Ranging from fudgy barfis to crunchy brittles, these indulgent treats have a rich history and showcase the creative ways local chefs showcase nuts in cult food classics of the country
When it comes to desserts, India has an exquisite array of sweet treats to tantalise your taste buds. Among these, nut-based desserts stand out as a rich and decadent category that has been cherished for generations across diverse Indian communities. Skilled hands craft these indulgent delights using select nuts skillfully blended with aromatic spices and natural sweeteners.
The nuanced fusion creates a harmonious symphony of textures and flavours that can transport one to the heights of dessert heaven. In each region, local chefs have perfected their repertoire of nut-based sweets that showcase the versatility of ingredients. In this listicle, we explore eight of the most iconic nut-based Indian desserts beloved by locals and travellers alike. Biting into these treats is sure to trigger an explosion of emotions and leave you craving more.
Some key health benefits of nuts include:
- Heart health: Nuts contain unsaturated fats and fibre that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease when eaten as part of a healthy diet.
- Weight management: Nuts can help with weight control due to their high protein and fibre content, which helps you feel full. Replacing higher calorie foods with nuts can aid weight loss.
- Diabetes prevention: The healthy fats and magnesium in nuts may help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Cancer prevention: Compounds in nuts like phytosterols, antioxidants, vitamin E and selenium have anti-cancer properties. Eating nuts regularly may lower the risk of cancers like colon cancer.
- Brain health: Nuts contain vitamin E, folate, magnesium and other nutrients that are important for brain health. They may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease.
- Disease protection: Regular nut consumption may lower the risk of other diseases like metabolic syndrome and liver disease due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Nuts are highly nutritious, and eating them regularly can provide many health benefits. Nuts are packed with nutrients like healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and fibre. Just remember to eat them in moderation due to their high calorie and fat content.
Here are some sweets and desserts that are a classic spin on nuts, beloved by everyone in the country:
1. Badam halwa
A classic North Indian dessert, badam halwa is a rich pudding made with almonds, milk and saffron. Finely ground blanched almonds are simmered with milk to infuse their flavour. As the mixture thickens, it takes on a fudgy texture. Saffron lends the halwa a golden hue and subtle flavour. Badam halwa makes for an indulgent sweet that can be enjoyed warm or cold.
2. Kaju katli
A perennial Indian favourite, kaju katli is a buttery shortbread sandwiching a layer of cashew fudge. Finely ground roasted cashews are cooked into a melt-in-the-mouth fudge with sugar and milk. This fudge is sandwiched between rounds of crisp, buttery shortbread. The result is a sweet treat that combines textures of crisp, buttery cookie and creamy cashew filling. Kaju katli is a nut lover's delight.
3. Pista Kulfi
For those seeking a nutty twist on a classic Indian dessert, look no further than Pista Kulfi. This frozen treat combines the goodness of pistachios (referred to as 'pista' in Hindi) with the creaminess of kulfi. Crushed pistachios are infused into the kulfi mixture, giving it a delightful crunch and a subtle nutty flavour that will keep you coming back for more. Bite into the pale green kulfi and intense nutty flavours burst in your mouth alongside a cool, creamy texture.
4. Peanut Chikki
Peanut chikki is a classic Maharashtrian brittle snack that is popular all over the country as a snack. Roasted peanuts and sesame seeds are blended together and cooked in jaggery syrup to create this crunchy sweet. The molten jaggery syrup is poured over the nut-seed mixture in a flat tray and allowed to solidify. Once set, it is broken into jagged pieces to reveal the nuts embedded within. Peanut chikki's signature crunch and nutty-sweet taste makes it a favourite festive snack.
5. Dates and Fig Rolls
These sweet rolls originate from North India. Medjool dates and dried figs are first pitted and chopped. They are then mixed together in a paste with nuts like pistachios, cardamom powder and honey. The paste is used to fill thin roti or paratha, which are then rolled up and sliced into pinwheel-shaped rolls. Their alternating layers of sweet fruit and nut paste make for a delicious treat.
6. Nutty Coconut Barfi
A specialty of coastal Indian regions, nutty coconut barfi is a melt-in-the-mouth fudge. Freshly grated coconut is mixed with jaggery or palm sugar and roasted cashews or almonds. The ingredients are cooked together to form a homogenous mixture with an enticing aroma. Upon cooling, the fudge sets into squares that are soft and creamy with an underlying crunch from the nuts. Each bite delivers the perfect balance of sweet, salty and nutty flavours to delight the senses.
7. Badam Laddoo
A North Indian favourite, badam laddoo is a sweet treat beloved by both young and old. Ground blanched almonds are combined with sugar or jaggery to form a soft dough. The dough is hand-rolled into small round balls that are pressed together to ensure cohesion. Each laddoo has a soft yet dense texture with an underlying crunch from chopped almonds. Their simple exterior belies the rich almond flavour within, transporting the senses with each bite. Badam laddoos make for a nourishing dessert that can also be easily packed and gifted.
8. Anjeer Barfi/Kalakand
Originating from Rajasthan, anjeer barfi is a unique sweet treat. Dried figs known as anjeer are cooked with milk, sugar and cardamom to create a soft, fudgy mixture. The fig pieces plump up and take on a jam-like texture within the fudge. Sometimes nuts like pistachios are added for extra texture and flavour. Once cooled, the mixture is cut into squares to reveal the flecks of deep purple figs suspended in the creamy barfi. Both tangy and sweet, each morsel of anjeer barfi delights the palate.
In the world of Indian desserts, nuts hold a special place. Their rich, nutty flavours combined with aromatic spices and sweeteners create a symphony of tastes that leave your taste buds longing for more. Whether it's the creamy Badam Halwa or the crunchy Dry Fruit Chikki, each of these desserts tells a sweet story of tradition, indulgence, and the love for nuts. So, the next time you're craving a sweet treat, head to your local sweet shop or bakery and pick one of these nut-based desserts and indulge in their irresistible charm.