Homemade Besan Ladoo for Diwali

October 26, 2011 § 4 Comments

Every year on Diwali I host a gathering and invite friends to join me in celebrating the Hindu New Year. I light the traditional diyas (clay lamps) to guide the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi, to our home and wish for her blessing. Diwali is the largest Indian festival and literally translates into “row of lights.” The meaning of Diwali slightly differs in various regions and religions of India though the core message is the same,  the coming out of darkness into the light and the presiding of good over evil.

I searched the internet for traditional Diwali foods to serve at my party and came across a besan ladoo recipe that only had four ingredients and looked fairly easy to make. The recipe called for gram flour which I had never heard of before. I looked it up on the internet and found that gram flour is another name for besan which is the Punjabi name for chickpea and in Hindi it’s called chana.

I went to a few grocery stores in my neighborhood to look for the ingredients I needed for the ladoos. The chickpea flour and ghee were harder to find and I had to drive across town to a large grocery store chain that carries ethnic foods. When I found the chana flour I realized that it’s the same flour that I use to make pakoras, the savory fritters, and wondered how it would taste in the ladoos.

 The next day I followed the brief instructions and tried to make ladoo for the first time. I am not sure where I went wrong but the texture and the consistency of the mixture was way off. There was no way I was going to form a ping-pong ball out of the goey mixture that I was left with. I was surprised at my misfortune as the recipe I used was from a reliable source, a famous Indian chef.

Determined to get it right, I researched besan ladoo recipes on the internet and watched a few YouTube videos. I compared ingredients and cooking techniques and learnt that there are many styles of making ladoos and the proportions of the essential ingredients varies greatly. I found a YouTube video by Manjulaskitchen that is easy to follow and did not contain copious amounts of sugar or ghee. After watching her video, I felt confident in attempting ladoo making again.

I am happy to say that the ladoos were successful and very delicious. I found this recipe straight forward and easy to follow. The semolina flour in this recipe adds a sweetness to the ladoos that balances the pungent flavor of the chickpea flour. The original recipe calls for sliced almonds which I substituted for pistachios for personal preference. For vegans simply substitute the ghee for a vegan butter like earth balance.

Makes 15 ladoos
Cooking time 40 minutes

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) chickpea flour
1/8 cup (60 ml) semolina flour
1/2 cup + 1 tsp (125 ml + 5 ml) melted ghee or butter
3/4 cup (185 ml) sugar
1/8 cup + 1 tbsp (60 ml + 15 ml) pistachios sliced
1 tsp (1 ml) ground cardamom


1. Add the chickpea flour to a medium-sized saucepan on medium heat.

2. Add the semolina flour.

3. Mix the flour together.

4. Pour 1/2 cup of the melted ghee or butter into the flour and mix together. Stir continuously and use the back of the spoon to break up any lumps.

5. Continue to stir the flour mixture on medium heat until the flour is roasted. The recipe says that the flour releases an aromatic smell that signifies that it’s ready. There were many fragrant smells emanating from the flour that were new to me. I could not distinguish what I was supposed to be looking for so I timed the roasting to 10 minutes. This is what the flour looks like at the half way point after 5 minutes of roasting.

6. When the flour is finished roasting. transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

7. While the flour is cooling, slice the pistachios. Place 1 tbsp of sliced pistachios into a small bowl and set aside for the garnish.

8. Add the cardamom powder, sugar and 1/8 cup of pistachios to the flour mixture. It’s important to add the sugar while the flour mixture is warm to decrystallize the sugar.

9. Mix all the ingredients together and use your hands to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Take a tablespoon or so of the ladoo mixture into your hands and form into a round ball, about the size of a ping-pong. 

10. Pour 1 tsp of melted ghee or butter into a small bowl. Dip one side of the ladoo lightly in the ghee.

11. Gently dab the ladoo into the pistachios using the ghee as glue.

Indian sweets are served best with a steaming cup of hot chai.

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