Gajar Halva (Indian Carrot Halwa Dessert)

Gajar Halva (Indian Carrot Halwa Dessert) Recipe

Halva means sweet in Arabic. India is home to many varieties of halva, and it can be found at almost all of our family gatherings.

This particular type is made with carrots. Lulu's aunt taught me how to make it. The base is a dense, sweet confection made of flour such as cream of wheat or garbanzo flour, nut butter such as tahini, or lentils like mung beans. My friend Carole, who is by the way the editor of the site, told me she loves this kind. Here's her feedback about carrot halva:

"Your halva was smoother [than the one I get at the restaurant], and at the same time more flavorful but more subtle, too. We loved it. I can't wait to see the recipe and what's involved. I have a sneaky feeling there's going to be more butter than I want to know about!"

I told Carole: "Well, don't be afraid, there are only two tablespoons of ghee". I prefer making it at home because the gajar halva found at restaurants tends to be too thin and cloyingly sweet. I suspect that the extra sweetness is used to conceal the lack of richness that one would expect from real gajar halva.

Gajar halva, like some Vietnamese desserts, is not always the most glamourous-looking sweet, but it is delicious. If you've never had it before, try making some at home. You will love it.


Yields: 8 servings

15 carrots, approximately 4 cups, thightly packed
1 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons nuts (I used pistachio kernels)


Remove the seeds from the cardamom pods. Gather them in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

Peel the carrots. Trim the ends. Wash and grate them using a cheese grater.

Heat a deep saucepan. Add the shredded carrots, cardamom powder and milk. Bring the liquid to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for about 40-50 minutes until the carrots soften and the milk evaporates completely. It might take a bit longer.

Sweeten the carrots with sugar. Increase the temperature to the highest setting. Stir constantly to prevent the carrots from burning. Add the ghee and the saffron threads. Cook for another 15 minutes. 

Place the pistachio kernels in the mortar and pestle and coarsely grind them. Sprinkle the pistachio powder over the carrot halva.

Enjoy it with a hot cup of masala chai.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


From Wikipedia, halva may also be made with numerous other ingredients, including sunflower seeds, various nuts, beans, lentils, and vegetables such as carrots, pumpkins, yams.

Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can add butter instead to the halva.

I peel carrots with a Messermeister peeler. I think it's the best peeler. It's very sharp and makes very thin peels. It's also very useful for food decoration.

I used pistachios for a nice contrast of colors. The most common nuts used are blanched almonds, but you can use any other nuts such as cashews, pine nuts, walnuts or even omit the nuts if you have any allergies. You could also add coconut shavings if you'd like.

You can sweeten your halva with honey, hot sugar syrup or agave syrup if you don't want to use regular granulated sugar.

You can make a vegan version by substituting milk with combination of coconut milk and soy milk (or soy creamer) for a richer mouth feel, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk or any other non-dairy milk, and add margarine instead of butter.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on August 10, 2009.


I have to disagree. The halwa looks so beautiful and delicious. I love it a lot. Thanks for the recipe!

Anh Website Link
[ Posted at 4:44 AM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
[-] Presentation - Jackie
Thanks for the compliment! I wasn't sure how to serve it. I used the quenelle method. Using 2 spoons, gather one portion of the carrot halva in one spoon. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides using the other spoon. Repeat until all the hlava is nicely packed, playing with the 2 spoons. I decorated it with pistachio powder.
[ Posted at 12:29 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Hello Jackie,
This looks absolutely delightful!
I love learning about new dishes & where they come from, thank you for sharing with us.
And thank you for the birthday wishes :0)
I've put the link on for the Waffleberry pudding for you..

lesley Website Link
[ Posted at 4:45 AM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Oh, Jackie, this looks SO good! BTW... I just found out that there is an Indian street snack restaurant near here that serves over 20 varieties of chaat. I can't wait to try it!

Jen of a2eatwrite Website Link
[ Posted at 5:03 AM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
[-] I love chaat - Jackie
Try the dahi papdi chaat. It's my favorite!
[ Posted at 10:24 AM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Anything with saffron is great in my book! And the halva looks gorgeous with a rich color!

veron Website Link
[ Posted at 9:34 AM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
gajar halva is something that i really like. here we make it almost weekly :)

joshi daniel Website Link
[ Posted at 10:26 AM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
I had no idea it was this simple to make...what a great idea for me to surprise and impress guests. Thanks for sharing!

