If you’re not familiar with Indian sweets I can imagine you’re thinking “What! Lentils in a dessert!?” right now. But don’t worry, I haven’t gone crazy – Moong Dal Halwa is a traditional Indian dessert which has an incredible melt in the mouth texture and delectably sweet taste. You can barely taste the lentils, although they lend a subtle nuttiness which compliments the scattered almond and rose petal garnish perfectly.
I made this dessert a few weeks ago for Navratri – a Hindu festival lasting 9 nights which is dedicated to the avatars of Goddess Durga. The festival culminates in arguably the most important day – Dussehra – which is celebrated for many reasons, all linked by the victory of truth over lies and good over evil. Celebrating festivals in 2020 is not the same as before – but we’re doing our best to bring joy to the celebrations. That evening I made my Sevai Kheer and Puri. After Dussehra you begin to get really excited for Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights. Every household immerses itself in preparation of Diwali Mithai and Faral (Sweets and Snacks), so I’ll be sharing some great recipes that I’d love for you to try – even if you’re not celebrating!
Back to the Moong Dal Halwa – It might seem strange but I dare you to give it a try. There’s a reason why you won’t attend a wedding in India without seeing Moong Dal Halwa on the menu! By the way, in Maharashtra this same dessert is called Moong Dal Sheera.
Moong Dal Halwa is the best of Indian desserts – innovative, laced with sugar and ghee & sweet and aromatic.
Can you make Moong Dal Halwa Vegan?
Of course! As with all my recipes, I always make an effort to tell you how you can adjust this recipe for the various dietary requirements. This recipe is already gluten free and soy-free.
- To make this recipe vegan and dairy free, all you need to do is replace the butter ghee. A good option is vegetable ghee – which is essential vegetable oil with butter flavour – which you can buy on Amazon. Some brands have palm-oil so if you prefer to purchase products without it be careful. Here is an ordinary option: and there’s a palm-oil free version here too.
Alternatively you can use coconut oil, which will be delicious but alter the taste of the recipe. If you have a good vegan butter available, you can use that too.
- To make this recipe nut-free, just leave out the nuts garnish. It’s as simple as that!
What are the variations of this recipe?
- Use milk rather than water. Most recipes for Moong Dal Halwa that you’ll find online actually feature a different variation of the recipe to mine! While my partner prefers most halwa (with the exception of Gajar ka Halwa) to be made with water rather than milk, lots of people love the creamy richness that milk lends to the recipe. Personally I enjoy the sweet both ways!
If you want to give the recipe using milk a try, you can just substitute the water for the same amount of full-fat milk for an ultra-rich and creamy flavour. You can even add some khoya/mawa (evaporated milk solids) for an extra indulgence!
For the best of both worlds, use 50% water and 50% milk.
- Use more ghee and cook for longer. Most of the halwa that you’ll find at weddings is made this way. It requires more ghee as the moong dal is roasted over a very low flame for a long period of time until it becomes an intense rich golden colour. I prefer my version in the recipe below as it’s quicker and healthier, but feel free to give this a try too.
- Use jaggery rather than sugar. Using jaggery as opposed to sugar is a slightly healthier alternative – but who is thinking about health when eating Moong Dal Halwa! The taste is delicious but the colour will change slightly to a brown as opposed to golden.
How to store Moong Dal Halwa?
This Moong Dal Halwa stores well when kept in an air-tight container in the fridge and will last for around a week. However, as discussed above adding milk to the recipe reduces the shelf life – in this case, keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 2 days.
When stored in the fridge, Moong Dal Halwa hardens due to the ghee used in the recipe solidifying. Therefore before eating you’ll need to re-heat it with either a splash of water or milk. You can do this successfully on the stove or in the microwave.
This recipe is …
- Easy to follow
- Just the right level of sweetness
- Melt-in-the-mouth soft
- Naturally gluten-free
- Absolutely irresistible
- Perfect for festivals
To find out more about lentils and all the weird and wonderful ways that you can use them, I definitely recommend reading my definitive guide to pulses here.
If you’re interested in more festive dessert recipes for Diwali or other occasions, check out these: Bengali Rasgulla, soft and spongy balls in a sweet cardamon and saffron sugar syrup; this simple and instant Aamrakhand – sweetened yoghurt with mango; and Sevai Kheer, a Marathi recipe for vermicelli noodles cooked in a thick, sweet milk flavoured with rose!
Moong Dal Halwa - Indian Sweet made with Lentils!
- 60g Moong Dal
- Water (to soak moong dal)
- 40g Ghee
- 120ml Water (to cook moong dal)
- Few Strands Saffron
- 60g White Sugar
- 1/4 tsp Cardamon Powder
- Nuts, slivered (to garnish, optional)
- Dried Rose Petals (to garnish, optional)
- Begin by soaking the moong dal. Wash the moong dal and be sure to remove any debris or stones. Then add it to a bowl and cover completely with cold water. Cover the bowl and leave to soak overnight (or a minimum of 3 hours).
- Grind the moong dal. After soaking the moong dal, drain all the water completely. Add the dal to a good blender and grind to a paste. I prefer a smooth paste from the moong so I keep blending until the texture is very smooth. Some people prefer a coarse paste too.
- Soak the saffron. Add the saffron to the water you’ll use for cooking now so it has time to soak and set aside.
- Roast the moong dal. Add the ghee to a medium-sized non-stick frying pan (this is preferred to help prevent burning) over low heat. Once the ghee has melted add the moong dal paste and begin stirring instantly. Keep stirring constantly to make sure no lumps form and prevent sticking on the pan. Cook for around 20 minutes – first the moong dal will absorb the ghee, then over time it will turn aromatic, and finally it will reach the texture of rough sand.
- Cook the moong dal. At this stage, add the water and soaked saffron to the pan. Once again stir continuously – this is a bit of a workout! – until all of the water gets absorbed by the moong dal. Once the water is absorbed, add the sugar. Adding the sugar will cause the mixture to get runny, but continue cooking and stirring on low heat. Add the cardamon powder and continue stirring until slowly, the mixture will start to come together.
- The moong dal halwa is ready when the ghee leaves the sides of the mixture and the halwa sticks together. You can pour out the excess ghee from cooking and save it for making other sweets if you like or you can serve it with the halwa.
- Optionally, garnish with chopped nuts and rose petals when serving. I like to use any mix of almonds, cashews and pistachios.
How to Serve Moong Dal Halwa?
Moong Dal Halwa tastes best when served hot! You can eat it as part of an Indian thali or alongside either Chana Masala or Kala Chana with puris for a classic North-Indian feast. Having said that, Moong Dal Halwa works well with any combination of Indian food and is a great stand-alone dessert too. Serve it plain or with either some double cream, vanilla ice-cream or kulfi on the side and you’ll be set!
If you make this dish, please share your photos and feedback with me!
As always, if you have any questions about the recipe please feel free to comment them down below and I will get back to you as soon as possible. If you made this recipe, please do share it with me! I would love to see the results. You can tag me on instagram using @ohmyvegofficial or send to me via any of my other social media channels.