45+ Easy Indian Sweets and Desserts that are a must-try
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Looking to celebrate a special occasion with Indian sweets? Check out this extensive list of 45+ easy dessert recipes from all over India. They are perfect for dinner parties, festivals, or for days when you are just craving something sweet.
What is the difference between sweets and desserts?
Sweets include cakes, cookies, pastries, ice creams, puddings, and candies, as well as Indian ones such as laddoos, halwas, barfis, kheer, etc. In short, anything that is sugary in taste can be categorized as sweet.
Dessert is a meal course served after the main course. Usually, most folks serve something sweet for dessert, but it may also include cheese and even beverages such as wine and liqueur.
In a nutshell, sweets can be had at any time, but dessert, which may or may not include a sweet, is served after a meal.
Importance of sweets in Indian culture
While in most cultures, sweets are served as a dessert during the last course of a meal, in India, it is often served with the meal. Actually, scratch that – the fact is that you don’t even have to wait for a meal to have sweets. On birthdays and during festivals like Diwali, we start our day with sweets 🙂
To Indians, sweets signify happiness, prosperity, and new beginnings, and that’s why we celebrate any and every occasion with something sweet. From graduations to weddings to buying a new house – all our special moments are marked with making and sharing sweets or mithai, as we call it in Hindi.
In fact, all Indian festivals are celebrated with sweets, be it Diwali, Eid, Pongal, or Holi). Sweets are also offered as prasad (or holy offerings) to deities.
What’s unique about Indian sweets
Indian sweets are known to be irresistible and drool-worthy, and some may even call them exotic. They come in various textures; for instance, barfis are soft and crumbly, kheer and halwas are moist, and some, like gulab jamuns and rasgullas, are soaked in sugar syrup.
Many Indian desserts are made from powdered nuts, while some are garnished with them. Sometimes Indian sweets are decorated with edible silver leaf, also called varq.
Their uniqueness is partly due to the ingredients used and the cooking method.
Ingredients used in Indian sweets
India is a diverse country with forty languages and roughly 1600 dialects. The diversity is reflected not only in the languages spoken but also in the cuisine, which has been heavily influenced by invasions, religion, and of course, what ingredients are locally available.
That’s why every state and, sometimes, even cities in India is known for its own set of unique sweets.
Indian sweets are typically made from the following ingredients –
- Milk or milk-based products – milk powder, khoya / mawa (reduced milk solids), condensed milk, etc.
- Roasted and ground grains and pulses – wheat, semolina, Bengal gram, moong dal, etc.
- Dry fruits/nuts – figs, dates, raisins, apricots, almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc.
- Fruits/vegetables – apples, carrots, pumpkin, etc
- Spices/spice powders – Cardamom powder is often added to sweets to make them aromatic, while saffron is included for its color and fragrance.
- Essences such as kewra, saffron, etc., are also used to make the sweet more aromatic and enticing.
But one thing that is common with most Indian sweets is that they are mostly cooked in homemade ghee (also called desi ghee). Some store owners may use alternative fats like dalda vanaspati (made from hydrogenated vegetable oils) to cut costs, so that’s why homemade sweets are the best for you since you know what goes in them.
Indian sweets are more often than not made over a stovetop, unlike desserts in other countries, which are typically baked in an oven.
For instance, sweets like jalebis and gulab jamuns are deep-fried, while others, such as halwas, laddoos, and barfis, are cooked and stirred in a wok until the mixture thickens and while there are a few that are steamed like modaks and gattis (Mangalorean sweet). One of the few exceptions would be the plum or fruit cakes made during Christmas that are baked in the oven.
Note: With the advent of the Instant Pot, many recipes have now been modified to be made quickly in this electric pressure cooker. Check out this collection of 20+ Instant Pot desserts (which includes quite a few Indian recipes)
Even folks who’ve lived all their lives in India haven’t tried all the wide varieties of sweets made across the country. With this blog post, I have attempted to capture the 45+ most popular Indian desserts and sweets I thought you’d enjoy making.
I would love to hear from you what your favorite Indian sweet is and which one from this list you can’t wait to try.
