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Top 10 Diwali Foods to Try

Diwali is one of the most celebrated festivals in India and these celebrations would be incomplete without the presence of festival food. On Diwali, it is common for Indians to gift each other holiday sweets and eat plenty of festive snacks. Diwali food can taste salty and savory or creamy and sweet depending on the item.

Some of the most famous foods eaten on this holiday include karanji (a Maharashtrian fried dumpling made of semolina), samosas (fried pastries with a savory filling), and pakoras (a patty made of fried vegetables such as onions, eggplant, and potatoes).

Sweets are also an essential part of Diwali and are often shared between family and friends. The most popular ones are laddoos (a round sweet made of flour, butter, and sugar) and gulab jamun (a deep-fried sweet made mainly from milk solids).

In this article, we will go over all the delicious treats you may encounter during Diwali in India and also tell you how to make them at home.

Top 5 Traditional Diwali Snacks

During Diwali, many people celebrate with their choice of delicious food and snacks. The most common foods eaten across the country during this festive period include karanji, samosas, pakoras, aloo tikki, and chivda. Get ready for your travels by learning more about each one below.

1. Karanji/ Gujiya

Karanji, also known as gujiya, is a Maharashtrian fried dumpling that is deliciously crispy and sweet. The crispy outside of this dish is made of semolina or flour and is stuffed with a mixture of sweetened milk solids and dried fruits then fried until golden. Karanji are eaten across India during many different holidays but are especially common on Holi and Diwali.

Ingredients:2 cups refined flour, 1 cup clarified butter, water (to mix), 1 cup semolina, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp powdered green cardamom, 1 tbsp finely chopped almonds, butter, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup water

Instructions:

1. Add ¼ cup of the clarified butter to the flour then knead into a dough with some water. Let sit for 30 minutes.
2. Saute the semolina over medium heat and mix in the sugar, cardamom, and almonds.
3. Roll the dough into small balls then flatten them into an oval-like shape. Place the fried semolina filling onto each piece of dough and fold the edges.
4. Heat butter in a pan until melted. Fry the karanjis until golden on both sides.
5. Make a syrup by heating water and sugar together.
6. Dip the karanjis in the syrup for a few seconds. Then lift and let dry on a plate.

2. Samosas

Samosas are fried or baked pastries with a savory filling that includes ingredients such as spiced potatoes, onions, peas, meat, or lentils. These tasty snacks may take different forms including triangles, cones, or half-moon shapes. These little pastries can be eaten as a breakfast item or as appetizers and have a crispy, savory, and spicy taste.

If you are new to Indian food, then these are the perfect introduction as their potato fillings often go well with the western palate.

Ingredients: 2 minced onions, 1 tbsp coriander, 1 tsp cumin, ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, ½ lb chopped potatoes, 10 oz peas, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, salt and pepper, 9 sheets of phyllo pastry, and 2 tsp olive oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. In a large skillet, sauté the onions until soft. Then add in the coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Cook until the spices are fragrant.
3. Add the potatoes, peas, and cilantro, stirring to mix well. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
4. Stack 3 or 4 sheets of phyllo together, and slice into 4 even rectangles.
5. Place two to three tablespoons of the potato and peas mixture in the corner of the dough, then roll the corner towards the center. Fold in the left and right corners, then roll up again.
6. Place each samosa on a baking sheet, and lightly brush the tops with olive oil.
7. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

3. Pakoras

Pakoras, also called pakoda or bhaji, is a fried snack made with a gram flour batter and ingredients such as onions, eggplant, potatoes, spinach, plantains, paneer, cauliflower, tomatoes, and chili peppers. They are usually served as a snack or appetizer to guests when they visit others’ houses on Diwali.

In Indian culture, it is important to offer chai and snacks to all visitors as a sign of hospitality so many families will make pakoras to have on hand for visitors.

Ingredients: 1 chopped green chili, 1 inch chopped ginger, 1 chopped tomato, 200g gram flour, 150ml water, 1½ tsp chili powder, 1½ tsp garam masala, 1½ tsp ground coriander, 2 medium sliced potatoes, ½ sliced eggplant, ½ a head of cauliflower, 1 large sliced onion, ½ of a juiced lemon, and oil (for frying).

