Diwali snacks, recipes and traditions of Indian chefs

There is one thing about Diwali that I love the most: it is literally “enlightened”. As a celebration centered on the lighting of oil lamps, Diwali is the largest of the Hindu festivals in the country and for Indians abroad. While culture and cuisine vary, Diwali is that thing that is celebrated unanimously across India (closely followed by cricket).

Coming from the Sanskrit word deepavali, Diwali translates to a ‘row of lamps’, which you will see twinkling on the outside of Indian houses, on the window panes, almost like the star of Bethlehem which is so central in the decoration. of a Christmas tree. A bit of history says that the festival marks Lord Rama’s return from a 14-year exile to his homeland of Ayodhya (North India), where villagers lit up the entire city in his honor.

Today, the holidays mean different things to different communities, but the vibrant food, color schemes, mithais and firecrackers remain constant (although the loudest ones have been replaced by silent sparklers).

“As an optimist, I love that Diwali celebrates joy and light,” says Aishwarya Iyer, the founder of Brightland, an LA-based food label. Iyer was born in Tamil Nadu, but has lived in the United States for 35 years. It is a tradition for her and her husband to cook Indian cuisine every Diwali. “It’s a crisp dosa for breakfast, sambar rice for lunch and paneer paratha for dinner. I have a big sweet tooth so I always remember the plethora of candy my mom would make as a jalebi [flour-based sweet] and barfi [milk squares]. “

For chef, cookbook author, TV personality and restaurateur Maneet Chauhan, “The fact that we slow down and celebrate the festival as a family is my favorite part,” she shares. A North Indian sweet called gulab jamun features on both Iyer and Chauhan’s menus (although both are from very diverse regions of the country). This means dried whole milk rolled into balls and fried in clarified butter, finished in sugar syrup. Iyer loves it in its most naked form, while Chauhan turns it into a decadent cheesecake.

“It’s a crispy dosa for breakfast, sambar rice for lunch and paneer paratha for dinner.”

Dessert is also at the heart of the concerns of Pooja Bavishi, the founder of the Malai brand of ice cream. “My favorite Diwali memory is doing ghughra with my mom, aunts and grandmother,” she says. Ghughra is an empanada lookalike filled with powdered milk, clarified butter, sugar, nuts, and cardamom. “Our family would sit around the table in an assembly line, with my mom and aunts unrolling the circles, and my grandmother and I stuffing and folding them before frying them brown.”

Bavishi is on the mark when it comes to its Diwali table. You’ll find scoops of ice cream that don’t have hints of chocolate, vanilla, or chewing gum, but Indian sweets like gajar ka halwa (grated carrot pudding), shrikhand (sweet curd), and ghughra. aforementioned. Her family has a special menu for each day of the five-day festival. Gali rotli (sweet bread) for Dhanteras on the first day. They also eat kheer (milk and rice pudding) and vada (donuts) another, lapsi (mixture of wheat) for the main day of Diwali, and shrikhand and puri (fried bread) on new year’s day. Hindu.

While sweets are at the heart of all their homes, Chauhan, who wrote a cookbook titled Chat, dedicated to Indian snacks, also offers dahi bhalla, yoghurt lentil fritters and fried kale chaat, replacing traditional spinach. And “there is also the tandoori quail biryani, the pumpkin-pomegranate raita, the cottage cheese in a cashew nut sauce, the roast fish, the goat curry served with rice flavored with saffron”. she says.

The day is also rich in rituals. Iyer’s house plays Carnatic music because “it reflects the kind of Diwali I grew up in,” she says. Chauhan and Bavishi decorate their houses with rangolis, or floral or geometric patterns made using colored powders as a gesture to welcome guests.

“We’ll also be putting on new clothes, which is a very Diwali thing to do,” adds Iyer. “I particularly like Indian designer Anita Dongre. It’s also a tradition to play multiple card games on Diwali night, so when you think of snacking, easy finger foods are key. Because, when it comes to Diwali, food, fun and fashion go hand in hand.

Gujiya from Ziya
Gujiya. | Courtesy of Ziya

Gujiya recipe with masala cheese


  • 50 grams of cheddar
  • 30 grams of cheese curds or cottage cheese
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ tablespoon onion, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon green chilli, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 10 milliliters of oil
  • 100 grams of refined flour
  • 30 ml clarified butter
  • ½ teaspoon of carambola seeds
  • Water to knead
  • Salt to taste

1. In a saucepan, add the oil and crack the cumin seeds and let sizzle. Add the onion, green pepper and sauté for 30 seconds.
2. Add cottage cheese and cheese and stir well. Take off heat and let cool.
3. In a bowl, add the refined flour, clarified butter, a pinch of salt and the carom seeds. Knead it into a soft dough and let it sit for 30 minutes.
4. Divide the dough into 10 gram balls. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough into thin circles. You can also use circular cookie cutters.
5. Put the filling inside the leaves and fold it in half, like a semicircle. Pinch the ends like an empanada and fry until golden brown.

Pav-Chenna and Pav Bhaji Masala Windmill Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
  • ½ tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon of ginger, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon green chilli, chopped
  • ½ small red onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of ground red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of pav bhaji masala
  • 300 grams of boiled, mashed potatoes
  • 100 grams of carrots, finely chopped
  • 100 grams of finely chopped green beans
  • 100 grams of cauliflower, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of water
  • Salt to taste

Reel sandwiches


  • 4 slices of white bread
  • 50 grams of cheese curds or cottage cheese
  • 10 grams of chili sauce

1. In a frying pan, heat the oil, add the cumin seeds and once they start to crackle, add the garlic, ginger and green pepper. Sauté for a minute and add the red onion, cook for another minute.
2. Add the rest of the vegetables and sauté well, add the pav bhaji masala and sauté the mixture for another two minutes and add the potato and water to cook the bhaji.
3. Season and lower the heat and cook the mixture until all of the moisture has evaporated. It should take around 11-12 minutes.
4. To make the windmills, roll the thin slices of bread and spread some chili sauce on it, place a spoonful of cheese curds on it and roll it into a roll. Chill it in the refrigerator for two hours.

5. Once done, sear in a heavy-bottomed pan with butter. Once it is golden (about 5-6 minutes), slice the roulade and serve it with a garnish of bhaji, onions, tomato and cilantro for garnish.

Anjeer Dahi Kabab with Tomato Kut Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 200 grams of curd suspended
  • 100 grams of Indian cottage cheese, mashed
  • ½ tablespoon green chilli, finely chopped
  • ½ tablespoon of fresh coriander stems, finely chopped
  • ½ tablespoon ground cardamom
  • 4 dried figs, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • ½ tablespoon of ginger, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 100 grams of semolina
  • 2 tomatoes, blanched)
  • ½ teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • frying oil
  • Salt to taste

1. In a bowl, combine the hanging curd with the cottage cheese, cilantro stems, cardamom powder and green peppers. Season with salt and roll it into round, flat patties.
2. Squeeze the chopped figs in the center and roll them into a ball. Pat it flat and coat it with semolina. Fry in hot oil until crispy and set aside.
3. Remove the skin from the tomatoes and coarsely crush them. In a frying pan, heat the oil, add the fennel seeds, ginger, green peppers, red pepper powder and let crackle. Add the tomato puree and finish with the honey.
4. Season the tomato kut with salt and serve with skewers.

Recipes courtesy of Chef Vineet Bhatia, Ziya, Oberoi Bombay

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Sonal Ved is a Thrillist contributor and author of Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating Indian Regional Cuisine. She is Content Manager at India Food Network and Tastemade India, and Food Editor at Vogue India.

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