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Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and A refreshing Drink, Thandai – Celebration of colours and nostalgia

15 March 2014 9 Comments

healthy sweet empanadas or gujias and thandai recipes

Mom, what is Holi and why is it celebrated?” asked my daughter the other day.

Festivals are an integral part of Indians. Though the rituals and customs to celebrate these festivals vary from one region to another, the spirit of festivity remains the same. Holi is one such religious festival when fun, frolic and feasting go hand in hand.” I continued in same breath.

Holi – the festival of colours, marks the beginning of spring season and is celebrated for two days. The first day eve begins with a bonfire or Holika dhahan which depicts the victory of good over evil. The next day is the time for playing with colours, greeting friends and sharing sweets with them.” Nostalgia started engulfing me as I narrated them my experiences.

Oh..ok..we are done with history of Holi mom…now tell us how did you colour-play and did masti (fun) in Holi?” my son asked me eagerly.

Well, preparation for Holi would start days ahead at my moms home. We would make toli or what you call as gang, to stock gulal or colour powder, Pichkaris (water-guns) and some old cloths to be worn that day.” My eyes sparkled with joy as I explained them about the fun we had during Holi and how I wished I could go back to the days of my childhood again.

Water-gun..wow, this sounds exciting!” my son interrupted me.

We had a tree in our colony which produced vibrant orange flowers called Flame of the forest or Tesu/Palash tree. We would collect Tesu flowers and soak into a bucketful of water overnight. The water turns into bright yellow in colour the next day and was used to fill the water-guns.” I tried to explain them in brief.

Our gang of friends would start assembling quite early on the festival day to start visiting houses, smearing every face with colours on the way and feasting on the sweets they made.” I cut short the story and left them for making Gujias.

My children have never got a chance to be a part of this fun and frolic of Holi as the festival is not celebrated in the city I live in, but I constantly update them with the stories and history behind such festivals.

And cooking traditional food during these celebrations could be a great way to stay connected to our roots.  I wanted to make a sweet Empanada called Gujiyas/Ghughra/Karanji/Karachika in India for them to compensate for the fun and frolic that we miss here.

Gujiyas remind me of pre-holi celebrations days when we used to help my mom in making these delicacies.”  I told them and asked my daughter to take out the baking tray.

My daughter, who was listening patiently, asked me if she can help me in making Gujias. “Why not, the more the merrier” I replied and asked her to make small balls of dough.

Involving children in kitchen is when cooking stops being a chore and becomes a fun activity 🙂

1. Healthy Sweet Empanada aka Gujia with Oat Bran

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

My daughter stood with me in the kitchen, filled all the Gujiyas, folded the edges and neatly arranged them on the baking tray.

These may not be the best looking Gujiyas on net but these certainly are the tastiest of gujias for a mom 🙂

I avoid deep frying the Gujiyas and always make the pastry dough with wholegrain. I came across Oat bran in my grocery store and wanted to add it to the dough. And I did love the crispy crust and nutty aroma of my healthy…yes, you read it right ‘Healthy Gujiyas’.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai


(makes about 12-15 small Gujiyas)

  • 1/2 cup Oat Bran
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tbsp. ghee or butter
  • A pinch of salt
  • Water to knead


  • 20-22 Almonds
  • 20 raisins
  • 6-7 dried Apricots
  • 3-4 Dates
  • 2 tbsp. melon seeds
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp. Honey
  • 1 tsp. cardamom powder

Method; Chop almonds, apricots and dates very finely in a bowl. Add raisins, melon seeds, poppy seeds, cardamom powder and honey in it. Combine all ingredients well.

I sometimes add organic jaggery powder or palm sugar in the filling which gives a wonderful nutty and earthy flavor to the Gujiyas.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

Take a large shallow bowl and add Oat bran, wheat flour, salt and ghee in it. Rub all the ingredients lightly with fingers and combine well.

Add a little water and knead into a semi-hard dough. If the dough is too hard, you will find it difficult to roll it into discs. And if the dough is too soft, the Gujiyas will not get crisp after baking.

Divide the dough into walnut sized balls. Roll each ball into small discs dusting a little dry wheat flour if necessary.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

Place a teaspoonful of the filling on one side and bring the other side to overlap it making a half moon shape. Press the corners with a fork or just fold it edges twisting the dough.

Repeat the same process and make all gujiyas.

Preheat the oven at 180°C. Grease a baking tray with oil and place all the gujias on it. Bake the Gujias till they turn golden brown in colour. Mine took about 25 minutes of baking time.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

If you want authentic Gujias, you can deep fry them in hot oil.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

2. Thandai –A refreshing spiced summer drink

This carefree festival Holi also marks the onset of hot summer days. This is also when a refreshing, nutty, heavily spiced and rich summer drink called Thandai makes it appearance in many homes all over India.

