Besides its rich cultural tradition and heritage, what makes India immensely famous worldwide are the diverse cuisines it offers. When it comes to desserts, no one can beat the many varieties of Indian boasts of; made from a whole lot of ingredients.
Most of the desserts are prepared using milk/ condensed milk; alongside cardamom, nuts, pistachio, cashew nut, walnut and many other additives for flavor. The northern (laddu, kaju Katli), southern (Mysore pak, double ka meetha), eastern (rasgulla, sandesh) and western parts (basundi, modak); each have their specialties, which add uniqueness to the list of Indian desserts.
#1 Gulab Jamun
What is it: Often known as the Indian donut; it is a ball-shaped sweet, prepared using milk solids (traditionally called khoya) dipped in sugary syrup; and often flavored with saffron, rose water and cardamom. Besides India, its popularity has spread to other Asian countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, and Nepal.
What does it taste like: The sugary balls with its smooth and creamy texture, has a sensational taste; while the additional flavors make it even more delicious. A famous dessert in most parties and celebrations; it is often served hot, as an after-dinner dish, and topped with vanilla or strawberry ice cream.
#2 Gajar Ka Halwa
What is it: A tasty pudding prepared by mixing grated carrot with milk and sugar; often garnished with pistachios, almond, cashew nuts, and raisins.
What does it taste like: Being an immensely sought after dish in most Indian festivals and occasions; the unique fusion of carrot and milk would just melt in your mouth.
What is it: A juicy creamy dessert, as its name suggests (ras meaning juice and malai stands for cream); it is often described as a cheesecake sans the crust. Prepared from cheese curd (chhena), the yellow or white balls are cooked in thickened milk and sugar syrup; garnished with saffron, pistachios, kheer, and cardamom.
What does it taste like: Soft, spongy and creamy; with the flavors of saffron and pistachio giving it an additional taste, compelling you to crave for more.
#4 Mysore Pak
What is it: A fudge-like sweet, having ghee, gram flour, sugar, and cardamom as its primary ingredients; often served during auspicious occasions like wedding or baby shower.
What does it taste like: Soft and delicious, with the flavor of ghee and spices adding to its sweetness.
#5 Boondi ka Ladoo
What is it: Round, yellow-colored ball-shaped sweets, eaten on special days like Diwali or Raksha Bandhan, made from chickpea flour; flavored with cashews, saffron, raisins and a dash of cardamom. Some other variations of this sweet include Besan laddo (made from gram flour); coconut ladoo (prepared using coconut) and Semolina ladoo (having semolina as its main ingredient).
What does it taste like: The nutty taste of chickpeas in combination with the aroma of saffron, raisins; and cardamom would merely bring out the gourmet in you.
What is it: A milk pudding whose prime contents include roasted vermicelli, and milk; while some even add ghee for an additional aroma. Pistachios, raisins, cashew, pistachio, and almond when added as a garnish, enriches its flavor further. Mostly eaten during the auspicious occasion of Ramadan and Eid, it can be had chilled or steamed.
What does it taste like: Soft and sweet; a bowl of vermicelli pudding after a full-course meal would give you great pleasure.
More Insight –
#7 Puran Poli
What is it: A stuffed flat bread prepared with fillings of flour; split yellow gram (chana dal), sugar, cardamom or nutmeg powder and ghee. This is a popular dish of Maharashtra; eaten in most households during festivals or other special occasions.
What does it taste like: A blend of sweet and savory; puran poli when eaten with amti, a spicy, tangy lentil dish, makes for a wholesome meal.
What is it: A sweet pudding, immensely popular in North India, eaten during Diwali and other festivals. It differs from the payasam or rice kheer since it is prepared using ground rice and is eaten chilled; while the latter has fine-grained whole rice as its ingredient, eaten warm or cold. Garnishes like cashew, raisins, strands of saffron and rose petals give it a distinct appearance and aroma.
What does it taste like: Sweet and mouthwatering, fulfilling your appetite after a complete meal.
What is it: A highly sought after circular or spiral-shaped dessert prepared readily by making a batter of all-purpose flour; frying it in a pan and finally dipping it in syrup to get the sugary effect. Popular in India as well as other Asian and African countries; it has a host of other names like jilapi (Bengali), jilabi (Marathi), Z’labia (Tunisia) and Jeri (Nepal).
What does it taste like: Eaten hot or cold, it has a chewy texture; with the taste varying by the accompaniments you use with it. Also, Jalebi dipped in curd would produce a sweet as well as sour fusion; while a spread of rose water or saffron syrup (kesar) would intensify its sweetness.
What is it: A semi-soft sweet made using khoa (dairy product) and sugar; as well as flavorings like saffron, pistachio nuts, and cardamom seeds. It can be of different varieties like milk or malai; where in the case of the latter a lot of cream is used in its preparation. Varying in color from white to a yellowish-brown tinge; it originated in the Mathura region of Uttar Pradesh in the 1850s and later spread worldwide
What does it taste like: Smooth, rich as well as creamy; with every bite transcending you to a different world altogether.
#11 Kaju Barfi
What is it: A diamond-shaped milk based dessert prepared from cashew nuts; also having an edible silver foil as its decoration. Other available flavors include kesar or saffron, chocolate, carrot, pista, coconut, as well as peanut.
What does it taste like: Smooth and delicious; hence giving you utter delight.
What is it: A syrupy ball-shaped, spongy dumpling made using Indian cottage cheese (chhena); being one of the most famous dishes in Eastern India. Also, there was a discrepancy regarding its ownership; since the Indian states of Orissa and Bengal had expressed their claims over it; though this has now been sorted, with West Bengal being given the GI status for rasgulla.
What does it taste like: Basically, soft and creamy and sometimes rubbery too; eaten as a dessert especially in Bengali wedding and other special occasions.