Perfect Besan Barfi, or Besan Burfi is a meltingly soft and creamy Indian sweet with roasted gram (chickpea) flour, sugar and nuts. Here’s an entirely foolproof recipe that delivers amazing results every time. You need just a handful of ingredients and around 30 minutes to prepare this Besan Barfi recipe.
Make this sweet and nutty Besan Barfi as simple, or as elaborate as you like. My version is basic but if you’d like to decorate it, try some gold or silver leaf, additional nuts or even different kinds of dried edible flower petals.
Little squares of goodness
I vividly remember by first ever bite of Besan Barfi. I was seven years old and squeezed into a purple chaniya choli one size too small on top and a size too big on the bottom. My stubby nails were painted maroon with mum’s best Revlon nail polish and I had on my finest princess tiara from Bombay Stores. A crowd was packed into the shabby-walled main hall at the local Hindu temple. I remember how clammy my palms were because of the army of candles burning before me. While bhajans (hymns) were sung, I would zone out, crossing my eyes to marvel at the fierce bokeh effect. The soothingly consistent vibration of grandads playing harmonium was enriched with the sound of old ladies singing devotional songs. Children usually played tiny cymbals on string. But on this day, I wasn’t playing cymbals; I was too hungry.
My belly ached thinking about the steamy daal, smoky roti and salty achaar that awaited after prayers. Simple temple food is the very definition of Indian comfort food. However, before dinner would come prashad. These are the sweets, fruits, nuts and milk offered to the idols of gods as a form of worship. Once prayed upon, they are distributed amongst the crowd. Kheer (rice pudding) and sheera (sweet semolina) were the most common, since they are so easy to prepare in bulk and relatively inexpensive.
Today it was my turn to hand out the prashad. An ‘aunty’ I did not recognise passed me a platter of beige squares. It was still warm from being so close to the candles and diyas. I gripped it tightly, wishing it did not fall, for to drop or waste prashad is a sin. I walked about the room, the crowd buzzing, but now dispersed. Someone had cracked a door open. At last, the stifling, foggy air was broken by a very welcome November chill. It was 11pm and so dark outside, yet even with the door open I felt safer than ever, surrounded by family, friends, strangers and statues of Ram, Sita and Hanuman.
I took a deep breath of the fresh air and began to flit from person to person. As I offered up the mystery camel-coloured squares, the long satin skirt I wore threatened to trip me with every step. The smell of well-simmered spices and kerosene drifted up the dark and narrow stairwell. Almost done. People moved downstairs, to the dining hall where the main meal was being served.
I was the only soul left in the room, about to take my share of the prashad I’d spent the past ten minutes dishing out. But what was it? “The gods are watching, better not take too much.” I thought. It smelled nutty, like when my mum roasted chestnuts at Christmas. I took a bite and then went to find a tissue to wipe the sandy residue left on my fingers. Approaching a box of Sainsbury’s Balsam Tissues, I stopped in my tracks. The prashad melted in my mouth in seconds! Gone without a trace. It left behind the buttery flavour of ghee, toasted flour and sugar. The aunty who made this must have such happy kids, I thought to myself.
I had every intention to walk down the stairs to join my family in the dining hall but the taste of that prashad lingered. It cloaked my tongue like the ghost of Betaal around the shoulders of the legendary king Vikramāditya of Indian mythology. I tiptoed back to the plate, the gods staring down at me with their kind and hopefully forgiving eyes. “Don’t look up, don’t look up”, I muttered. My walk of shame was complete and I had successfully made sure the prashad didn’t go to waste. That was a good thing, right?
I later discovered that this irresistible little square of goodness is called Besan Burfi. I have developed this particular recipe to replicate the taste and texture of the one I ate on that memorable Diwali evening, all those years ago.
How to make Perfect Besan Barfi
There are three main steps to making Besan Barfi:
- Toasting the besan (gram flour)
- Making the sugar syrup
- Combining the toasted gram flour and sugar syrup
Toasting besan for Besan Barfi
The first step is to combine gram flour and ghee (or coconut oil). The mixture will look dry and sandy. You’ll probably think it’s never going to come together, but it will. Continue to mix over a low heat for 10-12 minutes. Do not stop stirring the mixture at any point or you run the risk of burning it. The flavour of good besan barfi comes from toasting the flour correctly.
The besan mixture will begin to toast and turn from dry and sandy to creamy. Once the mixture is glossy, smooth and pinkish brown in colour (like smooth peanut butter), remove it from the heat. Set aside. See video for a visual reference.
Toasting the gram flour is the most important step and builds the flavour foundations for any good Besan Barfi. It therefore, needs to be golden brown and nutty, like smooth peanut butter. I like to think that your Besan Barfi is only as good as the level of toasting it gets.
Making sugar syrup for Besan Barfi
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and a few drops of lemon juice. Stir to melt and bring to the boil. Once the syrup begins to boil, do not stir it. Cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the temperature registers 105°C/221°F. Switch the heat off and then add the cardamom, food colour and salt.
You may also add other spices like a pinch of nutmeg or saffron but I prefer not to.
Combining toasted gram flour and sugar syrup for Perfect Besan Barfi
Work quickly. Both of the mixtures should be warm, not hot and not cold. Stir gently but thoroughly since the mixture can seize up if you overmix it.
