Carrot halwa also known as Gajar ka halwa or Gajrela is a traditional North Indian dessert made by simmering fresh grated carrots with full fat milk, sugar and ghee. This delicious dessert is delicately scented with cardamom powder and garnished with chopped nuts. Make this carrot halwa the old-fashioned way from scratch using whole milk or follow the shortcut ways using condensed milk, khoya or milk powder. In this post I share the recipes for all these 4 methods along with Instant pot instructions.
Gajar halwa is immensely popular in India & is most often made in the households during winters when carrots are in season. You will find this served even in buffets, Thali and almost at every feast because it is the Ultimate winner and is the best!
About Carrot Halwa
This classic dessert gets its name “Gajar Halwa” since carrots are known as “Gajar” in Hindi and Halwa is a pudding like dessert from Indian Sub-Continent. So gajar halwa is nothing but Indian carrot pudding.
But it’s not the pudding you are probably thinking of ! This neither has an egg nor a thickening agent/ ingredient. Slow cooking the carrots with milk until all of the liquid evaporates, imparts a magical flavor and lovely pudding like texture to the dish.
In India, a special kind of carrots known as Delhi gajar is widely available during the winters. A lot of people especially in the North make carrot halwa with Delhi carrots since these have a sweeter flavor and are much more juicer than the other kinds. However, you can use the regular carrots the same way in my recipe.
4 methods of making Carrot halwa
Traditional carrot halwa is made by slow cooking grated carrots with full fat milk which is easy to make but takes some time as all of the moisture and liquid from carrots, milk and sugar has to evaporate and then thicken the halwa.
The traditional method does not used processed ingredients like condensed milk, evaporated milk, khoya/mawa or milk powder. However using one of these ingredients will help you save some time as you don’t need to cook down the ingredients longer. Depending on the availability of ingredients and time you can choose one of these methods:
- Traditional method with milk.
- Carrot halwa with condensed milk under 15 mins.
- Gajar halwa with khoya – Make this during festive season when you have surplus khoya/ mawa to use up.
- Gajar ka halwa with milk powder – Make this when you are short of milk.
How to Make Carrot Halwa (Stepwise Photos)
1. Wash 500 grams (half kg) carrots thoroughly under running water. Peel and fine grate them. A food processor quickens the process of grating. So if you own one, you can use it.
Make sure you use a heavy bottom large pot or pan for this recipe as it helps to prevent the halwa from sticking to the bottom and burning. However a pressure cooker too works well.
If you do not have cardamom powder, crush 4 green cardamoms in a mortar pestle or a spice jar.
2.On a low heat, roast 10 pistachios, 5 to 6 almonds and 5 cashew nuts until crunchy. Remove them to a chopping board, cool and chop them. OR Alternately chop the nuts first and fry them in one tablespoon ghee until golden and crunchy. Set aside. If you prefer to use raisins, you may fry them in ghee until plump. Set aside.
3. Next to the same pan, pour 2 cups milk and begin to heat it.
Simmer Carrots with Milk
4. Add grated carrots. (Optional – If using regular carrots and not (delhi gajar) red carrots then you can saute the carrots in ghee until a nice aroma comes out then pour milk. )(check video for details)
5. Stir and cook on a medium flame. Keep stirring to prevent burning at the bottom. Since I used a heavy bottom pan, I didn’t have to stir very often. But I suggest consistently keep checking otherwise the halwa will stick at the bottom.
6. You will have be cautious always towards the end. Especially when the milk has almost evaporated.
7. Cook until the milk completely evaporates.
8. Next add half cup + 2 tablespoons sugar and stir.
9. Sugar melts and carrot halwa turns gooey once again. Stir and cook. When the moisture is half evaporated, add 1 tablespoon ghee and stir well.
10. Stir and cook until the halwa thickens. Just before you finish off, add half teaspoon cardamom powder.
Finally garnish carrot halwa with nuts & raisins. Serve chilled or warm.
Gajar Ka Halwa with Condensed Milk
This method comes handy when you want to make this dessert for an occasion as it is quick to make. Using condensed milk cuts down half the cooking time and the resulting halwa is much richer, flavorful and delicious.