Instructions:

1. Make a paste by mixing the chili, ginger, and tomato together.
2. In a separate bowl mix together the flour and spices. Add all the chopped vegetables and water to the bowl until the batter coats everything.
3. Add in the tomato mixture and lemon juice then mix well.
3. Take a handful of the mixture and roll into a ball. Using a spoon, place the mixture down in oil and fry until golden and crispy. Repeat until mixture is gone.

4. Aloo Tikki

Aloo tikki are small, fried patties that are made from shredded potatoes and are usually served alongside regional sauces (chutneys) such as mint chutney or tamarind chutney. These tasty snacks look and taste like fried potato hashbrowns and are usually crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Ingredients: 4 mashed potatoes, ½ tsp coriander seeds, ½ tsp pepper, ½ tsp cumin, ½ cup boiled peas, salt, 2 tsp ginger paste, 100 ml refined oil, 1 onion, 1 green chopped chili, 1 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro, and ½ tsp red chili powder

Instructions:

1. Dry roast the coriander seeds, pepper, and cumin in a pan. Turn spices into a powder using a mortar and pestle or food processor.
2. In a bowl, mix together the mashed potatoes and peas. Add ginger paste.
3. In a pan, saute the onion and then add into the potato and pea mixture. Add in salt, roasted spices, green chili, coriander, and red chili powder and mix well.
4. Take a portion of the aloo tikki mixture and roll into a ball. Then gently flatten into a round shape and sprinkle with flour.
5. In a pan, fry the aloo tikki until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Serve with a chutney of your choice.

5. Chivda

Chivda, also known as Bombay mix, is an Indian snack mix which consists of fried lentils, peanuts, gram flour, corn, vegetable oil, chickpeas, flaked rice, fried onion, and curry leaves. This is a deliciously savory and spicy snack and is flavored with aromatic spices such as coriander and mustard seeds.

Ingredients: 2 cup flattened brown rice, 1 cup roasted lentils, ½ cup chopped coconut, 20 curry leaves, 1 tsp cumin seeds, ½ tsp red chili powder, 2 pinches asafetida, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup raw peanuts, 4 tbsp raisins, ½ tsp mustard seeds, 1 cup cashews, 2 tsp sesame seeds, ½ tsp turmeric powder, 2 tsp powdered sugar, and salt.

Instructions:

1. Deep fry the flattened brown rice in a pan until crispy and then set aside.
2. Rinse curry leaves, cashews, and raisins then set aside.
3. Deep fry the roasted lentils until crispy and set aside.
4. Fry the peanuts, cashews, raisins, sliced coconut, and curry leaves together.
5. In a separate pan, heat some oil and cook mustard seeds till they sputter. Add cumin and sesame seeds, red chili and turmeric powder, asafetida, sugar, and salt.
6. Add all other ingredients into the pan and mix well.

Top 5 Diwali Sweets

Diwali is incomplete without sweets and desserts which are given as gifts and prepared in households to greet those who come to visit for the holiday. The most popular ones are laddoo, halwa, barfi, gulab jamun, and kheer. If you are in India during Diwali, you’ll easily find these sweets sold in street stalls and shops across the country.

1. Laddoo

Laddoo, also spelled laddu, is a sphere-shaped sweet made of flour, butter, and sugar, with other ingredients that vary by recipe. Some ladoos include chopped nuts or dried raisins. These tasty treats are sweet, creamy, and melt in your mouth.

Ingredients: ½ cup of butter, 2 cups of gram flour, ¼ tsp cardamom powder, ¾ cup of sugar, and 10-15 nuts or raisins

Instructions:

1. In a thick pan, add the butter and let it melt. Then add the gram flour and stir with the butter until it becomes a paste.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and then add in the cardamom powder and stir. When the mixture cooled, add in the sugar and nuts or raisins.
3. Mix everything until the sugar and nuts are well combined in the dough.
4. Pinch a small piece from the dough. Then roll into a round shape.
5. Repeat with the remaining dough. Let set in the refrigerator before eating.

2. Halwa

Halwa, also spelled halva, is a dessert that is often eaten during festivals or religious occasions. There are two types of halwa, one which is flour-based and is slightly gelatinous and often shaped like a bar and one that is nut butter-based which has a crumbly texture and is not pressed into a pastry.

