Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the most important holidays in the Hindu faith. The joyous five-day festival falls on October 30th this year and also happens to coincide with the Hindu New Year. Diwali celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. The literal translation for the name of the holiday is “series of lights.” Every year, the celebration centers on the time of the new moon, the darkest night of the year.
Diwali is a time when millions celebrate by cleaning and decorating their homes, exchanging gifts and sweets with loved ones, and lighting numerous lamps, and watching fireworks displays. One of the most important parts of any Diwali celebration is preparing faral (savory snacks) and mithai (sweets) to be shared among friends and family. Many Indian sweets are milk or dairy-based, including ingredients such as ghee (clarified butter) and curds, but all of your favorites can easily be made completely plant-based.
This year, celebrate Diwali with your closest friends, family, and these 15 dairy-free Indian sweets.
1. Sabudana Vada: Fried Tapioca Pearl Dumplings
Sabudana Vada, also known as just sago vada’, is a traditional deep-fried snack from Maharashtra, India. Made with tapioca pearls, it’s crispy, savory, and best when served fresh. This snack can be served alone or with spicy green chutney or tomato ketchup. This vada is also a perfect accompaniment for a party or any type of gathering.
2. Besan Barfi: Chickpea Flour and Date Fudge
This is a really simple and delicious recipe for Besan Barfi, also known as Indian-style fudge, made with dates and besan (chickpea flour). The besan gives the barfi a nutty flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture, and the dates are a unique addition! You can also throw in a handful of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, or cashews for an added burst of crunchy texture.
3. Vedic Sesame Ladoos
Typical ladoos, a type of Indian sweet, are made from a combination of flour, minced dough, milk, and sugar. Not only are these Vedic Sesame Ladoos raw and dairy-free, made from walnuts, dates, superfood seeds, and spices, they also hold four of the six rasas (tastes) of Ayurveda: sweet, bitter, astringent, and pungent. Sesame seeds are a big part in all the auspicious occasions, rituals, and marriage ceremonies in India as they hold religious and mythological importance, so they’re perfect for your Diwali celebration!
4. Sweet Potato Ras Malai
Though the original recipe is made from cream, milk, and cheese, this Sweet Potato Ras Malai is completely dairy-free! The soft dumplings are made from sweet potato, almond meal, tapioca starch, and cardamom and the decadent malai (cream sauce) is made from cashews, pistachios, non-dairy milk, and even more cardamom. Not only is this dessert decadent, it’s sweetened with stevia so it is also sugar-free! Just be sure to make the cream sauce a day ahead of time to give the flavors adequate time to marry.
5. Peach Jalebi: Indian Funnel Cake
This dessert peachy from all sides. Peachy inside. Peachy outside … it’s Peach Jalebi! Jalebi is a very popular and traditional Indian sweet dish, generally made on every Indian festival, celebration, or special occasion. It’s like a funnel cake soaked in rich, sweet syrup — but instead of soft and sweet, it’s sweet and crunchy with a soft interior. These swirly, juicy, crunchy, mouth-watering delicacies might seem a bit complicated to prepare, but they are super simple to make. Nothing complicated at all.
6. Sorghum Banana Paniyaram: Indian Steamed Bread
Mild and sweet, this Sorghum Banana Paniyaram is loaded with the flavors of banana and cardamom powder. The sorghum in this soft bread is high in protein and calcium, and is conveniently gluten-free! While this interpretation of the Indian dish is sweet, paniyaram can also be made savory.
7. Kheer: Indian Rice Pudding
If you are a fan of rice pudding, and you haven’t yet experienced Kheer, you must try this recipe! This healthier version uses brown rice, coconut milk, and date syrup. Top with lots of cinnamon and a bit of extra coconut milk for a creamy, dreamy dessert.
8. Naturally Sweet Carrot Halwa
This delicious Naturally Sweet Carrot Halwa is made without any added sugar! It’s flavored with cardamom and made creamy using coconut milk — and, if you can, use fresh coconut milk. It makes a world of difference. We recommend topping this pudding with some pistachios for a little bit of crunch!
9. Curried Apple Walnut Chutney
Diwali is a time to indulge in snacks, both savory and sweet and what better easy thing to pair them with than chutney? This Curried Apple Walnut Chutney straddles the line between sweet and savory with tender apples, slices of onion, and sweet-tart dried cranberry with the warm glow of curry. Wow! Sounds like the perfect partner for all your snacking needs.
10. Sweet Potato Gulab Jamun
These Sweet Potato Gulab Jamun are a rustic dessert from the Bengali kitchen. Typically made by kneading milk solids into dough that is then fried, this version is completely dairy-free and gluten-free. They’re essentially sweet potato doughnuts that stuffed with coconut, fried, and then soaked in cardamom scented syrup. Delicious!
11. No-Bake Almond Flower Cookies
These No-Bake Almond Flower Cookies make a quick and easy dessert for any occasion. Relaxing at home? Make a batch — it takes only 10 minutes. Got invited to a Diwali party? Also the perfect time to whip up a batch. These cute little flowers are adorably tiny and making them is as easy as pie.
12. Gulab Jamun Cake
This Gulab Jamun Cake is not just beautiful to look — it tastes amazing, too. It starts with a simple, moist base of vanilla cakes flavored with cardamom to give it Indian flair. Then, it is decorated with vegan gulab jamun, brushed with jamun syrup, and decorated with saffron and rose-flavored coconut whipped cream. This amazingly decadent cake is the perfect centerpiece at any festivity.
13. Beet Thinai Paniyaram: Indian Sweet Dumplings
Thinai paniyaram is a South Indian dumpling that can be made sweet or savory, depending on ingredients. This recipe for Beet Thinai Paniyaram introduces beets for a slightly sweet, earthy flavor and a gorgeous dark pink color. They’re spongy when served hot, with a slightly crispy outer layer. These dumplings are the perfect thing to take to school or work as a snack, or they can be enjoyed with a warm cup of tea.
14. Coconut Kinako Dango: Indian and Japanese Rice Dumpling Fusion
Dango is a Japanese sweet dumpling made from rice flour called mochi. It’s sweet, doughy, and it also happens to be very similar to Kozhukattai, a South Indian rice flour dumpling usually filled with sweet or savory fillings. This Coconut Kinako Dango unites the two into one. When you bite into it, it’s very soft, and you get a nutty whiff of the roasted soy flour. The stretchy dango is interspersed with the crunchy sweet coconut filling, making for a very interesting mouthful. You really can’t stop with one!
15. Pumpkin Halwa Puff Pastry Tarts
This refreshing Mango Lassi Blueberry Smoothie combines a frothy layer of mango and coconut cream lassi with a sweet blueberry and almond milk smoothie. Since this drink combines fruit components with creamy ones, the texture is similar to that of a milkshake. The result is a beautifully bright two-layered beverage that is perfect for welcoming in the Spring season! Enjoy!
Karachi Fruit Biscuits, also known as tutti fritti cookies, are popular Indian tea time cookies that get their name from the popular Karachi Bakery in Hyderabad, India. These biscuits are sweet, crumbly and melt in your mouth. The dough is studded with candied fruit and is flavored by cardamom and rose.
A burfi is a classic Indian sweet, dense confectionery. These are normally milk based, but there are countless ways to make burfis. These nutty and caramely, Figs And Date Burfis are perfect as an on the go snack/treat or a small dessert while you’re relaxing in the evening. These burfis are also healthy from all of the fruit and nuts. Could you ask for more?
Looking for savory meals and snacks to complete the celebrations? Check out our vegan Diwali recipes for ideas!
Lead image source: Gulab Jamun Cake