If you are an Indian, you almost certainly love desserts or at least crave that little sweet treat after a meal. Am I right, or am I right? Indians have had a long-lasting love affair with sweets or ‘mithai’ since time immemorial. And to top that off, our sweet cravings reach crazy new heights when festivals are around the corner. And for valid reasons! Desi sweets are some of the yummiest and most wholesome desserts ever, and there is absolutely no arguing with that! There’s just something about pure goodness made with homely love that will never fail to make you smile. So, for all you sweet tooth’s out there, here are the top 20 most drool-worthy desi desserts you will find in India:
If you haven’t heard of Pedas, have you been living under a rock? In the Indian context, Pedas are extremely popular and one of the most common ‘mithai’ offered to gods. Made primarily of khoya (made from milk) and sugar, Peda is loved by every Indian. Originally from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, Pedas are not only offered in temples but also distributed to family and friends on happy and successful occasions.
2 Gulab Jamun
Unlike what the name suggests, Gulab Jamun actually has nothing to do with roses! These sinful deep-fried balls made of khoya and maida that are then doused in sugar syrup, are an obligatory presence at every wedding party. You can eat Gulab Jamun hot or cold, accompanied with the infamous vanilla ice cream or plain, but whichever way you choose to eat it, you will not be disappointed. This desi dessert will melt in your mouth and keep you coming back for more.
This bright orange dessert is crispy, deep-fried, sugary and an all-time favorite. This can be eaten hot or cold, plain or with vanilla ice cream, samosa, or even a dollop of ‘rabdi’. Several Indian towns like Haridwar and Indore simply have this with a big glass of milk for breakfast! Like many other desi desserts, Jalebis too have their origin outside India. They are a take on the west Asian Zolabiya – a yummy sweet treat enjoyed by one and all during Ramzaan in Iran. Jalebis are the perfect go-to sweet snack for when you’re bored and craving something light to munch.
4 Kaju Katli
This infamous diamond-shaped goodness of cashews is something many Indians have loved since their childhood. Each piece of Kaju Katli or Kaju Barfi has an edible silver foil topping, which is apparently to show not only luxury but also love and appreciation for the customer. This Marwari dish is so delicious that I don’t think anyone has ever been able to just stop at one piece! Additionally, this is the perfect gift for your loved ones.
Ladoos are another traditional desi ‘mithai’ that we Indians absolutely love. Coming in various flavors, colors, and sizes, Ladoos are super delicious, mouth-watering and fit for kings. Some of the most famous Ladoos are the Boondi, Besan, Rava, Motichur, Til, and the Ragi Coconut Ladoos. Ladoos can also be healthy and a great snack. Here’s a fun fact about the origin of Ladoos: There is a belief that an Indian physician first used small spheres of sesame seeds to treat his patients, and that is where the tradition of making Ladoos started!
6 Gajar ka Halwa
If you were to ask anyone to name a warm and homely dessert, Gajar ka Halwa would be one of the first to come to mind. A dish that started gaining popularity during the Mughal period and that is now made and served at both Hindu and Muslim festivals alike is something that brings to mind only wholesomeness, joy, hospitality, and lots of love. As the name suggests, Gajar ka Halwa is made with grated carrots cooked in milk and cardamom and coated with dry fruits. It is an absolute delight to eat and is frequently prepared by many mothers in Indian homes.
Yet another homely Indian dessert is Kheer. It is one of the most enjoyed milk-based puddings out there, and it is boiled rice in milk and sugar with dry fruits, saffron, etc as garnish. Kheer, Payasam, and even Phirni are different varieties of milk puddings, and all are equally loved. Another form is Seviyan in the south, where they use vermicelli in place of rice.
Creamy, soft, and syrupy, these melt-in-your-mouth sugary balls will not fail to bring you that pure childhood joy in every bite. Although popular in both Odisha and West Bengal with slight variations in preparation, Rasgulla has managed to become a cause for rivalry in the two states, with both staking claims to its origin. Made of chenna (or cottage cheese), semolina dough, and sugar syrup, Rasgullas have managed to win the hearts and taste buds of one and all!
