Coconut-pistachio snowballs

11 Recipes to Celebrate Diwali

by Great British Chefs 21 October 2022

Diwali, also known as the Festival of Light, is one of the biggest celebrations in the Hindu calendar, and is marked by dancing, music, fireworks and - of course, food. We take a look at the ultimate celebratory recipes to serve during Diwali.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

Diwali marks the start of the Hindu New Year, and is a time for new beginnings, music and fireworks. The celebration is held in honour of the couple Rama and Sita’s safe return to Ayodhya after their exile and Sita’s capture by the demon Ravana. Small clay oil lamps called diya are lit to represent light and goodness, in honour of the oil lamps which were used to guide Rama and Sita home. The third day of Diwali, Lakshmi Puja, is the main day of the celebration, when people pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. It’s traditional to clean and decorate your house, wear new clothes and create intricate rangoli, patterns made from coloured sand, powdered rice, chalk or flowers to welcome the goddess into your home.

But, as well as being about puja (worshipping the gods) and honouring Rama and Sita, Diwali is also about celebrating. Families throw card parties to gamble and play games together, dance, set off firecrackers and share homemade sweets and snacks.

The most popular food at Diwali is undoubtedly the mithai, or sweets: gold or silver-covered kaju katli, barfi, ladoo, jalebi, halwa, there are far too many different types of mithai to list. Sweets are everywhere at Diwali, in the form of offerings to the gods but also gifts to friends and neighbours (and for dessert of course). Namkeen - salty, crunchy snacks - come a close second though, and tables are always piled with chakli, murukku, papadum, as well as bhel puri and plates of different chaat, samosas and pakoras.
Below are a selection of some recipes which would be perfect to enjoy at Diwali, both sweet and savoury.

Coffee and walnut semolina squares

This recipe from Vineet Bhatia takes the classic British flavour combination of coffee and walnut and pairs it with the traditional Indian sweet suji barfi, or semolina barfi. These elegant sweets are perfect for handing around at parties, especially when garnished with a chocolate-coated coffee bean and some gold leaf.

Coconut-pistachio snowballs

This simple recipe for snowballs by Vineet Bhatia is essentially a version of coconut barfi, and made with just four ingredients: desiccated coconut, sugar, condensed milk and pistachios. This is a great recipe to have around as they don’t require any fresh ingredients, keep very well (so you can make them in advance) and come together in a flash (so you can make them last minute).

Bhajia

Nothing beats a fresh bhaji, red-hot and covered in salt, surrounded by crispy, savoury shards of battered onion or potato. They are a dangerous thing to learn how to make, as once you realise how easy they are, it’s hard not to want to make them as often as you can. This recipe from Urvashi Roe uses a little bit of rice flour in the batter for extra crunch, and is finished with a sharp and funky chaat topping made from chilli powder, kala namak and amchur.

Papdi chaat

Papdi chaat, also called papri chaat, is a moorish South Asian street food. Papdi, little deep fried crackers, are covered with an assortment of tangy, crunchy, sweet and spicy toppings - chickpeas, sev, yoghurt, pomegranate seeds, tamarind chutney, mint chutney. It has quite a lot of components, but they can almost all be prepared in advance (the yoghurt needs to be done last minute) and is well worth the effort.

Apple crumble kulfi

This apple crumble kulfi from Will Bowlby of Kricket uses Bramley apple juice to make a lightly tart caramel, which is served alongside a traditional cardamom kulfi. It’s a great way to make the most of fruit that is at its peak in the UK in autumn, while still keeping things decidedly Indian.

Rhubarb and pomegranate bhapa doi, pistachio burfi

Bhapa doi is a type of steamed yoghurt, which Atul Kochhar here flavours with rosewater. The simple name belies the complexity of this dish - Atul Kohchhar’s bhapa doi is served with white chocolate burfi, poached rhubarb, toffee crumb, rhubarb coulis, pomegranate jelly and garnished with a sugar tuile, gold leaf, basil and pomegranate. It’s an advanced but show-stopping dessert.

Bhel puri

Bhel puri is one of India’s most iconic chaat. Typically served in a cone on the street, it’s a combination of puffed rice, spices, crunchy sev, tangy chutney and fresh vegetables that’s incredibly easy to put together. It’s often served with papdi for scooping up the sticky, crunchy bits of rice and sev, but you can also eat it with a spoon.

Shakarkandi ki chaat

Atul Kochhar's version of shakarkandi ki chaat is inspired by the food he ate as a child in India - sweet potato chaat roasted on charcoal barbecues, set in the back of street food vendors’ cars. In his restaurant he roasts the marinated sweet potatoes in a tandoori oven, which gives the potatoes a slightly caramelised flavour, but at home a barbecue or even a regular oven works as a good substitute.

Carrot halwa

Avinash Shashidhara’s version of one of Punjab’s most well-known desserts was inspired by carrot cake, with pistachios and raisins mixed in. He serves this simple dessert warm, with vanilla ice cream and more chopped pistachios for garnish.

Indian-spiced coconut rice pudding with aromatic poached pears

This is more of a British-style rice pudding with an Indian twist than a typical Indian kheer. The pears are poached with cardamom and saffron, and the pudding rice is cooked with coconut, rosewater and more saffron and cardamom. It’s a rich, deeply comforting dessert, perfect for cold autumn nights.

Dal makhani

After all that fried food and feasting, nothing is more welcome than some warm dal. This dal makhani recipe by Alfred Prasad is buttery, lightly spiced and slow cooked. It’s a delicious, cosy way to end a day of celebrating and feasting. Although it takes several hours for the black lentils to soften and break down, it’s well worth the wait, and can be made in advance.