Pistachio Saffron Kulfi for Indian Holi Celebrations

I have been having a love affair with minty green hued food lately. Perhaps it’s an after effect from St. Patrick’s Days.

Today, I have something to share in honor of an Indian holiday that is all about color. Holi, is the Hindu religious spring festival of colors, also known as the festival of sharing love. Holi announces the arrival of spring and the passing of winter. It is celebrated at the approach of the vernal equinox, on the Full Moon in India and Nepal and now the festival has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia.

Festival of Colors, Spanish Fork, UT

The festival breathes an atmosphere of social merriment. Holi is a two-day festival and celebration that starts on the night before Holi with a Holika bonfire where people gather, sing, dance and party. The next morning is celebrated as Rangwali Holi – a free-for-all carnival of colors, where  people play, chase and color each other with dry powder and colored water, with some carrying water guns and colored water-filled balloons for their water fight. Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders. The frolic and fight with colors occurs in the open streets, open parks, outside temples and buildings.

Food and Holi delicacies are an integral part of the celebrations. Some intoxicating drinks are served, such as Bhang, an intoxicating ingredient made from cannabis leaves, is mixed into drinks and sweets and consumed by many.

kulfi spoon

I’m opting for a more soothing treat that is perfect for cooling off after playing under the spring sunshine all day long with colors and chasing each other about. Pistachio Saffron Kulfi, is an Indian ice cream full of eastern flavors.

Pistachio Saffron Kulfi

Pistachio Saffron Kulfi (Pista Kufi)


1/3 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground green cardamom seeds
¼ teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup ground pistachios
1 to 2 drops green food coloring, optional
1/4 cup blanched pistachios, coarsely chopped


Soak the saffron in a tablespoon of warm milk and set it aside.

Place the rest of the milk in a large, heavy wok or pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the wok often, until the milk is reduced by at least 3/4, about 45 minutes. You should be left with about 2 cups of condensed milk (it should have a few lumps.)

Mix in the sugar, cardamom seeds, ground pistachios, saffron soaked in milk, and food coloring, if using. Cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and thins down, and then thickens again, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer to traditional kulfi molds or small ramekin. Cover and place in the freezer until completely frozen, at least 4 hours.

To serve, dip each mold in hot water about 10 seconds, run a knife around the inside of the mold and transfer immediately to a dessert plate. Serve whole or cut into smaller pieces, garnish with chopped pistachios, and serve.

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