Gajar ka Halwa (Indian Carrot Dessert) with no added sugar

This gajar ka halwa uses dates instead of sugar for sweetness, and contains limited amount of ghee. If you use an instant pot or pressure cooker, this halwa will be done in less than 30 minutes. The cooking technique ensures that the nutritional content is maximized while keeping the flavors intact.

Gajar ka halwa made using red carrots on the left and purple carrots on the right

In India, the most popular form of carrots are the red ones. They are seasonal in winters. No winters passed by when we didn’t have warm and decadent gajar ka halwa (carrot dessert) growing up. Not only at homes, it’s also a favorite dessert item at Indian weddings. Gajar ka halwa is traditionally made by simmering shredded carrots in milk for a few hours, until all the milk is evaporated. After that loads of sugar and ghee is added before cooking it even more. It is a very labor and time intensive process, which unfortunately also reduces the nutritional content of the carrots.

Interesting Nutritional Facts About Carrots:

  • Buy carrots which have greens still intact (if available), to ensure that you are buying fresh ones (leaves are often removed as they wilt quickly)
  • Avoid buying baby carrots as they are poor in nutrients.
  • Purple carrots are the most nutritious variety of carrots. They are rich in anthocyanins, which have more antioxidant activity and potentially more health benefits than the beta carotene in orange carrots. The red ones come second in terms of their nutritional content.
  • Cooked carrots are better than raw carrots as the heat makes some nutrients more bioavailable. Adding some kind of fat helps in the absorption of certain components by the body.
  • Store carrots in a cool place away from the products that produce ethylene gas (like apples, tomatoes, potatoes, plums) as they can trigger the formation of bitter compounds in carrots.
  • If you cook carrots whole and then cut them after they’re cooked, carrots are sweeter, more flavorful and nutritious.

(Source: Eating on the wild side by Jo Robinson)

The Red and the Purple Variation

Keeping in mind the above nutritional facts, this recipe ensures to keep the maximum health benefits of carrots while striving to bring out the maximum flavors. We tried a variation with red carrots and one with purple carrots. The red variation is sweeter and tastes more like the traditional gajar ka halwa we have in India. The purple one is an even healthier choice, given the nutrients of purple carrots. It tastes slightly different but we enjoyed it a lot as well. I added some homemade mava/khoya on top (recipe here) and garnished with some chopped nuts. You can skip the khoya to make it a paleo version and keep the calories low. I personally am biased towards it just for tradition and memories sake.

What if you do not have an instant pot or pressure cooker?

While cooking it with instant pot or pressure cooker considerably reduce the cooking time and preserve nutrients, this gajar ka halwa can be cooked on a stove top as well. It will just take you longer to cook. The taste will be the same. The cooking instructions for stove top are also included below, in the recipe.

Gajar ka halwa (Indian carrot dessert) with no added sugar

This healthier version of gajar ka halwa is sweetened with dates and has limited amount of ghee. The cooking process ensures that the carrots retain their nutritional profile.
Cook Time 25 mins
Stove Top Cooking Time 45 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4 persons

Ingredients
  

  • 5 big (500 grams) purple/ red /orange carrots
  • 1 cup (130 grams) Medjool dates (pitted) (any other dates of your choice)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) full fat milk
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) mixed chopped nuts of choice
  • 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 cup mava/Khoya (optional)
  • some chopped pistachio and almonds for garnish

Instructions
 

For instant pot / pressure cooker:

  • Trim the ends of the carrots (do not chop to keep nutrients intact). If carrots are too big, cut in half.
  • Add the whole carrots to the instant pot/pressure cooker, along with milk and dates.
  • Put the lid on the instant pot. Set to pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Do not forget to seal the valve. (If using normal pressure cooker, cook on medium heat for 15 minutes with closed lid)
  • Release the pressure instantly. Mash the carrots and dates, using a potato masher until well mashed.
  • Add the chopped nuts, ground cardamom and ghee. Set to saute (high) mode and cook for another 8-10 minutes, until all liquid has evaporated. Stir continuously to avoid burning. When the halwa looks dry and glossy, it's done. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Optionally top with some homemade mava/khoya (non-paleo). Garnish with some chopped pistachio and almonds and serve warm.

For stove top:

  • Trim the ends of the carrots (do not chop to keep nutrients intact). If carrots are too big, cut in half.
  • Add the whole carrots to a big saucepan/pot, along with milk and dates.
  • Cover and cook on medium low heat for 30-35 minutes, until the carrots are fork tender.
  • Mash the carrots and dates, using a potato masher until well mashed.
  • Add the chopped nuts, ground cardamom and ghee. Cook for another 5-7 minutes on medium low heat, until all liquid has evaporated. When the halwa looks dry and glossy, it's done. Transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Optionally top with some homemade mava/khoya (non-paleo). Garnish with some chopped pistachio and almonds and serve warm.

Notes

  • You can store the gajar ka halwa in an airtight container into the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Stored into the freezer, this gajar ka halwa is good for up to 6 weeks.
  • If you prefer your halwa sweeter, increase the amount of dates by half cup.
  • For a paleo version, skip the mava on the top (at the end).
Keyword gajar ka halwa paleo, gajar ka halwa withour sugar, Healthier gajar ka halwa, healthy indian carrot dessert, paleo carrot dessert

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