In northern India, the arrival of winters is marked by the advent of juicy red carrots in its sabzi (vegetable) bazaars. One can often find bright carrots stacked in beautiful patterns by sabziwallas (vendors) with water sprinkled on them to keep them fresh and shiny in the display. Once the red carrots are in abundance and their prices start falling, people buy them in bulk for making a juicy yet creamy Gajar ka halwa, also called Gajrela.
Gajrela or Gajar ka Halwa is a sweet dish made with milk and shredded carrots.
Prepared Gajrela can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks and is enough to satisfy the sweet cravings of the entire family.
Our love for Halwa is not new. We’ve shared our Besan Halwa recipe on the blog earlier. And like other halwas, this one is also as multicultural as they come. Gajar or Jazar in Arabic is known to have been first cultivated in central Asia some 1100 years ago according to the World Carrot Museum (Yes, such a place exists!). A lot of Indian cookbooks mention Gajar halwa to have its origins in the Punjab region during the Mughal era. It’s popularity is not restricted to India as it is savoured in Pakistan and Bangladesh as well.
Carrots weren’t originally red or orange. They were mostly purple until Dutch farmers cross bred yellow and red varieties to come up with orange carrots which are easily available almost everywhere now. But red carrots aren’t that easy to find if one is not in North India. For those who don’t get their hands on red carrots, you can make Gajrela using other carrots- I used orange ones. In India, people also make halwa with purple carrots. Some say the red ones are sweeter, but orange ones also make for a delicious halwa.
Gajrela is a simple and easy to make dessert- all you need in terms of technology is a food processor.
In the olden days, women would shred carrots by hand using a shredder but thankfully things are simpler now. Besides the time taken in manual shredding, the preparation time for the Gajrela is about 2 hours approximately.
So let’s get right to the point.
Here’s how I make Gajar ka Halwa/ Gajrela
Preparation Time : 15 mins ; Cooking Time: 2-3 hours; Total Time: 4 hours approx.
Serves 6-10; Yields – 6-10 small cups
- Carrots, 1 kilogram, peeled and shredded
- Full cream Milk/ Whole Milk, 1 litre
- Green Cardamom Pods, 4, pounded
- Ghee, 1-2 tablespoons
- Almonds, 1/2 cup, roughly chopped
- Sugar, 1/2 cup
And some patience!
Wash and peel the carrots and shred them in a food processor. If you don’t have one you’ll have to use a handheld shredder.
Place shredded carrots in a big wok or kadhai on low heat.
Pour in all the milk over carrots. Pound the green cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle or crack open the pods using the back of a heavy utensil. Add the cardamom to the milk and carrot mix.
Cover and let this cook for half an hour on low heat. Check and stir.
Continue cooking on medium heat until milk is reduced to half its initial volume. At this stage stir in chopped almonds. You can use other nuts like cashews and pistachio. If you are using raisins/kishmish, rinse and drain them and then add in to the halwa.
Cover and cook for another half hour.
Once you see that the milk is reduced and absorbed in the carrots, you’ll see a white residue coating the carrots. That is the milk transforming into Khoya.
Khoya is reduced milk used frequently in sweets in the Indian subcontinent. That is what lends the halwa a creamy texture. We love to use Khoya Barfi to make these delicious sweet parathas. Some like to add store bought khoya to the Gajrela to make it creamier but I prefer it without the Khoya as the full fat milk makes it creamy enough.
A note on consistency of the Gajar Halwa
Some of you may like the halwa to be drier and cook until you see absolutely no milk in the wok. I prefer the halwa be juicier so I go to the next step while there is still some 2-3 tablespoons of milk in the wok. That is when I give it a good stir, increase the heat to medium and add the ghee.
Continuous stirring helps to evenly cook the halwa.
A minute later, add the sugar and stir. The sugar melts in and you will find the halwa becomes slightly watery. Keep stirring and cook till you see the water evaporate.
Once that happens, the Gajrela or Gajar ka Halwa is ready to serve. It can be had right off the stove or cold, depending on your preference. I would recommend serving it warm. Put a spoonful in your mouth and it will melt all your worries away!
Enjoy this six ingredient, khoya-less, creamy Gajrela!
Gajar Ka Halwa/ Gajrela
- Food Processor with Shredding Attachment or Box Grater
- 1 kg Carrots/ Gajar, 1 kilogram peeled and shredded
- 1 litre Full cream Milk/ Whole Milk/ Doodh
- 4 pods Green Cardamom Pods/ Elaichi pounded or powdered
- 2-3 tbsp Ghee
- 1/2 cup Almonds/ Badam (Or use any nuts of choice) roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup Sugar/ Cheeni
- 1 tbsp Raisins/ Kishmish (optional)
- Wash and peel the carrots and shred them in a food processor. If you don’t have one you’ll have to use a handheld shredder/ box grater.
- Place shredded carrots in a big wok or kadhai on low heat.
- Pour in all the milk over carrots. Pound the green cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle or crack open the pods using the back of a heavy utensil. Add the cardamom to the milk and carrot mix.
- Cover and let this cook for half an hour on low heat. Check and stir in between.
- Continue cooking on medium heat until milk is reduced to half its initial volume. At this stage stir in chopped almonds. You can use other nuts like cashews and pistachio. If you are using Raisins/ Kishmish, rinse and drain them and add in to the kadhai.
- Cover and cook on low heat for another half hour.
- Once you see that the milk is reduced and absorbed in the carrots, you’ll see a white residue coating the carrots. That is the milk transforming into Khoya which makes the texture creamy. See notes on use of Khoya.
- If you prefer drier halwa, cook till more milk evaporates and only a tablespoon worth is left. If you prefer juicier halwa, add 2-3 tablespoons of ghee and give it a good stir. Increase the heat to medium and stir continuously so that it cooks evenly.
- After a couple of minutes of cooking the halwa with ghee, tip in the sugar and mix it in till you see it dissolve. You will see that the mix becomes slightly watery and that is fine.
- Keep stirring and cooking till you see the water evaporate from the halwa.
- Once the water from the sugar evaporates, the Gajar ka Halwa/ Gajrela is ready to serve. It can be had right off the stove or cold, depending on your preference. I recommend serving it warm. See notes for storage and freezing.
- Khoya is reduced milk used frequently in sweets in the Indian subcontinent. That is what lends the halwa a creamy texture. Some like to add store bought khoya to the Gajrela to make it creamier but I prefer it without the Khoya as the full fat milk makes it creamy enough.
- Consistency: You can adjust the consistency of the halwa by cooking it for longer till most of the liquid evaporates before adding the sugar. For a juicier halwa, you can proceed with adding the sugar when there is still 2-3 tbsp of liquid on the sides.
- Storage: Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Reheat in a heavy bottom pan till steaming hot or microwave it for minute and stir midway for even heating.
- Freezing the Gajrela/Gajar ka Halwa: You may freeze the halwa in your freezer for a couple of months. For serving, let the frozen halwa thaw in the fridge overnight and then reheat till steaming hot. I do not recommend refreezing thawed halwa.
This looks so delicious 🙂
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