My children dislike the aftertaste of pepper and other spices in the drink. This recipe is children- friendly version of mine, I have changed the way this drink is traditionally prepared. Normally Thandai is light green in colour with chunks of nuts and crushed spices floating over the drink.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai


(makes about 5-6 cups)

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 3 cups of water
  • 5 tsp. palm sugar
  • 15-20 rose petals
  • 1/2 tsp saffron strands
  • Crushed ice

Nuts and seeds;


  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 8-10 peppercorns
  • 4-5 cardamom pods

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai


Nuts and seeds; Soak almonds, pistachio, poppy seeds (khus-khus) and melon seeds (magaz) for 7-8 hours in plain water. Drain the water, remove skin from almonds and grind all the nuts into very fine paste.

Spices;  Grind fennel seeds (saunf), peppercorn (kali mirch) and whole cardamom pods (elaichi) into coarse powder in a grinder. I prefer pounding these spices in pestle and mortar and keep the spices more chunky.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

Bring 3 cups of water to boil in a deep saucepan. Add powdered spices, boil for another 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and cover it with a lid.

Let the spices infuse in water for some more time. Strain this liquid in another bowl.

Recipes | Healthy Sweet Empanadas or Gujiyas and Thandai

Bring milk to boil in another saucepan. Take a teaspoon of warm milk in a small bowl and add saffron strands in it. Rub the strands with the back of a spoon to infuse colour and flavors in milk. Add the saffron infused milk in the pan and keep boiling for 3-4 minutes on low heat.

Add rose petals and the spice infused water into boiling milk and boil for another 10 minutes on low heat.

Take the pan off heat, cover with a lid and let the Thandai cool before serving.

Take long glasses, add crushed ice and fill with the Thandai. Garnish with a few strands of saffron, rose petals and powdered pistachio nuts.

This way of making the Thandai make sure that there is no after taste of coarse spices in the drink and also makes it a children-friendly recipe.


  1. Substitute all purpose flour if you want the authentic Gujias which are paper thin and transparent.
  2. You can replace the Oat bran with powdered oats to make the Gujiya recipe dough.
  3. Panjiri makes a delicious filling for these Gujiyas.
  4. Reduce spices if you are making the drink for children.
  5. Reduce the saffron in the recipe to make a light green or cream coloured Thandai.

“Wish you all a very Happy Holi, may your life fills with colours of happiness!”


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  • Priya said:

    Happy Holi Sanjeeta, seriously am in love with ur oat bran gujiyas, u always come with unique ideas.. That thandai is just inviting me.

  • Nidhi S said:

    Classic photograpy!!! This is the first time I have seen this way of expressing holi in the form of a recipe and I just loved your innovative idea. The whole lot of colors have been depicted in the pictures. A very nice work. Admired it!!
    And coming to the recipe, the picture makes it seem too good. I have bought the ingredients required and I will soon try it, thank you.

  • mjskit said:

    I love how the festival in India revolve around so much wonderful food! Wish I were drinking the Thandai right now. What an interesting drink. I’m quite curious as to its flavor and texture. Guess I need to make it. 🙂 Your pictures are lovely as always, but I especially love your use of the brilliant colors in celebration of Holi! Great post!
    mjskit recently posted..Chicken and Vegetables Smothered in Chile de Arbol Pecan SauceMy Profile

  • dassana said:

    wishing you happy holi sanjeeta. making thandai tomorrow. your pics are beautiful.
    dassana recently posted..moong dal halwa recipe, how to make moong dal halwa | halwa recipesMy Profile

  • Joyti said:

    They recently started celebrating holi in my city (in the U.S., isn’t that crazy?!)…hopefully it will reach your city soon too.

    The gujia look really great. Yum.

  • Hari Chandana said:

    OMG.. looks very delicious and awesome.. very gorgeous pictures.. I adore your photography! 🙂

  • easyfoodsmith said:

    Your healthy twist to the traditional dishes is always very interesting. I totally see myself indulging in these gujiyas.

  • Rashmi said:

    Hi Sanjeeta,
    I came across your wonderful space recently. Have tried a couple of your recipes and was instantly smitten. The ragi chocolate cake was an instant hit with my kids. Especially love the fact that all your baking is eggless with healthy ingredients. I have a question to ask. Am interested in making the thandai mix for the spiced wheat germ muffins for Diwali. Can is chop the nuts, seeds and spices together in a food processor? How do I add the rose petals to the dry mix?
    Thanking in advance

  • sanjeeta kk (author) said:

    @Rashmi, thanks for your lovely words! Yes, you can ground nuts, spices and seeds together. But I would suggest to powder spices first to make a fine powder followed by nuts, seeds and rose petals. You can even hand-crush the petals and add to the powder.

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