This fusion of a classic Indian dessert, almond halwa, with French bakery-style almond croissants is perfect for brunch and ready under 30 minutes. These homemade Almond Halwa Croissants combine a rich, nutty eggless almond cream flavored with saffron and green cardamom and the buttery layers of a flaky croissant.
Eating halwa on Sunday is a ritual for my household, whether we go to the Hindu temple or have breakfast at home. It felt incomplete without suji ka halwa (semolina pudding) or badam halwa (almond pudding).
But... I also love myself an Almond Croissant in a little cafe with a strong cup of coffee. And that's how this croissant was born! As an Indo-American immigrant, I grew up with wild fusion foods that my mom came up with in the kitchen. And thankfully, she's passed that on to me.
The classic almond filling of a French bakery almond croissant is infused with the flavors of rich ghee and luxurious saffron and green cardamom that we love in Indian desserts. When you bite into the buttery croissant, you'll close your eyes and taste the flavors of a classic Indian badam halwa.
This recipe for eggless almond croissant with an Indian twist is adapted from what I learned when I spent a few days in a bakery photographing for a client.
Why You'll Love this Recipe
Here's why I love these Almond Halwa Croissants for brunch:
- It's a great way to refresh and use any leftover croissants that you may have.
- They're an ideal Sunday breakfast, a fancy brunch item to treat your mom for Mother's Day, or served to the family for Christmas breakfast.
- The eggless almond filling gives you all the flavors of badam halwa using the cardamom, saffron, and rich ghee without having to make it stovetop.
What is Halwa?
You may know and associate the term halwa with Middle Eastern sweets. In South Asian context, halwa refers to a type of dessert where flour, lentils, or vegetables are simmered in a base of ghee and sugar until it's almost a pudding-like texture.
This recipes uses all of the base ingredients of a badam (almond) halwa - almond flour, ghee, sugar, milk, saffron, and green cardamom. But, instead of cooking it on the stove into a pudding, the base ingredients are mixed into an almond cream.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
- Croissants - It's best to use drier croissants that are a day old. This recipe works for 8 small to medium-sized croissants, or 6 jumbo-sized croissants like the ones you get from Costco.
- Almond Flour - You can make your own almond flour by grinding blanched almonds without the skins until it's a flour like consistency. Be careful not to make it into an almond paste. Otherwise, you can purchase blanched almond flour or almond meal from a grocery store. I prefer blanched almond flour for a lighter, finer grain over almond meal which was ground with the almond skin still on.
- Sliced Almonds - For topping the croissant.
- Whole Milk - Whole milk is the best option for a rich almond cream. We use it in place of eggs, which are more typical for almond cream for almond croissants.
- Sugar - We use granulated sugar for both the saffron cardamom sugar syrup and in the almond cream. Use confectioners' sugar, or powdered sugar, to lightly dust the top of the croissants.
- Salt - Balances and enhances the flavor of the almond filling. We only need a little pinch.
- Ghee - Ghee is clarified butter and a fan favorite for Indians. It makes desserts super rich with its fat content.
- Cardamom and Saffron - These are our two spices that we use to make our almond cream taste exactly like badam halwa.
How to make Almond Croissants
1. Prep and Saffron Cardamom Syrup
To make things seamless, let's first prep a few items:
- Bloom half of the saffron in 2 tablespoons of warm whole milk.
- Slice the croissants in half lengthwise using a bread knife.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉.
- Make the saffron cardamom syrup. See the instructions below.
Note: Use a saucepan or a pan that's a bit wider than your croissant. Later on, we dip the croissant halves in the syrup.
Start off by making a saffron cardamom syrup, which is not your typical 1:1 of water to sugar for a simple syrup. Rather, we are using ½ cup of water and ¼ cup of sugar since the almond cream already has sugar added. We're just looking to rehydrate and soften the day old croissants a bit.
Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir the sugar until melted. Lightly crush the green cardamom pods, and then add them into the syrup. Rub the saffron in the palm of your hands to break it into smaller pieces. Do this over the pan so it falls directly into the syrup.
Bring the heat down to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the syrup from heat. Optionally, stir in rosewater at this point. Allow the syrup to cool and come to room temperature.
2. Making the Almond Cream
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the almond flour, salt, ground green cardamom, and sugar. Then, add the saffron milk we bloomed earlier, the other 2 tablespoons of milk, and 6 tablespoons of softened ghee.
Vigorously whisk together the cream for 3 minutes to break apart any lumps of almond flour. If it's too thick, add another tablespoon of whole milk. The end result will be a textured thick yet spreadable almond cream mixture.
Transfer the almond cream to a piping bag.
3. Assembling the Almond Croissants
Now that the saffron cardamom syrup has cooled, dip the inside of each croissant half in the syrup. It just needs to be a light, quick dip to rehydrate the croissant. You can also dip the top of the croissant if you choose to for extra flavor.
