Pumpkin Halva is a fudge-like dessert made with yellow pumpkins and jaggery (unrefined evaporated cane juice). This south Indian version uses flour as a thickener and is a dairy-free sweet treat.
Halva or halwa is a popular sweet all over India. In the north is it usually made with vegetables/fruits, dairy and sugar while most of the south Indian versions are dairy-free. Some cities are so popular for there halvas that there streets and markets devoted to Halva. If you are in Kerala check out Mittai Theruvu – and enjoy the umpteen varieties of halva made and sold here.
What is Halva or Halwa
Halva in the middle east is either a thick chewy dessert or a crumbly nut-based dessert. Either way, it is usually served as thick blocks/cubes. In northern India, they make halva with vegetables or fruits and dairy while in the south, it is made with grains or starch (rice flour, ragi (millet), wheat flour, potato, etc.).
Thick Halva is a way to preserve seasonal fruits just like Jams. Traditional Halva making in the South is a labor-intensive project. The process called for constant stirring for long hours and was usually attempted when there were more than one pair of hands in the kitchen.
Pumpkin Halva is not something that one will usually find in the sweetshops. This is one of those recipes that mothers and grandmothers used to sneak in more vegetables into the family diet. It is healthy for a dessert. Jaggery – unrefined evaporated cane juice – is the traditional sweetener in Pumpkin Halva. Jaggery is rich in calcium, iron, as well as some trace minerals. It is dairy-free and vegan and there is very little added fat.
Why I love Making It
This pumpkin halva is
- Soft and delicious
- A wonderful way to use up fresh fall pumpkins
- Takes 30 minutes or less to make
There are three main ingredients in this recipe – pumpkin, a thickener, and a sweetener. Optionally you can add spices for flavoring and nuts or dried fruit for texture and garnishing.
Regular pie pumpkins work well in this recipe. You could even use butternut squash and kabocha as well. The recipe calls for pumpkin puree and I usually make these when I have roasted pumpkin on hand. That is the easiest way to go.
If you are starting with fresh pumpkin, peel, and dice about 3 cups and steam on a steamer rack, and mash. you can even microwave the pumpkin slices with 1/4 C water till it is tender. I do not recommend using canned pumpkins, but if you must, then use 100% pumpkin puree.
More Pumpkin desserts
The sweetener of choice is jaggery. Jaggery is the evaporated unrefined cane juice or palm sap. It is called by different names in different parts of the world. Once can usually find jaggery as cubes or powder in the Indian grocery stores. Here are a few substitutes when jaggery is not available
- Piloncillo /Panela
- Molasses and or sugar
- Date Sugar
Depending on the type of jaggery or sugars used the color of the halva will range from tan to dark brown.
Jaggery and other natural sugar substitutes have higher mineral content compared to white sugar, but keep in mind that it still is a sweetener.
Need more jaggery sweets?
Flour is used as a thickener in this recipe. This helps the halva come together faster and hold its shape as it cooks down. Additionally, the flour helps to maintain the soft texture. If you leave the flour out and cook the pumpkin puree and jaggery mix until thickened enough, you will end up with a fruit leather rather than halva. So do not leave it out.
If you need a gluten-free option use rice flour or corn starch.
How to make pumpkin Halva
As you might have guessed by now, making halva is essentially cooking a mix until it thickens. Here is a step by step description.
Make Jaggery solution
Dissolving jaggery helps to create a uniform mix without any burn sugar spots in the final dish. You can also strain the jaggery solution to remove any trapped pulp or other impurities in the jaggery cubes.
Place the jaggery in a small saucepan with 1/2 C water and heat over medium heat. As the water heats the jaggery melts. If needed stir and turn the pieces a few times to speed up the process.
Make the flour solution
Take flour and mix it with water and a pinch of salt to make a thin batter. Make sure that there are no lumps in the batter.
Mix all three and cook
Take a thick-bottomed saucepan and mix the mashed pumpkin, melted jaggery, and flour solution. It is better to use a deep vessel, as there will be less splatter and cleanup will be much easier. Cook the mixture over medium heat stirring occasionally. As the mixture begins to thicken increase the frequency of stirring. As the mix cooks and thickens taste to see if it is sweet enough. This is the time to add more sugar or jaggery water if necessary.
Test for doneness
Take some water and ice cubes in a medium bowl. This is the water bath to check if the halva is ready.
Once the mix has shrunk in volume and begins to coat the back of the spoon place a dollop of halva in the water-bath. If it does not spread and stays as a smooth ball the halva is ready. Sprinkle spices on the halva, stir to mix, and turn off the heat.
Serving and storing
Once the heat if turned off the halva will harden fast. So transfer it to the serving bowls immediately. Garnish with coconut flakes or almond slices.
Halva stays fresh in the fridge for a week or longer. That said do not store it at room temp for more than 12 hours.
- 1 lb Cooked Pumpkin Notes
- 2- 3 Green Cardamom Optional
- 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil Optional but recommended
For Jaggery Solution
- 1 C Jaggery 200g
- 1/2 C Water
- 1/3 C AP Flour / Maida
- 1 C Water
- 1 Pinch Salt
- Almonds/ Toasted Coconut
- Mash the cooked pumpkin. (notes)
- Mix jaggery with 1/2 C water and heat over medium heat. If the jaggery is in big chunks turn a few times to speed up the process. When all the jaggery is melted turn off the heat. Strain the jaggery solution and set aside.
- Mix 1/3 C all-purpose flour with salt and 1C water to make a thin lump-free batter.
- Powder the cardamom seeds and set aside.
- Take a tall thick bottomed vessel and add the mashed pumpkin, the jaggery solution, and the all-purpose flour mix. Stir thoroughly and bring to boil over medium heat stirring frequently. As the mix heats up increase the frequency of stirring. If the halva begins to stick to the bottom of the pan reduce heat to low and add the coconut oil.
- Take water and a few ice cubes in a small bowl. As the mixture begins to thicken take one or two drops of it and place it in cold water. If it does not spread the halva is ready.
- Sprinkle the cardamom powder on top, mix in, and turn off the heat.
- Transfer to the serving bowls.
- Garnish with coconut flakes or slivered almonds.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.