Popular Indian Desserts and Sweets
If you are looking for recipes for popular sweets like Gulab jamun and jalebis, along with Diwali favorites such as barfis and ladoos, you’ll find all the popular Indian dessert recipes in the first three sections.
One of the most popular Indian desserts, gulab jamun is a round, milk-based sweet that is made by deep-frying balls made from milk solids. These balls are then soaked in flavored sugar syrup, which is what gives this Indian dessert its melt-in-the-mouth texture and its distinctive sweetness.
Jalebi is a spiral-shaped sweet made from all-purpose flour. Just like gulab jamun, it is first deep-fried in oil or ghee and then soaked in sugar syrup. Fun fact: Jalebi is often served as breakfast, accompanied by milk. In Gujarat, it is served with fafda (a savory snack) and with sweetened curd in North India, and some parts of India serve it with Rabdi.
Rasgulla is a popular milk-based sweet treat that originates from the state of West Bengal. It is prepared from paneer or chena (Indian cottage cheese), which is achieved by curdling the milk. Fresh paneer is drained thoroughly and mashed until smooth.
This smooth dough is then shaped into balls and cooked in saffron-infused sugar syrup. The end result is rewarding – melt-in-mouth soft and spongy rasgullas.
Rasmalais are these soft, melt-in-your-mouth dumplings made from Indian cottage cheese that are soaked in sweetened thickened milk flavored with saffron & cardamom. They are truly irresistible.
Sandesh is a delectable Bengali sweet made from milk that needs only a few ingredients. Lightly flavored with cardamom, this is an easy sweet to make during the festive season!
Kaju katli (barfi)
Kaju Katli or barfi is this delicious Diwali dessert made from cashew nuts that are characterized by their diamond shape. Learn how to make this Indian sweet that looks and tastes just like the ones from the store.
A delightful Indian sweet, this Badam Barfi is a wonderful unison of a soft fudge-like texture and luxurious flavors.
You’ll love this quick and easy version of milk peda that takes only 5 minutes to cook in the microwave.
Traditionally, Mathura peda takes hours to make, but not this recipe! Leverage storebought mawa and make these pedas in less than 30 minutes.
Instant Shahi Rabdi (Rabri)
The traditional shahi rabdi takes over an hour over the stovetop with constant stirring involved. That’s why I came up with this instant recipe where you need just about 15 minutes, and this dish is ready before you know it!
Malpua is basically a fried pancake dunked in sugar syrup. This traditional Indian sweet is crispy from the edges and soft at the center. Learn how to make it at home.
While the traditional recipe over the stovetop takes 1.5 hours, this recipe shares an instant method that will help you make this creamy dessert in under 30 minutes.
If you are craving shrikhand and just don’t have the patience to wait, then, this recipe is for you. Made with Greek yogurt, this instant shrikhand recipe is ready in a jiffy.
Double ka meetha
Double ka meetha or shahi tukda / shahi tukra is a popular dessert from Hyderabad. Think of it as a sweet Indian bread pudding with fried bread slices soaked in saffron and cardamom powder-infused, thickened milk which is then served topped with chopped nuts.
Barfis are fudge-like Indian sweet that is typically made using milk solids and sugar. It is flavored in different ways, as you’ll notice in the recipes below.
This milk-based sweet traditionally takes hours to make, but this quick microwave version made with ricotta cheese takes less than 30 minutes! Try this easy kalakand or milk cake recipe today.
Love mangoes? Then this mango kalakand recipe is a must-try in my book! Cooked in the microwave, this recipe needs only 30 minutes.
If you like to try a new variation of kalakand, make this anjeer barfi or kalakand. It is a good way to use up any figs lying in your pantry, and the best part – this melt-in-your-mouth dessert needs only 30 minutes!
If you love chocolates, then this recipe is for you. All you need is a few ingredients, and in ten minutes, this chocolate barfi is ready to be set in the refrigerator.
What’s not to love about a recipe that satisfies your sweet cravings and gets done in less than 15 minutes, isn’t it? This coconut barfi recipe does just that. Try it today, or save it for when you need a quick dessert.
Mohanthal is an Indian sweet made with besan (gram flour), ghee, and sugar and flavored with cardamom and saffron. It has a grainy texture and is made for festivals like Diwali!
