Many of us don’t make desserts every day (we are watching our waistlines, after all!) but it’s lovely to have a treat every now and then. It’s really nice to have a sweet treat when a guest pops in, or we’re celebrating something special!
After all, Indian cooking is not just about creating savoury dishes. In India, they use spices in everything – and that includes drinks, entrees, and desserts.
Spices are plentiful and easy to find in India, and when you use great quality spices, you don’t need to use lots of other ingredients in your dishes.
Indian people have a very sweet tooth when it comes to desserts, however, and during our recent trip to India, we actually discovered that many of the desserts we tried were too rich for our taste buds. But during our home stays in our travels, we did find some beautiful, delicate desserts that we really loved.
We’d like to share our five hand-picked favourite desserts with you….but first, let’s talk a bit about the spices that are typically used in Indian desserts.
The Five Spices Commonly Used in Indian Desserts
When Indians are cooking sweet dishes, they typically use the five spices listed below.
This gives you an idea of the taste profile for these desserts, because they use these spices all the time, in different combinations, in all of their desserts.
- Cardamom – This spice is called “the queen of spices,” and it has a strong, spicy-sweet flavour. This spice is ubiquitous in Indian desserts.
- Rose Petals – Rose water, dried petals, and even rose powders are all part of Indian sweet and savoury dishes. They lend a floral essence and a fresh flavour.
- Cinnamon – This is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species. It adds a warm, spicy flavour to desserts, and aids in digestion.
- Cloves – A pungent, aromatic spice that provides a warm, sweet, and peppery flavour.
- Saffron Threads – Much of the world’s saffron comes from the Kashmir region in India. As a result, most Northern Indian desserts have a sprinkle of this golden spice. The saffron is usually infused in milk, which creates a gorgeous golden color for the dessert.
Our Top Indian Dessert Recipes
The beauty of cooking Indian desserts is that they are totally interchangeable and flexible. You can cook them with whatever you have on hand, so once you have the basic recipe and core spices for each recipe, you can mix, match, and create your own versions of these delicious desserts.
Here are our hand-picked favourites for you to try:
1. Rice Kheer
Rice kheer is the Indian version of rice pudding, which is a traditional English dessert that is a favourite among Australian families. This dish is made with milk, rice, sugar, and condensed milk, and it’s delicately spiced with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. The spices give this dessert a wonderful, delicate, sweet spice undertone.
2. Beetroot or Carrot Halwa
Halwa is a very easy dessert that can become an everyday staple for your family. You can make with whatever ingredients you have on hand, including carrots, beetroot, bitter gourd, semolina, or almond meal. Mix your main ingredient with ground cardamom, nuts, currants, and condensed milk to make a delicious sweet dessert.
3. Saffron Milk and Cottage Cheese Balls
This traditional Indian dessert combines soft spongy cheese patties, sweet fragrant milk, saffron threads, and ground cardamom. We found this recipe over at Food Viva, and it fit perfectly with our spices.
4. Indian Bread and Butter pudding (Shahi Tukra)
Shahi Tukra, or “Indian Bread and Butter pudding” uses ground cardamom, green cardamom pods, and saffron threads to marry classic Indian aromatics with a traditional Western dessert. This delicious dish is the perfect comfort food.
5. Cardamom and Rose Petal Kulfi (Indian Ice Cream or Semi-Freddo with Pistachio Nuts)
Another traditional Indian dessert is a perfect cold, sweet dessert for hot summer days. When you whip up this “Indian ice cream” using our rose petals and ground cardamom, you’ll think you’re enjoying a summer in India!
Our second version of kulfi uses our beautiful chai brew to create an aromatic spice base for the dish.
Why Are Indian Everyday Desserts So Special?
Indian desserts are straightforward to make, using simple methods and techniques. You can whip them up quickly, especially once you’re familiar with the basic techniques and have the spices on hand.
Basically, once you learn the five techniques featured in the recipes above, you can create endless variations using the ingredients you have on hand.
That also means you can create these desserts without having to follow a recipe to the letter every time. How often do you have to run out to the shops to get one missing ingredient for a particular recipe? You’ll never have to do that with these desserts!
Many Indian desserts are milk-based, and they use a lot of spices, nuts, and vegetables. You can use coconut milk (or any other milk) if you wish – you’ll just need to adjust the sugar content of the recipe accordingly.
And the great news is: Indian desserts don’t just taste great…they’re actually good for you! Having one of these desserts after dinner can actually help with your digestion. These scrumptious desserts might seem like sweet treats, but they’re actually a great way to finish off a spicy meal.
Try one of these desserts today, then tell us about it in the comments below!
photo from myheartbeets.com