What Is Basundi?

Angie Bates

A traditional dish, basundi is a regional Indian dessert consisting of sweetened milk. Basundi is popular in the Maharashtra and Bihar regions of India, as well as Gujarat and Karnataka. A very sweet dish with a thick consistancy, basundi's sugar content is variable and depends on the cook's individual tastes. With few ingredients, this dish is simple to make at home but requires near constant attention.

Cardamom is typically used to flavor basundi.
Cardamom is typically used to flavor basundi.

In addition to milk, basundi contains sugar, cardamoms, and almonds. Other nuts, such as cashew or charoli, are occasionally included. Nuts are never included whole and are always either chopped or sliced. Saffron strands, lemon juice, and heavy whipping cream are also frequently added. Occasionally, a fruit flavoring may be added as well.

One ingredient in basundi is sweetened milk.
One ingredient in basundi is sweetened milk.

To make basundi, the milk is boiled in a thick-bottomed pan. During boiling, it is stirred constantly until it thickens and reduces by half. Then the sugar — and lemon juice if used — is mixed in and cooked until the sugar dissolves. Afterward, the saffron and whipping cream are mixed in as well. Once thoroughly mixed, the basundi is removed from the heat and transferred to a serving bowl where the cardamom and nuts are either stirred into the mixture or are arranged on top as a garnish.

Half and half may be combined with or substituted for the milk to reduce the chance of the milk burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan when cooked. This issue does not seem apparent in India and is more often a problem when cooking with milk in the United States. Sweetened condensed milk may also be added when half and half is used to give a sweeter, creamier result.

Occasionally, variations may include a fruit. Usually fruits with skins, such as mandarin oranges, are used because a zest is created from their peels. Made by grating the fruit peel into a pulp-like result, zests impart a strongly fruity flavor to a dish without the addition of the fruit itself.

The fruit variations of basundi are made the same way as non-fruit versions of the dish with the exception of zest, and sometimes whole pieces of the peel, which is generally included in the sweetened milk mixture. Sections of the desired fruit are also sometimes added as garnish. Fruit chunks, however, may often be omitted completely, so it is sometimes only the fruity flavor that serves to tell the diner if any fruit was used.

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