11 Indulgent Desserts and Sweets to Share at Diwali

Mouthwatering confections spiced with saffron and cardamom are an essential part of celebrating the Hindu new year.

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Sweet Treats

Diwali, the Festival of Light, marks the Hindu new year and is a time to eat, drink and peruse the dessert table. While the holiday is commonly celebrated by illuminating the home with tea lights, candles and sparklers, it is also a particularly tasty time of year — specifically in the dessert department. Gift boxes, abundant with fruit, nuts and mithai (traditional Indian sweets), are exchanged between friends, and dessert stations at Diwali parties showcase platter after platter of colorful pastries. But how does one navigate around the many varieties of Diwali desserts? Here’s a look at what’s what, and why you should be indulging.

Read More: Delicious Recipes That Are Perfect for Any Diwali Celebration


Like pudding or custard, halwa is served by the spoonful, allowing people to partake in as much or as little as they please. Traditionally, the moist, semolina-based dessert is crafted with sugar, ghee and water, then garnished with nuts, but there are countless variations deemed equally popular. Badam halwa features a base of ground almonds in lieu of semolina, while atta halwa begins with whole-wheat flour.

Gajar Ka Halwa

Halwa's versatility does not stop at grains though — halwa is commonly made with fruits and vegetables too. Gajar ka halwa is comfort in a bowl, incorporating carrots, milk and cardamom, while the striking beetroot halwa, crimson in color, is made with slow-cooked beets, whole milk and warm spices.

Get the Recipe: Gajar Ka Halwa


On Diwali, a towering platter of ladoos is just as festive to look at as it is to indulge in. The hand-rolled balls are bite-sized treats which can range in color, texture and flavor based on their variety. Besan ka ladoos are tightly packed rounds, made with gram flour, ghee, sugar and cardamom and are often combined with almond or pistachio pieces, while coconut ladoos serve as a more moist option, made with grated coconut and condensed milk. Boondi ke ladoos are some of the most popular of the bunch. These semi-soft ladoos are constructed by piecing together tiny rounds made from chickpea flour — or boondis — with nuts, saffron and cardamom, revealing a bright yellow ball of goodness.

Get the Recipe: Pistachio Ladoo

Gulab Jamun

One of the most widely known Indian desserts, this moist, spherical confection appears on restaurant menus often and is very popular at Diwali. Dough made of milk solids, or khoa, is rolled into 1-2 inch balls, then lightly fried and presented in a sticky syrup of rose water and cardamom. A puncture of its deep brown exterior reveals an airy, sponge-like center.

Get the Recipe: Gulab Jamun


Similar to the uninhibited swirl of a funnel cake, jalebis are perfectly imperfect Diwali desserts. Made from a fermented batter of all-purpose flour and corn flour, jalebis are deep-fried into a messy spiral, then soaked in a fragrant syrup of saffron and cardamom. The result is a whimsical pipe-shaped dessert, sticky to the touch.

Get the Recipe: Jalebi


Simply put, kheer is rice pudding made with Basmati rice, milk and sugar. But a deeper dive into the traditional Indian dessert will unearth a number of imaginative variations — from swapping out rice for sweet corn or vermicelli noodles to enhancing the dish with the inclusion of raisins, nuts or fruit. As Diwali typically lands in the fall, seasonal variations may include a fiber-rich pumpkin kheer (like this recipe from Maneet Chauhan) combining rice with mashed pumpkin, ghee, milk and spices.

Get the Recipe: Pumpkin Kheer


Traditionally these smooth, curvy rounds are formed from incorporating khoa with sugar, cardamom seeds and saffron, but modern recipes recommend cooking with condensed milk and full fat milk powder as a short-cut. The outcome is a moldable, doughy mixture which can be shaped into several individual pieces. With its subtly sweet saffron flavor, a garnish of pistachios goes a long way.

Kalakand Milk Cake

On Diwali, let them eat kalakand! Unlike barfi, its more firm counterpart, this dessert offers a moist, cake-like texture which helms from a base of full fat milk and paneer (cheese made from curdled milk). The clumpy mixture is spiced with cardamom, and when it sets, it is cut into small, square pieces. Kalakand retains its moisture, but fear not, this messy hand-held is worth every last bite.


Diwali desserts can be pretty sugary, and rasgullas are arguably one of the sweetest. These spongy balls, made from hand-rolled chenna (homemade cottage cheese), are boiled in a sweet, cardamom-infused syrup, resulting in a fluffy, juice-filled bite. The process from start-to-finish can be tedious, as without the proper technique, balls can become rubbery or chewy. Thankfully, pre-packaged rasgullas are an easy find these days in South Asian markets and grocers.


Platters lined with rows of neatly cut cubes and diamond-shaped barfi (or burfi), often coated with edible gold leaf, are a Diwali tradition. Similar to fudge, barfi is dense and can be made with milk powder, ground nuts, gram flour, fruits — even chocolate! Depending on its star ingredient, the texture, fragrance and taste will vary, making it one of the most versatile of the Diwali offerings. The base recipe begins with whole milk, sugar, milk powder, ghee and spices, but the simple addition of ingredients, like pistachios, almonds, cashews or grated coconut can result in a variety of flavors.

Get the Recipe: Almond Burfi


Half the fun of enjoying ras malai is slurping up every last drop of its sweet, milky syrup. This hearty dessert combines hand-kneaded mounds of paneer cooked in syrup with thickened milk spiced with sugar, cardamom and saffron. As the delicate pieces of paneer crumble into the liquid, they soak up all of the velvety goodness for a juicy and fulfilling bite each time.

Get the Recipe: Rasmalai