Authentic traditional Indian sweets and desserts make Indian festivals brim with happiness and celebrations. Doesn’t matter how much ever we shop for a festival, decorate our homes, invite family and friends, it is ultimately food that adds festivity to these Indian festivals! Don’t you think so?
Precisely for this reason, a handful of blogger friends and I, have put together this compilation of Indian traditional sweets, managing to draw in Indian sweets and desserts from every direction and region of this culturally vibrant country.
After all, India is one big sugar bowl!
A peek into the ensemble of Indian Sweets
Many of the Indian dessert names mentioned in this write-up are easy to make traditional Indian sweets while some are best relished when store-bought.
Of course, you could try preparing these desserts and sweets at your convenience. Exactly why we have also added or linked to recipe videos and post wherever possible.
Some of these are popular Indian desserts while others are traditional sweets and desserts prepared in Indian homes on special occasions.
This write-up also has a combination of vegan Indian sweets, healthy sweets, and gluten-friendly sweets catering to a wide range of our readers.
Beyond the cliche of Jamuns and Jalebis
We Indians love Gulab Jamuns and Jalebis. There is no doubt about that. For that matter, we love sweets in every shape and size.
However, these two have gained so much prominence over the years, that I felt that the traditional sweets of India have slipped into oblivion.
Exactly, why these two notorious sweets have been excluded from this list of Indian sweets and desserts. Just to compensate for this omission are these sumptuous captures of them from the lanes of the Sarafa Bazar in Indore. Sorry dudes!
So, without wasting much time, let us take you on a delicious journey from one corner of India to the other in this festive season!
Traditional Sweets and Desserts of India
For the sake of convenience, I am starting this list of Indian sweets and desserts, with the region of Tamil Nadu, one of the oldest regions of India with a rich history, but unfortunately forgotten and requires a revival, followed by the delicacies of Eastern and Northeast India, again for the same reasons.
On this journey, I would also be highlighting the lesser-known aspects of a region or state, with a focus on traditions, architecture, people, and heritage. However, the contributions about the traditional sweet and dessert are by other blogger friends.
1. Adhirasam – a traditional Chettinad delicacy
Probably one of the oldest of Tamizh traditional sweets, Adhirasam finds a mention in inscriptions from the Chola era.
Also mentioned in the literary texts written during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, the Tamizh Adhirasam is known as Ariselu in Andhra and Kajjaya in Karnataka.
However, it is the Chettinad region in Tamil Nadu that has dutifully perfected the art of making an Adhirasam.
How to prepare Adhirasam
Basically, Adhirasam is a deep-fried sweet dish that resembles a small disc.
It gains its delicious texture and taste, when the dough made out of rice flour and jaggery syrup is rolled out into small discs and deep-fried until golden brown in ghee or refined oil. Sesame seeds are often added to balance out the heaviness of the Adhirasam.
2. Paal Payasam — a must taste Tamizh sweet dish
Contributed by Ramya Abhinand of Me Otherwise
Paal Payasam is a classic favourite in most Tamil homes during festivities.
In comparison to other payasams ( a sort of kheer), this is considered to be a step above and thus is reserved for special festivals and occasions such as the last day of Navaratri, Talai Diwali (first Diwali of a newly-wed), or when the Mappillai (Son-in-law) comes visiting. Mapillais are given a special status in a family, culturally, and thus are pampered by the girl’s parents.
The Pal Payasam could either be relished from a bowl or slurped away in a traditional elai sapadu.
Ambalapuzha pal payasam is a favourite payasam of many Kerala households. The Krishna temple in Ambalapuzha serves the payasam to thousands of devotees every day at 12.00 after the ritual naivedyam to the deity. Made with the Kerala matta rice it indeed tastes divine.
How to make Paal Payasam
Paal Payasam is a simple delicacy made with broken rice fried in ghee and boiled along with sugar, and milk until a thick creamy consistency. It is inevitably flavoured with cardamom and ghee and garnished with cashew nuts.
3. Pootharekulu (Putharekulu) – a traditional Andhra sweet
Contributed by Hrish Thota of Dhempe
One of the most fascinating and unique traditional sweets from Andhra is the Pootharekulu or Putharekulu, also popularly known as Paper Sweet.
Pootharekulu is specific to the Godavari delta region of Andhra Pradesh and is most famously made in a village called Atreyapuram It is generally not made at home as it involves a very unique technique which very few people know.
Putharekhulu has basically folded layers of wafer-thin rice starch that resembles paper and is stuffed with powdered sugar, powdered jaggery, or dry fruits.
