Sooji halwa/halva is a popular Pakistani dessert served in breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It tastes great alone too but it is amazing when paired with poori. Halwa poori is just to Pakistani what doughnuts are Americans; a yummy, happy start of the weekend. My kids just love it and having it on the weekend is a ritual for us and many people in Lahore and Karachi. It’s a day saver and can be made quickly for guests with simple ingredients that are always present in the Indian pantry.
Tips to make best sooji halwa
- The best sooji halwa is soft, moist, not at all dry and lumpy.
- The key to best halwa is properly roasted semolina.
- What makes halwa soft is fully puffed semolina grains. To attain that cook sooji on low heat. Add more water if sooji water is dried and but not puffed.
- The moist factor in sooji comes from fat. Best fat to make sooji is ghee or clarified butter. Halwa tastes and smells great with ghee. Another option is unsalted butter. Finally, you can make it in oil too but it will be a big compromise on taste. Do not try to reduce fat in the recipe as halwa is weight gain food. It is indulgent and there is no point making it low fat. Eat less but it should taste great.
- Apart from these details, sooji halwa is very easy to make and it is great for toddlers and babies.
What is sooji made of?
Sooji halwa is one of the easiest and quickest halwa. The ingredients are all staple in the Indian kitchen.
- Semolina: Semolina is a coarse flour made from durum wheat. Durum wheat is different from whole wheat or common wheat. More about semolina here.
- Ghee: is clarified butter used widely in South Asian cooking. Ghee can be substituted with unsalted butter.
- Cardamom: is an aromatic Indian spice. You can substitute cardamom with cloves or saffron.
What is sooji in English?
In English sooji is called semolina. Semolina is an Italian word as semolina is used in Italian cooking to make dessert. Semolina flour is used to make pasta.
Sooji or suji is a Hindi / Urdu word. It is widely used in Pakistani and Indian cooking. Semolina is also called rava in South India and suji/sooji in North India and Pakistan.
How to make sooji halwa for babies?
I’m no expert in kid’s nutrition but I can provide basic guides while making sooji for babies. Always remember every child is different and has different digesting capabilities. Adjust his food as needed and introduce one thing at a time. Check more details about introducing sooji to babies here.
For 4-6 month babies, semolina is simply boiled in water. A little sugar or salt can be added to the flavor. As the baby grows and his tummy gets used to digesting it. You can add little milk and butter along with water after 8 months. Add milk to sooji only when you’ve already started giving cow’s or other milk to your baby and he can digest it.
When your baby is 1-year plus or has started to eat from your table, you can make sooji like this. Sautee a few tablespoon sooji in butter or ghee then add milk and sugar to sooji. Cook on very low heat for 10 minutes and add more milk if needed. Sooji should be fully puffed and soft. Cool sooji completely then feed the baby. You can store this sooji halwa in the fridge. Ideally, reheat and cool to room temperature before feeding the baby again.
Never add food color or saffron to sooji if making for young children. You can add below fruits and veggies to make sooji more nutritious for the child. Again make sure you have already introduced the below food individually to baby and you know he can digest it. Only then add it to sooji and make it more complex.
When sooji is ready, you can add any of these foods to make halwa it tastier and to add a twist. These additions are great for babies and toddlers.
- marmalade of your favorite fruit, reduce sugar in halwa to adjust the sugar in marmalade.
- orange zest (not recommended for babies)
- desiccated coconut
- sweet potato (less sugar will be added)
Except for mango and marmalade, I have personally tried all variations, they all add more softness and add to the nutritional value of halwa along with flavors.
Looking for easy Indian desserts? Check these.
- Carrot Halwa
- Sheer Khurma (seviyaan)
- Shahi Tukray (Indian bread pudding)
- Kheer Poori (Indian rice pudding)
- Lauki ki kheer (bottle gourd pudding)
- Sev Amba (Mango Vermicelli)
How to make soft and moist Sooji Halwa
The halwa is super simple to make but a little variation can impact a huge difference in texture and taste.
Making sheera or sugar syrup is simple. Put all ingredients in the pot and boil it. When sugar melts sheera is ready. You can skip raisins if you’re not fond of it. Adding food color or not is a personal choice, traditionally it is added.
Take any wide and thick based vessel. Heat ghee and add the cardamom and cloves. Let it crackle a bit then add the semolina. ( Cloves are optional here.)
Semolina is golden. At this stage add sheera, the sugar syrup.
(In another popular method, sugar, water, and food color are added directly at this stage without making sheera. I recommend you to make sheera separately as it gives a smoother texture without a lot of stirring. As a downside, you need to wash one extra pot but it is totally worth it.)
A succulent halwa is ready to enjoy. You can see the halwa is like a thick sauce at this stage. As it cools, sooji will absorb more water, and halwa will thicken. (If you like halwa don’t forget to rate this recipe.)
Sooji halwa recipe, soft and delicious
For Sheera (sugar syrup)
- 1½ cup sugar , or more to taste
- 3 tablespoon raisins , optional
- 3 cups water
- A pinch of yellow food color
- ¾ cup clarified butter, (ghee), substitue with unsalted butter or oil
- 3 cloves, (laung)
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 cup fine semolina, sooji
- 3-4 tablespoon pistachio and almonds, chopped
- Boil water, sugar, food color and raisins in a vessel. When sugar dissolves completely. remove from heat and set aside.
- In another pot, heat clarified butter and fry cardomom powder, cloves and semolina. Fry until semolina color changes and fragrant. Semolina burns quickly so stir constantly.
- Now, add sheera water in semolina pot. Cook for 10 minutes on very low heat so semolina puffs completely. Keep stirring and cook until oil separates from sides. (Sooji halwa should be runny and not lumpy. It will absorb more water upon cooling and thicken.)
- Garnish with pistachio and almonds.