Traditional Diwali dishes… the first thought that comes to my mind when I hear this phrase are the phone calls my parents used to get from my grandmothers on festivals.
‘Aaj Diwali hai. Aaj pue pakka bana lena…’
Growing up, memories of those phonecalls and traditional dishes are getting hazy. And now, when I think of what to make for Diwali, or other festive days, I am out of ideas.
Yet, most of the states of India celebrate Diwali. And all those states have grandparents reminding you to make traditional Diwali food. In fact, a look at traditional Diwali dishes gives a kaleidoscopic view of how India celebrates its Diwali. For isn’t it amazing to see how a single festival can look so diverse in the same country?
Here’s a collection of traditional Diwali dishes from various states in India. To serve as a dose of nostalgia, as well as to capture a glimpse of the beautiful diversity of our country.
Table of Contents
1. Andhra Pradesh
One of the most popular Diwali delicacies from Bihar is the khaja. In fact, the Silao khaja from Nalanda region is so unique that it even has a GI tag of its own!
Khaja is basically a puff pastry made of fifteen to sixteen layers of very thin wheat flour dough fried to perfect crispiness and puffiness. The puffed khaja is then drizzled very thinly with a sugar syrup flavoured with aniseed and cardamom giving rise to a melt-in-the-mouth, subtly sweet Diwali dessert. Check out a Silao khaja recipe here.
Traditional Diwali dishes from Chhattisgarh include the omnipresent Gujiya, the flaky melt-in-the-mouth Khaja as well as Pidiya. Pidiya is an interesting dish made of rice flour kneaded with curd. This dough is deep fried and then ground to make a powder. The powder is then shaped tightly into pidiyas and dunked in a thin layer of sugar syrup and coated with coconut powder.
Gujarat celebrates Diwali with some amazing and unique Diwali delicacies as well! The first among these is the relatively healthy dessert of lapsi, which consists of millets and moong cooked with jaggery and dry fruits. Another dessert is a variant of the north Indian gujiya, called the Ghughra. The ghughra is stuffed with a sweet mix of khoya and semolina with a hint of cardamom. Lastly, Gujaratis have a wonderful savoury Diwali snack called the chorafali, which are very light fried snacks made of besan (chickpea flour) and urad dal, garnished with black salt and red chilli.
6. Himachal Pradesh
Babru is a beautiful dessert made in Himachal Pradesh for special occasions including Diwali. For making Babru, a dough of wholewheat flour and jaggery is leavened with yeast. This is then fried to perfection to yield crisy and sweet Diwali delicacies. The best part about Babru is that it can be stored for a number of weeks and enjoyed after the festive season as well.
Traditional Diwali dishes from Jharkhand include the famous Anarsa, which is made from rice flour, jaggery and sesame seeds. The other famous Diwali dish is the Dudhauri. Dudhauri is made of rice cooked in milk. The cooked rice is then mashed and shaped into laddoos and soaked in a cardamom-infused sugar syrup. Another popular sweet is the malpua.
The two popular traditional Diwali dishes from Karnataka are Sajjappa and the famous Mysore Pak. Sajjappa is a thick fried flatbread stuffed with coconut and jaggery, while Mysore Pak is a blend of besan cooked in ghee and sugar yielding a dessert so fine and melt-in-the-mouth that you sometimes feel you just don’t deserve to eat something that good!
9. Madhya Pradesh
The super earthy Chironji ke laddu are Madhya Pradesh’s contribution to the mega diverse list of traditional Diwali dishes of India. The laddu is unique and has a nutty sweet flavour very unique to the regional tastes of Bundelkhand region.
The super delicious and super heavy mawa kachori is a grand contribution from Rajasthan to the list of traditional Diwali dishes. This is a crispy kachori stuffed with sweetened khoya and dry fruits. Jodhour, specifically, is famous for its mawa kachoris.
The Sindhi community of Rajasthan and Maharashtra also has a special dish called sata bhajyun, which is a bhaji made of seven vegetables including peas, potato, lotus stem, etc.
12. Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu has some reeeeeallly interesting traditional Diwali dishes. The first and foremost among them is the Deepavali legiyam which is eaten on an empty stomach after the traditional oil bath at the beginning of the Diwali day. Although it is made tasty with ghee and jaggery, it contains a lot of medicinal herbs like peppercorn, dry ginger, etc. to aid digestion and keep one healthy during the Diwali time of seasonal change. Here is the traditional recipe for legiyam, while a simpler version is given here.
13. Uttar Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh’s traditional Diwali dishes include kaju katli, gulab jamun, etc. At home, after Diwali puja, usually dishes like matar paneer and dry sabjis are eaten with pooris. For dessert, pue or pude, simple fritters made of wheat, chironji and sugar, are made.
Apart from these main dishes, fried savory snacks like mathris and and besan laddu are made and stored for the oncoming winters.
Food in eastern Uttar Pradesh remains similar except for suran ki sabji, which is almost mandatory on the tradition Diwali dishes platter. Pooe are also made in Eastern Uttar Pradesh, but are known as gulgule. In some households, fara, or steamed dumplings made of rice/wheat flour encasing a spiced lentil mixture, is also made.
This brings us to the end of our compilation of traditional Diwali dishes. I have left out some states either due to lack of verified information from there, or because Diwali is not a major festival in that region. However, this compilation and the list of Diwali delicacies is endless. If you do have some more traditional and unique dishes to contribute, please do comment below. I would love to add them to the compilation and make this list more comprehensive.
Special Thanks To:
Shalmali Tiwari, Rajni Joshi, Kranti J Borse, Abhay Ojha, Neegita Sharma, Priya Bansal, Varsha, Madhav Maheshwari and Aditi Yatin Jhari for helping build this compilation.