Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding: Ultimate Comfort Food

Shira cream of wheat pudding Soji halwa Arun Shanbhag

I could have a tough day at work, or come in cold and shivering from shoveling snow. On days when things just don’t go right and you start wondering if the Universe is conspiring against you. I walk in the front door and get a whiff of roasting wheat, … Yaay! Its Shira for dessert! What problems?

M is not a sweets person, but after a tough day, she too instinctively thinks of shira. That warm cream of wheat halwa, also called kesar halwa, sooji halwa, or any of a myriad terms.

Just a whiff and our moods brighten. Like if a gentle breeze lifted the burdens off our shoulders, forgotten for ever. The Universe can take care of itself, I’ll settle in and savor the shira, one warm, nectarine morsel at a time.

Perhaps it reminds us of our childhood. For any religious festival, a puja, a birthday, an anniversary, or celebration of a good report card from school – my brother’s report card, that is – aiee made shira. Now it is hardwired in my DNA, a whiff of shira equals a celebration!

Few simple ingredients for the basic shira! But what an opportunity to experiment. Add just about anything, you are limited only by your creativity!

Most commonly added are sliced bananas and raisins. M occasionally makes shira with crushed pineapple from a can, which comes out delicious. This time we tried supplementing with bananas, mango pulp and bits of cashew! Aaaaaah! But then, even the most simple shira is heavenly!

Try it. And please tell us your variations, so we can emulate.


  • Rava (Sooji, a variant of cream of wheat, 1 cup)
  • Rava is coarsely ground wheat after the husk has been removed and the bran sifted out. It is not as finely ground as the wheat flour used to make chapattis or roti. Rava is a much coarser ground much like the texture of grains of sand. When looking for it in Indian grocery stores, rava is called Sooji, or wheat semolina. Couscous wheat is a much coarser ground and I don’t relish it for making shira.

  • tuup (home made clarified butter, 2 tbsp (low cal version); or use ghee or butter; Aiee, who likes her sons “well-fed”, adds twice as much tuup/ghee)
  • sugar, 3/4 cup
  • mango pulp, 2-3 tbsp; see what you like
  • cashew bits, 2 tbsp roasted on the side
  • cardamom, 20 cloves; powder seeds in mortar-pestle
  • kesar (saffron, we are currently using Iranian saffron gifted by a friend; splurge with 25+ strands)
  • hot water, 2 cups; on the side, keep a kettle of water ready at a boil.
  • milk, 2% low fat, 1/4 cup (Aiee uses whole milk … of course)

Shira Cream of Wheat Pudding - Soji halwa

  • On low heat, roast the rava with constant stirring
  • rava will lightly brown
  • add tuup (ghee), sugar and continue to roast
  • add mango pulp, cardamom, roasted cashew bits
  • once thoroughly mixed, add the hot water and milk
  • sprinkle and mix in kesar strands
  • a nice aroma fills the kitchen and taste buds start to salivate
  • stir vigorously while cooking over medium heat till it reaches a thick doughy consistency
  • Turn off heat and allow to cool;
  • When entertaining guests, aiee used to transfer doughy shira to a thali (deep dish), pat flat and cut in diamonds
  • Not done yet! We place a small silver bowl of shira and offer it to the divine at our family shrine. We say a small prayer in thanks for all the blessings bestowed on us. Then with much restraint we start to eat it slowly, relishing each tiny spoonful!

Shira Cream of Wheat Pudding - Soji halwa

Other Indian Desserts:

49 thoughts on “Shira – Cream of Wheat Pudding: Ultimate Comfort Food

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  1. Dr. S,

    You introduced me to shira and many other fine Indian comestibles (dhosas, samosas, etc.) back in your little flat in Oak Park. Remember our trips to Devon Street? To this day, my Indian friends say I am one of the few people they know who can consume an entire order of gulab jamun himself (my waistline shows it).

    Thanks for posting these recipes.


  2. hmmm….I hardly have any knowledge of Konkani beliefs and traditions as my Ma-in-Laws was grew up in Gujarat, though she can speak Marathi very well and her some roots are in Mumbai. I always try to understand when she does speak in Marathi with her parental side relatives. Abt my knowledge in Marathi…thodi…thodi yete…! πŸ™‚ hahaha…but I have some good Maharastrian friends in Mumbai, Pune and Sangola.

