Suji (or Sooji) ka Halwa is a delicious Indian pudding-like semolina dessert made with just 5 pantry ingredients. This 20-minute stove top recipe is a Sunday brunch classic in desi homes and goes well served with Puri and Kala Chana.
Suji ka Halwa was always a staple dessert in my Indian household. Now that I think back on it, I laugh at how obsessed I was with this simple dish. Who would have thought that semolina flour could make such a delicious dessert?!
Not only that, but I'd regularly compare the the suji halwa we got at the temple versus the one my mom made at home. You see, at the Hindu temples everyone comes together to prepare a communal meal after prayers. Halwa was the dessert 90% of the time. It's easy to make, especially in big batches.
I maintain that my mom makes the best I've tried in almost three decades!! I'm sharing the foolproof way of making halwa that we've never gone wrong with in the Garg household.
Why this Recipe?
Suji ka Halwa is a classic that's easy to make with pantry ingredients, and it doesn't vary too much between households. It's really hard to mess up this one pan stovetop recipe! You'll seriously get it right on the first try.
You only need 5 main ingredients, plus some water. Not to mention, it'll take you a whopping 20 minutes max to make enough for a small crowd. My grandma says it's a quick fix for when you're craving something sweet.
What is Sooji ka Halwa?
You may know and associate the term halwa with Middle Eastern sweets.
Sooji, or suji, translates to semolina. Suji ka Halwa is therefore a pudding-like dessert made out of semolina. It's typically enjoyed for breakfast, Sunday brunch, and during Indian festivals and holidays.
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
- Semolina - Use fine semolina flour for a soft, pudding texture. Coarse semolina isn't as tender as using fine flour and it'll be noticeably grainy. It depends on your preferred texture.
- Ghee - Substitute ghee with unsalted butter. However, ghee has a unique flavor profile that is unmatched for desi desserts. To make suji ka halwa vegan, use a vegan butter.
- Golden Raisins - The golden raisins get plump and juicy as it simmers with the semolina. Purple raisins work just as well, but golden raisins are traditional to Indian desserts.
- Cardamom - There's nothing worse than enjoying your food and biting into a cardamom pod. Freshly ground cardamom adds a ton of great flavor to the halwa.
- Almonds - Almond flakes or slivers for garnish add a bit of crunch. You can stir it in along with the golden raisins if you want them to soften a bit. Cashews work in lieu of almonds.
- Saffron (optional) - A few crushed strands of saffron add luxurious flavor to the halwa and a bit of orange color to an otherwise wheat-colored dessert.
How to make Suji ka Halwa
Start by warming the pan on low to medium heat. Once warm, add the semolina in and start stirring. Thoroughly dry roast the semolina until it unquestionably browns a few shades darker and the nutty aroma comes through. This will require constant stirring to prevent the semolina from burning, so you'll need a bit of patience.
Pro tip: Depending on how nutty you want the halwa to be, you can continue to roast the semolina until it's a deep golden brown. It'll continue to roast a bit further with the ghee, so you don't need to go too far in the initial step. Roasting the semolina enhances the flavor significantly, so don't chicken out here. Promise you're not burning it.
Once the semolina has darkened a few shades, add the ghee into the middle and begin stirring it into the semolina. It'll be crumbly at first, and then start to form larger clumps as it starts to hydrate the semolina.
Next, add water into a saucepan or warm it up in the microwave for a minute. It just needs to be hot enough to melt the sugar. Once hot, add the sugar into the water and stir until the sugar complete dissolves.
Pro Tip: This is a great point to add saffron or cardamom pods instead of ground cardamom.
Add the sugar water into the pan with the semolina and stir until the clumps become silky smooth. The semolina will immediately start to absorb the water and thicken. It may start to sputter, so cover the pan with the lid and allow it to continue thickening, stirring it every few minutes.
At the halfway point, add the ground cardamom and raisins. You want it to be just moist enough that the raisins get juicy. You can also add the almonds at this point so they soften a bit, but I usually like to add them at the end.
Continue to simmer and stir the halwa. Once it's thick enough that it no longer splatters and the ghee starts to separate on the edges, the halwa is done. Turn off the heat.
Once the heat is turned off, the halwa will continue to thicken a bit further. Allow it a bit of resting time before serving, about five minutes.
Top 3 Tips for the Best Halwa
While halwa is easy to make, here are my top 3 tips that can take your halwa to the next level:
- Dry roasting makes this dish delicious! Don't be afraid to dry roast the semolina. Dry roasting brings out the nutty aroma and flavor of the semolina. At first it'll seem like the flour is burning, but I promise it's fine. Just keep stirring. If dry roasting freaks you out then melt the ghee in the pan before adding the semolina and then bring it several shades darker.
- Get your arm workout in. This is one of the desserts where you can't let it sit for too long at a time, otherwise you're at risk of burning the semolina. Stir every 1-3 minutes and keep an eye on the halwa.
- Fine vs. coarse semolina. Pay attention to the packaging on your semolina! Finely ground semolina will result in a soft, fluffy halwa. Coarse semolina will result in an entirely different texture that's quite grainy.
Suji ka Halwa is definitely a fan favorite because it's easy to make a large amount for parties. It's delicious, and not too expensive or intensive.
Store the halwa in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. It'll be thick and stick together once it cools. It can be enjoyed cold, but I like it best when it's warm. Warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds.
It's also delicious with a scoop of ice cream or gulab jamun on the side.
More Indian Dessert Recipes to try
Suji ka Halwa
- Heat a nonstick pan on a low to medium flame. Add the semolina into the pan and dry roast it until it starts browning, about 3-4 minutes. It'll turn a few shades darker than the light beige it starts at and emit a nutty aroma.
- Add the ghee into the pan. Let the ghee come to a bubble as you are mixing it into the semolina. Keep stirring the mixture until it's golden brown.
- In the meantime, heat the water in a pot or in the microwave until hot. Add the sugar into the water and stir until fully melted.
- Add the sugar water into the pan with the semolina and ghee mixture. Stir it together and then cover with a lid, as it'll start to sputter. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring every minute or two to prevent the halwa from sticking and burning.
- Once the halwa has thickened but still a bit liquidy, add the golden raisins and ground cardamom. Stir in the raisins and cardamom and replace the lid.
- Once the halwa is thick enough that it stops splattering, remove the lid. Continue stirring until the halwa sticks together in a clump and doesn't stick on the sides. Remove from heat.
- Serve the halwa warm with almond flakes or chopped almonds.