This traditional Andhra sweet of Putharekulu is often procured from cottage industries for consumption, during festivals and weddings.
The taste of a Pootharekulu is very unique as it melts in your mouth, and health-conscious people prefer the jaggery version than the sugar one.
4. Chenna Poda – fresh from the kitchens of Odissa
Contributed by Vaisakhi Mishra of The Word Pool
Chenna aka cottage cheese is an integral part of Odia cuisine. Most of the traditional sweets of the state are made out of Chenna. One such invention of an Odia Kitchen with chenna is the Chenna Poda.
The name Chenna Poda literally translates to slow baked cottage cheese or roasted cottage cheese in Oriya and is a delicacy that you would see in every small and big sweet stall of Odisha.
It is popularly believed that somewhere around the beginning of the twentieth century, a confectioner named Sudarshana Sahoo from Nayagarh mistakenly left his leftover mixture of chenna and jaggery wrapped in Saal leaves in an oven that was still warm from the day’s use. And to his surprise, the next day, he was greeted by this delicious dish he had created.
Though this new sweet was created in a small village near Balugaon in Odisha, the lure of Chenna Poda was so strong that in no time it became the most recognized and sought-after dessert throughout the state!
And now Chenna Poda is rightly called the cheesecake of India since it tastes like a smoked cheesecake but has the texture which is close to the rasagola.
Hence, when in Odisha, one must not pass the opportunity to grab a bite of this simple yet scrumptious traditional dessert of Odisha.
5. Rosogolla – the delicious roundels from Bengal
Contributed by Tanayesh Talukdar of ShoeString Travel
Rosogolla is a white round shaped spongy ball made with cottage cheese and sugar syrup.
The Indian state of West Bengal is famous for this sweet dish and Nobin Chandra Das is attributed towards inventing this spongy Indian sweet. He is often termed the ‘Columbus of Rosogolla’, for having created this delicacy in the year 1868, from the confines of his shop at Bagbazar in Kolkata.
Rosogolla is akin to love for Bengalis, and its presence is mandatory during all festivals, parties, and occasions. There is no Bengali sweet as famous as the Rosogolla.
A Rosogolla variant by name ‘Rokom‘ is made from cow’s milk and is of pure cottage cheese. These days you can find various versions of the white Rosogolla.
Another famous seasonal variant is Notun Gurer Rosogolla, made during the Indian winters with the addition of Notun Gur or Palm Jaggery thereby producing beige-colored Roshogollas. The taste of Notun Gurer Rosogolla is a little different from the normal white Rosogolla with the unmissable flavor of the date palm jaggery.
Rosogolla is the pride of Bengalis and is a must-have sweet dish when you are visiting Kolkata. You can find this dish in various Heritage sweet shops in Kolkata.
6. Malpoa – a sweet with varied forms, names, and shapes!
Contributed by Debjani Lahiri of The Vagabong
Malpoa is one of the most traditional and popular Indian sweets, commonly found in states of West Bengal, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharastra. It supposedly is one of the oldest known Indian sweets with a history as far back as 8000 years.
Malpua or Malpoa could be well described as small deep-fried sweet pancakes made of wheat/flour/suji soaked in sugar syrup.
In Bengal, it is known as Malpoa whereas, in Orissa, the same is known as Amalu, which is also one of the key offerings to Lord Jagganath as part of Bhog Prasad, while in Nepal, it is known as Marpa and is prepared with maida, bananas, fennel seeds, peppercorns, milk, and sugar.
It is part of Pithey’s preparation in Bengal, which usually is relished during winters alongside other desserts made of milk, semolina, maida, sugar, jaggery whereas in Bihar the same is a bit on a dry side with less syrup but again with the same rice flour/wheat flour.
In North India, particularly in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, they do not prefer using fruits but traditionally make Malpoa with maida (refined flour), semolina, milk, and yogurt. It is also a popular dessert during the festival of Holi and also during Ramadan as a part of the Iftaari meal. In various parts of North India, Malpoa is also served and topped with Rabri (thickened milk) and dry fruits.
7.Patishapta – a Bengal delicacy
Contributed by Fuad Omar of A Walk in the World
If you are not familiar with Patishapta, you might think of it as crepes or doner kebab by the outlook of it. The initial bite will tell you, it’s different, the second bite will offer you a divine bliss when the inner core will melt inside your mouth.
Unlike the round shape of the majority of the Indian sweets, a Patishapta has a narrow shape.
There are two parts of Patishapta – an outer thin shell prepared of rice flour and a delicate inner core made of jaggery/sugar, grated coconut, concentrated milk, and semolina. Both, the outer and inner layers require to be processed independently and assembled later.