To make this, you can use Delhi gajar or the regular carrots. When I made this I used the regular carrots as Delhi gajar is seasonal and is not available in Singapore throughout the year.
500 grams carrots (tender, young)
½ tin condensed milk (½ cup + 2 tablespoons)
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder or 1 teaspoon rose water
1½ tablespoon ghee (divided – ½ tablespoon + 1)
¼ cup chopped nuts (cashews, pistas,almonds)
2 tablespoons raisins
1.Wash and peel young 500 grams carrots well. Grate them either using a food processor or hand grater. Use the fine grater if you have a food processer.
2. Add ½ tablespoon ghee and heat the pan. This prevents the halwa from sticking to the pan & burning. If you want to you can add the ¼ cup chopped nuts. Fry them until lightly golden. Then add 2 tablespoons raisins. When they become plump, remove to a plate.
3. Add grated carrots & saute for 2 to 3 mins.
4. Pour ½ tin condensed milk (½ cup + 2 tablespoons).
5. Mix well and continue to cook on a medium heat. You will see the carrots begin to release moisture.
6. Cover and cook until gajar turns soft and tender.
7. Add cardamom powder.
8. Adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of ghee enhances the aroma and taste. You can also add more if you like.
9. Mix and saute until a nice aroma comes out.
10. When the milk evaporates turn off. Garnish with chopped cashews, pistachios and almonds.
Serve Gajar ka halwa warm or chilled.
Gajar Halwa With Khoya
This method also takes much less time than the traditional version since the amount of milk used is lesser.
½ kg carrots
½ cup khoya (unsweetened)
1 cup milk
½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
Ensure gajar is grated with a medium fine grater. In the method, carrot is not cooked for long time so if the gratings are larger they won’t soft cook quickly.
If you want you can fry the nuts & raisins in 1 tbsps ghee. Then add carrots and milk. Cook on a low heat stirring well until carrot turns tender. If the milk evaporates and the carrot are not soft then cover and cook on a lowest heat for few minutes.
Then add khoya and sugar. Mix and continue to cook. The entire mixture turns gooey. Let it cook until gajar ka halwa thickens.
Add 1 tablespoon ghee and saute for 2 mins. Turn off and garnish with nuts and raisins.
Gajar ka halwa with milk powder
Milk powder is also known as dry milk and is sold in the grocery stores. I use Nestle everyday for this. Depending on the kind you use, adjust the quantity of sugar and milk powder to suit your taste.
½ kg carrots – grated or fine processed
1/3 cup milk
¾ to 1 cup milk powder (dry milk, I use nestle everyday)
2 to 3 tbsps ghee
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder (adjust to taste)
4 to 8 tablespoons sugar (adjust to taste depending on the milk powder)
Chopped nuts as required
- Add grated carrots to a heavy bottom pot or pressure cooker and pour milk. Cook on a medium to low heat until carrots become tender. If using a pressure cooker, pressure cook for 1 whistle on a medium heat. Let the pressure drop naturally.
- Stir the carrots as they cook until tender. Then add sugar and continue to cook on a low heat. Sugar melts and carrot halwa becomes slightly gooey. At stage sprinkle milk powder all over and mix well to incorporate the milk powder.
- Stir and continue to cook until most of the moisture if evaporated. Taste test and add more milk powder or sugar to adjust the sweetness levels.
- Add cardamom powder and turn off the heat. Serve with chopped nuts.
Instant pot Carrot Halwa
I have been using instant pot for quite some time for all my cooking. Making carrot halwa in an instant pot is a breeze as you don’t need to stir the pudding like we do for the traditional method.
Instant pot needs lesser liquids to cook the foods so I use only a cup of milk for 500 grams of carrot. I have included the instructions below in the recipe card for IP.
Choosing carrots: Always use fresh, tender and young carrots that are less fibrous. If needed taste them before cooking. Carrots that are too old or mature are more fibrous & have a different flavour & texture which do not go well for the halwa. Young carrots are sweeter in flavour & yield a mouth melting carrot halwa.
