Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Parsad Duo

If there were ever a dish that brought back young childhood memories of growing up in a Hindu home, it would have to be this one.  We had so many jhandis and poojas in my house that making parsad in the kitchen became a norm.  This bread pudding-like dessert is something that is only available at these types of Hindu religious functions so it cannot be easily found at a local roti shop.  Makes it all the more desirable, doesn't it? I remember attending countless numbers of jhandis as a young girl and usually by the end; I was so hungry that I couldn't wait for the brown paper bags to be distributed, because I knew there was going to be parsad inside.  I know I can't possibly be the only one who has felt this way, right?

Many of you who have never attended a jhandi might be wondering what the heck I am talking about.  Well, in short, jhandis are Hindu religious ceremonies, where devotees pay adoration to Hindu deities by offering mantras (often facilitated by a priest or swami), flowers, fruits, and homemade sweets.  These ceremonies usually last anywhere from 2-4 hours and are attended by family and friends of the person hosting the jhandi.  Once the ceremony is over, guests are offered a vegetarian meal and a variety of sweets usually packaged in brown paper bags.  One of the main sweets in the bag is this glorious parsad I speak of.

The highlight of the "after-jhandi" for me was the paper-bagged sweets. There were usually two zip-loc bags inside; the ugly stepchild, which was the bag that was filled with small pieces of cut up fruit that people usually never ate, and the other bag contained the good stuff.  The good stuff is what I like to call, "jhandi sweets trio"; peera, parsad, mithai.  These were the sweets that were all made by hand and required a labor of love; it was the bag that most people looked forward for after these religious functions were over.  The best part was eating the piece of the parsad that was sitting right under the peera, because it had an extra sweetness to it - does anyone else know what I am talking about here? It wasn't uncommon either for people to ask to take home a paper bag or two for their cousin's aunty's neighbor.  Yea, we know who that second and third paper bag was really for ;).

Parsad, which I believe originally started as prasada, means divine offering.  It is also known as Mohanbhog, meaning offering for the lord (Mohan, one of Lord Krishna's 108 names and bhog, meaning prasada), and is traditionally offered during the prayer ceremony.  A separate batch of parsad is usually offered to guests after being blessed by the officiating pandit or swami.

The ingredients in parsad generally include sugar, milk, flour, and clarified butter, which is also known as ghee.  The cream of wheat version is also quite tasty and equally as popular. I can never seem to choose which I like the best, hence why I've made both.  When my mom made parsad for use as offering in any prayer ceremony, she made it solely with pure ghee, flour, sugar, and milk and sometimes semolina or cream of wheat.  Whereas the batch that was being served to guests was usually made with part butter (salted or unsalted) and part ghee.  The reason that only a small about of ghee would be used is because ghee can sometimes have an overpowering taste.  It also had the addition of various spices, cherries, raisins, or nuts.  This dessert is made by parching all-purpose flour in hot ghee until a brown paste forms.  Warm milk is added to the paste and stirred vigorously until a fluffy, smooth, and buttery pudding comes about.  Sounds simple, right? Well believe or not, there is a technique involved here and it comes from learning how to properly parch the flour in the ghee until it becomes a dark brown color, all without burning it.  

This past week I practiced making my mother's recipe to get it just right for Diwali, and also to share with you all.  Although it seems complicated, once you do this a few times, you'll easily become an expert.  The key to making a tasty parsad is getting the right color when parching the flour.  Have you ever seen parsad that looked "whitish" and pale and also had a sort of raw-ish taste? Well that comes from not parching the flour enough and also adding too much ghee. 

These two recipes belong to my mom.  I always loved the brown color and taste her parsad had.  She always made both versions, the cream of wheat one and the original flour-based one.  Since this pudding is highly customizable, feel free to add anything you like, such as golden raisins, cherries, peanuts, pistachios and even cream soda.

Let's start with the flour-based parsad which most are familiar with.

Various spices are added to the mix, my mom always included cardamom/elaichi, it gave the parsad a really nice flavor.  You won't need too much though, just about a 1/4 tsp, ground. 

Gather all the spices, place in a small dish.

If adding cherries, chop coarsely, set aside.  I used maraschino cherries, pure ghee, and one tin of evaporated milk plus 4oz more.  In total 16oz evaporated milk.

Add evaporated milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and spices to a pot.  Warm milk mixture on stove.  Keep warm until ready for use. 

Measure 4oz butter, 4oz ghee, and 1 cup all-purpose flour.  Set aside. *You may use all butter or all ghee, this is your preference.  Heat butter and ghee on medium heat until melted. Add flour and stir to dissolve.

Continue to stir until mixture thickens and forms a paste. 

This is the part that will take some time and will probably give your arm a little workout.  Turn heat to medium-low and stir continuously (parch) until a golden to dark brown color is apparent.  This should take anywhere from 15-20 minutes.  I would advise that you do not walk away from the stove, this mixture can burn easily which is why it is important to stir continuously until color is achieved. 

Once mixture has become golden to dark brown, slowly pour in warm milk.  Stir until mixture becomes thick, add cherries.  It will start to come together quickly, so continue to stir vigorously until the pudding leaves the sides of the pot, this is how you'll know it is done.