There is no strict recipe for preparing the inner core of a Patishapta, and one is at liberty to experiment according to their taste buds keeping the basic concept.
One noteworthy aspect of Patishapta is, it’s not excessively sweet, and thus suitable for most people. This delicious traditional Indian sweet is quite familiar to the state of West Bengal and is associated with the harvest festival of Poush Sankranti or Patishapta Pitha.
8. Naap Naang – an authentic rice pudding from Nagaland
Contributed by Avantika Chaturvedi of Wayward Wayfarer
The Naga cuisine is especially known for its extremely spicy chilli called Naga mircha and smoked bamboo flavours. But what many don’t know is that Nagaland also has a number of traditional desserts, mainly involving rice.
The Naap Naang or black rice pudding is a dessert typically made by the Rongmei tribe of Nagaland found in the Dimapur, Kohima, and Jalukie regions of Nagaland. The pudding can be seen as a Naga rendition of the north Indian “kheer” – only the Naap Naang uses black rice which is a deep purple in colour and naturally has a faint nutty taste.
The preparation of this pudding is fairly simple, using only four ingredients – black rice, sugar, milk, and water. Variations of the Naap Naang are also found in Manipur and even in Thailand, where coconut milk is used instead.
The Naap Naang could very well be termed as the hidden gem of traditional Indian sweets.
Black rice !
9.Khurma — a traditional sweet from the Dogra region of Jammu
Contributed by Vishal Sharma, a Jammu resident with Insta handle Musaafir Hun Yaaro
Khurma is a piece of fried flour coated with sugar. It’s highly addictive!
In fact, it’s almost the same as the popular Shakarpara. The only difference is that in the Dogri language it is called khurma and is slightly different in its looks. In Khurma, a colouring substance is added to make it look attractive, whereas in Shakarpara there is no added colour.
For Shakarpara, the flour is sweetened while kneading, while for preparing the Khurma, flour is fried first and then added to the thick sugar syrup. The sugar crystallizes and coats all the pieces of khurma, thus making it sweet. In Dogra culture, Khurma is prepared for many festivals and occasions, yet it remains one of the main dishes in a Dogri wedding.
Post-wedding the prepared Khurmas are distributed among friends and relatives Paaji). Dogri weddings are incomplete without the Khurma, the delicious of traditional Indian sweets.
How to make Khurma
10.Khajoor — a traditional sweet snack of the Dogra cuisine
Contributed by Vishal Sharma, a Jammu resident with Insta handle Musaafir Hun Yaaro
Dogra cuisine has a distinct identity and brings diversity and uniqueness to the Indian culinary scene. These traditional cuisines are good from the health point of view and the beauty of these cuisines is in the procedure that is followed in the preparation of sweets and various dishes.
Khajoor is another Dogri sweet-dish prepared especially in the far-flung areas. It was a popular delicacy before the advent of the Western toffees and chocolate bars.
However, in recent years, Khajoor is prepared at home very rarely although it is pretty easy to make and is one of the most delectable of traditional Indian sweets.
How to make Khajoor
Wheat flour is mixed with jaggery syrup to make the dough, to which fennel seeds are also added. This dough is then flattened and rolled into different shapes and deep-fried to make Khajoor.
11. Kada(Karah) Prasad from the verdant land of Punjab
Contributed by Yukti Agarwal of TravelWithMe247
Originally, the Kada Prasad is from the Indian state of Punjab and is one of the authentic traditional Indian sweets.
This divine sweet has an amazing taste, though made from very simple ingredients. The recipe for making the Kada Prasad has been supposedly given by Guru Gobind Singh and hence it is considered sacred by the Sikhs.
In modern times, this sweet-dish / food symbolizes the blessing of saint Guru Gobind Singh, so this Indian sweet food is offered by Sewadars in Gurudwaras (Sikh Temple) in a surrounding that brims with melodious chants of Gurbani. This, after placing it near Guru Granth Sahib, and worshipped. And, the right way to accept this prasad is with cupped hands, as divine food is a very significant part of Indian culture and traditions.
Many Sikh households around the world prepare this sacred Indian sweet of Kada Prasad on special occasions and festivals, to seek the blessings of their Guru.
How to make Kada Prasad
The aromatic Kada Prasad is made with roasted wheat flour, ghee, and jaggery, and cooking this in an iron Kadhai(Wok) imparts a flavour to the sweet.
12.Petha — the famous sweet from Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Contributed by Samantha Shea of ‘Intentional Detours Travel’
Petha is an off white, translucent Indian sweet that has been eaten for centuries, and this popular Indian mithai has its origins in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
The hard treat is made from a combination of the ash gourd vegetable and sugar and can be sold in pieces or large quantities.
