Carrots are widely used in many cuisines and grown all over the globe. The largest producers are the United States, China, Poland, Japan and France. In most parts of the world there is at least one traditional dish that incorporates carrots. Oftentimes it’s a salad with raw carrots or some kind of roasted meat served with carrots and other root vegetables.
Carrots as Dessert?
Much less frequently are carrots the main attraction of a culturally important dish, especially when said dish is a dessert. Carrot cake does come to mind but I might argue that cream cheese frosting is actually the star there. Turns out that there is a country where a vastly popular and traditional dish features carrots and it just so happens that the dish is a dessert. In India, gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) is to Northern India what apple pie is to the Northeastern United States – to put it plainly, it’s the traditional dessert.
Carrots are used in many ways in India from salads to spicy curries rice dishes and even chutneys. They are often pickled with an array of spices like mustard, fenugreek, turmeric and chili, and served as an accompaniment to almost anything. But let’s get back to the carrot dessert! The cooking in India is very regional, like it is in most large countries, and gajar ka halwa is mainly associated with Northern India where it is typically served during festivals. That being said, the dessert has become popular all over the country and even in the bordering countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
How to Make Carrot Pudding
The carrot pudding is not like any western dessert you may have encountered. Carrots are grated and added to simmering milk with a bit of sugar, ghee (clarified butter) and cardamom, a signature spice in Indian cooking which provides a perfumey aroma and flavors of lemon and eucalyptus. Usually some type of nut and dried fruit are added; cashews, almonds, pistachios, raisins and dates being common. The end result is a lightly sweet pudding that could actually be in the running for a nutritional stamp of approval due to its lower added sugar content, use of a vegetable as the main ingredient and added nutrients from nuts, dried fruit and spices. Nutritional benefits aside, it’s just tastes really good.
This Month’s Recipe
This month’s featured recipe features some of the same elements that make gajar ka halwa so delicious. This recipe for browned butter honey carrots is technically a side dish but let’s be honest – it has all the makings of a dessert with the rich browned butter, sweet and earthy carrots and just a dollop of honey to add to the sweetness and complexity. Browning the butter (cooking it until it becomes a toasty brown color) brings forth a nutty flavor and aroma that will truly enhance the flavors of the dish. Serve it with any meat or fish or over lentils or any whole grain.
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Bridget Shea, RD, is a clinical dietitian at The University of Vermont Medical Center.
Brown Butter Honey Carrots
- 5large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4” thick
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine the carrots and water in a covered sauté pan and steam over medium– high heat for 3-4 minutes, until the carrots start to soften.
- Remove the cover and allow the remaining water to cook off.
- Add the butter, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 3-4 minutes more, stirring frequently. Be carful not to let the butter burn.
- Add the honey, cook for 1 minute more.
- Season with salt and pepper and serve.