15 Diwali Foods to Try Under the Lights This Year
If you plan to join the celebration, here's our list of must-have Diwali food.
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Diwali, known as the “Festival of Lights”, is celebrated by Hindus in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore and several other places in Asia. It represents “victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.”
In 2023, the main event will take place on November 12, but in true desi style, the celebrations will go on for four or five days with fireworks, candle-lighting and family gatherings—as well as plenty of of delicious Diwali food (including tons of sweets)!
Samosas are small, triangular savory pastry pockets stuffed with potatoes and peas and flavored with spices like fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander powder, garam masala and more. The fillings and spices vary depending on each region in Asia, but commonly, they are served piping hot with a spicy chutney. You can bake your own version of this golden-brown crispy treat in under an hour.
Pakoras are made by pairing vegetables—think onion, eggplant, potato, spinach or cauliflower—with spices like mint, dill, carom seeds and garam masala, then dipping them in batter and deep-frying. You can try a healthier, non-fried version of pakoras with this creamy cauliflower pakora soup.
Aloo tikki literally translates to potato cutlet or potato croquette, and is a popular street food in the subcontinent, as well as a great snack on Diwali. It’s made from boiled potatoes, peas and spices like red chili powder, garam masala and coriander powder. The potatoes are mashed, mixed with peas and spices, and then fried. Breadcrumbs are sometimes used to get a perfectly crispy exterior, while arrowroot powder may be used as a binder.
Puris is a small, round, deep-fried flat piece of bread made of unleavened wheat flour. The crunchy puris are a staple at Diwali and are usually served with a savory curry or gravy of spiced meat or vegetables. However, puris might also be served with a sweet dish as dessert. Here are more popular types of Indian bread.
Originating from the city of Kolkata in West Bengal, kati rolls are a street food that can be turned into a light main dish. In their original form, they were made by wrapping a parantha around a spiced kabob that had just come off the skewer (the word kati means “stick”), which was slathered in coriander chutney. The dish has now evolved to include egg, paneer and various vegetables as a filling.
Poha, or flattened rice, is a popular breakfast in the West and South parts of India, and is traditionally eaten in the coastal state of Goa on Diwali. It is usually prepared in five different ways to celebrate the festival, with each dish incorporating a different mix of spices, and some versions using milk or curd.
Murukku is a deep fried savory snack. While the South Indian crispy treat resembles a churro, it is seasoned with cumin, onion powder or chili. They can be shaped in tight or loose spirals, or even cut up to look like fries.
Chirote is a flaky, sweet layered snack made with refined flour. It is fried in ghee and coated with powdered sugar. It may also be dipped in cardamom-flavored sugar syrup. Though this isn’t the traditional method, it can be made with a store-bought pastry sheet. It’s a great follow-up to any Indian recipe on Diwali.
Part of the Bengali mishti tradition, roshogolla or rasgulla is a sweet sphere-shaped dessert made with chenna (milk thickened into a soft dough). Soaked in sugar syrup and topped with saffron or cardamom, this decadent treat originated in eastern India and Bangalesh, but is now seen at Diwali celebrations around the world.
Check out these other Indian dessert recipes!
Gulab jamun is a sweet snack usually made with powdered milk, a little flour, baking powder and ghee. The ingredients are kneaded to form a dough, shaped into balls, deep-fried until brown and simmered in sugar syrup.
Similar in shape to gulab jamun, laddoos are made with flour, ghee and sugar mixed with a range of other ingredients such as chopped nuts or dried raisins. They have several varieties, including besan laddoos and boondi laddoos (both made with different forms of gram flour). In addition to being part of Diwali, laddoos are a traditional part of engagement and wedding celebrations.
Not to be confused with the Middle Eastern halva, halwa is a blanket term used across India for several puddings. Of these, gajar ka halwa (carrot pudding) and sooji ka halwa or sheera (semolina pudding) are the most popular for their flavorful, chewy textures. It is most often eaten in the north and west, and usually involves a mix of ghee, water, sugar, spices and sometimes milk.
Karanji (also known as gujiya) is a sweet, deep-fried dumpling popular in the western state of Maharashtra. Similar to a sweet empanada, it is made with semolina or all-purpose flour stuffed with khoya and dried fruits, and then deep-fried in ghee for crisp perfection.
Pav bhaji originated in the western state of Maharashtra and is a popular street food, especially in the city of Mumbai. In this dish, the bhaji is a mixture of mashed potatoes, peas and other vegetables in a tomato-based gravy, spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, red chilis, coriander seeds, fennel and peppercorns. Pav is a soft Indian roll, though this tasty gravy can be paired with any soft roll (toast it on a pan with plenty of butter for authenticity).
Kheer is a pudding made by boiling milk and sugar with rice, broken wheat, tapioca, vermicelli or sweet corn. It is usually made with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios, almonds or other dry fruits and nuts. Depending on the region, it may also be known as payasam or phirni. Here’s how to make rice kheer.