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13 of the Best Indian Desserts to Try at Home

In the UK, it’s all too common to enjoy a delicious starter and main at an Indian restaurant, only to reach for the dessert menu and be disappointed by a selection of generic, pre-made puds.

This has led many to believe that India simply doesn’t have a good dessert culture – which couldn’t be further from the truth!

In reality, a dazzling array of Indian desserts are available. Recipes vary widely from region to region, as well as from household to household, but they all have one thing in common – they’re absolutely delicious!

Below, we’ve listed 13 of our favourites for you to try at home.

1. Gulab Jamun

One of India’s most iconic desserts, gulab jamun is a ball of khoya (curd) and sugar dipped in syrup and deep-fried. Think of a small, round doughnut covered in syrup, scented with rose water.

Traditionally enjoyed at celebrations, such as weddings, festivals and birthdays, gulab jamun have a soft, creamy texture inside and are usually served hot to maximise their heady aroma.

Gulab Jamun

2. Kulfi

A frozen dessert made with thickened milk, its consistency is similar to ice cream but slightly denser. Originating in India as early as 1300 BC, the word kulfi derives from a Persian word meaning frozen.

Much like ice cream, the taste of kulfi varies depending on how it is flavoured or infused. Common flavours include pistachio, mango, rose water, saffron and cardamom. Shape into a conical shape using a mould, adding a wooden stick if desired.


3. Gajar Ka Halwa

Originating in the Mughal empire, gajar ka halwa is made from a mixture of gajar (carrot), milk and sugar, infused with cardamom and topped with nuts.

The soft creamy texture of the halwa contrasts incredibly well with the chopped nuts, resulting in a satisfying dessert that is relatively low in fat and has a great shelf life (store in the fridge for up to 10 days).

Gajar Ka Halwa

4. Rasgulla

Rasgulla are extremely soft and spongy white balls soaked in sugar syrup.

Made from chhena (cottage cheese) and semolina, the best thing about this Indian dessert is that you don’t have to fry it in oil or ghee.


5. Phirni

Another dish invented in the Mughal period, phirni is a popular North Indian dessert enjoyed at Diwali, Ramadan and other festivals.

A creamy dish made from milk, rice and sugar, phirni is one of several types of Indian rice pudding available. The difference between these dishes is primarily textural – phirni is made from coarse ground rice, giving it a thicker consistency reminiscent of semolina pudding.


6. Ras Malai

Widely considered the cousin of rasgulla, ras malai is a cheese ball soaked in sweetened, thickened milk flavoured with cardamom and saffron.

Because the balls are taken out of their syrup after cooking and then heated in infused milk, ras malai has a creamier taste than rasgulla and is best enjoyed chilled after the milk infusion has thickened.

Rasgulla are available tinned and these can be used to make a cheats ras malai, drastically reducing the preparation time. That said, for maximum flavour, we’d always recommend making them from scratch.

Ras Malai

7. Rabri

Rabri is a delicious, creamy North Indian dish made from milk and flavoured with spices and nuts.

Whole milk is cooked on a low heat, resulting in a layer of cream (malai) which is collected before the rest of the milk boils down into a thick, condensed milk. Afterwards, the malai is added back into the dessert in layers, giving a unique texture and flavour that changes with every mouthful.


8. Coconut Barfi

As the name suggests, the main ingredient in this dessert is coconut. In fact, alongside sugar and condensed milk, it’s one of only three ingredients!

Especially popular in South India, coconut barfi is one of the most commonly made Indian sweets (mithai) and is a mainstay in Diwali celebrations.

With a soft, chewy texture and a sweet, moreish flavour, coconut barfi is a fantastic sweet to whip up at home. With a short cooking time, they’re easy to prepare, and because they can be shaped and coloured in a variety of ways,  they’re a great recipe to make with the kids.

Coconut Barfi

9. Laddoo

A laddoo is a delicious Indian dessert made of besan (gram flour), ghee and sugar, topped with finely crushed pistachios, almonds or cashews.

Especially popular at Diwali, laddoo are sweet, soft and extremely satisfying. Available in a variety of flavours, the most popular is kesar and contains a healthy dose of saffron to give it a gorgeous golden yellow colour.


10. Kheer

Creamy, comforting and full of flavour, kheer is a traditional Indian dessert made with basmati rice and/or vermicelli (rice noodles). The rice or vermicelli is boiled in a mixture of milk and water until it reaches a thick, pudding-like consistency. Once cooled to room temperature, it’s flavoured with cardamom and sugar before being garnished with nuts or raisins.

Although similar to phirni in taste, using whole rice or noodles results in a looser texture. With only three basic ingredients, kheer is widely enjoyed across the entire Indian subcontinent, for breakfast and as a snack as well as after a main.


11. Jalebi

Another one of India’s most popular sweets, jalebi is made by deep-frying dough that’s then soaked in sugar syrup, resulting in a decadent dish that is equal parts crispy and moist.

Commonly enjoyed as a snack, street food vendors selling coiled, golden brown jalebi are a common sight across India.


12. Soan Papdi

This sought-after delicacy is made from besan (gram flour), jaggery, ghee and milk, and can be found in virtually every mithai shop in India.

With a rich sweet taste and a flaky texture, soan papdi is another festival favourite, especially on Diwali.

Soan Papdi

13. Peda

Originating in Mathura, a city in Uttar Pradesh, peda is a delectable Indian sweet made from whole milk and sugar.

This spherical sweet has a fudge-like texture and comes in many different varieties, depending on the flavourings used. Popular choices include saffron, cocoa powder and clotted cream.