Sweet potato halwa, also known as shakarkandi ka halwa, is an Indian sweet potato pudding. It’s basically the Indian version of sweet potato casserole. Instead of pecans and marshmallows, this cardamom-spiced sweet potato halwa calls for juicy plump golden raisins and a crunchy nut garnish.
I’m sharing my simple method of making this halwa in an instant pot. Why use an instant pot? Because it’s easier – you can do everything in one pot!
My recipe calls for a special secret ingredient that you won’t find in other sweet potato halwa recipes… besan (Indian chickpea flour)! This secret ingredient helps thicken the halwa, giving it body and making it extra luxurious.
There is one very important thing you need to know about this sweet potato halwa. The moment it’s done, it will be very hot. So you should let it cool down a bit before you eat it.
Yes, yes. I know this seems like very obvious advice, and while common sense dictates that you should not eat very hot things, your other senses will try to deceive you into thinking that what you’re seeing and smelling must be eaten immediately. These other senses will attempt to take over. You may end up trying to shove spoonfuls of steaming hot halwa into your mouth, which will definitely result in you burning your tongue and not being able to properly taste things for several hours. You can ask me how I know this, but you should already know how I know if you know me, you know?
As long as you have a normal adult amount of patience, you’ll be fine. I’m going to pretend like my toddler is rubbing off on me and not the other way around.
This sweet potato halwa is actually very different from the butternut squash halwa already on my blog. My butternut halwa is much, much lighter – less decadent, but still good.
This sweet potato halwa is on another level. It’s legit, real deal, sugar-laden, ghee-soaked halwa. Which, according to my father, is the only proper way to make authentic halwa. You can try my carrot halwa and my moong dal halwa – two other warm Indian pudding-like desserts that have his approval. If a recipe of mine has my father’s approval… it’ll win your approval too—no doubt about it.
What’s besan? Why add besan to this halwa? Can I use something else?
Remember that secret ingredient I mentioned earlier? I’m talking about besan. Well, I know it’s a bit of an unusual ingredient for sweet potato halwa, but it helps thicken this dessert and gives the pudding a kind of creamy, silky-smooth texture.
For those who don’t know what besan is, it’s flour made from chana dal. It’s sometimes called chickpea flour, but really it’s made from skinless desi chickpeas. I know besan might be tricky for some of you to find – you can also use regular American chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour) in this particular recipe as I’ve tested it, and it works just fine too. If you’d like recommendations for brands, I like 24 Mantra Organic Besan (desi chana flour). For American chickpea flour, go with Bob’s Red Mill (can usually find this at any regular grocery store). Please know, you cannot always substitute garbanzo bean flour for chana dal flour (for example, this won’t work in khandvi).
I’ve also tried making this halwa with almond flour, and it’s actually very good too. It gives the halwa more of an almond flavor (naturally), and it’s very rich (see notes in the recipe card on how to sub this for besan). I know some folks out there (like my husband) have to be nut-free/almond-free. Roby (who often falsely claims he isn’t a dessert guy or a sweet potato guy) can no longer eat anything with almond flour and actually wanted to try this, so I used besan for him. And I prefer besan because, again, it gives the halwa a great silky-smooth texture. You can use either one – tell me what you think.
Even though Roby claims to
hate strongly dislike sweet potatoes (who the heck hates sweet potatoes?), he gave my halwa a glowing review: “I don’t even like sweet potatoes, and I’d eat this.” Well, yes, Roby, that’s because there’s a ton of ghee and sugar in this lol. For the record, Roby did eat it. Quite a bit of it. So even if you (or a family member) think you don’t like sweet potatoes, there’s still a chance you’ll enjoy this halwa. You can also always make my moong dal halwa instead as well.
You’ll love the flavor and the ease of making this halwa – everything in one pot. There is some stirring at the end (think: 10-minute arm workout), but it’s still much easier than the traditional method and well worth the minimal effort.
- Press the sauté button and add the besan to the instant pot. Dry roast the besan by stirring for 10 minutes, or until it smells a bit toasty and the color darkens by a shade or two. Remove the besan from the pot and set it aside in a bowl for now.
- Add the sweet potatoes and water to the pot. Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 10 minutes at high pressure.
- Open the valve to quick-release pressure.
- Press sauté, add the ghee, stir, then add the roasted besan, sugar, raisins and ground cardamom. Stir this continuously for 10 minutes or until the halwa comes together - it'll be a bit of an arm workout. A fun workout though!
- Garnish with nuts and serve warm.
- Besan is flour made from chana dal - this is the brand I like. If you can't find besan, you can also use American chickpea flour (Bob's Red Mill).
- I prefer this halwa with besan but you can also use 1 cup of blanched almond flour instead. I would suggest toasting the almond flour for 2-3 minutes in step 1.