carrot Pudding) also popularly known as Gajrela is another North Indian winter delight which is a ‘must make’ for all the households. It is one of the favourite desserts of all age groups and no one can’t resist eating a bowl of hot halwa after meals. People make it in big batch and store for good 8-10 days. I really miss the Red Carrots that we get in North India during winter times. While in Mumbai, these red carrots were available during short time in winter months and I never missed a chance to cook halwa with those red carrots. Anyone who has eaten the Red carrots Halwa will agree with me that it tastes best when made with those Red Carrots. Many people have told me that here in US red carrots are sometimes available in Farmer’s market, till now I never had the chance to go there so I make with the orange ones available in stores.
Traditionally made with grated carrots that are simmered in milk, desi ghee( clarified Indian Butter)and nuts till the milk evaporates to a creamy consistency and carrots are completely cooked, it is served hot, garnished with some more nuts. Making it in a traditional way consumes a lot of time but the result is worth all the efforts. Nowadays people have time constraints and since it is a must make dessert for winters, many have adapted to the quick way of making it .
I learnt the quick way of making this from my mom, who was a working mom, had limited time for cooking, so she used this quick method at times. Mom had her own quick ways of making yummy and delicious food!!
The quick way of making halwa takes around 30-40 minutes, uses khoya(mawa, evaporated milk solids) or condensed milk. Cook the carrots with milk in a pressure cooker for 2-3 whistles, then cook in ghee and khoya add sugar and nuts and the halwa is ready within 30-40 minutes. I use Khoya for making it. Store-bought or homemade any will do. For homemade Khoya recipe click here. You can also use Milk Powder or Condensed milk inplace of Khoya. Omit sugar when using condensed milk.
Here in US, I came to know about another great ingredient/substitute to Khoya for making Gajar Halwa and other Indian desserts and sweets. Ricotta Cheese!! It is so easy to use, just microwave it for 5-6 mins to evaporate the extra water content, add to the cooking carrots along with ghee, throw in some nuts, and the scrumptious treat is ready!!
If you are a vegan or lactose intolerant, then also you can enjoy this sweet treat. Replace Milk with Almond Milk and in place of Khoya or Ricotta add Almond Meal. Please refer the recipe notes for the same.The steps for preparing halwa remains the same if you are using khoya or almond meal for vegan option.
Let’s see the recipe for this delicious dessert delight.
Pressure Cooker Recipe for Gajar Ka Halwa
- 500 g Carrots
- 200 g Khoya if using
- 250 g Ricotta Cheese if not using Khoya
- 1 Cup Milk
- 2-3 Tbsp Ghee
- 4-6 Tbsp Sugar or as required
- Mixed Nuts as required
- Wash and rinse carrots. Peel the carrots and grate. This is the most time-consuming step if you are grating by hand. I use my food processor which gets my work done in 1-2 minutes.
- In a pressure cooker, add carrots and milk to it. Cook the carrots with open lid for 5-6 mins, close the lid and cook until 2 whistles. Switch off the flame. Wait for the pressure to subside. Open the lid and keep on low flame for the rest of the liquid to evaporate.
- Meanwhile, take ricotta in a microwave-safe bowl add a tsp of ghee, and microwave it for 2-3 minutes or till all the liquid evaporate. Add to halwa along with ghee and raisins , nuts and cook on medium flame, stirring frequently. In case you are using Khoya in place of Ricotta, add to the carrots along with ghee. Keep stirring in between.This will take around 10-20 minutes.
- Add sugar and mix well. Cook till all the milk/liquid content evaporates from the carrots and you get a nice crumbly halwa.
- Garnish with more chopped nuts and serve hot.
- Add Almond Milk instead of Milk.
- Replace khoya/ricotta with 1/2 Cup Almond Meal.
- Replace Desi Ghee with any dairy-free unsalted butter.
- I have tried making halwa with almond milk so am not sure about how, soy milk and coconut milk work(the after taste) in gajar halwa as I have not used these for making halwa.
Cooking Halwa in Instant Pot..I recently bought Instant Pot and I am trying out various recipes in it. I take reference from the various recipes available online for Instant Pot cooking , adapt to what suits best for me and then cook the dish. Making Carrot Halwa in Instant Pot is quite easy and quick. Add milk along with a tbsp of Ghee and pressure cook carrots for 5-6 minutes. Once the cook time is over, release the pressure. Switch on the saute mode keep on medium heat, then cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring it to evaporate all the liquid from carrots. Add Khoya/microwaved Ricotta/Almond Meal. Mix nicely and cook for another 5-6 minutes, stirring continuously. Add ghee and sugar mix and cook again for 7-8 minutes, till halwa is crumbly and all the liquid evaporates. Keep the heat to medium or low while cooking halwa on Saute mode, as halwa can burn at the bottom.
Gajar Halwa in Instant Pot
- Add carrots with a cup of milk/almond milk and a tbsp of ghee/dairy-free butter in Instant Pot, cover the lid and seal. Switch on the pressure mode and set the timer for 5 minutes(high Pressure).
- Once the timer is off, do quick pressure release(QPR), and set the saute mode on. Keep it on medium.
- Cook the carrots to evaporate all the liquid. Keep stirring in between.
- If adding ricotta, microwave ricotta cheese for 4-5 minutes to evaporate the extra liquid.
- Add ricotta, mix nicely, keep mixing and stirring,take care it does not burn at the bottom. For vegan option add 1/2 cup of almond meal.
- Add desi ghee/non-dairy butter and sugar, mix nicely and cook for another 7-8 minutes, till it is crumbly.
Will soon update pics for the steps of making Halwa in Instant pot.
Hot Gajar Halwa also tastes great with Rabri. I had some Almond Rabri in the fridge, and some leftover mixed nut chikki/ brittle, turned into a gourmet dessert!! and enjoyed Garam Garam Gajar Ka Halwa with thandi thandi( chilled) rabri, garnished with brittle pieces, that gave a nice caramelised crunch to halwa!!For a quick nut brittle, take a spoonful of cashews and almonds, chopped into small pieces, in a non-stick pan melt 1-tbsp of sugar, with very little ghee/oil(1/2 tsp), when sugar starts melting, add nuts to it and mix nicely. Quickly take out on a butter paper or a greased pan, press to a thin layer, when slightly warm, break into pieces and use as required. Click here for the detailed recipe of Mixed Nut Gur Chikki/Brittle.
Make Gajar Ka Halwa either in pressure cooker or in Instant Pot and enjoy this winter delight with your loved ones. Enjoy it just like that in traditional way topped with nuts or enjoy it topped with some vanilla ice-cream or rabri.
Gajar Ka Halwa is a must have in the dinner menu for many on the occasion of Lohri in Punjab along with Sarson Ka Saag and Makki Ki Roti. It is a gluten-free desert and you can also replace sugar with stevia for sugar free versionar. Stevia is more sweeter than sugar, adjust as per your taste. Many people also add jaggery/palm sugar in it. The taste differs when we add jaggery or palm sugar. I have added jaggery but never palm sugar.
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