9 Ras Malai
Ras Malai is another remarkably famous Bengali dessert. Although quite similar to Rasgulla, Ras Malai is unique in its own right with an identity of its own. Ras means juice, and Malai means cream. Ras Malai is also made of cottage cheese and soaked in sweetened and thickened condensed milk. It is an exotic festive sweet treat that you need to try if you haven’t already.
10 Soan Papdi
Soan Papdi is a mithai like no other. It is cubed-shaped and has a flaky texture that is also very similar to that of cotton candy and will melt in your mouth before you’ve even had a chance to bite it! The primary ingredient used to make this desi dessert is gram flour, and it involves a very elaborate process of making. Soan Papdi has a variety of flavors and while the original is to die for, the orange flavored Soan Papdi is a must-try.
11 Kalakand (Milk Cake)
Famously known to come from Alwar in Rajasthan, Kalakand is a milk-based sweet that is just too good to be true! Made from only curdled milk and sugar, Kalakand is a desi dessert that shows real skill or Kala in the brilliance of its making. The milk cake has different shades of brown and the dark brown layer is its hallmark. Kalakand is one of the finest examples of sweets in Indian cuisine that have humble origins but unmatched richness.
Rabdi is a condensed sweet milk dessert that was created in Mathura but later perfected in Varanasi. Rabdi is milk boiled on low heat for a long, long time until it becomes thick and dense. Jaggery, dry fruits and so on are added to enrich it and enhance the taste. As it gradually became popular around India, variations like Basundi and Phirni also came into being.
13 Mysore Pak
As the name suggests, this heavenly sweet hails from Mysore. It is made with gram flour, sugar and pure desi ghee. It is believed to have its origin rooted in the 19th-century reign of Maharaja Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV in the Mysore Palace of Karnataka. Today, people call Mysore Pak the king of sweets in the south of India. Mysore Pak is an extremely rich dessert that is irresistible in every possible aspect.
Synonymous with the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, a Modak is a typically steamed rice flour sweet that is stuffed with jaggery and coconut mixture. While this mouth-watering delicacy is an inevitable part of the festival, it is also made in Indian homes around the year and dearly loved by children. Modaks are healthy since they’re steamed and have coconut and jaggery as their main ingredients. So go and make yourself a plateful and feast on the goodness of this delectable desi dessert!
A simple yet satisfying sweet dish, the Barfi is an absolute favorite around India and especially in the North. It comes in various colors, textures, shapes, and alluring flavors that will win your heart over every single time. You will typically find Barfis during Diwali- the festival of lights.
Malpua is the Indian version of a sweet deep-fried pancake dipped/soaked in sugar syrup. Originally from Odisha, Malpua is India’s oldest ‘mithai’! Although made and eaten in different variations, it is said to taste the best when served with Rabdi. Look out for this yummy treat at festivals like Holi, Diwali, Eid, and go grab yourself a plate full!
Kulfi is the infamous Indian ice cream with classic flavors like Malai, Kesar, and Pista. It is super creamy and the best dessert to end your heavy Indian meal. Borrowed from Persian cuisine, Kulfi was very famous during the Mughal period. Another humble yet highly loved dessert, Kulfi is a chart-topper.
A cold and creamy yogurt dessert that is purely divine, Shrikhand comes in yummy flavors and can be eaten plain, with puris, chappatis, or bread. It is a common Maharashtrian and Gujrati dish that has captured the hearts of people around the country. This desi delicacy is not just eaten as a typical dessert after meals, but is many a time eaten as part of meals as well!
Sandesh or Sondesh is a popular dessert in East India. The word Sandesh means ‘news’ or ‘message’, and the sweet got its name from the long tradition of Bengalis sending food or sweets as a gift to families and friends. This mithai is also famous in Bangladesh and comes in various shapes, sizes, and flavors. Sandesh is the kind of desi dessert that makes you proud to be an Indian!
Originally from Rajasthan, this is a dessert made with khoya and typically served during the Teej festival, where women eat it to break their fast. Ghewar is a disk-like fried mithai that is drenched in sugar syrup and has a mesh-like texture. It is popular in Jaipur as well as the rest of Rajasthan and is usually served with ‘rabdi’. It is traditionally made on a charcoal fire to maintain its taste and tempting aroma. Next time you visit Rajasthan, don’t forget to gorge on one of its yummiest sweet treats!