Kesari recipe is a popular and delicious South Indian sweet made from rava (cream of wheat), sugar, ghee (clarified butter), saffron and dry fruits. This melt in the mouth orange-colored sweet is also known as Rava Kesari. It is made during festivals as well as during poojas or auspicious occasions or any celebrations in South India. Make this decadent luxurious sweet treat with my simple kesari recipe that I share with step-by-step photos and video.
Table of Contents
What is Rava Kesari
In Hindi ‘rava’ is known as ‘sooji’ and in English as semolina or cream of wheat. The word kesari means orange color and in some instances also means saffron – which is called as kesar. Basically this sweet is a semolina pudding which is flavored with saffron and has an orange color.
The main ingredients in kesari recipe are ghee, rava, sugar, water and saffron or orange food color.
Rava kesari’s North Indian counterpart is Suji ka Halwa which is also equally popular and tastes good. In Maharashtra and Gujarat this same dish is called as sheera. However, there are some variations in the preparations of sooji halwa, sheera and rava kesari.
In Karnataka rava kesari is known as kesari bhath. For breakfast, both khara bath (uppittu or upma) and Kesari Bath are served together and this combination is called as chow chow bath.
The difference between rava kesari and suji halwa or sheera is the color. Also more amounts of ghee and sugar are used in a rava kesari as compared to sooji halwa or sheera. But the main difference is the color.
Why This Recipe Works
Rava kesari has an orange color. Generally synthetic orange food color is added while making kesari. Since I don’t use any synthetic colors in food, I have used saffron and a natural orange color extract to give orange color. But note that the addition of only saffron will give yellow tones and not orange.
Apart from that saffron gives a nice flavor and aroma to it. If you want orange tones, then add orange food color. I suggest using a natural orange color or natural yellow color extract.
Addition of ghee and sugar can always be minimized when making this dish at home. In this recipe, I have added slightly less quantities of both ghee and sugar.
I usually make rava kesari as naivedyam for the deities or during Indian festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Janmashtami, Ugadi and Diwali.
How to make Kesari Recipe
For ease of understanding, I have divided this recipe into 4 main steps.
- Step 1 – Frying dry fruits
- Step 2 – Roasting rava
- Step 3 – Making sugar syrup
- Step 4 – Making kesari
Frying dry fruits
1. In a heavy kadai or a thick bottomed pan take 6 tablespoons ghee.
2. Heat ghee on a medium-low flame till it melts completely.
3. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons cashews.
4. Begin to fry cashews stirring them often.
5. Fry cashews till golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside on kitchen paper towels or in a plate.
6. Next add 1 tablespoon raisins in the hot ghee.
7. Stirring non-stop fry the raisins.
8. The raisins will become plump and swell.
9. As soon as the raisins become plump, remove them and keep aside along with the fried cashews.
10. Now reduce flame to a low and add 1 cup fine rava (160 grams) to the ghee.
11. Combine and mix the rava with the ghee.
12. Begin to roast rava on a low to medium-low flame. Stir often so that rava roasts evenly.
13. Stir frequently while roasting rava for even cooking.
14. The color of the rava should not become brown. Roasting rava takes approx 9 to 11 minutes on a low to medium-low flame. Timing will vary with the type and make of the kadai or pan and the flame intensity.
15. Roast till you can see the ghee getting separated and the color of rava will also change. A nice aroma will also emanate from the roasted rava.
Making Sugar Syrup
16. When you begin to roast rava, at that time take ¾ cup sugar (190 to 200 grams) in a sauce pan. The sugar syrup needs to be cooked simultaneously while roasting rava.
17. Add 2 to 3 pinches of saffron strands.
18. Add 2.5 cups of water. Optionally you can also add a natural yellow or orange color extract. I added 2 drops of natural orange color extract.
19. Keep the pan on stovetop and on a medium to medium-high flame begin to heat the sugar solution.
20. When you keep the pan on the stove-top for heating, at that time stir with a spoon so that all the sugar is dissolved.
