The Best Indian Dessert Recipes for Your Next Feast

Here are the sweetest bites to help you celebrate Diwali or cap off your next dinner party

India, particularly the eastern part of the country, is renowned for its sweets. Whether they're for Diwali, the Hindu festival of light, or a dinner party, there's no better way to celebrate than with mithai—Indian desserts. While the treats vary from region to region, along with the local sweeteners and preferred bling, here's what we consider the essentials: lots of sugar, lots of color, and lots of options. From sweet and creamy rice pudding to over-the-top silver topped treats like royal toast to cooling lassis that are sweet enough to double as dessert, these recipes are some of our favorites.

Goan Coconut Cake
Goan Coconut Cake
A hint of rosewater adds sweet, floral aroma to this moist, dense semolina cake, packed with four types of coconut. Get the recipe for Goan Coconut Cake »Nik Sharma
Indian Fried Dough with Saffron Syrup (Jalebi)
jalebi
Similar to American funnel cake in shape and texture, jalebi is a popular Indian street food made by piping a runny, fermented batter into hot oil in a coil formation before soaking the fried "pretzels" in a sugar syrup. Get the recipe for Indian Fried Dough with Saffron Syrup (Jalebi) »Alex Testere
Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding)
kheer
Traditional cardamom-scented Indian rice pudding owes its particular richness to the inclusion of whole milk, which has been reduced by half during the cooking process to produce a thick, creamy base. Get the recipe for Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding) »Landon Nordeman
Fried Banana and Rice Flour Balls (Unniyappam)
Unniyappam (Fried Banana and Rice Flour Balls)
These sweet, fried rice flour balls are a typical prasadam, or "offering," sold at Hindu temples in Kerala or at local sweet shops. The runny batter, which includes banana purée, grated coconut, and jaggery syrup, is spooned into a ghee-coated appachatti pan (a specialty pan with divots), which is then heated over an open flame, cooking the batter into crispy cakes. (If you have an aebleskiver or takoyaki pan, those work too.) Fried unniyappam can be stored for up to a week and reheated in a moderate oven before serving. Get the recipe for Fried Banana and Rice Flour Balls (Unniyappam) »Michelle Heimerman
Ricotta Pancakes in Cardamom Syrup (Malpura)
Ricotta Pancakes in Cardamom Syrup (Malpura)
Ricotta pancakes soaked in cardamom syrup and sprinkled with pistachios make a creamy, ethereal dessert. Get the recipe for Ricotta Pancakes in Cardamom Syrup (Malpura) »Ariana Lindquist
Tamil-Style Sweet Rice Pudding
Sweet Rice Pudding
This luscious rice pudding adorned with cashews and raisins, is reason to celebrate in Pongal, India. Get the recipe for Tamil-Style Sweet Rice Pudding »Ingalls Photography
Steamed Cardamom-Spiced Rice Flour Balls (Mandaputtu)
Mandaputtu (Steamed Cardamom-Spiced Rice Flour Balls)
Local to Kerala, these chewy, lightly granular sweet rice balls are made by binding green mung bean flour and rice flour with cashews, coconut, raisins, and cardamom, using melted ghee and jaggery syrup. Their flavor profile—sweet but strongly spiced—is typical of South Indian sweets. At the Attukal Pongala festival, where they're created as an offering to a Hindu goddess, they're steamed in special pans with individual divots, but a bamboo steamer or steamer insert works just as well. Get the recipe for Steamed Cardamom-Spiced Rice Flour Balls (Mandaputtu) »Michelle Heimerman
Sevaya Kheer (Vermicelli Milk Pudding)
Sevaya Kheer (Vermicelli Milk Pudding)
Home cook Yamini Joshi gave us the recipe for this Punjabi dessert of cardamom-spiced milk bolstered by toasted vermicelli noodles, dried fruit, and nuts. Get the recipe for Sevaya Kheer (Vermicelli Milk Pudding) »Ingalls Photography
Mango Lassi (Indian Mango Yogurt Drink)
Mango Lassi (Indian Mango Yogurt Drink)
Use the ripest, sweetest, smoothest mangos you can find, such as Champagne or Haitian varieties, for this creamy and refreshing yogurt-enriched fruit shake. Get the recipe for Mango Lassi (Indian Mango Yogurt Drink) »Maxime Iattoni
Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh)
Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh)
For these simple bite-size confections from Bengal, milk is turned into homemade paneer cheese and then combined with sugar and cardamom to yield a dense, fudge-like treat. Get the recipe for Bengali Milk Sweets (Sandesh) »Ingalls Photography
Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa)
Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa)
Studded with chopped nuts and flavored with aromatic cardamom and rose water, this sweet Indian pudding is made from a blend of nutty ghee, milk, cream, sugar, and grated carrot. It's equally good served either hot or cold. Get the recipe for Punjabi-Style Carrot Pudding (Gajar ka Halwa) »Ingalls Photography
Spiced Indian Cake Balls (Roti Laddu)
Roti Laddu
This buttery confection is a quick and simple treat commonly given to small children in India. Clarified butter (ghee), jaggery, and spices are kneaded into dry leftover roti to make a rich, shaggy dough that is then pressed into snack-sized balls. Get the recipe for Spiced Indian Cake Balls (Roti Laddu) »Matt Taylor-Gross
Sweet Yogurt with Saffron and Pistachios (Shrikhand)
Sweet Yogurt with Saffron and Pistachios (Shrikhand)
Pistachios, cardamom seeds, and saffron are mixed into yogurt to make this cool and creamy dessert. Get the recipe for Sweet Yogurt with Saffron and Pistachios (Shrikhand) »Todd Coleman
Shahi Tukra (Royal Toast)
toast
This syrup-soaked toast is slathered in a sweetened reduction of milk flavored with saffron. Get the recipe for Shahi Tukra (Royal Toast) »Ingalls Photography
Caramel Lassi
Caramel Lassi
This sweet riff on the Indian yogurt drinks known as lassis comes from Lingaraj Lassi, a popular refreshment stand in Bhubaneshwar in the east Indian state of Odisha. Its honeyed taste and caramel hue come from the sugars in the milk, which caramelize as the milk reduces, deepening and intensifying it in color and flavor. Get the recipe for Caramel Lassi »James Roper