Mama’s Punjabi Recipes Gajar da Halwa (Carrot Halwa)


For Punjabis, carrots are one of the few vegetables that can be cooked in many ways: as a pickle, pulped as a juice, as a spicy dish with peas or methi (fenugreek) or sweet as a pudding or halwa. And it is as the halwa that carrots are served the most, now not just in the North but all over India. The gajar da halwa (also called gajrela) can be found in any halwai (confectioner’s) shop, in a deep, wide platter, covered with silverleaf.

Along with gulab jamun, ras gullas and ras malai, gajar da halwa has to be the most popular sweet dish among Indians. It is mainly eaten during the festivals of Diwali, Holi, Eid-ul-Fitr and Raksha Bandan. Nowadays, this dish that is made of grated carrots, nuts, milk, cream, sugar and ghee or clarified butter, is popular worldwide.

The traditional way to make the halwa is to use a large quantity of milk and let in boil till it is evaporated and becomes a tick cream. But, with the use of canned evaporated or thick cream, this has cut down the cooking time a lot.

Of course, as we all know, carrots are good for you. They contain almost no starch but have 7 per cent free sugars and get their bright orange color from beta-carotene which is partly metabolized into Vitamin A which is essential for good vision. In North India, carrots can be found in many colors and shapes, mostly black, red, orange and white, each of which have their own taste and cooking methods. The gajar da halwa is usually made with red or orange ones.


•  1 kilo gajar (carrots)

•  1 cup doodh (whole milk) –   use 1 per cent for less calories

•  2 cups milk powder (or 1 small can of cream or evapo       rated milk)

•  1 cup tael (vegetable or sunflower oil) – you can also        use ghee (clarified butter)

• 2 cups chinni (sugar)

• 1/2 cup badam (almonds)


1. Peel the carrots, rinse in cold water and then grate them.

2.   Place in a large kadai (wok), add the milk, stir, cover with a lid and let it simmer over low heat for 30 minutes till the carrots are cooked.

3. Add the oil and stir till most of the liquid has been evaporated and some oil starts to show along the edges.

4.  Add the sugar and stir continuously, making sure that the carrots do not start to stick and burn.

5.  For a thicker khoya (cream) taste, add some milk powder. Stir well to mix and let the carrots cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Some prefer to use evaporated or condensed milk instead of milk powder. In this case, add less sugar. Turn off the heat and let the halwa sit covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6.  While the carrots are cooking, place the almonds in a small saucepan full of water and bring to a boil for a few minutes, then turn off the heat. Let the almonds sit for 10 minutes then drain the water, rinse in cold water then peel the almonds and then slice them. (If you prefer, you can add packaged blanched almonds, but boiling them also will help to make them softer and tastier.) Add the sliced almonds to the carrots and stir.

MAMA'S 2Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.