21. Bring this sugar solution to a rolling boil. In case the sugar solution has come to a boil, but rava has not yet roasted, then reduce the flame to a low and simmer the sugar solution for a couple of minutes – so that it stays hot.
However do not simmer for a long time as then the sugar consistency will change and the syrup can become sticky or have the sugar thread consistencies.
Making Rava Kesari
22. By the time the sugar solution starts boiling, the rava will also get roasted well.
23. Lower the flame and now carefully pour the sugar-saffron solution in the hot ghee-rava mixture in a steady stream and slowly.
24. Take care while pouring as the mixture splutters. In this kesari recipe, lumps are not formed as the quantity of water is more. In case if lumps do form then just break them with the spatula or spoon.
25. Stir and mix very well. Break lumps, if any while mixing.
26. Cook the mixture on a low to medium-low flame stirring often.
27. The rava will absorb the water and swell and the mixture will begin to thicken. It will be soft and moist and the consistency will be like that of smooth pudding.
28. When the mixture starts thickening, add the fried cashews and raisins reserving a few for the garnish.
29. Also add ½ teaspoon cardamom powder. At this step you can also add a pinch of edible camphor if you want.
30. Mix very well.
31. Stir till the mixture releases some ghee and the rava has absorbed all the water and cooked well. Also you should not see any whitish or creamish tiny specks on the rava. If you see then this means that the rava is still not cooked well.
32. Then switch off the flame and cover the pan for 5 minutes just to allow the kesari to steam.
33. After five minutes, remove the lid and give a stir. If you want to make slices, then immediately pour the rava kesari in a steel pan or tray. Spread evenly and when warm or cooled, cut into diamond-shaped or square slices.
Serving Suggestions and Leftovers
Serve rava kesari hot or warm. Garnish with a few of the reserved fried cashews and raisins while serving. You can also serve it as a sweet dish.
You can eat it as-is without any sides. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Reheat in a skillet by gently sautéing it or steam for a few minutes in a pan.
Rava Kesari Varieties
Using the basic recipe of kesari many variations are possible. Add milk and you get milk kesari. Include mixed fruits or just one type of fruit and you get a nice fruity flavored kesari.
Some delicious variations of kesari I have earlier shared are:
- Fruit Kesari – This kesari variant has mixed fruits in it and usually served in South Indians weddings. The dish has a lovely fruity flavor and can be made with a choice of seasonal fruits.
- Pineapple Kesari – Another delicious variation made with chopped fresh pineapples. The pineapples give a nice sweet tangy bites in the dish.
- Mango Kesari – During mango season you can try a version made with sweet or ripe mangoes, bursting with the delish flavors of mangoes.
- Milk Kesari – This is a richer version of the regular kesari recipe made with whole milk. Here the water is replaced with milk.
- Semiya Kesari – This variant of kesari is unique as it is made with semiya or vermicelli. Obviously the texture and taste of semiya kesari is very different due to the addition of vermicelli.
Expert Tips for Best Kesari
- Roasting Rava: Remember to roast the rava very well. This step is important because if rava is not roasted well then you will not get perfect texture in the kesari. There will also be a slight raw taste in the dish. Stir frequently while roasting rava for even cooking. The rava should release ghee once it is roasted well and will have a nice toasted fragrance.
- Type of rava: Use fine rava like Bombay rava or chiroti rava for a melt in the mouth texture. If you live outside India, look for cream of wheat or fine semolina. You can also buy the rava or sooji online. You can also opt to use packaged roasted rava. But make sure that the rava is roasted well. Sometimes the readymade roasted rava is not completely roasted.
- Adding liquids: When adding the sugar solution to the hot rava+ghee mixture, make sure that the sugar solution is bubbling hot. So you have to cook them simultaneously. Add the sugar solution slowly and carefully as the rava mixture splutters.