If you didn't use a wide enough saucepan, feel free to use a pastry brush to brush the syrup on.
Snip about an inch off the tip of the piping bag. Pipe ~3 tablespoons of filling on the bottom half of each croissant. Alternatively, use a butter knife to evenly spread the almond cream. If you'd like to add dry fruits, you can at this point.
Close each croissant and lightly press it together to make sure both sides adhere with the help of the cream in the middle.
Pipe an additional tablespoon of almond cream on the top.
Dip the top of each croissant into a bowl full of almond slices and place them on a half sheet pan. You can also add slivered pistachios at this point.
Bake the croissants in the preheated oven for 15-17 minutes, or until the sliced almonds are toasted and the almond cream has lightly browned. Remove the sheet pan from the oven.
4. Serving the Croissants
Allow the croissants to cool to room temperature. This is important before dusting them with confectioners' sugar, otherwise the sugar will melt!
Once they're room temperature, dust on your confectioners' sugar by shaking a fine mesh sieve filled with powdered sugar over the croissant. A duster with a lid is great to have on hand for these occasions!
I like adding a few edible rose petals for an extra pop of color as well.
They'd be so good to enjoy paired with a Cardamom Chai in the morning.
- If you'd like more of an almond flavor, add 1 teaspoon of almond extract and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract to the almond cream. I also think 1 teaspoon of rosewater would be delicious.
- You can also top the almond cream filling within the croissant with dry fruit like golden raisins.
- Top the croissants with slivered pistachios and sliced almonds for more nuts. Finish it off with edible rose petals for a pop of color after dusting with confectioners' sugar.
- Avoid drenching the croissant in the saffron cardamom syrup. It just needs a light dip. If you have leftover syrup, strain it and you drizzle more over the top of the croissants before baking or use it for french toast, pancakes, coffee, etc.
Storage and Reheating Instructions
These croissants are best enjoyed on the day they were baked.
However, I've been able to successfully store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Pop them in the microwave for 15 seconds to revitalize them. The middle gets a little gooey and it's so delicious.
To freeze - Once the almond croissants are baked, cool them to room temperature. Wrap each individual croissant in cling wrap to prevent freezer burn. Store the wrapped croissants in a freezer bag. Mark the current date on the freezer bag. Keep them in the freezer for up to a month.
To defrost frozen almond croissants, leave them at room temperature overnight. I have also successfully warmed them up in 2 30-second intervals in the microwave.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can definitely use fresh or homemade croissants, crescent rolls, or even puff pastry. Add a line of the almond cream when rolling the pastry dough into a croissant shape.
You can also use other nut flours and use a complimentary extract to bring out the flavor.
Almond meal and almond flour are both made from ground almonds. The difference is that almond meal is made from almonds with the skin on, while almond flour is made from skinless blanched almonds. The skinless blanched almonds results in a finer grain size.
For most recipes, you do if it has all-purpose flour or eggs. Because this recipe is eggless with no all-purpose flour, nothing needs to be heat treated! You can enjoy it as is, but the toasty sliced almonds and melted almond cream is divine and I don't recommend skipping the bake time.
More Breakfast Treats to try
Almond Halwa Croissants
- 8 medium croissants, (or 6 Costco large-sized)
- ½ cup water
- ¾ cup sugar, divided (½ cup + ¼ cup)
- 10 strands saffron, divided
- 4 green cardamom pods, (or ½ teaspoon ground)
- 4 tablespoons whole milk, divided (2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons)
- 1 cup almond meal / flour
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground green cardamom
- 6 tablespoon ghee, softened
- ⅓ cup almonds, sliced
- ⅛ cup confectioners' sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350℉.
- Warm 2 tablespoons of milk in a small heat safe bowl. Add half of the saffron strands. Allow the saffron to bloom for 5-7 minutes.
- In a sauce pan on medium heat, bring water up to a boil. Add the crushed 4 green cardamom pods, the other half of the saffron strands, and a ¼ cup of sugar and stir. Lower the heat to a simmer for 5 minutes. Then, switch off the heat and let the sugar syrup cool. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond flour, ground green cardamom, salt, and ½ cup sugar. Then, add the saffron milk, the other 2 tablespoons of milk, and the ghee. Vigorously whisk everything together for 3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Transfer the almond cream into a piping bag.
- Slice the croissants in half using a serrated knife. Dip the insides of the croissants in the saffron cardamom syrup.
- Cut an inch off the bottom of the piping bag. Pipe the almond cream on the bottom half of the croissants. Close the croissants. Pipe additional almond cream on the top of each pastry.
- Dip the top of each croissant with the almond cream in the bowl with the sliced almonds. Place them in a half sheet pan with an inch between each pastry.
- Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until the almond cream and sliced almonds have lightly browned. Remove from the oven.
- Allow the croissants to cool to room temperature. Dust the confectioners sugar on top of each croissant. Enjoy!