Video: Making Besan Barfi step-by-step
How to check sugar syrup without a thermometer
For accuracy, I always recommend using a cooking thermometer when making Indian sweets. If you do not have a cooking thermometer, you can however, check if your sugar syrup is done the old fashioned way.
To do this, lower the heat on your sugar syrup (or switch it off) while you’re checking so it doesn’t over cook. Take a few drops of the syrup onto a spoon and allow it to cool for 20-30 seconds. Dip your index finger in the syrup and touch it with the thumb, pull your finger and thumb apart. The mixture for Besan Barfi should form a single, short string, breaking when your fingers reach about 1cm away from each other. This is a traditional method experienced sweetmakers use and is subject to error and interpretation, especially if you lack experience. For the most accurate results, I always recommend using a cooking thermometer.
Unless you’re a well-seasoned mithaiwallah, don’t use the “string” method to check the consistency of your sugar syrup. It might have been the done thing years ago and that’s fine. Your grandma did it, my grandma did it, and so does my mum. However, if you’re a beginner and want accurate results, invest in a cooking thermometer. You’ll save yourself a lot of hassle and wasted ingredients. They’re fairly inexpensive. Check here for my recommendations (affiliate link).
How to fix dry Besan Barfi
If your Besan Barfi is dry and crumbly, it means either the sugar syrup was overcooked or it/the flour and syrup mixture did not cool adequately before mixing the two. To fix, simply add a splash of water to the overcooked mixture, stir well and cook again until you can roll a tiny piece into a ball between your fingers. Magic.
How to make vegan Besan Barfi
To make vegan Besan Barfi, simply replace the ghee in this recipe with vegan butter or coconut oil. Indeed, my recipe for Besan Barfi contains no milk powder, condensed milk or whole milk so it’s really simple to veganise!
Is Besan Barfi gluten free?
Besan Barfi is typically a naturally gluten-free preparation since it is made with gram/chickpea flour. You will, however need to check all packaging for the ingredients you use if you are cooking for someone who has coeliac disease. For example, some gram flours contain trace elements of wheat flour so take extra care.
Can you freeze Barfi?
Yes, barfi freezes well. Be sure to pack it into an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost at room temperature. You may find the texture changes very slightly once frozen.
Other delicious varieties of Barfi
Plain Barfi, Rose Barfi, Pistachio Barfi, Mango Barfi, Cashew Barfi and Almond Barfi are all popular choices in Indian mithai shops. There are so many wonderful varities. Here are some popular recipes my reader love.
Finally, my last minute tip before you begin making Besan Barfi
Bring the flavours of your Besan Barfi to life with the addition of salt. Yes, salt! Just a tiny pinch will ensure your barfi is mouth-wateringly good.
Perfect Besan Barfi recipe
- L30 x W20 x D5cm (13"x9") rectangular traybake tin
- 200 g besan (gram/chickpea flour)
- 100 g ghee (use coconut oil or vegan butter for a dairy-free version)
- 150 g granulated sugar
- 75 ml water
- 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
- Pinch orange food colour (optional)
- Pinch salt
- 1-2 drops lemon or lime juice
- 3-4 pistachios sliced
- Line the base of a L30 x W20 x D5cm (13"x9") rectangular traybake tin with a sheet of baking parchment. Sprinkle the sliced pistachios on top and set aside.3-4 pistachios
- In a non-stick pan, combine the besan (gram flour) and ghee (or coconut oil). Stir to combine. The mixture will look dry and sandy. Continue to mix over a low heat for 10-12 minutes. Do not stop stirring the mixture at any point or you run the risk of burning it.200 g besan, 100 g ghee
- The besan mixture will begin to toast and turn from dry and sandy to creamy. Once the mixture is glossy, smooth and pinkish brown in colour (like smooth peanut butter), remove it from the heat. Set aside. See video for a visual reference.
To make the sugar syrup:
- In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and a few drops of lemon juice. Stir to melt and bring to the boil. Once the syrup begins to boil, do not stir it. Cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until the temperature registers 105°C/221°F. Switch the heat off and then add the cardamom, food colour and salt.NOTE: If you do not have a cooking thermometer, check if your sugar syrup is done the old fashioned way: Lower the heat while you're checking so it doesn't over cook. Take a few drops of the syrup onto a spoon and allow it to cool for 20-30 seconds. Dip your index finger in the syrup and touch it with the thumb, pull your finger and thumb apart. The mixture should form a single, short string, breaking when your fingers reach about 1cm away from each other. This is a traditional method experienced sweetmakers use and is subject to error and interpretation. For the most accurate results, I always recommend using a cooking thermometer.150 g granulated sugar, 75 ml water, 1/2 tsp ground green cardamom, Pinch orange food colour, 1-2 drops lemon or lime juice, Pinch salt
- Allow the syrup to cool for 5 minutes and then pour it into the cooled besan and ghee mixture. Both mixtures should be warm, not hot and not cold.
- Stir gently but thoroughly, using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. As soon as it is mixed, pour it into your prepared lined tin. Try not to overmix it since this can cause the mixture to seize up.
- Smooth out the top of the burfi and allow to set at room temperature for 3-4 hours. Cut into pieces as big or as small as you like and serve.
- Store Besan Barfi in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Pin this recipe for later! Perfect Besan Barfi
If you like this, you’ll love my recipe for Plain White Burfi