Recipe for Sheera/Rava Kesari/Suji ka Halwa

This dish is a breakfast item. It is a dessert, a snack and everything in between. In Maharashtra, it’s known as sheera where it is made using milk instead of water (the way my mum always made it). Up north, it is made like this where it is called sooji ka halwa. And in south India, it is yellow/orange in colour and made with a whole lot more ghee. Here down south, it is known as rawa kesari. If you ask me, I prefer the Southern kesari. I don’t care too much for the added colour though. But, I do relish the extra ghee! Rava/rawa is the same as suji/sooji. It is a kind of semolina. This dish is made as an offering during many Hindu festivals too. In many homes, it is a regular breakfast item, while in some, it is a treat enjoyed only during certain festivals. Preparation of this dish is all about proportion. You don’t have to be accurate. But you must have a good estimate. Without further ado, here is the recipe for it.

Ingredients: It’s easy to remember. Same amount of rava and sugar. Double the water or even 2.5 will do but not less than double because the rava has to absorb the water and swell up. Half the amount of fat and add as many dry fruits as you like.

  • 1/2 cup ghee
  • 1 cup Rava/sooji (preferably fine/Bombay rava)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-2.5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dry fruits and nuts
  • A few saffron strands/cardamom powder
  • Saffron essence, optional
  • Pinch of salt


1 cup could be any cup. It does not have to be a standard measure. It increases to about 3 times in volume so decide accordingly.
Boil the water along with the sugar, salt and add some saffron strands. Using saffron is completely optional. I’m using it because my mom gifted me some from her trip to Kashmir….where it grows.
Heat a kadhai. Add ghee follwed by broken cashews/nuts of your choice.
Don’t fry for too long….just a few seconds. They burn easily.
Add the raisins/dry fruits and let them swell up. Remove the cooked nuts and fruits and keep aside.
Simultaneously your sugar water will boil. See how the saffron has released colour. I have used quite a bit of saffron here. But this is the maximum you will get out of natural saffron. If you are wondering where the orange/bright yellow comes from in restaurants that serve this, it’s added colour. Natural saffron won’t ever give you that much colouration. Adding more is not advisable because it still won’t.
You will have some ghee left in the same pan
Turn on the heat. Add the rava into that ghee….
and stir continuously. Rava burns easily and heats up well. So it looks and feels exactly like white sand being roasted.
If you’re using essence, you can either add it to the sugar water/later once the rava is swelling up with the hot water. If you are making it as prasad/deity offering, you can add some edible camphor/karpooram now.
Rava changes colour once cooked. Be careful not to burn it. This takes me around 8 to 10minutes. It is just an estimate for you because there are a lot of influencing variables like flame, size of burner, type of pan, it’s metal, the thickness of it etc.
It develops a distinct aroma and a beige-gold hue.
Now add the hot sugar water.
It starts bubbling instantly. So be careful. It can splutter and it is extremely hot.
Keep stirring. Don’t let it burn.
It soon starts becoming a sticky paste.
When it begins to leave the sides of the pan, it’s done.
Add your fried nuts and fruits now.
Mix well and keep covered a while for it to absorb all the steam.
Ta-da! Most people prefer it piping hot and pastey.
Some people like it cold and cubed. If that is the case, move the finished kesari to a suitable container and press down until it takes the shape/form of the container/mould. Remember you can do this only while it’s still hot.

This dish is very easy to make and is amateur level. It doesn’t need much preparation time/planning either. If you prefer South Indian kesari, add some more ghee…about 1/4cup more. Also add some yellow/saffron colour. If you prefer Maharashtrian sheera, use 1 cup milk and 1 cup water. So 50% of each. Also use less ghee. You can also make lovely fruity sheeras. I make a delicious pineapple kesari. Just add 2 cups of boiled pineapple cubes which you can boil with the sugar water itself. Another delicious variant is Mango sheera. Use mango cubes for that.

I hope you enjoy cooking and eating/serving this dish.

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