Priyanka Naik's Favorite Indian Desserts Are Not Common In The US, But Worth Seeking Out - Exclusive

The best part of the meal is always the dessert. No matter how full you are, there always seems to be a separate stomach for a sweet treat afterward. Priyanka Naik, author of "The Modern Tiffin," highlights how delicious vegan cooking is and how naturally Indian and other cuisines transfer to plant-based eating. Naturally, we had to ask Naik about her favorite Indian desserts. In an exclusive interview leading up to her appearance at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Naik told us all about her top choices and why they are hard to find in the United States. 

Even in New York City, where Naik lives, her favorite desserts of chirote and sheera are not all that common. Naik explained, "It's a function of the type of Indian I am. I'm Maharashtrian, so we are from the state of Maharashtra, which is Mumbai and then a little bit south. The type of cooking and style we eat is really just not readily available in restaurants in the U.S. at all." Naik described chirote and sheera to us and shared what makes these desserts so special.


Naik's first pick is a dessert called chirote. She explains, "It's made with all-purpose flour-based dough. You essentially make this thin dough, and you roll it out, and you keep layering it almost like a croissant." While similar, one key difference between chirote and a croissant is that chirote does not laminate the dough with butter. This changes the texture and makes it vegan-friendly. After forming the dough "you make these little rounds. Now, it's like a layered mini disc, and you fry it, then all of those layers sort of puff up." The dessert is typically made for Diwali, the festival of lights. While the dessert often includes ghee, a kind of clarified butter, in the dough, this is easily substituted for oil or vegan ghee. 

To serve, there are two options. "You could leave it crispy and put powdered sugar over it." This is a simple and effective method. Naik notes though, "The way we make it at home is we'll take that crisp of Diwali and soak it in a saffron, cardamom sugar syrup." The end result is a crisp, fried dessert that is also gooey and delicious. 


Naik's second pick is a dessert called sheera; it can also be called payasam. For this dessert, "You take semolina, and you toast it. Once it's toasted — we put cashews and cardamom and saffron and you toast it — and then you can add water or milk. We usually add water, then you let it cook, and it's kind of like a thick porridgey consistency, but not as liquidy." This forms the base of the dessert. From there, fruit can be added. Naik notes she adds pineapple. Then, "You let it cook, and then you kind of scoop it out into a bowl, and you could top it with more nuts and cardamom."  Once again, simple swaps such as using water instead of milk make this an excellent vegan option. 

The end result is a dessert that is thick. Sometimes, it is served in a bowl, as Naik describes, but other times, it is thick enough to hold its shape and can be served molded, such as above. Naik notes this dessert is also common for festivals. 

If you get the chance to try either of these desserts or want to make it home, they are definitely worth the effort to seek out. 

The South Beach Wine and Food Festival will be February 22-25, 2024. Purchase tickets at