In this healthy kesari recipe, I discuss ways to improve a traditional, easy South Indian dessert.
Traditionally, Kesari is made using ghee, sugar, rava (wheat grits) and water, which comes together to form a really simple, delicious dessert. Here is the ratio most cooks use for kesari:
Ghee: Rava: Sugar = 1/2: 1: 2.
Let us talk specifically about Rava: Sugar levels. Rava, also known as Sooji, is a refined carb. To that, we add twice its amount of sugar. On top of that, we typically eat this dessert after a carb-heavy Indian meal. This can result in sugar spikes, unless you are very good at practicing portion control.
Upgrade my Kesari
Here are some ideas to health-ify the traditional recipe:
Applesauce instead of sugar
The sugar level is too darn high for regular Kesari. One of my readers suggested using applesauce as a sweetener. It is a great suggestion and a really good fit for Kesari. Applesauce is nothing but cooked, pureed apples. The apples add sweetness and body to the Kesari while also merging with the texture of the dessert.
Make no mistake though, applesauce still has plenty of sugars (even if it all-natural), but it also has fiber (about 3g/cup) from the fruit. I will take that added benefit over using only white sugar.
I do add 2 Tbsp of white sugar at the end, however to add an element of sharpness. I also discuss no-sugar ideas later in the post.
Use oats instead of rava
Let us compare rolled oats with coarse rava:
48g (1/2 cup) Rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill brand) has 5g of fiber and 7g of protein
46g (1/4 cup) of Deep Sooji has 1g of fiber and 5g of protein
Oat has better nutritional stats. But why?
Wheat has changed, while oats stayed the same
Actually, if you look at wheat (in its original state), it beats the crap out of oats in a nutritional show down. But, rava is processed wheat. After, making the wheat all white, pretty and yummy…Oats is all like, “Come at me, bro..I got this!!”
This all goes back to the milling of the grain. The germ and the bran, which is removed in the case of Rava, contains most of the fiber and about 25% of the protein.* You are then left with this lightweight rava that has a longer shelf life, cooks faster, but not quite the nutritional powerhouse it used to be.
I know, you are brimming with this question, “why does oats not have the same problem?”
Oats as a grain is softer than wheat and does not break cleanly into endosperm, germ and bran. Because of this issue, oats is generally used as a whole grain – that means no refining.
For e.g., Rolled oats are, basically, whole kernels steamed to become soft and malleable, then pressed between rollers.
While fat actually blunts the glycemic index and adds great taste, I still don’t want the recipe to be super-caloric. So, I am going with butter instead of ghee. Butter has between 15-20% moisture and less caloric than ghee.
Step by Step Photos
I have made applesauce in this recipe. You can also use store bought version. Preferably choose brands that have no added sugars.
Add butter, apples and turmeric powder to a cooker and pressure cook.
Cook for 2 whistles. Once it cools, make applesauce using hand held blender
Powder rolled oats in a blender
To a pan add butter, raisins, almonds. Saute
Remove raisins, almonds. Saute the oat flour in remaining butter until well roasted.
On medium heat, add the roasted flour, raisins + almonds, remaining butter and elaichi powder to apple sauce and mix.
Let it come to a simmer. Add 2 tbsp or more sugar according to taste.
Switch off the flame, and close the cooker lid. Let it soak in the heat for 5-10 minutes. Serve
A healthy Kesari made with oats, low added sugar and lower fat levels than traditional version
- 3 cups Chopped apples (2 large apples)
- 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1.25 cups Rolled oats (comes to 1 cup oat flour)
- 1/2 cup Butter
- 2 Tbsp Sugar (Add more based on your individual need)
- 1.5 cups Water
- 1/4 tsp Elaichi Powder
- Raisins (handful)
- Sliced Almonds (handful)
Add 2 Tbsp butter, 3 cups apples and turmeric powder to a cooker and pressure cook for 2 whistles
Once it cools, open the lid and make a puree using a hand blender or mixer jar.
Powder 1.25 cups rolled oats in a blender. It will become just slightly over 1 cup oat flour.
To a pan add 1/4 cup butter, raisins, almonds and saute. Once puffed and golden, strain out the raisins and almonds
Saute the oat flour in remaining butter until well roasted.
On a low heat, add 1.5 cups water, roasted flour, raisins + almonds, remaining butter, elaichi powder and apple sauce and bring to a simmer.
Add additional sugar to taste. Switch off the heat.
Close the cooker/pan and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Serve
- Choose sweet apples rather than tart ones for applesauce. I used red delicious variety.
- The small amount of turmeric powder adds a nice yellow color without being detected.
Here’s Swetha’s lazy kesari version:
Make the applesauce just like the recipe above. But after you open the cooker, no powdering/roasting required. Just add these ingredients to the mashed applesauce: 1 cup rolled oats, Elaichi, Butter, 1 cup dice pineapple and 1/2 cup water.
Mix, close cooker and just cook for 1 whistle. Open and stir. Again, add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to round out the sweetness if desired. Super quick lazy-girl kesari ready.
I love the chunky texture of the rolled oats in this one. But, the taste does go down one notch from the failure to roast/caramelize etc.
What about a no added-sugar version?
So, I did try a version sweetened with only fruits – I used applesauce (same amount as earlier), 1 mashed banana and 1/2 cup pineapple. A ripe banana will add quite a bit of sweetness. It does have the banana-y Satyanarayana halwa taste to it. If you are a fan, go ahead, you will be happy with the results.
My friend makes a version sweetened with only bananas and milk. Milk has natural sweetness from lactose that will transfer to the dish. Her kids love that.
Point being, that while traditional kesari provides one template for dessert, you can experiment to come up with your own healthy version.
Have you attempted low-sugar, healthy versions of Kesari? What were your ideas? Do tell…Share your comments down below. As always, I love to hear from all of you!!