From the north
This juicy, deep-fried sweet is a hot favourite all around the country. Jalebis – made by deep frying thick maida batter in coil-like shapes and then soaking them in sugar syrup – are crispy on the outside and deliciously chewy on the inside.
The Kashmiri Shufta is a delicious mixture of dried fruits, nuts, sugar syrup, paneer cubes and a range of spices – from black pepper to saffron. While it’s usually rich and hearty, healthier versions are available.
Among the few desserts that have won unbeatable popularity across the country, the gulab jamun is a dish that’s acceptable to break out any time of the year – festive or not. The dessert is made of khoya or milk concentrate mixed with sugar, which is then deep fried and dipped in sugar syrup. The sweet treat, garnished with dried fruits or nuts, is at its best when it’s melt-in-your-mouth soft.
Gajjar Ka Halwa
Among the most comforting of Indian desserts, gajjar ka halwa is made from freshly grated carrots, milk, sugar, ghee and water. With many variants, including sugar-free and vegan versions, and allowing for a range of customisations to be made, such as adding chopped nuts or flavouring, this relatively easy-to-prepare dish is one everyone ought to try at some point.
From the west
Native to Maharashtra, this dumpling-shaped sweet has a filling of grated coconut and jaggery, which is wrapped in a rice- or wheat flour-made shell. While it is usually steamed, you can also find deep-fried versions of the modak. Across the region, you’ll also discover other tasty variations of the sweet, complete with flavoured shells and innovative fillings.
This Indo-Portuguese pudding is known as the ‘Queen of Goan Desserts’. With seven-plus rich layers made from flour, sugar, ghee, egg yolk and coconut milk, this luscious dessert is particularly popular around Christmas. Bebinca is usually served warm with a scoop of ice cream.
From the south
These delicious fudgy little blocks made from a rich mixture of ghee, sugar and gram flour may have originated in Mysore in Karnataka, but they are immensely popular all over South India. They are almost always cut into square or rectangular blocks and made either soft or hard and porous, depending on the amount of ghee used.
Native to Kerala, this delicious dessert is made from a batter of rice flour, jaggery, fried coconut, ghee, cardamom and milk, which is then deep fried. With a name that translates to ghee cake, the neyappam is delightfully buttery, soft and flavourful. It’s the best companion to ask for when having tea in Kerala.
Known as kheer in North India, payasam in South India, and with many more regional names, this delicious pudding is one that is loved and prepared throughout the country. Payasam is typically made with milk, rice, ghee and sugar, and spiced or garnished with a variety of ingredients ranging from cardamom and saffron to dried fruit and nuts; it’s served either hot or chilled.
From the east
This decadent black rice pudding is native to Nagaland but a favourite beyond the area. Nap naang, which is made with black rice, milk, sugar and ghee, has a distinct nutty flavour that makes it among the heartiest of desserts from the area.
Made from chhena or cottage cheese, sugar and a range of flavours, sandesh is one dish you shouldn’t miss out on while in the state of West Bengal. This fudgy dessert is usually moulded into a variety of shapes, from little balls to rectangular blocks.