    Well Arun, do you have any direct email address of Anudivya? (a little bit more fame…) I just wanted to thank for her recipe which I tried yesterday.

    Sonu πŸ™‚

  3. aHaa! Sonu –
    sooo you know the Konkani belief in the fifth yoga of food yoga. Verily a way to attain nirvana! ha ha!
    SatyaNarayana Puja is very common among the konkanis, in karnataka and definitely in Mumbai!


  4. Hi Arun,
    hmmm…abt Satyanarayan Puja’s Prasad. I always crave for it too…:) I didn’t knw that the Satnarayan Puja is also common in other states. BTW, My Ma-in-Laws is Konkani Brahmin, I am Gujarati though. πŸ™‚

    Take care & enjoy winter.

  5. Arun, M sure makes lovely sheera..bhaari chanda dista color ani doni fruits vottu ghaalnu kella, how unique. (Followed Maya’s link to b here) Lovely write up as well!

    Arun Says:
    Purnima –
    barae dislae tuvaen ayvunu hanga ek comment ghatlae! Haun M-aaka hae sangta!
    AaNi konkani borochak masta trasa jaata! Thank you! πŸ˜›

  6. Hi Ujjwal!

    Ha HA! yes, ifyou complain about the tuup, you will get kicked out! :-))
    Try out (or have your hubby try) the Pineapple shira; That comes out quite well.

    and you are right, when we are here, we miss all those simple things that we take for granted in India.


  7. Sheera.. Love this sweet.. I was never a great fan of sweets until I came here.. I started missing sweets so much all those sweets which I had taken for granted until then 😦 Sheera is one thing that I cannot make a decent one. When amma used to make it back at home she used to chase me out of the kitchen as I used to gasp Kithle tuup the!! πŸ˜‰ My hubby makes better sheera than me πŸ˜‰ Got to make Pineapple sheera soon!

  8. Happy New year. I saw this post last evening and made some sheera with Pineapple shortly after – turned out awesome πŸ™‚

    Arun Says:
    Ha hA Sudeepta! Good to hear of your Pineapple Shira experiment and particularly glad that it came out well.
    Yaaay! Can I have some? πŸ˜‰

  9. That was really yummy!! At home mom prepares shira with bananas only during Satyanarayan pooja (we call it Sapaadhu).
    Didn’t know that even mango pulp can be used as one of the ingredients. Will give this tip to mom πŸ™‚

    Arun Says:
    Yes Poornima, for the SatyaNarayana Puja we follow the strict recipe and we call it “sapaadu” too. And btw, the mango pulp was my own variation and see if you like it first.

  10. Hi Arun,

    Wow…it’s also forever recipe in every Gujarati house. πŸ™‚ I also make it often especially on precious or festive days. I never have had try mango pulp though. And yes…I always use more ghee (same as ur Ayee) and full-cream milk only. Adding a water makes the taste dull when it comes to Rava…I think.

    There are a lot of versions and varieties of Shira. You knw Arun…jab Bhgwaan ko prasad offer karte hai…aur me jab prasad leti hu…I feel something divine in taste which I offer to God. I always feel something pure and special in Prasadam. πŸ™‚ Is it possible…? Dnt knw…it’s silly question I feel.

    Will try sometime a mango pulp in Shira.

    Arun Says:
    Thank you Sonu for sharing your experience with the prasad!
    The prasad is imbued with divine grace and as we partake of it, I am energized and always feel blessedly lucky to have had that opportunity. SO I always seek out SatyaNarayana puja for the prasad. And also I am a foodie and love shira :-))

    So you are absolutely right, the prasad ALWAYS has a very special taste. And as you mentioned we too follow strictly aiee’s recipe for the prasad; it is for the other times that we cut back on the ghee and experiment with the mango pulp, etc.

    Thank you

  11. Ultimate comfort it is and torture for me as in the past 1 week, this is the third place with sheera :(..Like you mentioned in this weather, warm sheera is bliss..I made sheera today too and will post it now, thanx to u :D..