Trish Website Link
[ Posted at 1:29 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
[-] cheffresco - Guest-cheffresco
What an interesting dessert - looks good! Thanks for the panna cotta links - yours look delicious! I'm willing to retry (without the splenda of course :)

cheffresco Website Link
[ Posted at 3:28 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Wow, this is totally new to me...really would like to try it. Looks so yummie!

Juliana Website Link
[ Posted at 3:37 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
[-] Gajar Halva (Indian Carrot Halwa Dessert) - Guest-LorraineNotQuiteNigella
Oh thankyou! I always buy halwa and really like the carrot halwa from Indian sweet shops but never knew how to make my own :)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella Website Link
[ Posted at 3:55 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
[-] Hi - Guest-Katherine582
Hi Jackie,

Your site is really nice. I love indian desserts. I always go to Indian restaurants to stock up on my favourites. One of the best Indian desserts is Burfi.Its so creamy and sweet.

Katherine Website Link
[ Posted at 4:00 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Mm! now, why don't they sell stuff like this in the Indian restaurants here? Their desserts are terrible! But I never knew there were such delicious-looking Indian desserts!

sophia Website Link
[ Posted at 8:08 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Hi Jackie,

Thanks so much visiting!

About the banana leaves, I live in the Caribbean so it's easy for me to get them fresh off of the many trees around.

I'd suggest you try a Vietnamese, Thai or Indian or any Asian store. Sometimes they have them fresh, or at other times in the freezer section.

Cynthia Website Link
[ Posted at 8:55 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Jackie, you are amazing. As soon as I saw this entry, memories of Halvah Bars as a kid came flooding back - even though this is a different preparation - dish. However, the way this Gajar Halva is prepared, with your addition of pistachios and the carrots is so unique, beautiful and mouth watering. Y1our photos always possess that salivary gland 'motivator'. Love trying new things, so bookmarked :)

Lisa Website Link
[ Posted at 8:59 PM on 8/10/09 | Reply ]
Looks delicious! :) My dad used to make a dessert like this. Ummm, not sure how to spell it, but he called it "barfi." Sometimes he would make coconut or almond flavour too.

Palidor Website Link
[ Posted at 4:13 AM on 8/11/09 | Reply ]
[-] Gajar Halva (Indian Carrot Halwa Dessert) - Guest-Natasha5StarFoodie
Ooo, a carrot halva sounds excellent! I've only had nut-based ones, I think. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

Natasha - 5 Star Foodie Website Link
[ Posted at 7:14 AM on 8/11/09 | Reply ]
[-] ^^ - Guest-gine
... sounds like a great dessert ^^ .. XOXO

gine Website Link
[ Posted at 5:30 PM on 8/11/09 | Reply ]
[-] oh this does sound good - Guest-OysterCulture
love all the elements, sounds like a wonderful dish

OysterCulture Website Link
[ Posted at 3:07 PM on 8/12/09 | Reply ]
[-] yum - Guest-Errin
I was just at an indian restaurant the other day having lunch and had this dessert for the first time ever. I had thirds it was so good. I was trying to figure out how to make it myself...but to no avail. Thankfully you are here to save the day! Thanks for another delicious recipe.

Errin Website Link
[ Posted at 8:47 AM on 8/13/09 | Reply ]
Hmm one of my favorite dessert, love it, havent made this in long time!

Parita Website Link
[ Posted at 3:25 AM on 8/14/09 | Reply ]
[-] substitution? - Guest-bonbon
I would like to make this but only have ground cardamom, not pods. Can this be a substitute? Maybe a 1/4 tsp. or so?
[ Posted at 9:53 AM on 3/26/10 | Reply ]
[-] Ground cardamom - Jackie
Sure! Ground cardamom works fine. You could also use cardamom extract. It'll give a nice aroma to the rice pudding.
[ Posted at 10:41 AM on 3/26/10 | Reply ]

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