Mysore pak is a traditional South Indian sweet made with gram flour (besan), sugar, and copious amounts of ghee. There are two different versions of Mysore pak, one that crumbles like a cookie and the other one which is soft and fudgy. This recipe teaches you how to make the soft, melt-in-your-mouth Mysore pak at home.
Laddoo or ladoo are sweetened round balls usually made from powdered grains such as wheat, semolina, rice, etc. They are sweetened by either using sugar, sugar syrup, or jaggery. Whole and ground nuts are often added to the sugary grain mixture before they are rolled into balls.
Laddoos are not just reserved for festive or special occasions; they are often fed to kids as an after-school snack or as a sweet treat.
Rava (sooji) laddoo
Rava ladoos or Sooji ladoos are balls made of semolina (rava or sooji), sugar, and ghee. This recipe will teach you how to make perfectly crumbly laddoos in no time!
Motichur ladoo is one of the favorite Indian desserts and a quintessential sweet offered to gods as prasad (holy offering) during festivals and auspicious occasions. Follow this easy recipe to make it at home.
Made from tiny, deep-fried besan balls soaked in sugar syrup, this boondi laddoo is a popular dessert for every occasion – from weddings to all major Hindu festivals. Most South Indian temples also offer this sweet to god, which is then distributed as prasad. Here’s a step-by-step recipe for you to make it at home.
This delicious treat, while popular during festivals, is often made at home whenever the heart desires a quick sweet treat. Popular with people of all ages, this besan laddoo comes together easily with a few pantry ingredients.
Chocolate nariyal laddu
These decadent chocolate coconut balls (ladoo) are perfect for days when you want a quick treat. Make this easy dessert with your kids – all you need is three ingredients!
Godi /Wheat laddoo
Made with whole wheat flour, this laddoo comes together rather quickly. All you need is 30 minutes and a few ingredients from your pantry.
Popular regional festival sweets
While Diwali is the festival of light (and sweets), there are many other Indian festivals, like Pongal, Holi, Sankranti, Eid, etc., where sweets take center stage. This recipe collection wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t share these treasured sweet recipes.
Sweet pongal (sakkarai pongal)
If you like South Indian desserts, then you’ll fall in love with sweet Pongal – a beautiful brown-colored porridge made from rice and moong dal. Cooked in ghee, sweetened with jaggery, and garnished with cashews and raisins, this dessert recipe is absolutely divine.
Crispy and crunchy Til Chikki or sesame crisps are made with roasted sesame seeds, sugar, laced with floral cardamom, and a hint of salt. In India, these irresistible crisps are specially made during the Sankranti festival, celebrated in January.
Gujiyas are sweet fried dumplings that are filled with a mixture of milk solids (mawa/khoya) and nuts and are often made during Holi and Diwali. These mawa gujiyas are the perfect festive treat; the addition of coconut makes them so special!
Ukadiche Modak is a Maharashtrian delicacy made with steamed rice flour and a sweet coconut filling laced with nutmeg, cardamom, and saffron that is often made during the Ganesh festival. Check out the detailed recipe with all the tips and tricks to help you make modak like a pro!
Fried Modak is a festive Indian sweet made with a delectable filling of coconut with aromatic saffron & cardamom wrapped in a thin layer of dough. These bite-sized dumplings are then deep-fried to a crisp golden brown perfection.
Nankhatai is very popular during the festive season, especially during Diwali. These are flavored with ghee, cardamom, and saffron and will melt in your mouth!
Puran poli (holige)
Chapati-like but with a flaky crust and a sweet lentil filling, puran poli is a favorite dessert made in Maharashtra and Karnataka during festive occasions such as Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, and weddings. This recipe leverages the Instant Pot to make the filling and makes the whole process so much easier and hands-free.
Gatti, or steamed rice dumplings, is a Mangalorean dish made of brown rice, jaggery, and coconut. This sweet dish is usually made during Diwali, but I can pretty much eat this every single day!
Kheer / Payasam
Kheer or payasam, also called Indian pudding, is a sweet dish usually made with a grain like rice or lentils (moong dal / green gram dal), whole milk, and sweetened with sugar or jaggery. It can be served hot or cold, depending on your preference. Check out a few of the popular varieties of kheer originating from India.
