Chana Dal Burfi is a popular Indian sweet made with lentils, nuts, sugar, and a hint of cardamom. I have for you today a very vegan version of this sorta-fudge delicacy, and — like with the many Indian vegan desserts and sweets I’ve shared with you over the years — you’ll never miss the milk and ghee.
The period around October sees a flurry of activity in Indian kitchens. In the festival-loving country, this is an extra-special time because Diwali’s on the horizon. A few years back, we were in India during Diwali, and it was extraordinary to see, once again, the transformative effect this mother of all festivals has. The streets are on fire with a million lights and lanterns. Oil lamps twinkle in windows. The busy streets are busier as everybody visits everybody else. Even the air smells different.
Food, of course, is a huge part of Diwali, and a lot of it is sweet. Although every region has its specialties, there are some sweets, like burfis and laddoos, that are pretty much made — and shared — in every home. But Indian sweets are also largely made with milk and ghee, which is why I’ve been on a quest to veganize many common Indian sweets and share them with you.
This Chana Dal Burfi is one of my favorites. For one, it’s almost healthy– yes, you heard that right. It’s made with lentils, for heaven’s sake, like many Indian sweets are, and it has tons of protein and goodness from nuts. Yes, there’s some fat and some sugar, but remember that wonderful thing about the glycemic index: when you add fats to carbs, the glycemic index of the food drops. So while you cannot make a sweet without sugar, you can actually make it affect your weight and blood sugar less by making sure you add some fat to it, in the form of healthy nuts and some healthy fat, like coconut oil. Because coconut is also often a part of Indian sweets, and it certainly is in this one, you don’t have to worry about the flavor of the coconut oil spoiling your sweet. In fact, it only enhances it.
This is also a rather easy recipe to make, and it requires just eight ingredients. Lentils, almond milk, cashew nuts, grated coconut, pumpkin seeds, sugar, coconut oil and cardamon. Do you see anything in that list you absolutely do not love?
- 1 cup chana dal or Bengal gram dal soaked in enough water to cover by two inches for four hours.
- 3 cups almond milk
- 1/2 cup cashews + 1/2 cup water soaked for 30 minutes then blended into a very smooth cream
- 1/2 tsp powdered green cardamom seeds
- 1/4 cup grated coconut or 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- In a saucepan, combine the soaked, drained chana dal with 2 cups of almond milk and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the saucepan, and cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are really tender. Turn off the heat, let the mixture cool a little, and then blend into a coarse paste in the food processor.
- Heat the oil in a large wok or skillet. Add the blended chana dal paste and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste is quite dry. It will be very sticky looking, but there won't be any visible moisture.
- Add the grated coconut or coconut milk, remaining 1 cup of almond milk, cashew cream, pumpkin seeds, and cardamom. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is again dry and starts to turn slightly opaque where it touches the pan directly.
- Grease a square 8-inch cake pan or dish with deep sides. Turn out the hot chana-dal mixture into the pan and, using a spatula or knife, spread the mixture into an even, smooth layer. Sprinkle and press on some more pumpkin seeds on top, if you wish (optional).
- Let it cool thoroughly, or place it in the refrigerator overnight. With a sharp knife, cut it into even squares.
Just a few more vegan and dairy-free sweet and savory Diwali recipes from the archives:
Chivda, a savory, crispy snack mix