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Makar Sankranti: Three sweet recipes with a sugar-free twist

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor gives a no-sugar makeover to three harvest specialities 

Til Panjiri
Til Panjiri

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January in many states is synonymous with harvest festivals--Sankranti in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra, Lohri in Punjab, Pongal in Tamil Nadu. And let us be honest, celebrating without sweets is no fun. However, if you’ve sworn off sugar for reasons medical or cosmetic, there is no reason to abstain from eating dessert altogether. Instead, reach out for a relatively healthier low-calorie sugar substitute—stevia.

Unlike saccharin, aspartame and sucralose, which have been linked to cancer, stevia is considered a safer option for people who prefer not to eat sugar. “Stevia leaves are about 200 times sweeter than traditional white sugar, and people have used them for centuries as a herbal supplement,” points out celebrity nutritionist Pooja Makhija. She adds that stevia does not wreak havoc on sugar levels in the body, unlike table sugar, making it ideal for people with diabetes who miss an occasional sweet treat.

Also read | Meet the next generation of sugar substitutes

One caveat: sugar-free does not imply calorie-free; moderation, as always, is key. But if you can restrict yourself to a bowl or so, these three warm, comforting desserts, courtesy of Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, are a great way to ring in the season of plenty.



No-sugar black carrot halwa
No-sugar black carrot halwa

Preparation time: 10-15 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
Serves: 4

10-12 black carrots, washed, peeled and grated
2 tbsps ghee
2 cups low fat milk
Half cup stevia
1 tsp green cardamom powder (elaichi)
8-10 almonds, slivered + garnish
8-10 pistachio nuts, blanched, peeled and chopped + garnish
Raisins for garnish
Silver warq for garnish

Heat ghee in a non-stick deep bottom pan, add black carrots and mix well. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Add milk and mix well. Cook till the carrots are softened, mixing occasionally.
Add stevia and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add green cardamom powder and mix well.
Add almonds and pistachios. Mix well and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Garnish with raisins, almonds, pistachios and silver warq. Serve hot.


Sugar-free sweet pongal
Sugar-free sweet pongal

Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
Serves: 4


1 and half cups rice, soaked
Half cup split skinless green gram
3 tsps stevia
2 and half cups low fat milk
Half cup dates puree
3 tbsps pure ghee
Half cup scraped coconut
One-fourth tsp grated nutmeg
4 tbsp raisins
12-15 cashewnuts
One-fourth tsp green cardamom powder

Dry roast the split green gram lightly in a kadai. Wash and drain.
Boil the milk with one cup of water in a thick-bottomed pan.Add the roasted split green grams and rice to the boiling milk. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce heat, simmer for 15minutes, stirring occasionally or till the rice and split green grams are cooked thoroughly. You can also pressure cook.
Add the date paste and keep stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Add half the quantity of ghee and continue cooking on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Heat the remaining pure ghee in another pan and fry the coconut lightly. Add the nutmeg, raisins and cashew nuts. Stir well. Add this to the cooked pongal. Add stevia, green cardamom powder and mix well.
Serve hot.


Preparation time: 11-15 minutes
Cooking time: 26-30 minutes
Serves: 4

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsp + 3 tsp ghee
2 tbsps white sesame seeds
One-fourth cup gum resin (gondh)
Half cup almonds
Half cup cashew nuts
Half cup lotus seeds (makhana)
A large pinch of ginger (sonth) powder
4 tbsp stevia


Heat 2 tbsps cup ghee in a non-stick pan, add whole wheat flour and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes or till fragrant and turns slightly brown. Sauté in between.
Meanwhile, dry roast white sesame seeds in another pan till slightly roasted. Transfer them on a plate and set them aside.
Heat 2 tsp ghee in the same pan, add gum resin, and roast for 1 minute or till they puff up. Transfer on a large plate and set aside.
Heat remaining ghee in the same pan, add almonds and sauté on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle. Transfer into a bowl and set aside.
Add cashew nuts in the same pan and sauté till slightly golden brown. Coarsely grind in a mortar and pestle and transfer into another bowl and set aside.
Add lotus seeds in the same pan and roast till crisp. Transfer into another bowl and set aside.
Transfer the whole wheat mixture into a large bowl, add the roasted sesame seeds, almonds, cashew nuts and slightly crush lotus seeds with your hands and add into the bowl.
Crush the gum resin slightly with your hands and add it into the same bowl. Add dried ginger powder and stevia and mix well.
Store in an airtight container and serve as required.

Also read | Nokshi pithe: The sweet tradition of edible art

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