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What is Barfi?

By Janis Adams
Updated May 16, 2024
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Originally from the northern part of India, barfi is a sweet confection made from sugar added to sweetened condensed milk and then boiled down to a solid. Without added color or flavorings, the sweet dessert resembles packed snow. The name is a derivative of the Hindi word for snow. It has often been compared to fudge given its extreme sweetness and its consistency.

Often referred to as the Indian cheesecake, this favorite has the faint scent of cheese. It also resembles some types of cheese. However, while it may resemble cheese or have a faint scent similar to it, it does not taste like cheesecake.

Another popular type of this sweet dessert is besan barfi. Besan barfi includes the addition of besan flour in its recipe. Pista barfi has the pistachio nut added to it. Often the edges are rolled in the ground nut, and whole pieces of the nut can be added as well. Similarly, kaaju barfi has cashews included within its recipe.

The most popular spice used to flavor this dessert is cardamom. However, dependent on where it is prepared, many different flavorings are added to this simple but popular dessert. Adding silver leaf to the edges of barfi is popular when the sweet confection is to be served at an important event such as a wedding or other such occasion. For added flavor and to provide a colorful contrast, often it is rolled in crushed nuts before it is served. Fresh fruit is often served along side the confection.

When served, barfi is cut into different shapes, the most common of which are squares, diamonds, or circles. These shaped pieces are arranged in patterns along with fresh fruits, nuts, and even sugar-coated flowers on plates. The dessert is easily adapted for causal occasions to the most formal event, which explains its great and enduring popularity.

There are many different varieties throughout the regions of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The reason for this is that the basic recipe is extremely adaptable. From region to region, the appearance of it can differ greatly due to what is added to it.

Barfi is served quite often at Diwali. This is the celebration is the Hindu festival of lights. The traditional Hindu cuisine is an important part of these annual festivities, along with firework displays and specially crafted decorative lamps.

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Discussion Comments
By burcidi — On Jan 04, 2014

As far as I know, barfi is a sweet that was brought or developed by the Mughal Empire in India. When the Mughals ruled India, they brought traditions from Iran and Afghanistan and added the Indian touch with spices and methods. This is why there are milk desserts similar to barfi in Iran and Afghanistan. Milk, cream and paneer (curd cheese) is used a lot in this cuisine. Most of North India and parts of South India have this type of cuisine.

Oh and Barfi is also the name of an Indian movie made in 2012.

By SteamLouis — On Jan 03, 2014

@fBoyle-- Most Indian groceries carry barfi. It costs more than what it would cost to make it at home, but it's a great option. I looked up some barfi recipes. It looks like a simple recipe but I think it's hard to make. It's difficult to give shape to barfi and most people make it too soft.

There are many different types of barfi like the article said. Cashew barfi is very good. I also like the carrot one, I think it's my favorite. There is also chocolate, coconut and walnut barfi. I think every region in northern India has its own barfi specialty.

By fBoyle — On Jan 02, 2014

My roommate is Indian and she brought some barfi (or burfi) back with her from her trip to India. We basically ate the whole box in one week. It's very delicious. It actually tastes milky, but it has a lot of sugar and fat, so it's dense. I need to learn how to make barfi at home. I don't think I can wait until another friend makes a trip to India! I want to try kaju barfi, it's made with cashews.

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