Indian sweets, also called mithai, are a significant food in Indian culture. The brightly coloured Indian desserts are made with sugar, milk or condensed milk and are then flavoured with an assortment of ingredients to give it an authentic look and taste.
Mithai is normally consumed at most special occasions such as weddings, parties and festivals like Diwali and Eid, but that doesn’t mean they should be left until then!
Indian sweets are widely available and can be purchased at ‘sweet centres’ or restaurants as take-outs. They can also be given as gifts at specific events such as weddings or a baby being born into a family.
We’ve put together a list of every Indian sweet and dessert you can think of to help you find out more about these sweet treats from South Asia.
Barfi or Barfee is made from condensed milk, cream and sugar. This gives it a white or creamy colour and a thick sweet texture. It’s commonly available in small rectangles or diamond shapes.
This sweet has many different varieties due to added ingredients.
- Besan Barfi which is made by adding gram flour
- Pista Barfi which includes ground pistachios
- Fruit Barfi which has pieces of dried fruit
- Coconut Barfi contains desiccated coconut and comes in different colours
- Chocolate Barfi which has a layer of milk chocolate on top of the barfi
You may have also seen barfi that is coated with a thin layer of edible metallic leaf, which is known as vark, and this can also contain different spices such as cardamom to give it that extra flavour.
Ladoo or Laddu is one of the most well-known Indian sweet.
The distinct look of the Ladoo makes this sweet stand amongst the others. They are normally dark yellow and are shaped about the size of a golf ball.
The sweet treat is made from gram flour, semolina, ghee, sugar, milk, cardamom powder, chopped almonds and pistachios, and vark to decorate.
Ladoo’s can be very filling due to their thick sweet and dense texture. Unless you have a sweet tooth, you won’t be able to eat more than two!
They are also commonly given at family events such as weddings and births, or given as prasadam, which is a religious offering of food, at Hindu temples.
This brightly coloured orange, sticky treat is mostly popular during Diwali.
It’s typically made from highly refined wheat flour called Maida, saffron, ghee and sugar.
The sweet mixture is usually made in a deep fryer or wok and is then deep fried. The shapes of the Jalebi are normally circular or pretzel like and are then soaked in syrup to give it that sticky texture.
Jalebi can either be served warm or cold, with some people even serving the sweet in milk. Our preference is warm and can even be served with ice cream this way!
This is another Indian sweet that is very popular and is commonly served as a dessert.
The sweet is made from khoya, mixed together with flour and sugar, and then deep fried into ball or rounded rectangular shapes. Once it has been fried, it is then coated with a sugar syrup that is flavoured with cardamom seeds and rosewater, kewra or saffron. It is then decorated with coconut flakes as a finishing touch.
Peda is a circular sweet that has a texture of soft milk fudge. The main ingredients include khoya, sugar and traditional flavourings such as cardamom seeds, pistachio nuts and saffron.
Full fat milk is then used to first make a soft cheese as the base for the khoya dough and the rest of the ingredients are added while it’s still hot.
Pedas are commonly made in two colours which are either white or yellow.
Halwa or halva, halveh, helwa or also known halvah is a sweet that is usally made with semolina or wheat that can include nuts.
Traditional halwa used khoya milk, and the ingredients includes ghee, milk, sweetened condensed milk and flour or semolina.
The different types of halwa you can find in ‘sweet centres’ are:
Pista Halwa which contains pistachios
Gajjar Halwa is a carrot based Halwa
Muscat Halwa is a satin-smooth textured halwa made from a combination of sugar and flour, and then flavoured with the finest pistachio nuts, pine nuts and blanched almonds.
This Indian sweet resembles a doughnut but with a much firmer texture.
Balushahis are made of maida flour, and are then deep-fried in clarified butter and then dipped in sugar syrup.
This sweet is very similar to the Gulab Jamun but comes in a smaller ball shapes and are available in assorted colours such as light pink, light yellow or white.
Cham Cham is made with full cream milk, flour, cream, sugar, rose water, lemon juice and desiccated coconut is used to coat the outer layer.
As you can see there is a huge variety of Indian sweets and you are always spoilt for choice when you visit an Indian sweet shop.
We certainly love pecking on Indian sweets and with many flavours and varieties to choose from there is always a new favourite waiting to be discovered!
Written by Amy Lehal