Ingredients: 150g semolina, 1 tbsp raisins, 1½ cup boiled water, ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup butter, 1 tbsp chopped cashews, ¼ cup condensed milk, and 1 tbsp chopped almonds

Instructions:

1. In a pan, melt the butter and roast the semolina until golden.
2. Add chopped cashews and sliced raisins.
3. In another pan, boil water and milk. Add sugar and stir well.
4. When the milk-water mixture is ready, add the roasted semolina.
5. Cook until the mixture thickens.
6. Once the milk and water are almost evaporated, garnish with chopped almonds and serve hot.

3. Barfi

Barfi is a dense milk-based sweet that is made from condensed milk and sugar. They are typically cut into square, diamond, or round shapes and coated with a thin layer of edible metallic leaf called vark. There are many types of barfi including plain, nuts, fruit, and other flavors. The taste of this dessert is sweet and a little crunchy.

Ingredients: 400g condensed milk, 8 cups of milk powder, 2 tbsp ghee, 1 cup of water, 1 tsp powdered green cardamom, 1 handful of pistachios, silver vark, and almonds

Instructions:

1. In a large bowl, mix together the milk powder and condensed milk to make a dough.
2. Once done, freeze the dough for 20 minutes.
3. Then take the dough and grate it into a bowl and set aside.
4. Heat the ghee in a pan and add in the grated dough with water. Mix well then stir in the cardamom powder.
5. Cook until the water dries out and the mixture gathers in the center of the pan.
6. Pour this prepared mixture evenly into a pan then stir in pistachios.
7. Let the mixture cool then cut into desired shapes. Garnish with silver vark and almonds.

4. Gulab Jamun

Gulab Jamun is a deep-fried milk sweet that is made mainly from milk solids. It is traditionally made from Khoya, which is milk that has been reduced to the consistency of a soft dough, but it can also be made with powdered milk. This sweet is a sticky, creamy, and delicious ball that is often served in syrup and garnished with dried nuts.

Ingredients: 6 cups of water, 3 cups of sugar, 1 tbsp cardamom powder, 2 tbsp rose water, 3 cups of powdered milk, 1½ cups of flour, 1½ tsp baking powder, and 1 cup of thickened cream

Instructions:

1. In a deep pan, make a syrup by adding in the water and sugar and cooking until it boils. Then add in the cardamom powder and rose water.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the powdered milk, flour, and baking powder. Add thickened cream and knead into a dough.
3. Divide the dough into walnut-sized balls and roll until smooth.
4. Fry the dough balls on medium heat.
5. Once cooked, drain with a slotted spoon and transfer immediately into the rose syrup.
6. Allow the dumplings to soak in the syrup for at least 2 hours before serving.

5. Kheer

Kheer or phirni is a pudding made by boiling milk and sugar with rice, broken wheat, tapioca, vermicelli, or sweet corn. The flavor is creamy and sweet and is enhanced with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios, almonds, or other dry fruits and nuts.

Ingredients: 100g soaked basmati rice, 100g khoya (dried evaporated milk solids), 4 tsp cashews, ½ cup of powdered sugar, 1 tbsp raisins, 1 liter of milk, 4 tbsp almonds, 4 tbsp pistachios, and 1 tsp green cardamom

Instructions:

1. Soak the rice for two hours. Then, wash and drain the excess water.
2. Finely chop the almonds, pistachios, and cashews and keep aside.
3. Boil the milk in a saucepan then add the rice. Cook until the milk is reduced by half and the rice is cooked through.
4. Grate the khoya and add it to the rice and milk. Add sugar and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
5. Add the finely chopped nuts and raisins.
6. Once the phirni acquires a pinkish hue, add the cardamom powder and remove from heat.
7. Garnish with nuts and allow to cool. Serve chilled.

Tips for Travelers About Trying New Food in India

  • Do not drink the tap water and avoid food items with ice. Water in India is often unclean and consuming it can cause serious stomach upsets.
  • Avoid consuming uncooked vegetables or fruits sold at street vendors as they may have been washed and contaminated with dirty water. You should also avoid raw salads and smoothies.
  • Eat at street food stalls that look clean or are recommended by your guide or hotel. Famous street stalls often cook cleanly as they don’t want to cause stomach upsets for their customers.
  • If you don’t have much experience with spicy food, its best to eat it in moderation. Indians believe that a good way to settle your stomach after spicy food is to eat yogurt.
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