- Liquids: You can also use milk instead of water. This makes the kesari more rich. Use same amount of milk as the quantity of water mentioned in the recipe. You can also add equal proportion of water and milk.
- Proportions: To get a soft, melt in the mouth rava kesari, the proportion of rice and water to be used is 1:2.5 for both rava and water respectively. You can even add 3 cups water, which gives a slightly moist rava kesari.
- Nuts: The amount of nuts and dry fruits can be varied and can be of your choice. But traditionally cashews and raisins are added.
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For frying dry fruits and rava
- 6 tablespoons Ghee (clarified butter)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons cashews
- 1 tablespoon raisins
- 1 cup fine rava, 160 grams, (sooji or semolina or cream of wheat)
For sugar solution
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar or as add required, 190 to 200 grams sugar
- 2.5 cups water or milk
- 2 to 3 pinches saffron strands
- 2 to 3 drops natural orange color extract – optional
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 pinch edible camphor – optional
Frying dry fruits
- In a heavy kadai or a thick bottomed pan take 6 tablespoons ghee. heat ghee on a medium-low flame till it melts completely.
- Add 3 tablespoons cashews.
- Begin to fry cashews stirring them often till they become golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep fried cashews aside.
- Next add 1 tablespoon raisins in the hot ghee.
- Stirring non-stop fry the raisins till they become plump and swell.
- Remove them and keep aside with the fried cashews.
- Now reduce flame to a low and add 1 cup fine rava (160 grams) to the ghee. mix well.
- Begin to roast rava on a low to medium-low flame.
- Stir frequently while roasting rava for even cooking.
- Roast till you can see the ghee getting separated and the color of rava will also change. A nice aroma will also emanate from the roasted rava.
- The color of the rava should not become brown.
Making sugar syrup
- When you begin to roast rava, at that time take ¾ cup sugar (190 to 200 grams) in a sauce pan.
- Add 2 to 3 pinches of saffron strands. you can also add a natural yellow or orange color extract. I added 2 drops of natural orange color extract.
- Add 2.5 cups water.
- Keep the pan on stove top and on a medium to medium-high flame begin to heat the sugar solution.
- When you keep the pan on the stove-top for heating, at that time stir with a spoon so that all the sugar is dissolved.
- Bring this sugar solution to a rolling boil.
Making rava kesari
- By the time the sugar solution starts boiling, the rava will also get roasted well.
- Lower the flame and now carefully pour the sugar-saffron solution in the ghee-rava mixture in a steady stream and slowly.
- Take care while pouring as the mixture splutters.
- Stir and mix very well. Break lumps, if any while mixing.
- Cook rava kesari mixture on a low to medium-low flame stirring often.
- The rava or sooji will absorb the water and swell and the mixture will begin to thicken.
- When the mixture starts thickening, add the fried cashews and raisins reserving a few for garnish.
- Also add ½ teaspoon cardamom powder. At this step you can also add a pinch of edible camphor if you want. mix very well.
- Stir till the mixture releases some ghee and the rava has absorbed all the water and cooked well.
- Then switch off the flame and cover the pan for 5 minutes just to allow the rava kesari to steam.
- After five minutes, remove the lid. Stir rava kesari. If you want to make slices, then immediately pour it in a steel pan or tray. Spread evenly and when warm or cooled, cut into diamond shaped or square slices.
- Serve rava kesari hot or warm. You can also serve it as a side sweet dish.
- You can add a few tablespoons of more ghee or sugar if you want in the rava kesari.
- Remember to roast the rava very well to get the best texture in the dish.
- You can make a small batch of this recipe or scale it to feed a crowd.
- Instead of water you can use milk or equal proportions of water and milk.
- For a vegan kesari recipe, use a neutral tasting oil in place of ghee.
- You can vary the amount of nuts. Traditionally only cashews and raisins are added. But feel free to add nuts that you like.
Nutrition Info Approximate values
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This Kesari recipe post from the archives (first published in September 2013) has been republished and updated on 15 June 2021.