Milk: Use full fat a.k.a whole milk to get a tasty carrot halwa. For a low fat version just reduce the amount of milk in the recipe or use low fat milk. You can also skip or reduce the amount of ghee. If you are a vegan you can make this halwa with coconut or almond milk. You can also use homemade almond milk following my faq section below.
Grating carrots: Grate the carrots with a hand held grater or food processor. I always use a food processor. You can grate to thick or thin shreds depending on how you like your carrot halwa to be. My kids like them to be very fine as the halwa just melts off in the mouth. But for this post I have used larger gratings.
Sautéing carrots: My mom makes this by first sautéing the grated carrot in ghee for 5 mins. Then pours the milk. However I do not do this just to save time. Adding ghee at a later time, once the halwa is cooked gives a more intense flavour. So you can do either ways.
Cooking: Be cautious & do not leave the carrot halwa on the stove unattended as the milk will get scorched and burnt. You will need to constantly stir the gajar halwa as it cooks through.
Soak 20 to 25 almonds or cashews overnight. Peel them and blend to a super smooth paste with ½ cup water. Pour 1 ½ cups more water and blend. Use this in place of regular milk in the recipe. Also skip ghee or replace it with flavourless virgin coconut oil.
Carrot halwa made with traditional way can be refrigerated for upto 3 to 4 days after which the taste begins to deteriorate. So to store it longer for about 3 to 4 weeks freeze it.
Cool it immediately after cooking and transfer to an air tight glass container. Either refrigerate or freeze it. Make sure you use freezer safe container if freezing.
Reheat it directly on the stovetop on a low heat stirring often or in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds. You can also reheat it in the Instant pot on a high pressure for 0 to 2 mins depending on the quantity of halwa.
Carrot Halwa | Gajar Halwa Recipe
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ½ kg carrot (gajar)(500 grams) (prefer young carrots)
- 2 cups milk (1 cup for Instant pot)
- ½ cup sugar (+ 2 tbsp optional) (prefer organic)
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder (or 4 pods skinned & powdered)
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
- 20 mixed nuts 10 pista, 5 cashew & 5 almonds
- 2 tablespoons raisins optional
- Wash carrots under running water & peel them.
- Grate them in a food processor or with a hand grater.
- Dry roast nuts on a low heat until crunchy, cool & chop them. OR Alternately chop the nuts first & fry them in 1 tbsp ghee until slightly golden. Then add raisins & fry until they plump up. Remove to a plate.
How to Make Carrot Halwa
- Next bring milk to a boil in a heavy bottom pot or deep pan.
- Add grated carrots and cook on a medium heat stirring often.
- Do not leave the pot unattended as the milk will get scorched.
- When the milk has completely evaporated add sugar and stir well.
- Sugar will release lot of moisture & will make the entire carrot halwa gooey.
- Cook until half the moisture evaporates, then stir in the ghee.
- Saute the carrot halwa well in ghee until the moisture evaporates completely.
- When it is done gajar halwa turns aromatic & thickens. It will still be moist. Sprinkle cardamom powder.
- Garnish carrot halwa with nuts. Serve warm or chilled with Ice cream.
Instant Pot Gajar Halwa
- Press the saute button and add 1 tbsp ghee to the steel insert of the IP.
- When it is hot fry the nuts until light golden.
- Then add in raisins if using. When they plump up remove to a plate.
- Then add in the carrots & saute for 2 to 3 mins stirring well.
- Pour 1 cup milk and mix well. Deglaze by scrubbing the bottom of the pot with a spatula.
- Secure the instant pot & position the steam release handle to sealing.
- Press the pressure cook (manual) button & set the timing to 3 mins.
- When the instant pot beeps and finishes, do a manual pressure release carefully.
- Stir in the sugar, ghee & cardamom powder.
- Press the saute button & saute until the milk evaporates completely.
- Garnish gajar halwa with chopped nuts & raisins.
- Chopped Nuts and raisins can be fried in ghee and set aside for garnishing.
- Grated carrot can also be sautéed in ghee for 2 to 3 mins before cooking it with milk.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Carrot halwa recipe first published in June 2013, Republished in Dec 2021.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills.
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