This Instant Pot Carrot Halwa recipe (Gajar ka Halwa) is every bit as authentic as the stove top version of the popular Pakistani and Indian dessert – just MUCH easier. Naturally gluten-free, this Carrot Halwa recipe uses just 6 ingredients and is made from start to finish in the Instant Pot, using the saute and pressure cook settings.
We all have some foods that we hold dear to our hearts. Foods that we feel a particular ownership toward, ones we feel entitled to criticize poorly-made versions of, etc. Carrot halwa (or gajar ka halwa as I grew up calling it) is that food for me.
Two winters ago during a visit to Pakistan, I tasted fresh, homemade carrot halwa made with plump, juicy red carrots and hand-churned ghee. If there was any ambiguity left about what carrot halwa should taste like, it was gone that winter.
All this is to say that I am not taking this carrot halwa recipe sharing-thing lightly, and I’ve tried my best not to compromise on the authentic taste. Yes, apropos of my blog, it’s easier than the traditional stovetop method and healthier than most versions.
But, it is a bit lengthy and it requires about 30 minutes of active sauté time at the end, which is imperative to bring out the flavor and color.
It also uses a generous amount of ghee. Of course, you can decrease it to your liking, but what is carrot halwa without that beautiful trace of ghee left on your plate?
How to make Gajar ka Halwa Dairy Free
Though I haven’t tried it myself, I have heard back from several people who’ve made a dairy-free version. I would use vegan butter or oil to replace the ghee, dairy-free milk of choice to replace whole milk, and coconut cream to replace whipping cream.
Instant Pot Carrot Halwa Tips
- Use organic carrots, the best you can find. I buy relatively small carrots with their tops still intact.
- Stick to ghee (not butter or oil) for the most authentic flavor. Of course, for a dairy-free version, you can use oil or vegan butter.
- To finely shred the carrots, use the shredder attachment of your food processor. If you have two attachments to choose from, use the thinner blade vs. the thicker one so you don’t have any chunky pieces in the halwa.
- When you first open the Instant Pot after cooking (be sure to wait for it to naturally release some pressure first), you’ll have to let the milk liquid evaporate. This will take about 30 minutes on High Saute. Increase stirring toward the end.
- Make sure to complete the full 30 minutes of sauté time in the end. There’s no denying it’s a tedious step, but it’s essential to bring out the beautifully deep flavor and color to the halwa. You can also transfer the halwa the stovetop and sauté there if you find it easier.
Freezing Carrot Halwa
Carrot halwa freezes really well. You can double the ingredients and freeze half the amount. Note that doubling the ingredients will result in a longer cooking time.
How to make Carrot Halwa on the Stovetop
To make Carrot Halwa on the stovetop, bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook until it reduces down, stirring in between. The process takes a little longer without the Instant Pot but that’s how it is traditionally made.
Will Carrot Halwa still have the authentic taste without using Khoya?
Yes! This recipe has a very traditional taste because the milk is reduced down in an easier way.
More Pakistani & Indian Desserts to try
If you have any questions about this recipe, please feel free to ask below! And if you try it, please do share with me below or tag me on Instagram!
Easy Instant Pot Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka Halwa)
- 1.1 lb organic carrots tops and ends removed, peeled only where necessary
- 1/4 cup* ghee divided (2 tbsp will be used before cooking, another 2 tbsp after)
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 2 cups whole milk
- 5 tbsp raw cane sugar or to taste
- 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
- 1 tbsp slivered pistachios optional, for garnish
- 1 tbsp slivered almonds optional, for garnish
- Use a thin shredder attachment of food processor to thinly grate the carrots, in batches if necessary. Set aside.
- Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot. Once hot, add 2 tbsp ghee, cardamom pods, and shredded carrots. Sauté for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the color starts to change and the carrots reduce down a bit. Add the whole milk and mix.
- Cancel the sauté setting, secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing. Select the Pressure cook setting and set the cooking time for 1 hour at low pressure. (Click pressure level to turn it to low.)
- Naturally let the pressure release for 10 minutes. Then quick release any remaining pressure by moving the Pressure Release to Venting.
- Select the *high* Sauté setting and stir occasionally until most of the moisture has evaporated and the carrots start sticking to the bottom (~20 minutes).
- Add the sugar, 2 tbsp ghee, and sauté again for 20 minutes. This step is imperative to bring out the color and flavor.
- Add the heavy whipping cream and sauté again until the moisture evaporates and the halwa is thickened (~10 minutes). Once the the carrots turn glossy from the ghee and the carrot halwa turns a deep orange (closer to red) color, press the Cancel button to turn off the Instant Pot.
- Scoop into a serving dish and decorate with pistachios, almonds, or other garnishing.