Considering that a Petha is made from what’s also known as winter melon, it’s no surprise that its taste does resemble a melon somewhat, though it is far sweeter and much chewier. While petha is not quite as chewy as gummy candy, but is definitely softer than Patisa Soan, for example. A Petha (in its original form) is made from only sugar, ash gourd, and water; and is also known to be one of the purest desserts in the world.
Though Agra is where this delicacy has its origins, one can find it in sweet shops from Amritsar to Delhi. And for those looking to spice up the original recipe, you’ll be pleased to know that multiple flavor variations exist including coconut, saffron, grape chocolate, and more!
Petha – the pride of Agra
13. Mohanthal — a traditional sweet dish of Gujarat
Contributed by Mayuri Patel of Fernwerahee
Mohanthal is basically a gram flour fudge and an ancient sweet from Gujarat. Typically, in a Gujarati household, it is known as ‘Mohanthar’, especially in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. This region is well known for its typical Besan(chickpea flour) based items like Ganthiya, Fafda, and Thepla!
The sweet dish-Mohanthal is very close to the Mysore Pak of south-India but differs a bit in its taste and texture.
The Name ‘Mohan thal’ derives its name from one of Lord Krishna’s name-Mohan, and it is said to be a sweet dish loved by Lord Krishna. ‘Mohan’ means charming and ‘Thal’ means ‘dish’. so it translates to ‘Mohan’s dish’.
The Gujarat winters and festivals like Diwali and Navratri are incomplete without having Mohanthal.
Mohanthal is often had with tonnes of Ghee at all traditional religious events held in Gujarat. And, it is also distributed as Prasadam at major Krishna temples called ‘Havelis‘.
14. Kulfi — a traditional Indian dessert from Mumbai
Contributed by Soumya Gayatri of ‘Stories by Soumya’
Kulfi, the delectable Indian ice cream, is one of the most popular desserts in the country. Traditionally prepared by evaporating sweetened milk to almost half its volume, kulfi is rich and dense in taste. It would not be wrong to say that kulfi is much creamier and tastier than regular ice creams.
It is believed that kulfi originated in the Indian subcontinent in the 16th century under the Mughal reign. Evaporated milk which had been used in Indian sweets since time memorial began to be filled into metal cones and frozen in ice slurries. And that is how the famous Indian kulfi was born.
Kulfis are available throughout the year in India and you do not need a special occasion to eat them. Plus, they are available across the country. However, the kulfis of Mumbai have a unique taste. Apart from the usual kulfi cones, you can find disc-shaped kulfis in Mumbai and a delicious concoction called Kulfi Falooda that is literally something to die for.
15. Modak — a quintessential sweet of Maharashtra
Contributed by Vrushali of Mumbaikar Mom
Modak is a popular and traditional Indian sweet from Maharashtra. However, unlike other sweets, you will rarely find it being sold in sweet shops. Making a Modak is an art and the recipe is traditionally passed down from one generation to another.
Modaks are best enjoyed hot with a generous dose of ghee on top of it. The sweet filling when steamed enhances the flavour of the filling inside. Modak is loved by people across all age-groups for its unique shape, taste, and texture.
In fact, Modak is also considered to be Lord Ganesha’s favourite food and therefore every Maharashtrian family makes Modaks during Ganeshotsav.
How to make Modak
The filling of the Modak is made from grated coconut and jaggery which must be neatly filled into a cover made of rice flour. Once the filling is placed inside the Modaks, the Modaks must be steamed for about 15 minutes in a Modak-specific steaming vessel.
16. Churmundo from the ghats and coasts of Konkan
Contributed by Shantala Shenoy Nayak of The Love of Spice
Churmundo (pronounced as Choorm-oon-dau) is a Konkani Style Ladoo made out of wheat flour and all-purpose flour and is one of the gems of Konkani cuisine.
A Diwali staple for most Konkani households, Churmundo can be made in several ways, so there are some versions of this ladoo that only use wheat flour, and some rarer versions that only use all-purpose flour.
But incorporating both atta and maida flours will give you the taste and the melt in the mouth texture that is associated with this much loved Konkani ladoo.
How to make Churmundo
Churmundo is made by first roasting wheat flour (atta) and all-purpose flour (maida), and mixing in powdered sugar, cardamom powder (elaichi), raisins & nuts, and then shaping the mix into round ladoos.
17. Maaladu from the homes of Kerala and Tamil Nadu
Contributed by Shalini R Nair of Something’s Cooking
Maladu or Maa laddu is one of the easiest traditional Indian sweets from South India, especially Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It is also a healthy, kid-friendly snack.