I know you'll be tempted to taste once it is done, go ahead, no one is looking. 

Are you a fan of the semolina or cream of wheat version? If so, take a look at how my mom makes this delicious and slightly grainy pudding.

These are the brands I used.  I also used just a handful or raisins.  You can include golden raisins, currants, cherries, or any other addition you prefer.  

Mmm look at those wheat kernels! 

Similar to how the flour-based parsad is made, gather the same spices, set aside.

Add spices and this time, only 1/2 cup of granulated sugar to 16oz evaporated milk. 

For this type of parsad, you won't need as much ghee or butter.  Start with 6oz butter or ghee or 3oz of both.  Melt in a pot then add flour, stir to dissolve.  Add cream of wheat kernels next.  Parch until mixture is golden, but not dark brown.

Add milk mixture and raisins, continue to stir until mixture is thick and pulls away from sides of pot. 

Serves 10-12

Flour Parsad 
  • 16oz evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom/elaichi
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 6-8 maraschino cherries, chopped 
  • 4oz ghee
  • 4oz salted or unsalted butter
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 

  1. Measure 16oz evaporated milk into a small pot, add sugar and spices, stir to combine.  Warm milk on stove to dissolve sugar, do not boil.  Keep milk warm until ready to use.
  2. Heat a large pot or caharee on medium, melt ghee and butter, add flour and stir quickly to dissolve, begin parching by stirring continuously.  
  3. Turn heat to medium-low and continue to parch flour/ghee/butter mixture until golden brown.  This should take about 15-20 minutes.  Do not walk away from stove, the bottom of this mixture will catch quickly to the pot and will burn.
  4. Once flour/ghee/butter mixture is golden brown, pour in warm milk.  Stir quickly and vigorously as mixture comes together, add cherries and continue to stir.  
  5. Parsad is done when it begins to pull away from the sides.

Cream of Wheat Parsad 
  • 16oz evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom/elaichi
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tbsp raisins 
  • 6oz ghee or unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup cream of wheat
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  1. Measure 16oz evaporated milk into a small pot, add sugar and spices, stir to combine.  Warm milk on stove to dissolve sugar, do not boil.  Keep milk warm until ready to use.
  2. Heat a large pot or caharee on medium heat, melt ghee and butter, add flour and stir quickly to dissolve, add cream of wheat and begin parching.
  3. This should take about 10-12 minutes, cream of wheat kernels will begin to look brown.  Do not walk away from stove, the bottom of this mixture can catch quickly to the pot and will burn.
  4. Add warm milk mixture and raisins, continue to stir until parsad comes together and leaves the sides of the pot. 
Additional Info:

  • This pudding can made in many different ways, many include peanuts, 7up soda, cream soda, orange soda, and even eggs (commonly called syrnee).  Add whatever you prefer.
  • Although I didn't use one here, a cast iron or caharee is commonly used to make this dessert as it can help with achieving the brown color faster. 
  • When adding warm milk, be sure to add slowly because it can pitch out of the pot and burn you. 


  1. Okay, there are several things to respond to here:

    1. No, you are not the only person that felt that way (waiting for the goodie at the end of a jhandi (lol)

    2. The second bag trio for me was parsad, roat and mitai

    3. OMG - what was it with the cut up fruit, you are right, no one ate that. Okay, sometimes I might eat the banana but nothing else :)

    4. I've never had the cream of wheat parsad

    5. I applaud and appreciate the time and effort you put into to shooting step-by-step photographs.

    You rock!

  2. If you add orange soda when do you add it and how much?

    1. Hi Tina,

      I haven't made it with orange soda, but I know my uncle usually does half soda, half milk, try that and see how it comes out. Hope this helps and sorry for the late reply!

  3. I greatly appreciate the time and effort you spend on sharing your recipes and photos with all of us. Question: How do I adjust the recipe for 2 lbs of Flour Parsad?

    1. Hi Sunita,

      How many people will it be serving? For 2lbs, I would probably triple this recipe.

  4. Hi Alicia, sorry for the delay in my response. Thanks for getting back to me. It will be serving 50 people.

    1. Hi Sunita,

      You are making the flour parsad right? For, 50 people I would multiply this recipe by 4 or 5. However, I would only add about 2 cups of sugar for the flour parsad. Good luck!

    2. Ok great, thanks for the heads up about the sugar. Was going to multiply the ingredients by 5, now I know what to do with the sugar. Will let you know how it turns out!

  5. So here's my update: I used 2 sticks of butter and 1 1/2 cups of ghee. I actually made one pound of parsad instead of two. Everyone loved it, but the perfectionist in me, thinks it would've been better without any butter and perhaps 21/2 cups of ghee. Thanks again!

    1. Hi Sunita,

      Glad to hear it turned out well. Like yourself, my mom also prefers it with just ghee, she uses only ghee especially when making it for prayers. The ghee flavor is a little strong for me, but you have to make it the way you like it :). Thanks for the update!

  6. Can I just say that is my go to recipe for pujas. It is a huge hit, even my toughest critics (the in-laws) are forced to pass me a compliment when they taste it. Pure perfection. Thanks so much for sharing it. I actually do the maida version but add a hint of cream of wheat for some richness. Yummy!