During the holiday of Diwali, sweet confections referred to as mithai—like ladoo, pedha, and modak—are popular. Friends and family exchange mithai as gifts and share memorable meals together.
Treats, like ladoos, are delicious but a little tricky to make. Here’s an easy version inspired by the fall harvest in New England, where I’m from, and my favorite mithai flavors: pumpkin ladoo with coconut and hints of spice. In Massachusetts, varieties of squash and pumpkins grow in abundance in the fall, and they are wonderful in desserts. And with a bit of help from classic American fudge techniques, these ladoo come together quickly and easily.
What Are Ladoo?
Ladoos are spherical sweets often made with flour, some form of fat—I use ghee— and sugar. Ladoos can vary in flavor and texture. For example, there are creamy coconut ladoo, crunchy ladoos made with nuts and dates, and ones made with dal (lentils). Many ladoos are rich in flavor, similar to fudge, so one or two are the perfect portion per person.
My Ladoos Don’t Call for Flour
A lot of ladoo recipes call for flour to thicken and provide structure, but I omit it because it involves a lot of stirring and guesswork. It can also be tricky to figure out when the flour has cooked enough, leading to potentially disastrous results. This is what I do:
- Combine traditional ladoo and fudge-making techniques by using a mix of coconut, cooked-down condensed milk, and white chocolate chips to thicken the mixture enough to roll into balls.
- Strain canned pumpkin purée to remove excess moisture for a more concentrated flavor and firmer texture. Use any brand you like.
Suggestions for Key Ingredients
Here are some notes about each ingredient to help you along:
- Unsweetened shredded coconut: Make sure to purchase shredded coconut instead of coconut flakes.
- White chocolate chips: They provide a fudge-like texture. I recommend Ghiradelli white chocolate chips.
- Chai masala: Chai masala, pumpkin spice, or any chai spice adds a nice sweet and earthy flavor to these treats. My favorite brands of chai masala are Diaspora Co and Spicewalla. Of course, you can also make your own pumpkin spice at home.
- Cashew butter: I love the combination of spices, sugar, and nuts in Indian desserts. Cashew butter provides fat, richness, and heft.
Looking to customize your ladoo? Here are a few fun and delicious toppings:
- Coat the ladoos in toasted or untoasted shredded coconut.
- Drizzle them with white chocolate ganache and sprinkle flaky salt to balance out the sweetness.
- Roll them in finely chopped nuts, such as cashews or pistachios.
Pumpkin and Coconut Ladoo
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée
1 cup (70g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup (69g) ghee, plus more for baking sheet
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 teaspoon chai masala or pumpkin spice seasoning
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (63g) unsalted cashew butter
3 cups (16.5 ounces) white chocolate chips
For decorating (optional)
Unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted or untoasted
White chocolate ganache
Finely chopped nuts, such as cashews or pistachios
Drain the pumpkin:
Line a fine-mesh sieve with a cheesecloth or a double layer of paper towels. Place the sieve over a medium bowl and add the pumpkin purée into it.
If using a cheesecloth, wrap the cheesecloth over the purée to form a pouch and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. If using paper towels, fold the paper towel over the pumpkin purée to cover it. Then, firmly place your hand on the paper towel to squeeze the liquid through the sieve.
Note: After draining, you should have slightly less than 1 cup (6.5 to 7 ounces) of pumpkin purée.
Toast the coconut:
Set a small enamel-coated Dutch oven or non-stick pan over medium heat. Add the coconut, and toast for 2 to 4 minutes, until it's fragrant and heavily speckled with golden-brown color. I like to have a mix of toasted and less toasted coconut pieces.
Stir in the ghee:
Reduce the heat to low, add the ghee, and stir to combine with a rubber spatula. Continue stirring until the ghee melts and coats the toasted coconut.
Add the sweetened condensed milk:
Add the condensed milk, chai masala, and salt. Increase the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the pumpkin:
Reduce the heat to medium-low, then stir in the pumpkin purée and cashew butter. Stir frequently, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, until the mixture no longer sticks to the pan, about 8 minutes. Lower the heat if the bottom begins to brown too quickly.
Stir in the white chocolate chips:
Turn the heat off and stir in the white chocolate chips until melted. Transfer mixture to a heatproof bowl and cool for at least 15 minutes, until no longer hot.
Shape, decorate, and chill:
Line a large baking sheet with wax or parchment paper. Lightly grease with ghee.
Coat your hands and a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop with ghee and scoop out a portion of the mixture onto your hands. If the mixture feels oily, which can happen if the white chocolate gets too hot, don't worry. This will not negatively impact the final result—you won't need to grease your hands or the scoop.
Roll the mixture into a ball. If you'd like, roll the ladoos in shredded coconut or chopped nuts spread on a small plate.
Place the ladoos onto the baking sheet and repeat, scooping, rolling, and topping. Chill the ladoos in the fridge for at least 3 hours until firm.
When ready to serve, remove the ladoos from the fridge and let them come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
Ladoos must be stored in the refrigerator. Store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Alternatively, freeze them in a freezer-safe plastic bag for 2 to 3 weeks.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 11g||14%|
|Saturated Fat 7g||34%|
|Total Carbohydrate 20g||7%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||3%|
|Total Sugars 18g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||5%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|