Maladu is often compared to Besan Ladoo, a similar Laddoo dish from the northern parts of India. However, the significant difference lies in the amount of ghee used in the recipe. While Besan Ladoo is gummier because the gram flour is roasted along with ghee, Maladu has a more powdery texture since ghee is used in minimal quantity, only for binding.
Often made during celebrations and festivals like Diwali and Navratri, its simplicity in terms of the recipe procedure makes it an easy fix and quick-to-make evening snack as well.
How to make Maladu
Maladu could be made with only a handful of ingredients like roasted gram (also known as Pottukadalai), sugar, cardamom, and ghee.
18. Mysore Pak — the great divider between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka
Contributed by PolkaJunction
Mysore Pak is a traditional south-Indian sweet that has its origins in Karnataka. Yet, it is equally popular in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. It one of those sweets that require oodles of patience in its preparation.
A softer version called the Mysurpa has been created by the sweet-makers of Tamil Nadu, which more or less resembles a richer version of the besan barfi!
How to make Mysore Pak
A detailed Mysore Pak recipe has been given on my blog, which results in a not-so-hard-not-so-soft Mysore Pak, yet with its honeycomb texture intact.
View this post on Instagram
Mysore Pak : The best edible souvenir of south-India ! . Yes, this is the most often suggested ‘food and edible’ souvenir by me, to friends and colleagues visiting TamilNadu / Karnataka in India. . So, I thought why not I upload the procedure of making this delicious and one-of-a-kind dessert on my youtube channel. ♦️ Link in the bio @polkajunction !♦️ ♦️Also, penned a blog-post that also contains a printable recipe of Mysore-Pak. The link of this is in the description box of the YouTube channel♦️ . And, for the first time, I tried doing a voice-over for this video with basic earphones. I have never ever spoken so softly and slowly ever in my life. Uffff…. so much of stress! . Do check out the video and let me know your thoughts ! . #agameoftones #foodart #veganrecipe #vegetarianrecipes #souvenir
Mysore Pak recipe video
19. Seven Cups Barfi — a south-Indian home chef’s rescue mission
Contributed by Kala Ravi Sarathy of Relax n Rave
Many home chefs claim the Seven Cups Barfi as the sweet that equals or betters the taste of the famous Mysore Pak and has a simpler recipe with less chance of failure than the Mysore Pak.
One of the traditional Indian sweets, especially of South India (Tamilnadu and Karnataka), the Seven Cups Barfi is prepared during Diwali or any other occasion that calls for jhatpat or an instant sweet treat.
Basically, the Seven cups barfi has 7 measures of ingredients but is unique in the fact that its taste can vary according to the change you add to the ingredients. And, judging the right time to stop stirring and pouring is the trick to make a perfect Seven Cups Barfi.
How to prepare the Seven Cups Barfi
3 measure sugar, 1 measure ghee, 1 measure milk while the remaining two measures are dynamic – you could use 1 measure gram flour or besan/maida/whole wheat/ragi, and the last 1 measure can be – grated coconut/peanut powder/almond powder/cashew nut powder.
All this is mixed and stirred at low heat until it thickens.
Once the Seven Cups Barfi is ready, it is poured into a greased plate and cut into pieces. In addition, you can add cardamom powder or saffron for flavor.
20. Peda or Paalkova — one of the popular traditional Indian sweets
Peda is one of the most popular milk-based traditional Indian sweets with its origins in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. Hence, it is rightfully also known as Mathura Peda.
However, the traditional Peda is prepared and devoured across many states in India with varied names and forms. For example, in Andhra Pradesh, it is known as Paalakova, whereas across Tamil Nadu, it is known as Paalgova.
Also, the colour of peda varies from light cream to dark brown, based on the ingredients used in its preparations.
The peda has a close cousin in Karnataka by the name Dharwad Peda, which is a delicacy in itself.
From making it to the dinner tables during festivals to the interiors of famous temples like Shirdi, the Peda is a humble traditional Indian sweet, which is also often offered to deities in temples, and consumed as prasad!
Hope you enjoyed reading about all these traditional Indian sweets, as much as we enjoyed putting together this ‘Sweet collection’ of Indianness.
Of course, we are aware that this list of sweet names and traditional Indian sweets isn’t complete and would never be. Because India has too many hidden culinary gems to be boxed inside this space. Yet, it would be my continuous attempt to add some more traditional sweets of India to this list in the coming months.
Do share your thoughts and names of other unique traditional sweets of India in the comment section below.
Pin this article for a later read!