Til Gul Nostalgia

As the sesame seeds were roasting, their delicate aroma wafted over the pan and soon filled my entire kitchen. Simultaneously, golden brown jaggery syrup bubbled away in a saucepan, infusing a subtly sweet fragrance reminiscent of my childhood days when Mom made my favorite, the Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo, especially for Sankrant. The nostalgic scent heightened my anticipation, transporting me back to the joyous moments of savoring these delectable treats.

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

Essence of Sankrant

The first Indian festival of the year is here, and for the very first time, I crafted the quintessential festive sweet, Til Gul, at home. After years, the craving for those soft, nutty candies became irresistible, prompting me to make some right away! Consulting my Marathi cuisine handbook, ‘Ruchira’, I delved into the traditional recipe.

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

Having all the ingredients on hand, I jumped right at it by roasting the sesame seeds and caramelizing the jaggery. The simple combination of  the sesame seeds with melted jaggery is incredible on it’s own, but becomes even more amazing when mixed with ground cardamom, roasted coconut and roasted peanuts. This, to me, is the true essence of Sankrant!

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

The Harvest season in India

Sankrant is a celebration of the harvest season in India. This is one Indian festival that has a fixed date, January 14th (or 15th in case of a leap year, like this one) since it is based on the movement of the sun and not the lunar cycles. Different states in India have different names for it – Lohri in Punjab, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Makar Sankrant in Maharashtra and Pongal in the southern states.

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

In Maharashtra, where I am from, this festival has a special significance since it marks the beginning of a very auspicious period. The sesame sweet, til gul, is an integral part of the festivities and we share it with each other along with the tagline “Til gul ghya, goad goad bola” which literally translates as “accept the til (sesame) gul (jaggery) and please say only sweet words”.

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

It is difficult not to have sweet words coming out of your mouth, especially after eating such a decadent sweet treat. The rich, nutty flavor from the sesame and peanuts, combined with the sweetness of the coconut and jaggery and the warmth from cardamom leave a memorable flavor in your mouth.

My Childhood Sankrant Memories

Growing up, I recall dressing up for Sankrant and going door-to-door in the neighborhood with other kids, sharing sweet treats and urging everyone to speak kindly with us throughout the year. It was akin to Halloween’s trick-or-treating, except we exchanged candies with everyone and returned home with an array of homemade til gul.

At home, mom would call for a ladies-only get-together in the everning called “haldi kunku”. I think it was more of a tea-time party that she hosted when her friends and relatives gathered together for chit-chat and snacks. My sister and I used to have to greet everyone and go around with trays of goodies prepared for the evening and also hand out the party favors when people left. And this party had a dress code too! Everyone wore a black outfit, since it’s auspicious to wear black for Sankrant.

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

The soft little balls of til gul I made while reminiscing about the good old childhood days, turned out perfectly sweet and simply irresistible! I popped a few of them in my mouth while making and then bagged the remaining for sharing with my friends and family.

Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

I have translated the original recipe from the Marathi cookbook along with exact measurements for ingredients used and put together a how-to video for you to recreate these delectable treats in your own kitchen.

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Maharashtrian Classic Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo

Soft Til (Sesame Seed) Ladoo


  • Author: Vasanti
  • Yield: 1820 tablespoon-sized balls 1x

Description

A quick recipe for Sankranti sesame-jaggery ladoos enhanced with ground roasted peanuts, shredded coconut, and cardamom. The recipe is adapted from Kamalabai Ogale’s Ruchira Cookbook, a Maharashtrian culinary guide. 


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded dry coconut
  • 1 cup white or brown sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup ground/powdered jaggery (see Notes & Variations)
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp ghee (see Variations) + additional for greasing palms
  • 1/4 cup ground roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom (see Notes)

Instructions

  • Start by heating a medium nonstick pan over medium heat and roast the coconut for about 4-5 minutes stirring continuously, until its light golden brown. Transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
  • In the same pan, over medium heat, dry roast the sesame seeds for about 4-5 minutes stirring continuously, until they are fragrant and change the color to a light golden brown. Take the pan off the heat and let them cool a little bit, for about 5 minutes. 
  • Transfer half the amount of the sesame seeds to a coffee or a spice grinder and grind them to a fine powder. 
  • In the same pan, combine jaggery, water and ghee.
  • Heat over medium heat till the jaggery melts and the syrup bubbles up.
  • Turn the heat off and immediately add the ground and reserved whole sesame seeds, ground roasted peanuts and ground cardamom to the jaggery syrup.
  • Mix thoroughly to ensure everything is combined well.
  • Let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Grease your palms with ghee.
  • When cool enough to handle, using 1 tablespoon measure of the mixture and roll into a ball.
  • Transfer to a serving platter and let them cool completely before serving (see Notes for storage information). 

Step-by-Step Details

Step: 1

Start by heating a medium nonstick pan over medium heat and roast the coconut for about 4-5 minutes stirring continuously, until its light golden brown. Transfer it to a bowl and set aside.

Step: 2

In the same pan, over medium heat, dry roast the sesame seeds for about 4-5 minutes stirring continuously, until they are fragrant and change the color to a light golden brown. Take the pan off the heat and let them cool a little bit, for about 5 minutes. 

Step: 3

Transfer half the amount of the sesame seeds to a coffee or a spice grinder and grind them to a fine powder. 

Step: 4

In the same pan, combine jaggery, water and ghee.

Step: 5

Heat over medium heat till the jaggery melts and the syrup bubbles up.

Step: 6

Turn the heat off and immediately add the ground and reserved whole sesame seeds, ground roasted peanuts and ground cardamom to the jaggery syrup.

Step: 7

Mix thoroughly to ensure everything is combined well.

Step: 8

Let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes.

Step: 9

Greased your palms with ghee.

Step: 10

When cool enough to handle, using 1 tablespoon measure of the mixture and roll into a ball.

Step: 11

Transfer to a serving platter and let them cool completely before serving (see Notes for storage information). 

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Can't find ground jaggery?

You can grate the cubes on a grater and use the required quantity or substitute with coconut palm sugar.

Don't have ground cardamom?

Use 8-10 green cardamom pods, remove the seeds and discard the shells. Grind the seeds with a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder.

How to store the ladoos?

Store them in airtight container. They should last for about 2 weeks at least when stored in a cool place, away from  direct sunlight.

Recipe Variations

Easily swap the jaggery with regular sugar. To ½ cup of sugar, add ¼ cup of water or milk. Heat over medium heat till the sugar dissolves and bubbles up. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes till thickens up. The consistency should result into a single string when you put a dot of the sugar syrup between your thumb and pointer finger. Then add the ground and whole roasted sesame seeds, ground roasted peanuts, roasted coconut and ground cardamom and follow the recipe as is.

Happy cooking
Vasanti

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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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