Carrot halwa(Gajar halwa) is such a classic Indian dessert and now you can make it so much quicker! I use a mix of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and milk powder in this recipe to speed up the time taken to make this delicious and aromatic Indian dessert!
Traditionally carrot halwa (gajar halwa) is made by slowly simmering grated carrots in full-fat milk for a long period of time (usually 1.5 to 2 hours). This results in a creamy and luxurious pudding with a lovely texture. A lot of traditional recipes also use Mawa/khoya (milk thickened for a long period of time until only milk solids are left behind). However, I find that Mawa/khoya isn’t easily available outside of India and making it at home can be tedious and cumbersome.
I've found a way to get that same rich creamy thickened milk flavor without spending hours cooking and stirring your halwa! The secret is using a mix of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and dehydrated milk powder. Using these ingredients is the perfect shortcut we need to make this halwa quickly and still achieve that rich and creamy texture and flavor!
Ingredients to make carrot halwa
- Carrots – Carrots are the main ingredient in this halwa, so definitely try to get the sweetest and freshest carrots you can find. I like buying organic carrots so I can leave the skin on. Traditionally in North India, red carrots that are seasonally available in the wintertime are used to make this halwa. If you can find red carrots, use them! They make this halwa taste even more special.
- Ghee – Ghee adds an amazing nutty flavor to this halwa. When the carrots are sautéed in ghee, it takes on this nutty flavor and gets slightly caramelized. I use high quality grass fed ghee in this recipe.
- Evaporated milk: I love using evaporated milk as it has been thickened and evaporated for a long period of time. It cuts down our cooking time significantly since most of the work has already been done for us, resulting in a thick and creamy halwa with very short cooking time.
- Sweetened condensed milk: Sweetened condensed milk is so thick and syrupy and lends a great texture to the carrot halwa. Again, this too has already been cooked for a long time which means less work for you and me!
- Dehydrated milk powder: When milk powder mixes with the milk and the liquid released by the carrots, it creates an amazing fudgy texture and acts a perfect replacement for fresh mawa (khoya) in this recipe.
- Saffron – saffron adds an amazing flavor this this halwa. I like crushing saffron and infusing it in evaporated milk before adding it to the halwa so we can extract all of this flavor.
- Cardamom – along with saffron, cardamom is the main flavor in this halwa. I love the beautiful floral aroma and delicious flavor that cardamom adds.
- Dried fruit and nuts – Use your favorite mix of dried fruit and nuts here for texture and crunch. I like using cashews, raisins, almonds, and pistachios. I also like toasting my cashews and raisins in ghee for an added layer of flavor.
How to make carrot halwa
1. Crush the saffron strands in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Add in 2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk to the mortar and mix well.
2. Wash the carrots well. Then grate them using the coarse side of your grater.
3. Heat a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat and add in the ghee.
4. Now add in the cashews and toast them until they just start to change color and turn light brown.
5. At this point add in the raisins and toast until the raisins puff up and turn brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit and nuts into a bowl and reserve for garnish.
6. Into the same ghee, add in the grated carrots and sauté for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated.
7. Add in the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, half the milk powder and saffron infused milk and mix well to combine.
8. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the carrots are very soft and most of the moisture has evaporated.
9. Now add in the sugar and salt and cook for another 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves completely and the halwa gets thicker.
10. Now add in the other half of the milk powder.
11. Also add in the cardamom powder and toasted cashews and raisins and mix well just before turning off the heat.
12. Garnish with the finely sliced almonds/pistachios and serve hot.
Tips and tricks
- Use a food processor to grate the carrots if you have one! Using a food processor will make the process super quick. If you don't have a food processor, grating the carrots by hand works perfectly too, it just takes a lot longer.
- Don't peel your carrots. Carrot peels are perfectly edible and there is no need to peel them. Scrub them really well to remove all the dirt and try to use organic carrots if possible.
- Use good quality ghee in this recipe. We only use a small amount of ghee in this halwa, so use the best ghee you can find/make. This will ensure the best aroma and flavor without using too much ghee.
- Adjust the sweetness depending on how sweet your carrots are. If your carrots are particularly bland, you will need to either add more sugar or use more sweetened condensed milk in this recipe.
- Season the halwa. Salt brings out the flavor in all recipes, even if they are desserts. That tiny amount of salt makes a huge difference in flavor, so don't leave it out.
- Use full fat milk powder Milk powder acts as a replacement for mawa/khoya in this recipe, so use full fat milk powder for that rich and luxurious texture.
- Use freshly ground cardamom for the most potent flavor. Spice tend to lose their aroma nd flavor if ground too much in advance. Grinding it fresh will result in the best flavor and aroma.
- Add spices in the end. Add ground cardamom and any other spice that you want to use only at the end of cooking to preserve it's freshness and aroma.
- Replace nuts with seeds if you have a nut allergy. Pumpkin seeds will work really well in this recipe.
Storage and reheating instructions
Store leftover carrot halwa in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can either serve it cold, straight from the refrigerator or microwave it for 15-30 seconds to warm it up before serving.
Carrot halwa can also be frozen. Freeze leftovers in an airtight container for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw the halwa overnight in the refrigerator and serve it cold or microwave it before serving!
What to serve with carrot halwa
I love serving warm carrot halwa with vanilla ice cream. I'm a big fan of warm + cold food served together and I love that the vanilla ice cream melts and creates a rich sauce for the halwa.
Frequently asked questions
Can I reduce the amount of ghee in this recipe?
Ghee adds a beautiful aroma and I've only used a little bit of ghee in this halwa. If you prefer, you could reduce the ghee or even skip it entirely and dry roast the carrots and nuts.
Is carrot halwa healthy?
While carrots itself are healthy, carrot halwa is a dessert that is rich and decadent and should be enjoyed in moderation. I love sharing it with friends and family during the festive season.
Can I use mawa/khoya in this recipe?
Yes, absolutely! Don't use the milk powder listed below and instead use half the amount of mawa of khoya.
How to serve gajar halwa?
I love serving gajar halwa warm or hot. If I have leftovers, I heat it up in the microwave before serving. It tastes especially delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
More Indian desserts you might like
Quick carrot halwa
- 2 pounds carrots
- 12 oz evaporated milk (1 can)
- ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
- ½ cup powdered milk
- 25 strands saffron
- ⅓ cup sugar (adjust depending on sweetness of carrots)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons ghee
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 tablespoons chopped cashews
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds/pistachios
- Crush the saffron strands in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. Add in 2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk to the mortar and mix well.
- Heat a heavy bottomed pan on medium heat and add in the ghee. Now add in the cashews and toast them until they just start to change color and turn light brown. At this point add in the raisins and toast until the raisins puff up and turn brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fruit and nuts into a bowl and reserve for garnish.
- Into the same ghee, add in the grated carrots and sauté for about 5-7 minutes on medium heat stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated.
- Add in the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, half the milk powder and saffron infused milk and mix well to combine. Cook for another 15 minutes or until the carrots are very soft and most of the moisture has evaporated.
- Now add in the sugar and salt and cook for another 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves completely.
- Finally add in the cardamom powder, remaining milk powder and toasted cashews and raisins and mix well just before turning off the heat.
- Garnish with the finely sliced almonds/pistachios and serve hot. Carrot halwa tastes amazing when served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
I hope you like this recipe as much as I do. Please leave a comment below to let me know what you think and subscribe to my blog if you would like to see more easy and delicious recipes.