Spring Blossoms and Festive Flavors

Spring is in the air and Holi, the Indian festival of colors is right around the corner! Every year, around mid-Feb, the weather starts warming up and Spring blossoms appear everywhere in my neighborhood. I absolutely enjoy taking pictures of the gorgeous spring blossoms every single year and get excited for the Holi festival that happens to fall around this time of the year. Speaking of Holi, I’m in the mood for refreshing Thandai, except this year, I’m turning it into a decadent Thandai Panna Cotta!

Thandai Panna Cotta

thandai for holi

Thandai is a mildly spiced, not too sweet, super refreshing milk-based cold beverage that’s traditionally made and served at Holi celebrations in Northern India. The Thandai drink derives its characteristic flavor from the Thandai Masala, a quintessential blend of various spices such as cardamom, fennel, white poppy seeds, peppercorns, saffron, ground together with almonds and rose petals.

Thandai Panna Cotta

Thandai holds a special place in the Indian culinary traditions, particularly during festive occasions like Holi. The cold milk-based drink with refreshing taste and aromatic blend of spices is the perfect drink to kick off the spring season and celebrate the fun and colorful Indian holiday!

Embracing Holi with Thandai Panna Cotta!

Instead of sticking to the traditional beverage, which I’ve undoubtedly prepared and relished in the past, I felt compelled to create something extraordinary for this year’s festival. I desired for something unconventional, diverging from the customary, and thus, conceived the idea of crafting Thandai Panna Cotta!

Thandai Panna Cotta

It’s an innovative twist to recreate the traditional spiced milk drink with an Italian touch by incorporating gelatin into the mixture and elegantly setting it in dessert cups. I was thrilled to experiment with this fusion of flavors and textures. I certainly brought together the essence of Holi, in my humble opinion, with the indulgent creaminess of the Italian classic, Panna Cotta.

Thandai Panna Cotta

This recipe is remarkably quick and simple to prepare, and when adorned with the classic thandai toppings of crushed rose petals and pistachios, it presents a visually stunning treat. Indulge in the delightful fusion of Indian and Italian flavors, as the rich aroma of traditional thandai melds seamlessly with the creamy texture of panna cotta, offering a tantalizing treat that celebrates the best of both worlds!

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Thandai Panna Cotta

  • Author: Vasanti


A fun fusion dessert turning the classic Indian traditional spiced milk drink for Holi festival into the popular Italian dessert.


Units Scale
  • 4 cups half & half (see FAQs & Notes + Variations)
  • 1 tbsp unflavored powdered gelatin (see FAQs & Notes + Variations)
  • 1/2 cup homemade Thandai Masala (see Variations)
  • granulated sugar or sweetener of choice, if needed for desired level of sweetness
  • crushed pistachios, for garnish, optional
  • crushed dried rose petals, for garnish, optional


  • Sprinkle gelatin over 1 cup of half & half and let it stand and soften for about 5 mins.
  • Transfer the cup of half & half with gelatin in a nonstick pot and warm over medium low heat, stirring continuously for about 5 mins till the gelatin dissolved completely. Make sure the mixture steams and does not boil.
  • Add the remaining 3 cups of half & half, the Thandai Masala and add more sugar if needed and continue stirring on low heat for 5-7 mins, till the sugar dissolves and the mixture steams with bubbles formed along the edges but does not boil.
  • Take it off the heat and let it cool for 10-15 mins.
  • Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and then pour it into dessert cups.
  • Refrigerate until set, for 6-8 hours or overnight (see FAQs & Notes)
  • Garnish with crushed pistachios and dried rose petals and serve chilled. 

Recipe FAQ’s and Notes

Don't have half & half?

You can use 2 cups of whole milk and 2 cups of heavy cream instead.

Any substitute for gelatin?

Gelatin is a protein made from animal (cows/pigs) collagen and if you’d prefer to not use it, you can substitute with 2 tsp of powdered agar agar for a vegetarian option.

How long does the panna cotta last in the refrigerator?

It stays well in the refrigerator for up to 72 hours and thus makes for a great make-ahead dessert for easy entertaining!

Recipe Variations

Make it vegan and dairy-free by using the same quantity of non-dairy plain almond/cashew/soy milk/coconut milk. Use 4 tsp of gelatin or 2 tsp of agar agar powder with 4 cups of any of these non-dairy milk varieties.

Try substituting the Thandai Masala with Doodh (Milk) Masala for another fun variation!

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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