Indian Sweets: Vegan Halava - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Anyone who has been to a Hare Krishna temple for the Sunday Feast is certainly familiar with this tasty, fragrant Indian sweet. Let’s not confuse it with Middle Eastern halvah, which is also super tasty, but is rather different taste and texture. Indian halva is traditionally made with ghee or butter — however we can make a delicious vegan halva with good margarine. Oil works too, but it lacks the richer flavor. I love to round out a nice Indian thali with this treat served in a little metal bowl, like in the photo above.

Indian Sweets: Vegan Halava - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Vegan Halva – Indischer Nachtisch

(Rezept erscheint auf deutsch demnächst!)In my travels in India I’ve come across some really amazing halva. It’s more often found at temples as prasadam (a blessed offering) shared for free with guests than at restaurants, but the delicious dessert makes appearances at wedding feasts, birthday parties, dinner banquets, and all kinds of holidays and festivals. One thing I absolutely learned from my Indian friends is that any day is a reason to celebrate if you put passion into your cooking and share the joy. Yeah, remember that when you’re scrubbing all those pots and pans after the feast.

Vegan Halva

serves 4 / time: 30 min.

2/3 cup fine semolina
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
3 Tbs cashew pieces or almond pieces
1/4 unsalted margarine or oil*

1 1/2 cups water
4 green cardamon pods (or 1/2 tspn cardamon seeds)
4 cloves
1/2 tspn nutmeg ground
1/2 tspn cinnamon ground (or 1-2 cinnamon sticks)
1 tspn ginger finely diced
3-4 saffron threads OPTIONAL
1 tspn orange zest
or lemon zest

  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to boil in a small pot.
  2. Add cardamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron, and zest to the boiling water and boil on low for 7 min.
  3. Heat a large sauce pan on medium low with margarine or oil and slowly add semolina. Mix thoroughly and turn with a spatula or wooden spoon, toast lightly, stirring constantly for 7-10 minutes until grains absorb oil and turn golden brown.
  4. While stirring the grains, pour spice water slowly through a strainer into the saucepan with semolina mixture. Reduce heat to low and add 1/2 cup of sugar, raisins, and cashews. Mix well.
  5. Stir constantly, cook uncovered until all liquid is absorbed and the texture becomes fluffy, about 7-10 min.
  6. Turn off heat and cover for 5 min before serving.

Berry Halva: Use 1/2 cup fresh or frozen (thawed!) blueberries, raspberries, or sliced strawberries, or dried cranberries instead of raisins. Berries lend the halva a wonderful color and fruity taste. For these variations the saffron and zest can be omitted. Carrot Halva: add 1/4 cup grated carrot and 1/4 cup walnut pieces instead of raisins and cashews. The Krishnas make all kinds of variations including carob chip and peanut butter. Go wild, have fun, and be sure to share!

* Coconut oil is a great choice for the flavor.

8 thoughts on “Halva

  1. YUM! I’ve actually never had halva, but I’m not sure why. Need to try this!

    You asked about Flavors on my blog. I actually haven’t been there yet since it changed ownership. It used to be Woodlands, and it was amazing! It was totally veg, but they added meat. And then they sold it, and now it’s Flavors. I’ve heard the menu is very similar (and still lots of veg items), but that the food is spicer…which sounds perfect because I like it HOT! :-)

    • Hi Bianca! Hmm… “Woodlands” sounds familiar. I wonder if that is the place my friend brought me to in ’98. I ordered a thali “extra spicy” and it made me cry like a baby! I could only eat half of it! I think the staff were in the back laughing. I have a very high spice tolerance so I’m humbled to say the spiciest Indian food I ever had was in MEMPHIS (not India?!)

      If you try the Halva, please let me know. It’s actually really easy to make and super fun and tasty!

  2. Oh, halvah! My favorite is with caramelized sugar and strawberries :-). I find coconut oil the best for a vegan version. It gives a nice flavour, too.

    • Hi Lakshmi! Thanks for visiting! I’m going to update the recipe and mention coconut oil. This is the second time I’ve had it recommended for a vegan/Indian dish and I’ll be experimenting a lot more with it. Caramel and strawberries… Mmm! ps. I’ll be back at your site again soon to enjoy more of the beautiful photography… and clean, charming design. :)

  3. I make a version of this using pineapple juice as the liquid. It’s delish. Still with the cashews, golden raisins, and saffron. I haven’t made it in ages and have a big bag of semolina in the pantry. Must make again! Your blog is awesome.

    • Hi Kate! I’m glad you like the blog. That’s cool you’ve made halva with saffron — I love it that way, but others don’t seem to use it often. Pineapple juice — good idea! And Yes, get out the bag of semolina from the pantry!

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