This vegan version of Barfi, a classic Indian sweet, is made with just five ingredients, including nuts and cardamom. It comes together in under 30 minutes, and it’s the perfect way to ditch the dairy while keeping your holidays sweet.
I’d call a barfi a fudge-like sweet, but that wouldn’t do this delightful Indian treat any justice. While a fudge is spectacularly one-dimensional (sugar, anyone?), a barfi has a certain complexity to it, an ineffable deliciousness that makes it a food fit to sweeten your most special celebrations, from weddings to birthdays to the couple of dozen Indian festivals that dot the calendar each year.
Before I go any further, let me clarify, for anyone who doesn’t know, that a barfi is not a single kind of a sweet: rather, it’s a family of sweets, like cakes or cookies are. There are barfis made with milk, probably the most ubiquitous, barfis made with nuts, barfis made with chickpea flour, barfis made with all-purpose flour or maida, barfis made with rice flour, barfis made with coconut… you get the idea.
And the texture of a barfi varies just as greatly as the flavors do, from the firm but velvety bite of a kaju katli to the soft, cloudiness of a malai burfi to the melt-in-the-mouth brittleness of a Mysore Pak, and everything in between.
Barfis are not a particularly difficult sweet to make, but they are not always easy to veganize, because even the versions that don’t rely heavily on milk do call for the use of ghee, with the ghee used more as a flavoring agent than as a fat. And while it is true that ghee adds a certain flavor many identify with Indian sweets, leaving it out, in my opinion, does not make your vegan barfi any less delicious. And you’d be doing that poor cow — and your waistline — a favor.
This Barfi recipe I have for you today comes together in under 30 minutes. But these are 30 dedicated minutes, so if you’re planning on catching up with the laundry while the Barfi cooks, ditch that plan. Or this. Other than that, and some exercise for your right arm, this is a recipe so easy, I’m tempted to say a child could do it.
Tips for making a great vegan barfi:
- The almond flour and cashew flour should both be very finely ground. You want your barfi mixture to come together and hold together so you can cut it into squares.
- Make sure you stir your barfi mixture constantly while it’s on the stove– this will likely take about 15 minutes. Nuts have a tendency to burn because of their high fat content, and you don’t want burnt bits in your barfi.
- Work over low or medium-low heat. Again, because you don’t want anything to burn.
- Once your mixture starts pulling off the sides of the pan, continue stirring until your mixture goes from translucent to opaque and is not sticky anymore. Getting that stickiness out of the equation is really important or your barfi will be gummy rather than tender.
Ingredients for the vegan barfi:
- Almond flour
- Raw cashews (you will need to powder these really fine. If you can find very finely ground cashew flour, that would work too)
- Sugar (try and use a vegan cane sugar, mainly for the aesthetics. Turbinado or coconut sugar will add a dark cast to your barfi, but they are perfectly acceptable)
- Coconut oil
- Nuts for garnish — pistachios, almonds, cashews are all fine here.
Looking for more vegan Indian sweets?
- Vegan Kaju Katli
- Vegan Carrot Pudding
- Vegan Almond Kheer
- Vegan Gulab Jamun
- Vegan Butternut Squash Cashew Halwa
- Vegan Phirni
- Vegan Gajar Halwa
Vegan Barfi Recipe
- 1 cup almond flour (superfine flour works best for this)
- 1 cup raw cashews (finely powdered)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp green cardamom powder
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 tbsp nuts (chopped, for garnish, optional)
- 2 tbsp cashew cream (made by blending 2 tbsp cashews into a very smooth paste with 2 tbsp water)
- Place the water and sugar in a heavy-bottomed wok or skillet (non-stick works best for this). Add the cardamom and let it come to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low or medium-low. Add the cashew flour and almond flour and mix. Continue stirring at very frequent intervals, making sure your flour is not sticking to the bottom. If it is, scrape it up rightaway.
- Within a few minutes, the mixture will begin to pull off the sides and bottom of the pan. Add the coconut oil at this point. The mixture will be quite translucent and sticky at this stage, which will make stirring it a bit of a pain, but persist. Since stoves vary, you might want to turn up your heat just a teeny bit if this is taking too long, but around 12-15 minutes after you began cooking, the mixture should turn opaque and dry (meaning it won't be sticky anymore). If you make a ball, it should hold together. Turn off the heat at this point and remove the mixture to a bowl.
- As soon as you can handle the dough, knead it into a smooth ball. I like kneading in a little cashew cream into the mixture at this time because it just makes the barfi softer, which I love. You can skip this step.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet or a flat baking pan. Pat out the barfi mixture on it in an even layer, about six inches square (or thinner, if you want thinner barfis). Press the sides to make them as even as possible.
- Press some nuts for garnish on the top and let the barfi cool completely. When cool, cut the barfi into pieces. The barfi will store in the refrigerator for at least a week.