The Indian Holiday Season

The Indian holiday season is in full swing and the 10th day of the Navratri festival, Dasara or Dussehra is almost here! When it comes to this big day at the culmination of the nine day long festival, I have to follow my childhood tradition and make myself some decadent, basundi, spiced milk pudding. However this year, I’m putting an Italian spin on it and turning it into decadent Basundi Panna Cotta.

Basundi Panna Cotta

Basundi is a very simple and humble dessert from my home state in India, Maharashtra. It is prepared by boiling and reducing milk to half of its original quantity. Sugar is then added to the reduced milk along with spices like ground cardamom, ground nutmeg and crushed saffron strands. The spiced and reduced milk is then chilled for a couple of hours to make a thick and creamy milk pudding.

Italian Spin on Maharashtrian Basundi 

This year, I decided to put an Italian spin on the traditional Maharashtrian creamy milk-based dessert by transforming it into a Panna Cotta, the popular Italian dessert made with sweetened cream, thickened and set with gelatin. Basundi, the creamy spiced milk pudding, is a perfect candidate for this delightful Italian makeover!

Basundi Panna Cotta

My Recipe for Basundi Panna Cotta

Basundi is made by reducing full-fat or whole milk, and panna cotta is usually made with a combination of heavy cream and milk. For my recipe, I used half heavy cream and half whole milk to achieve the right consistency for my fusion dessert idea. You can also use half-and-half, which is available in grocery stores for adding to your tea or coffee.

Basundi Panna Cotta

In my recipe, I infuse the half-and-half mixture of heavy cream and milk with the traditional spices used to flavor basundi – ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, and saffron. To turn the infused cream-milk mixture into panna cotta, I use agar agar powder, a vegetarian substitute for gelatin derived from red algae. This keeps the dessert recipe vegetarian and also aligns with the dietary preferences for traditional Indian festivities.

Basundi Panna Cotta

A Delightful Dessert for the Festive Season

Just like the traditional basundi, I finish the panna cotta by topping it with saffron strands and charoli or chironji, almond-flavored seeds that are commonly used in Indian sweets and have a texture similar to pine nuts. After chilling in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, it’s ready to serve!

Basundi Panna Cotta

So, this festive season, give my super easy recipe a try and impress your family and friends with a delightful dessert…no pun intended! I’ve linked a short video below that I put together for you that you can follow and easily whip up this signature concoction in your own kitchen.

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Basundi Panna Cotta

  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: Serves 4


A super easy recipe for a festive dessert turning the traditional Maharashtrian milk pudding, Basundi into the popular Italian Panna Cotta.


  • 1 cup heavy cream + 1 cup whole milk (alternatively use 2 cups half & half)
  • 2 tbsp sugar or sweetener of your choice (use more if you prefer sweeter desserts)
  • 1/2 tsp agar agar powder (alternatively use 2 tsp unflavored powdered gelatin)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of saffron + some more for topping
  • Charoli (chironji) nuts, for topping (see Notes)


  • Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk to combine and bring it to a gentle boil while stirring occasionally until the agar agar has dissolved completely, about 10 minutes.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat and let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes at room temperature to cool slightly. (See Variations)
  • Pour into bowls or ramekins.
  • Top with charoli/ chironji nuts and saffron strands.
  • Refrigerate until the mixture sets, for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled (see Notes).

Keywords: Creamy Desserts, Navratri Special

Step-by-Step Details

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

What is Charoli or Chironji?

Charoli or chironji are lentil-sized seeds that are commonly used in Indian sweets. They have an almond like flavor and possess a texture similar to pine nuts. They are available in Indian stores or on Amazon. If you can’t find them, you can use toasted sliced or slivered almonds.

Make ahead Recipe

You can make the dessert ahead of time. Cover each bowl or ramekin with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 72 hours.

Recipe Variations

Once the spiced milk mixture is slightly cooled, you can stir in ¼ cup of mango pulp. Adjust sugar accordingly.

Happy cooking

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Hi I’m Vasanti
…and I ❤️cooking ‘n clicking!!
I share a modern take on Indian cuisine made using nontraditional techniques and ingredients, while staying true to its authenticity. You’ll also find classic recipes from my beloved Maharashtrian culture and heritage.


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