India’s Favourite Desserts!

I’ve been having a load of fun with questions and answers on CaL. The last question asked, was about which desserts do CaL members find absolutely irresistible. We received over 800 responses!

Given how we have such variety to choose from, I expected responses with mixed options from India and abroad. Reality however was quite different and showed just how desi all of us are on the inside, clearly illustrated by the top 9 desserts of Indians from different geographies, backgrounds and cultures. And as a bonus, we have recipes from blogs who are members of the CaL Badge Network. I hope you enjoy them. 

#9 Kheer

Onam Special Pradhaman from Vidhya’s Home Cooking

We have different types of kheer as made in different cultures all across India. Most popularly made with a simple combination of rice, milk and sugar, kheer has many different variations from all over the country, using lentils, coconut milk, different types of rice, different types of vermicelli, spices, sugar, jaggery and what have you. 

#8 Kaju Katli

Kaju Katlis are slim, diamond shaped sweets made with cashew nuts (kaju), which most Indians adore! They’re soft with a bit of a bite, not too sweet and taste strongly of cashew nuts. Diamond shaped for as long as I can recall, it is the rare person who eats one and no more.

#7 Rasgulla / Rossogola

The subject of a prolonged and intensive squabble over its origin, Bengal or Odisha, what we can all agree upon, is that it’s delicious. A spongy ball of mostly cottage cheese that’s soaked in sugar syrup, there are many varieties of rasgullas and I have yet to meet a person can squeeze all the syrup out of one and yet enjoy this classic Indian dessert.

#6 Ice Cream

Nolen Gurer Ice Cream With Coconut Milk by Not a Curry

One of three non-Indian inclusions in the list, ice cream is loved the world over and I’m not about to describe it here. We do have our own flavours though of which mango is likely to be the most popular.

#5 Cake

Devil’s Food Cake With Dark Chocolate Ganache by Noopur’s Kitchen

There were many entries for cake, so I clubbed them into one entry. We’re fascinated by cake and apart from the egg-less abominations that are the current craze, we’re pretty good at doing cakes in different flavours, shapes, sizes and other points of variance. 

#4 Chocolate (based)

Street-style Chocolate Sandwiches by Aarti Madan

This one is no surprise, given how few of us can stay away from chocolate. India even has chocolate paan (a traditional mouth freshener), chocolate burfis, chocolate kheer and chocolate modaks among others. In short, we’ve incorporated chocolate into every Indian dessert that can handle it!

#3 Rasmalai

Rasmalai could be called a cousin to the rasgulla, given it’s about a soft dumpling soaked in a sweet liquid. But that’s where the similarities end. Rasmalai dumplings are somewhat spongy but not as much as rasgullas (of which many varieties exist) and more conducive to being sliced with a spoon. The sweet liquid is milk based and usually flavoured with saffron and pistachio nuts, both of which are absent in the traditional rasgullas, though there are varieties where the rasgulla is stuffed with a saffron flavoured mixture of nuts and milk solids.

#2 Halwa

Caramelised Suji Halwa from More than Curry

As with cakes, there were many entries for halwa, another dish that’s loved by most Indians. We use it as a religious offering on special days, quickly cook a batch of wheat flour, ghee and sugar to satisfy sudden cravings, make it with all kinds of grain, lentils, fruits and there are even variants that use garlic and meat! Most often seen in the form of a thick paste, some variants are set and cut into blocks too.

#1 Gulab Jamun

Bread Gulab Jamuns from Priyashii’s Kitchen

I’m quite surprised with the #1 entry. That it is popular is well known, but so popular? Yes, quite a surprise. Made of deep fried milk solids and then soaked in cooked and flavoured sugar syrup, most Gulab Jamuns are eaten piping hot, sometimes hotter than freshly made tea! It’s also a much beloved wedding buffet dessert where it is usually paired with vanilla ice cream, the lot eaten together. Many variations exist.

Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is the founder of Chef at Large, a blog that began in 2007. He enjoys cooking, writing, travelling and technology in addition to being a practising Freemason. Health and wellness is a particularly passionate focus. Sid prefers the company of food and animals to most humans, and can be reached at sid.khullar@chefatlarge.in.