One of my absolute favourite Desi desserts has to be chana daal halwa or chanay ki daal ka halwa - a traditional Pakistani and Indian dessert that is made from chana daal, a type of lentil that is known as split bengal gram. What I find truly unique is how with the addition of a few ingredients - sugar, cream and ghee (aka clarified butter) and lots of stirring (let’s not forget the stirring!) a normally savoury ingredient is turned into a delectable dessert.
My mother would make a big batch of this dessert every year every year in the winters, and no matter how much she made it would finish in a few weeks. She would put it in boxes, and we would ration it out by eating one box at a time. The cold weather just lends itself to having a rich dessert like this halwa, especially when it’s warm and enjoyed with a cup of coffee (and that too the Desi phitti hui coffee).
Making this chana daal halwa is actually pretty easy - it needs just a few ingredients all of which are pantry staples in any Desi household. What it does require is muscle! The most important thing in making this daal halwa is the stirring required, and boy do your muscles ache once you take it off the stove. But then you are rewarded with this rich, creamy and delicious treat that makes it all worth it.
This recipe is great for making ahead of time. Soak, boil and make the blended daal mixture one day and then do the cooking process the next day. The halwa will easily keep in the fridge for 2 - 3 weeks - just warm up before serving. The halwa can also be kept in the freezer for upto 6 months.
Here are some more tips on making chana daal halwa or chane ki daal halwa:
- Make sure the chana daal mixture is properly blended with the hand blender or food processor. If it’s difficult to blend, just add more milk or cream. If it’s not blended properly, you will find there’s a hint of graininess in the halwa.
- Use finely granulated sugar (or caster sugar) so it dissolves into the chana daal halwa easily. In case the sugar available in your local store is too big, pulse it in a coffee mill or spice grinder 1 - 2 times to make sure it’s fine enough.
- Use a non-stick pan - the chana daal won’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, plus it’s easy to stir.
- Cook the halwa on low heat if you are doing other things on the side. In case your lowest heat level is on the high side, put a tawa below your pot that will reduce direct heat to the pot. This will increase the total cook time, but will reduce the risk of burning.
Looking for more Desi desserts? Check out the following:
Would love it if you could try out and rate the recipe, and let me know how it was in the comments below!
Chana Daal Halwa | Chanay ki Daal Halwa
- Immersion Blender or Hand Blender
- 1 ½ cups chana daal or split bengal gram
- ½ cup milk
- 1 ½ cups water
- 300 ml cream
- 1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon ghee clarified butter
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 ½ - 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup sliced almonds plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup sliced pistachios plus more for garnish
- Soak the chana daal (split bengal gram) overnight or at least 6 - 8 hours).
- Drain the soaking liquid, and place it in a pot with water and milk to boil. Make sure the chana daal is completely submerged, and if not, add more water.
- Boil on low heat till the chana daal is tender (this will take about 45 minutes - 1 hour).
- Remove the chana daal from heat, and add cream in the pot.
- Use a hand blender / immersion blender to blend the chana daal into a thick paste. A food processor can also be used. Chana daal can be difficult to blend, so if necessary add a splash of milk. Make sure the daal is blended properly else you will feel a bit of graininess in the final halwa. Set aside the blended daal mixture.
- Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar & pestle - this step releases the flavour and aroma of the cardamom seeds.
- Heat ghee in a non-stick wok.
- Add cardamom seeds and cook for about a minute, and then add the blended daal mixture.
- Turn the heat to low - medium and stir the daal mixture vigorously. In the beginning it will look as if the ghee isn’t absorbed, but as you keep stirring the ghee will be absorbed and the halwa will come together.
- As it cooks, the halwa will change colour from cream/beige in colour to a light golden brown to a caramel-ish golden brown (similar to the colour of caramel).
- It’s important to keep stirring the halwa constantly especially after it turns light brown, otherwise it can burn. This process does require quite a bit of muscle work as well as constant standing on the stove, so if you have other tasks to do, best to turn heat to low or put a tawa / frying pan below the pot to protect the halwa. This will increase the total cooking time, but reduces the frequency of stirring and minimises the risk of burning.
- Once the halwa turns golden brown in colour, add the sugar. As you add the sugar, the halwa will thicken initially, but after a few minutes the sugar will melt and the halwa will become easy to handle. Cook for about 10 - 15 minutes making sure to stir constantly. Once the sugar is added, the halwa is prone to burning so be careful.
- At this point, taste the halwa and see if you need to adjust the sugar. I start off with adding 1 ½ cups of sugar, and then add a few more tablespoons if needed.
- In a separate small frying pan, heat a tablespoon of ghee and then add the almonds & pistachios. Toast for about a minute, and then stir them into the halwa, reserving a few for garnish on the top.
- In case the halwa looks too dry, add a splash of milk or cream.
- Garnish with remaining pistachios and almonds, and serve hot or cold. I prefer warming the halwa till it becomes soft and then serving, but it’s delicious both hot & cold.