The Ultimate Guide to India's Regional Sweets

Staff Writer
So many desserts, just in time for Diwali

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Most Indians have a sweet tooth and there is an incredible range of desserts and mithai (sweets) available to satisfy even the biggest snack attack. Here are some of the most scrumptious and popular choices:

Barfi — Milk-based, fudge-like and often topped with pistachios and spiced with cardamom. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Sifu Renka)

Gulab jamun — Deep-fried balls of doughy goodness dipped in rose-flavored syrup — "gulab" means rose in Persian.

Jalebis — Big pretzel-shaped orange colored coils of deep-fried batter dipped in sugar syrup — a popular, sticky street food.

Kulfi — Firm ice cream made with reduced milk.

Rasmalai — Patties made from cottage cheese and nuts sweetened with flavored syrup.

Rasgulla — Cream cheese (chhena) balls flavored with rose water.

Kheer — Rice pudding with cardamom and nuts.

Chikki — Indian for "brittle", best described as hard, jaggery toffee with peanuts or cashews and almonds.

Gajar halwa — Dessert of grated carrots stewed in milk, and syrup.

 

Where to try what?

If you’re in South India (Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc.) try payasam (known as kheer in the north — rice pudding) drink a lassi (yogurt based drink, like a smoothie, but better) too to cool down. Maharashtra is the place to try the jaggery-like chikki.

If you’re in East/North East India (Kolkata, Orissa, Assam etc) try misti dhoi (curd sweetened with jaggery) in Kolkata or rasgulla. Kheer stems from Orissa so tuck into some on its home turf or go for some yummy tilor laru (sweet little sesame balls) in Assam. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/mutaminx)

If you’re in North India (Delhi, Punjab, Himalaya etc) try some gajar halwa and pick up some jalebis on the street.

If you’re in Western India (Gujarat, Rajasthan etc) try a puran poli — a roti stuffed with jaggery and gram flour, particularly popular during New Year. Other well-liked sweets are ukdiche modak (sweet stuffed dumplings) and panpole ras (pancakes with sweet coconut milk).

Learn more about all the ways to celebrate Diwali here, think floating candles and tons of color.