Halwa is often synonymous with a visit to the Gurudwara, as Sakshi attests in her write up for the Rich Atta Halwa recipe. The halwa, usually referred to as “Karah Parshad”, served at a gurudwara or in Sikh households for special occasions is made using four simple ingredients – flour, ghee, sugar and water. There are many versions of halwa/halva/helwa across cultures and within India. A few that we’ve enjoyed and shared on the blog are: besan ka halwa, sooji halwa, assidat al-boubar, malai halwa and that winter special gajrela.Jump to Recipe
Update: Sakshi and I recently did something new! We decided to cook this halwa on zoom together, but two ways. You can see our delicious results in the video below and follow along as we cook.
The significance of karah prashad
For most Sikhs karah parshad isn’t just a festive food. It is made on all kinds of special occasions, personal and religious. For instance a birthday, a new endeavour, and a death anniversary are all marked by a prayer called an ardas followed by a serving of karah parshad for all present. In my childhood home we would simply refer to it as atta halwa but more often than not you’ll find Punjabis calling it exclusively by its more auspicious and religious name.
Karah (ka-rah) or कड़ाह in Hindi in the realm of food refers to a heavy, open mouthed metallic vessel used for cooking. Parshad or alternatively prasad / प्रसाद means an offering to god(s) seeking blessings. This offering, as is often the case in temples across India is donated by worshippers, collected by priests and distributed to other worshippers in small quantities. Befittingly, individual efforts driven by varied hopes end up sweetening the day for numerous strangers, all bound by one thing – their devotion.
Our devotion is toward food. In that spirit, to help you celebrate big and small joy with a little more sweetness, sharing the recipe for karah parshad.
Let’s get cooking: recipe for Karah Parshad
Total Prep Time: 50 minutes to an hour
Pre cooking prep: 5 minutes, Cooking time: 45 – 50 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 persons
Ingredients for Karah Parshad:
- Atta (Whole Wheat flour) – 1 cup
- Ghee (clarified butter) – 1/2 cup
- Sugar – 1/2 cup
- Water ~ 3 cups
First, start by measuring all the ingredients.
Sugar syrup: about 10 minutes
Then take a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add water and sugar to it and put it on medium heat. Let this come to a gentle boil. Continue cooking until all the sugar has dissolved. Allow the syrup to simmer while you cook the flour.
I used raw cane sugar which created a dark syrup. Feel free to use any kind of sugar you like except confectioner’s sugar. You’ll likely need a different quantity than mentioned here. If you do, please drop a line!
If you want, add a pod of cardamom to the syrup for flavour. Karah Parshad though is almost always cooked without any additional flavourings.
Roasting the Atta/Whole Wheat Flour: about 40 minutes
Roasting the flour to that perfect color is the secret of this halwa. You can always add more sugar or water to the syrup. But if you’ve got yourself a batch of burnt flour there is no way to fix it other than starting again.
Step one for this part is to heat the ghee. Add ghee to the kadhai or pan you are using and let it melt. Heat to the point where small bubbles start rising to the surface. Lower the heat and add flour.
Mix the flour and ghee until you are satisfied each speck of flour has been moistened. Continue to stir gently on medium heat.
After a few minutes of stirring the flour will start browning. This process is slow and it is best done at a slow pace. Trying to hasten the cooking by increasing the heat will instantly burn the atta. It is a tricky ingredient to work with!
The aim is to cook the flour until it is a deep caramel color but not burnt. If you leave the pan unattended for a few seconds you will notice a layer of darker flour at the base. When the flour has been cooking for a while this first layer can burn quickly if not stirred.
Combining atta and sugar syrup: about 5 minutes
When you are satisfied that the flour has roasted enough – it should not smell burnt, but should look a caramel color – it is time to combine the syrup and flour.
Make space in the center of the flour and pour the syrup. Start mixing with your free hand. Continue until both have combined completely. The idea is to avoid any lumps. Keep stirring until all you see on the sides is residual ghee. That’s an indication that moisture from the syrup has penetrated everywhere. And, it should! Otherwise you’ll be left with a clumpy halwa.
Once satisfied, turn off the heat and if you wish cover the kadhai / pan, letting the halwa rest for a few minutes before serving. My mom always did that, and so do I. But feel free to serve it right away.
Can I have some of that karah parshad?
The smell of cooked halwa, of any kind, is divine. This karah parshad is no exception. I always find myself itching to have a bite as soon as it is done knowing full well the scalding after effects inside my mouth.
In gurudwaras a priest or sevadar will usually portion the halwa and hand it to devotees as they exit the main sanctum of the temple. I love having it similarly at home too. It is also great as a snack with tea or as a meal when eaten with fresh puris and chapatis.
Karah Parshad – Gurudwara Style Atta Halwa
- Saucepan, wok or large pan
- 1 cup Atta Whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup Ghee Clarified Butter
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 3 cups Water or more as needed
- Start by putting water and sugar in a saucepan to make the sugar syrup. Let it come to a gentle boil on low to medium heat while you proceed to cook the flour in ghee.
- Put a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai on medium high heat and melt the ghee in it. Once the ghee is hot and bubbling, lower the heat and add flour. Mix well until all the ghee has combined with the atta/flour. Keep roasting the flour on low heat while stirring continuously until it turns a deep caramel color, but doesnt smell burnt.
- Add sugar syrup to the cooked flour and mix well. Keep stirring until all the syrup has been soaked up and there are no lumps of flour left behind. Turn off the heat, cover and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.