Oil-free, sugarless, no-dairy gulab jamuns? Shalu Nijhawan, a whole plant-based nutritionist, says it is possible. After two years of trial and error, she has succeeded in creating a vegan version, which she will teach during an online pre-Deepavali cookery class aptly titled ‘Impossible Sweets’ .
The session is being hosted by Sanctuary for Health and Reconnection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN), an Auroville-based organisation dedicated to spreading awareness about holistic health.
Shalu will also be sharing recipes for vegan versions of traditional sweets like ras malai, khoya gujiya and Bombay Karachi halwa. “I am so excited about getting it right; I feel it’s a dhamaka (blast) in the world of traditional vegan sweets,” she says, adding that she adopted a vegan lifestyle after it helped reverse her husband’s auto-immune disorder. A growing market for vegans has encouraged sweet makers and food innovators to experiment with mithai for the upcoming festive season.
V Aravindan’s Coimbatore-based Vijay Sweets specializes in vegan treats. His trademark offering, Mysore Pak, is made with coconut milk instead of ghee with barely a difference in taste. It now comes in five varieties: beetroot, carrot, palm jaggery, coconut milk and mixed nuts. This year, he is curating customized Diwali hampers priced between ₹500 and ₹2,000, which are filled with everything from cashew pedas to the Ironman laddoo incorporating dates, cashew, melon, cucumber and pumpkin seeds.
Aravindan’s family turned vegan four years ago, and converted their sweet shop to vegan-only sweets.
Being one of the pioneers in this field, they were faced with many challenges. One of the biggest was training their existing staff to work with alternative ingredients. As trendsetters, they had no products to compare theirs with and no one to take inspiration from. “We had to understand the behavior of these alternative products and test out their shelf life,” says Aravindan.
He adds that the family concentrates on “cracking tough traditional sweets” into vegan ones. Trials are on for baked rasmalai and gulab jamun. “Our motto is to make vegan sweets accessible to all,” states Aravindan. Though ingredients are expensive, he keeps the price 20% lower than dairy-based sweets.