Gajar halwa is a cardamom-scented carrot pudding traditionally made during winter in India. Decadent, fudgy and utterly delicious, this Instant Pot Gajar Halwa is an easy way to make this much-loved Indian dessert!
I love the simplicity of Indian desserts such as kheer, kalakand, peda and so many more that use only a few ingredients to make the most decadent delights. Carrot halwa is another such dessert that makes use of carrots, milk, sugar and ghee, resulting in a delicious pudding with a fudge-like texture and hearty flavour.
What is Gajar Halwa?
Gajar halwa (carrot fudge) has its origins in Punjab, India. Traditionally a winter dessert, it is made with dark red carrots that are local to North India. The carrots are shredded or grated, and roasted in ghee (clarified butter) and then cooked down with milk or milk solids and sugar until the carrots are gently caramelised.
The process of cooking down the carrots on the stovetop by the traditional method is quite a long one. A heavy-bottomed wok is used for the process, and the pudding is stirred regularly in intervals, so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok/pan.
The pudding is scented with cardamom, giving it a beautiful aroma. Cashew nuts or almonds and raisons are added as well. A few strands of saffron are also added to give it a subtle flavour and intense colour. Once it is cooked down, the resulting pudding is fudge-like in texture, rich, creamy and utterly delicious!
Can I make Gajar Halwa in the Instant Pot?
Yes! Not many dishes can be well adapted for the Instant Pot, but gajar halwa is most definitely one of those that can. The traditional recipe takes more than an hour to make on the stovetop, and requires some elbow grease, with regular stirring and monitoring. However, the Instant Pot version of gajar halwa requires minimal monitoring and is cooked in under 30 minutes – including the time taken for the Instant Pot to come to pressure.
To make gajar halwa in the Instant Pot, begin by setting the IP to Sauté mode and heat some ghee. Add the grated/ shredded carrots and some cashews nuts and raisins and sauté for 4-5 minutes. After the carrots are sautéed, you can choose to add either regular milk and sugar or sweetened condensed milk. I prefer adding condensed milk, as the texture of the halwa becomes fudgier with condensed milk, and fudgy halwa is what we are aiming for!
Add ¾ of a standard 14 oz can of condensed milk, along with ¼ cup milk, and stir to combine. Add the cardamom powder. At this stage, you can also add saffron strands soaked in a little warm milk, but this is entirely optional. Switch to Pressure Cook or Manual mode in your Instant Pot and let the gajar halwa pressure cook for 7 minutes, on low pressure. Once the cooking cycle is completed, let the pressure release naturally and open the lid.
How to make Vegan Gajar Halwa:
Gajar halwa can be easily veganised. Substitute the ghee for vegan butter or vegetable oil or coconut oil and replace the milk and condensed milk with 1/2 cup each of almond milk and almond meal. You can use full-fat coconut milk as a substitute, as well.
If you want to take your gajar halwa game to a whole new level, make these layered dessert jars! This decadent dessert comprises three layers - dulce de leche, gajar halwa and rice pudding (phirni). These jars make for a fantastic hostess gift for Diwali.
Instant Pot Gajar Halwa
- 650 grams or 1.4 pounds carrots shredded (use a food processor to shred or optionally, grate the carrots)
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ¼ cup raisins
- ⅓ cup cashews
- ¾ can of condensed milk 1 can = 14 oz or 397 grams (see notes for substitution)
- ¼ cup milk
- A few strands of saffron soaked in 1 tablespoon warm milk
- A pinch of salt
- Turn on the Instant Pot in ‘Sauté’ mode. Add the ghee and let it heat for a minute. Then add the shredded carrots, cashews and raisins and sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Then add the condensed milk along with the milk, followed by the cardamom powder and the saffron-infused milk. Give all the ingredients a few stirs to combine well.
- Close the lid of the Instant Pot and pressure cook on Low Pressure for 7 minutes.
- Once the Instant Pot has finished the pressure-cooking cycle, hit 'Cancel' and let the pressure release naturally.
- Open the lid of the Instant Pot add a pinch of salt and mix well. I like to leave the halwa in the Instant Pot with the lid open for a few minutes more, the residual heat will rid the halwa of any remaining liquid so that it reaches the right fudge-like consistency.
Optionally, you can also replace the condensed milk with 11/4 cup of full fat milk and sugar 1/3 cup of sugar.
For a vegan version of gajar halwa, replace the milk and condensed milk with 1/2 cup each of almond milk and almond meal.
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