    Arun Says:
    Yaay! Thank you and awesome for this Shira marathon around the blogs!
    Verily, Shira is bliss!

  12. Oh I cook a little here and there, still building up an arsenal of recipes. I make pretty good paneer makhani. That was my project last summer, to perfect the recipe. Of course you know I dabble with fish, especially salmon. I also do biriyani and pulao. Oh and some pasta and Asian dishes. :p

    Now whether I do it at home or not depends on whether my parents are willing to surrender the kitchen to me. πŸ™‚

    Arun Says:
    What! Parents don’t want you in the kitchen? I thot they would welcome some help and hope to impart some of their cooking gyan to you! :-))

  13. Oh I am so sorry! I did not know that.
    And I never buy Nutella, I tend to go through the whole jar in like no time… very dangerous! :))

    As for the micr. shira… yep you spray a plate with non stick spray, and then add the rava and microwave for a couple of seconds till roasty.
    The non stick spray is important, or it will stick to the plate big time.

    And heat water separately. Then mix both, same as the normal version. Will anyway try to make it and post soon.

    I am gonna stop now… or the number of comments I make will be counted towards spamming!!!

    Arun Says:
    Hi Anu: Sorry, I am always late in replying to comments. Too many things going on;

    Have to agree, Nutella can be dangerous.

    see nutella discussion on my LJ

    THank you for the tips on the microwave Shira! Will try it when I return – am traveling for the next two weeks. :-))
    and no, no worry about being a spammer! I’ll put you in my “White List”!

  14. Anu

    See, i am allergic to eggs, so most cakes, brownies, and else are OUT for me. And I am still not a great fan of chocolate – except when admixed with hazelnut in NUTELLA! (!!!)

    For the microwave shira recipe, do you mix everything and then microwave?; or do you still have to separately roast the Rava? Will await your recipe.

    And thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  15. Thanks! πŸ™‚
    Arun, I tried the microwave version long back, and really no precise recipe, just the same as stove top version.
    But I will try to exact the recipe and post them sometime soon.
    Since you were interested in the microwave version, did you have a chance to check out the microwave brownies that I made a few days back?? They are super yummy.

  16. Ahhhh shira was one of the first desserts I learned how to make…and it was very popular with my friends. I used to make it as prasadam for HSC events at Cornell.

    Arun Says:
    aHa! So YOU were in charge of the prasad! Awesome! Do you still get to make it at home? Do you cook other dishes at home? :-O

  17. This was for you! :-))

    Ha hA! Yes! the ghee dripping variety is a staple at weddings, thread ceremonies and the ubiquitous SatyaNarayana pujas!

    In our younger days, running to catch a bus by itself would burn all the calories; not to mention taking the train and bargaining with the vegetable wallah! πŸ™‚ Thats it! We should encourage bargaining in US grocery stores as a weight-loss fad! :-p

    Never tried it in a uwave. do you have a recipe that I could try?

  18. There you go! I love Shira/Sheera, which we call Kesari. Remember those days when I used to have them during marriage functions… warm and ghee dripping all over me. Never once did I think about how much fat and calories I was getting into my system. Eating healthy was unknown during those blissful ignorant days!

    Now I make them just like you do, and don’t miss all that ghee at all.

    Have you tried making it in the microwave? Gets done in no time.

  19. Yummy.

    I also loved the way Shira was made in the Brahmin-Udupi restaurants (never liked it the way it was made at home), I should try this.

    Happy New Year Arun & M. πŸ™‚

    Arun Says:
    You know, this is where the Brahmin Udupi Restaurants get their recipes from! heee heeee!

    They are good though. In mumbai I regularly get a platter of Upma/shira combination from the Kamat’s for breakfast! The bestest! … but dripping in ghee. I tried telling them to cut back on the ghee, but they look at me quizzically. But I still eat there!

    let me know how this works out for you!

    1. To make this low cal my mom uses 2-3 packets of equal or splenda (depends on how much she makes, here serving for 4-5 people). She also uses low fat margarine. Believe me tastes virtually the same and has tons less calories ofcourse.

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