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Recipe for Diwali Okkarai

Recipe for Okkarai - a traditional Diwali recipe from my family that uses chana dal and jaggery
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr
Course Dessert
Cuisine south indian
Servings 4 serving


  • 1 cup chana dal
  • 1 cup jaggery
  • 5 - 6 cardamoms
  • 1/2 cup coconut freshly grated or desiccated
  • 1 tbsp gingelly oil coconut oil ghee / /
  • 1 tbsp ghee cashews for frying
  • 10 - 12 cashews , halved
  • 2 - 3 tbsps raisins


  • Chana Dal: Dry roast the chana dal till golden brown and aromatic. This will take 7-8 minutes on medium heat. Soak this roasted dal in lots of water for 3 hours or so.
  • Coconut:Dry roast the coconut flakes till golden and aromatic. This will take around 5 minutes on low flame. Keep aside.
  • Cardamom:Remove the skin, grind the seeds along with a tsp of coarsely granulated sugar in mortar-pestle till you get a fairly fine powder. Keep aside.
  • Cashews and raisins:Heat 1-2 tbsp ghee and fry them till cashews are golden. Keep aside.
  • Preparing the Chana Dal:Grind the soaked chana dal to a fine paste, adding as little water as possible.Make loose dumplings of the ground dal and place in a deep, big vessel that fits in the cooker, steam for 20-25 minutes.Open the cooker after a few minutes and let these steamed dumplings cool. Now, you can either grate these cooled dumplings or crumble them with your fingers. The former gives a more uniform look to the sweet.
  • In a large wok, heat 1 tbsp of gingelly oil (Nalla yennai) or ghee and fry the crumbled / grated dal mix on a low flame for 5-7 minutes. Keep aside.
  • Place 1/2 cup water in a heavy bottom pan. Add 1 cup of crushed jaggery to this and let it melt on a high flame, with constant stirring. Once melted, lower flame and keep stirring.In 7-8 minutes the mixture will get a deep colour and start thickening.Keep a small plate handy, and pour a drop or so of this onto it, every 2-3 minutes. Try rolling this drop between your thumb and index finger. If it turns into a ball and makes a sound when you drop it on the plate, your jaggery-caramel is ready for the okkarai.
  • As soon as your caramel reaches this stage, turn off the flame.
  • Remove the wok from the stove and start adding the ready dal crumble in batches, giving it a good mix to coat evenly. Once the crumble is all evenly mixed with the jaggery caramel- it will be soft, sweet and not sticky, but like perfectly cooked basmati rice - fluffy, dry and separate.
  • To this, add the roasted coconut, cardamom powder and fried cashews and raisins and mix gently.


VEGAN OPTION: Substitute ghee with gingelly oil (nallennai) or coconut oil.
This is naturally GLUTEN FREE.
Your Okkarai is ready for Diwali. If you like a richer taste, you can use more ghee to fry the cashews, but 1 tbsp is more than enough.
It is a labourious recipe, but with just two main ingredients - to get such a flavoursome and healthy festival sweet, it is totally worth it.
I am so glad I made it this year and it is going to part of my Diwali cooking every year, now on.
Hope you find this recipe useful to recreate your family tradition :).