Whenever I make mawa, I think of my ancestors, slaving hours over a wood or cow dung fire, stirring and stirring, hour after hour, struggling to keep the milk from burning. Today, we have it so easy. This mawa can be made in about 5 minutes and tastes just the same.
Mawa, also known as khoya, khoa, or kurauni, is a milk reduction made into a solid. Mawa is ubiquitous in Indian desserts.
It is used to make a filling for so many Indian desserts and mithai (sweets) such as ghughra, kalakand, gulab jamun, pedha, burfi, halwa. Parsi bakers even make a wonderful mawa cake.
People commonly give out sweets during festivals like Diwali, Holi, religious festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Janmashtmi and all of the new years festivals for all of the different communities. Sweets are given out for any kind of celebration like births, weddings, graduations and anniversaries.
When I was growing up it was so easy to get mawa. I could just cross the street to the nearby Indian sweet shop where they would sell me their extra by the kilo. Indian sweet shops use so much mawa, they’ve always got plenty on hand. In the US, I have to make my own mawa.
There are a number of ways you can approach making mawa. The most traditional way would be to pour a gallon of milk into a heavy bottom pan and reduce it on a low boil, stirring constantly. For this method, you are also going to need a good book because it takes hours.
My go-to method for many sweets is to use ricotta as a mawa substitute. Ricotta is a soft-cheese that has a texture and mild flavor similar to mawa. It works as a direct substitute in many foods that have mawa as an ingredient. I love to use ricotta because it gives a richer, milkier mawa.
To make the ricotta version, add the ricotta to your pan and cook it over low heat. Stirring to keep it from burning, until the liquid has evaporated. Turn off the heat and add your ghee. Stir in the ghee until fully incorporated and there you have your mawa.
I typically use one tablespoon of ghee with one 15 ounce container of ricotta.
5-Minute Instant Mawa
When you need a mawa that is exactly like the traditional mawa, this is the method to use. Think of this method as mawa made backwards, and it requires so little effort.
I think of it as mawa made backwards because you start with milk powder. Milk powder is essentially a reduction of milk taken to the extreme so that all liquid is removed. Milk powder is produced under low-pressure to reduce the boiling point. This makes it possible to boil off all of the liquid without burning or even caramelizing the milk.
Mawa is made like milk powder, without the fancy low-pressure boiler. And it still has some liquid in it, so we make it by adding milk to milk powder until the texture is just right.
Recently I tried making this mawa two ways for comparison. For one, I used evaporated milk and for the other I used whole milk. I thought the evaporated milk would provide a richer flavor because it is already partially reduced.
The results were very similar as far as the texture of the mawa goes. The evaporated milk version had more a characteristic caramel color and a richer, more complex, reduced milk flavor. I prefer the evaporated milk version for mawa ghughra. It comes out similar to my mom’s. She would always brown the mawa she would buy from the sweets store before making the ghughra filling.
Instant Mawa | Khoya
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- ½ cup whole milk or evaporated milk
- 1 cup whole milk powder
- Mix milk and milk powder in bowl. Whisk into a smooth mixture, there should be no lumps.
- Heat the ghee in a nonstick pan.
- Add the milk mixture. Cook under medium heat for 3-6 minutes, stirring constantly. It is ready when the mixture forms into a dough and pulls away from the pan.
Substituting evaporated milk does not change the recipe, but will produce a richer, more caramelized mawa.