Halwa is a famous dessert that is prepared all over the world with various ingredients and in countless forms. This 20-minute recipe is prepared with semolina in the Pakistani and North Indian style.

Sooji ka Halwa in a gold rimmed bowl garnished with sliced almonds.

“This was my first time making halwa and it turned out delicious! I’m not a big fan of halwa so was making it for the family but I ended up eating a bunch with a spoon after it was done lol. It’s so yummy!”


The History of Halwa

You know how Tolstoy famously said, “there are as many kinds of loves as there are hearts”? Well, I’m going to not-so-famously say “there are as many kinds of halwas as there are countries”.

Apparently, there are few countries in the world in which halwa (or halvahalwah, halvehhelvahalua, and the list goes on) is NOT a traditional dessert. It’s a kind of centuries-old global sweet. The word halwa comes from the Arabic root “helw”, which means “sweet”, and many middle-eastern cultures like to claim it’s their original concoction (hey, I would want to take credit for coming up with like that too). Nonetheless, if a dessert has been carrying on for centuries, it must be pretty good, right? It’s so simple, it’s genius, not to mention easy to prepare.

Sooji ka Halwa in a gold rimmed bowl garnished with sliced almonds.

How to Make Sooji Ka Halwa

I must confess, it took me a couple (okay, several) tries to perfect this Sooji ka Halwa recipe. I’ll go on to embarrass myself by pretty much giving away how I messed up each time; so go ahead, make it and impress everyone with your halwa skills at my expense.

Two gold rimmed bowls with Sooji ka Halwa garnished with sliced almonds.

I present to you the 5 commandments of Halwa-making:

  1. Thou shalt embrace stirring. Seriously, you’re going to be stirring constantly.
  2. Thou shalt thoroughly roast the semolina over low-ish heat. This will demand patience.
  3. Thou shalt boil the sugar and water mixture separately instead of being lazy and throwing it in with the browned semolina.
  4. Thou shalt not attempt to be overly healthy and skimp on the butter or ghee.
  5. Thou shalt use fine quality semolina. (I actually love using coarse semolina to make it, but fine is the traditional way to go.)

If you follow the 5 commandments, you will be treated to a dessert that will feel like heaven on earth (sorry, I had to).

More Pakistani Desserts You’ll Love

20-Minute Seviyan (Sheer Khurma)
The Best Instant Pot Kheer (Restaurant Recipe)
Instant Pot Carrot Halwa (Gajar ka Halwa)
Easy Jaggery Rice in the Rice Cooker – Gur Wale Chawal

Sooji Semolina Halwa
5 (8 ratings)

Traditional Sooji ka Halwa (Semolina Halwa)

Halwa is a famous dessert that is prepared all over the world with various ingredients and in countless forms. This 20-minute recipe is prepared with semolina in the Pakistani and North Indian style.


  • 1/2 cup (112 g) unsalted butter or ghee
  • 1 cup (156 g) fine semolina, sooji
  • 2-3 cups water – See Note 1
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) raw cane sugar – See Note 2, plus more to taste
  • 4-5 cardamom pods, slightly cracked open
  • 1/2-1 tsp rose water, depending on how strong your rose water is, optional
  • pinch saffron strands, lightly crushed between your fingers, optional
  • 1-2 tbsp slivered almonds – See Note 3, for garnish (optional)


  • Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the the butter and once it melts, immediately add the semolina (sooji).
  • Cook the semolina, stirring frequently, until it roasts evenly and turns deep golden in color. This will take around 12-14 minutes. Remember that while you can under-roast it, it's almost impossible to burn over lower heat, so the longer the better. Depending on your stovetop, you may need to raise the heat to medium to help it come to the roasting point. Then lower the heat as needed. You can either roast it, turn off the heat, and continue to the next step. Or, meanwhile, start with the sugar syrup. (This is how I always do it.)
  • In a small to medium saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and cardamom pods to a simmer. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and then remove from heat. Add the rose water and saffron, if using.
  • If it's not already, place the semolina back over medium heat. Add this sugar syrup carefully into the browned semolina. Continue to stir for 3-4 minutes (you'll need to stir an extra 2-3 minutes if you used the larger quantity of water), until the mixture thickens, loses most of its moisture, and the butter starts to separate from the semolina. Sometimes I like to add a tablespoon of ghee at this point to give it a nice finish.
  • Garnish with slivered almonds (or other garnishings) and serve warm.


Note 1: The amount of water will determine the texture. If you want it to be more grainy to be eaten alone, you can use as little as 2 cups of water. If you want softer and thicker halwa like the one used for ‘halwa poori’, use up to 3 cups of water. 2.5 cups is a happy medium.
Note 2:
  • Sweeteners: You can also use plain, granulated sugar, turbinado sugar, or even light brown sugar.
  • This is the minimum amount of sugar. If you want it sweeter, you can always add 1-2 tbsp after adding the sugar syrup to the sooji.
Note 3: You can also add various nuts, raisins, or any other garnishing. Some people add this within the halwa while roasting it while others will roast the nuts initially. (I prefer to keep the halwa center-stage though.)
Calories: 485kcal, Carbohydrates: 69g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 61mg, Sodium: 209mg, Potassium: 112mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 38g, Vitamin A: 709IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 25mg, Iron: 2mg