Making Rice Kheer just got a whole lot quicker with this easy Instant Pot Kheer recipe. This Indian rice pudding comes out creamy and flavorful without spending hours in the kitchen. This rice recipe is very similar to the popular arroz con leche recipe with just subtle differences.
Sev payasam/vermicelli kheer
Semiyan payasam or vermicelli kheer makes use of sev or vermicelli, that’s made of wheat semolina. Most commonly served during festivals or as offerings to God in temples. I am not sure what’s the best aspect of this dish – its mind-blowing taste or the ease at which you can make it.
Seviyan kheer or Semiyan payasam is a creamy and delicious dessert that you can put together in a cinch. That is why it is perfect for potlucks. Make it in an Instant Pot or a slow cooker and all you need is less than 5-minutes of prep time.
Moong dal payasam
If you are looking for an easy, fail-proof recipe to make payasam at home, try this Instant Pot moong dal payasam recipe with coconut milk. It is ready in 20 minutes and requires very little hands-on time!
A rich and delicious traditional milk sweet made during the festivals of Ramadan Eid-ul-Fitr, and Eid-ul-Adha. It is prepared by simmering milk with nylon vermicelli, dates, dry fruits, and sugar.
Phirni (Firni, Indian Rice Pudding) is a rich & creamy traditional Indian dessert made by slow-cooking ground rice with whole milk and flavoring it with saffron and cardamom. Slivered nuts are added to it for a lovely crunch.
Halwas are said to have originated in Persia and made their way to India through the Middle East. There are two popular variations – one that is fudge-like (Bombay halwa), typically reserved for special occasions, and the other one, which is almost porridge-like, made from grains, veggies, fruits, or lentils as a main ingredient, and cooked in ghee and sugar. Here are a few of the popular halwa recipes from India.
Carrot halwa or Gajar ka halwa
Gajar halwa, or carrot pudding, is a delectable dessert made from grated carrots, milk, and sugar. Learn this (almost) hands-free approach to making one of India’s most beloved desserts using an Instant Pot.
Moong dal halwa
Moong dal ka halwa is a famous (and addictive) North Indian dessert that many people enjoy during the winter months. It is very time-consuming to make over the stovetop; that’s why you’ll love this almost hands-free Instant Pot recipe.
Sheera / suji halwa
Ghee-roasted semolina is combined with milk (or water), sugar, and cardamom powder to make this crumbly sweet dish.
Atta halwa (wheat halwa)
Atte ka halwa is a popular sweet in India because not only is it delicious, but also it is made from pantry ingredients and comes together very quickly.
Indians cool themselves down with a variety of drinks during the summer, but when it comes to desserts, kulfis, and faloodas are a hot favorite. While there are many variations to both these desserts, I am sharing the two most popular ones.
Creamy malai kulfi is a delicious summer treat! Made with simple ingredients, this eggless Indian ice cream is flavored with cardamom, dried milk solids, and nuts!
Royal rose falooda
Summer’s best treat, Rose Falooda, is a dessert drink with rose syrup, crunchy plump, sweet basil seeds, silky noodles, and milk topped with vanilla ice cream. Optionally garnished with nuts or rose petals, this cooling drink can be assembled within minutes, making it the easiest yet most stunning dessert ever!
Other recipe collections to check out
- 10+ Indian chutney recipes – These authentic and tantalizing Indian chutney recipes are just what you need to elevate your meals. Check out this collection of 10+ popular chutney recipes that are perfect with Indian breakfast, snacks, and main courses too.
- 35+ Best Indian breakfast recipes – Running out of ideas on what to make for breakfast? Here’s a list of easy Indian breakfast recipes for your inspiration so that you are never bored eating the same things over and over.
- 25+ Rice side dishes – Check out this round-up of 25+ best rice side dish recipes you can pair with curries or meat such as chicken, pork, etc
- 30+ Authentic Indian curry recipes – Learn all you need to know about Indian curries and get some easy and authentic recipes that’ll get you cooking in no time.
- 35+ Popular Indian side dish recipes – If you love Indian cuisine, here are a few easy-to-make, popular Indian side dish recipes to get you started. Stop doing takeouts and make your favorite restaurant-style side dish at home.