Coconut Burfi

Coconut Burfi

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Coconut Burfi – a Diwali classic. Diwali is when I am most nostalgic about my childhood in India. Memories that spring to mind, paint a picture, of splashes of beautiful colors each vying for attention, the loud burst of fireworks, sound of laughter running through the house and… the scintillating taste of COCONUT BURFI.

Coconut Burfi was and is, my favorite of the Indian sweets. I mean, whats not to like? It has three ingredients – grated coconut, sugar and a bit of cashews for that little crunch, tastes like heaven, melts in your mouth and you can make this with both your eyes closed. I can still smell the sweet aroma of lightly caramelized sugar and coconut. Can you feel that sugary goodness melting in your mouth, down your throat, making every bite feel like its bursting like fireworks on Diwali?  

Traditionally, Barfi, barfee, or burfi (derived from the word barf – pronounced bh-ur-fh) is a dense milk based sweet form India, whose ingredients are cooked in a vessel till the milk solidifies. My recipe for the Coconut Burfi, has no added milk, except for a tablespoon in which the raw cashew nuts are soaked. The recipe uses the natural milk in the coconut to give it that characteristic moisture and the sugar to thicken it.

Coconut trees are abundant in South of India where 90% of the production for the country comes from. They are also considered to be auspicious and you will find that in most households in India, a coconut (nariyal) is broken as a symbol of purity during ceremonies.

Coconut “a symbol of purity”.

I have fond memories of my mother and grandmother stirring the Coconut Burfi’s in heavy bottomed pans (kadai), and storing these square shaped delicacies in big stainless steel containers. I would run into the kitchen to grab a cup filled with piping hot  coconut and sugar mixture, before they were even done!

While my love affair with the delectable concoction began on my grandmother’s lap, it was my aunt, my mothers’s eldest sister, who taught me how to make them “her mothers way”. My husband too grew up eating coconut burfis but my mother-in-law makes them differently and I have learned over years, that almost every family has their own recipe for making Coconut Burfi.

Coconut burfi
Coconut burfi!

When I moved to the United States, to Pittsburgh, PA, I had a hard time duplicating the taste as the fresh coconuts here are different. Less sweet with more of oil in them. And I missed them even more, especially because classic South Indian recipes have coconuts as one of the main ingredients, in its varied forms – grated, shaved, in form of coconut milk including using the tender coconut water and heart of the palm, as one of the main ingredients.

Then I discovered frozen grated coconut found in the freezer section of Indian speciality stores. And they came closer to the taste. Now, I live in sunny California, where the coconuts are different, more fresh, much sweeter and taste just a little bit closer to my childhood.

So this Diwali, I am making these delicious Coconut Burfi’s with coconut, sugar and cashews, not only as an homage to my heritage and the long line of talented ancestors, but also to capture that sweet spot of happiness for my children, just like I did.

Coconut Burfi - A Diwali Classic

  • Servings: 12 pieces
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 Cup grated Coconut (fresh or frozen)
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 10 raw Cashews (soaked in 1 tablespoon milk for 10 minutes)
  • A pinch of Saffron
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground Cardamom seeds (Elaichi or Elakai)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ghee (Melt butter and heat till it turns brown and gives a nutty smell, strain)


  1. Grease a 8*8 square cake pan/plate/tray with ghee.
  2. Using the pulse function on the blender grind the soaked cashews, sugar, grated coconut, cardamom and saffron coarsely.
  3. Pour the mixture into a heavy bottomed pan/kadai (I keep one just for sweets and desserts), that can hold the heat.
  4. Keep over medium-low flame and stirring frequently till the mixtures thickens.
  5. Add ghee and keep stirring till it becomes frothy.
  6. It is dine when the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and does not stick to it. Don’t stir any more or the sugar will cook further and crystalize.
  7. Take it off heat immediately and pour on to the greased cake tin/plate/tray. Spread evenly and smoothen the surface with a small cup greased with ghee.
  8. Cut into squares with a sharp knife or pizza cutter.
  9. Allow it cool completely before separating and lifting the burfi pieces out. 

Enjoy these incredibly easy, melt in your mouth coconut burfi’s. Make them for those sweet cravings or as a special gift for someone or, like, in my house, for a special occasion.

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