Celebrate Diwali with Delicious Indian Flavors
Make this Festival of Lights extra special with an array of traditional and fusion Diwali recipes.
Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is one of the most popular festivals in India. It is celebrated around the world by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists. It symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, and light over darkness. It is the celebration of Lord Rama coming back home after 14 years of exile. Diwali is a very special time of the year where family and friends get together to celebrate new beginnings. There is lots of food, praying, family time, fireworks, new clothes, and so much more. Every household and every part of India celebrates Diwali differently, but they all have these three things in common: The celebrating revolves around food, love, and light.
My Diwali traditions
I’m from Gujarat in India. I’m going to tell you a little bit about how my family celebrates Diwali. First we start with deep cleaning our house as we invite Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and purity, to come into our home. Then we decorate our house with garlands, diyas (oil lamps), and rangoli (a type of art made with colored rice, colored flour, or flower petals). We prepare lots of food for our family and friends, including sweets boxes known as mithai dabba, to give as gifts.
Growing up in India, Diwali meant getting a 10-day holiday. It was one of my favorite times of the year and the holiday I would wait for all year long. Diwali was the time I got to see and hang out with all my cousins and friends. We would always go on a vacation with our extended family. I still remember taking a trip with my aunts, uncles, and cousins to Mumbai for a few days. We got to go to Essel World, which is equivalent to Six Flags here in the U.S. Everything was decorated for Diwali; it is one of my fondest memories from my childhood.
In Gujarat, the region I’m from, there are five main days of Diwali:
Day 1 is Wagh Baras. We light all the diyas (oil lamps) in our house and pray.
Day 2 is Dhanteras. We worship (pooja) and welcome Goddess Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and purity.
Day 3 is Kali Chaudas. We worship Goddess Mahakali. It is the day to abolish evil. Our family eats fried food, like pakoras and dahi vada (fritters). Everyone in the house does kalaj (eye liner) to ward off evil.
Day 4 is Diwali. We pray, light fireworks and diyas, and celebrate with family.
Day 5 is the Gujarati New Year, called Bestu Varas. We go to the temple and pray. We seek blessings from our elders, go to family and friends’ houses, or call to wish them a happy new year. The 5th day was my favorite when I was a kid because it meant getting to wear new clothes, and receiving lots of gifts and money from our parents and family. We usually went out to eat after a long day of visiting family and friends.
Now let's eat! Like any festival or holiday, this one revolves around food. There are tons of sweets, as well! I mean, I’m not complaining at all. Everything is pretty indulgent but so darn good. Explore the Diwali recipes below, from snacks and savory dishes to both traditional and fusion desserts.
In our home we always make farsi puri. Farsi puri is crispy and flaky, and melts in your mouth. It is made with all-purpose flour, ghee, black pepper, cumin seeds, and salt. The dough is rolled into bite-sized pieces, and deep-fried until lightly golden brown. My mom only used to make these during Diwali, so I looked forward to them every year. They are usually served with chai or coffee, but here is a little secret: Put some goat cheese and sweet and spicy mango pickle on them and DEVOUR. Trust me on this one!
Next up is charki/chakli, also known as murukku in Southern India. It is usually made with rice flour, gram flour, yogurt, and sesame seeds, and then fried in a spiral shape until it is golden brown and crispy. Gram flour, also called besan, is chickpea flour. Charki is often eaten as a snack with chai. The recipe variation here includes peanuts in the batter for nutty flavor. I can eat my weight in these because they are SOOO good!
Fritters! On the third day, for Kali Chaudas, we often eat a variety of fritters, including methi na gota, dal vada, and dahi vada. A description of each is below. Then for dessert, we enjoy kheer (rice pudding). Check out the kheer recipe in the Desserts section of this article.
Methi na gota: basically, fritters made with gram flour and fenugreek leaves; they’re often served with chutney
Dal vada: fritters made with different lentils, and fried until crispy
Dahi vada: lentil fritters soaked in sweet and tangy yogurt, topped with sweet and spicy chutneys
We usually make offerings for the god and include a curry (subzi), rice dish, and sweets.
In my family's traditions, everything is vegetarian, and the food usually contains no onion or garlic because we are offering it to the god.
My personal favorite offering is simple potato curry like aloo rasedar, served with puris.
It’s usually accompanied by a dhokla, khandvi, and samosa, as well!
Diwali dessert recipes
This is the moment everyone has been waiting for: the sweets! I personally love making fusion desserts alongside the traditional, so I’m sharing both types of recipes with you.
There are so many traditional desserts that my family makes, including gulab jamun, jalebi, peda, gujiya, and ras malai.
Kheer is a rice pudding made with sweet milk, topped with nuts and cardamom. It can be eaten at room temperature or cold. I personally prefer chilled.
I love that my generation has integrated traditional sweets with some American desserts. We have so many great fusion desserts, like caramelized white chocolate and peda bark, funfetti kalakand, ras malai cupcakes, and gulab jamun cheesecake. I encourage you to choose some fun fusion recipes to make with your family this Diwali!
My Diwali wish for you
Although Diwali may look a little different this year, it is still the most special time of the year. I will be decorating my house, doing fun activities with the kids, and celebrating with family and friends via Zoom. Diwali is truly about family and togetherness. I hope you all will make the most of it this year! May this Diwali fill your homes with love, light, and happiness. May the new year bring you and your family health and wealth in abundance. Wishing you all a very Happy Diwali! Stay safe, stay healthy, and always stay hungry!