Pumpkin Payasam


Let There Be Light!

‘Tis the season to celebrate: Dress fancy. Eat & Dance till you drop. LIGHT.IT.UP! (with diyas of course). No folks, I’m not talking about Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s DIWALI !!


For those wondering what I’m tripping about….DIWALI aka festival of lights, is an Indian holiday. It’s the year’s biggest & brightest celebration, marked by lit, colorful votive lamps: diyas. There’s larger than life fireworks & gift exchanges. Think Christmas meets July 4th.

Diwali is a celebration of victory: of good over evil, with light washing over dark. I personally think it’s a celebration of hope – of all good things to come.

Diwali Diyas

Diwali Diyas


When you have a festival of this epic-ness, it’s incomplete without food. I know folks like to get dressed up fancy, but let me tell you, BRING YOUR SWEATPANTS! Allow me to explain the Diwali equation:

Infinite food buffets + mouth watering delicacies + Indian hospitality
(“What do you mean you just ate? You only had 3 helpings!”)
= Deadly Exploding Pant Syndrome (DEPS)

Symptoms include heavy breathing, drooling & light headedness induced by food coma. At it’s peak, one eats so much, one’s pants simply explode, resulting in embarrassment that cannot be undone. There is no known scientific cure for DEPS. Only two treatments exist:
a) Don’t wear pants  b) Have a back up plan to get home.

This is my ride home this year.

Industrial Forklift

Industrial Forklift

In trying to set the stage here, I might have derailed off topic completely. Let me attempt a comeback. We’re talking Diwali food: there’s nothing quite like Diwali DESSERTS!

This year, I’m combining my love of Western fall foods with a classic Indian dessert. Payasam, is a South Indian dessert, a milk pudding infused with cardamom, nutmeg & pistachios. Its beauty is in its rich flavor paired with simple ingredients. It’s versatile enough to work with vermicelli noodles, tapioca or even carrots. I figured why not Pumpkin?

Here’s my take on what happens when an Indian classic dessert meets a Western fall staple. Prepare to fall in love!

Pumpkin Payasam That'll Make You Believe in Life Again

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8-10 Servings & Life Affirmation


  • 2.5 cups Pumpkin
  • 3 cups Coconut Milk or Coconut Cream (if too heavy, use 2 cups coconut milk, 1 cup milk)
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons Ghee (Clarified Butter) or 1/4 cup Butter (we'll go through how to make Ghee)
  • 5 Cardamom pods
  • 7 Almonds
  • 2 tablespoons of Cashews
  • 1/2 tsp Pistachios
  • 1/4 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp Saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons Rose Water (Optional)
  • Mortar & Pestle to crush cardamom


  1. Dice half a small pumpkin. Cook till it becomes soft - either in a microwave (in a covered dish for 12-14 mins); or on a stovetop (in a steaming basket for 15 mins); or in a pressure cooker (7 mins). My preference is to pressure cook - the least messiest & fastest.
  2. Puree the cooked pumpkin in a blender with a dash of milk.
  3. Boil Ghee - Indian Clarified Butter, available at most grocery stores. I like making my own and it's super simple. Boil 1/4 cup of butter on medium heat, till it gets frothy. You'll see a layer of foam & golden brown underneath. Ghee is the golden brown liquid. Strain the foam or remove with a ladle.
  4. Roast cashewnuts, raisins & a few almonds in Ghee.
  5. On the stovetop, combine the coconut milk & sugar, bring to a gentle boil.
  6. Here's what I learnt with Saffron - if you add it directly, the flavor doesn't infuse as well. In a tiny bowl, microwave 2 tablespoons of milk for 30 seconds; then add saffron to it. Let it soak for 5 minutes.
  7. In a mortar & pestle, crush & grind the cardamom with 1-2 almonds.
  8. Add the pumpkin puree to the boiling coconut milk - if too thick, add more milk & gently boil.
  9. Add the spices: saffron mixture, ground cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon & rose water. Ensure the milk doesen't burn!
  10. Add the ghee mixture - with roasted raisins & nuts.
Happy Diwali, beautiful people! Wish you all joy, peace, prosperity & much happiness!!


photo credit: DSC_0440 via photopin (license)
photo credit: Corso Carrellisti via photopin (license)

Also published on Medium.

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Amanda @ Freedom With Bruno November 12, 2015 at 7:34 AM

Yumm! I’m definitely going to try making this over the holidays. Great pictures, too! Happy Diwali!

Jyo November 12, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Thanks Amanda!! Let me know how it turns out! Happy Diwali!


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