Indian Dairy Dictionary

Welcome to The Indian Dairy Dictionary accompaniment to #foodisbeautiful: the holy cow post! Enjoy.

Let’s just start with the basics. I promise a pretty sweet ending.


Doodh is milk. Cow milk, buffalo milk, full cream milk, toned (skimmed) milk, delicious milk. The milkman delivers little bags to your door. An Indian chai essential! In India, most milk is 3% fat, which is almost equivalent to whole milk in the USA. No wonder it is so delicious!


Malai is cream. The fat that is skimmed off of milk, whipped up to make butter and ghee.


Ghee is clarified butter. Let me clarify…Clarified butter is butter with the milk solids and water removed, so that all that is left is pure, delicious, yellow, lactose-free butter-fat.



Dahi, is curd or yogurt. Yogurt is milk that has undergone a healthy bacterial fermentation, which is why it has that tangy zing to it. Most Indian households set their own homemade dahi.

Yogurt also stars in some popular cooling Indian beverages:

  • Chaas: Indians call this “spiced buttermilk.” Buttermilk usually refers to the liquid leftover when butter is made from cream or yogurt. However, this drink is made a bit differently, simply by diluting yogurt with water, and spicing it up with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, curry leaves, and lemon. It is served chilled and provides relief from Indian heat.
  • Lassi: Another cooling yogurt drink to beat the Indian summer heat. It comes in all sorts of flavors – sweet, salty, spicy, fruity. It is rather thick in consistency, pretty filling, delightful. Mango lassi anyone?


Paneer is what we call cottage cheese in America. Milk has been curdled to separate the milk solids from the whey. The milk solids come together to form paneer. It is a major source of protein for vegetarians.

Fun fact – the whey water that separates is what they call “whey protein”. So NEVER get rid of your protein and nutrient-filled whey water!! (I am like the whey water police, just ask Sonali). Use it up in making dough, diluting dals and curries, or just drinking plain.


Khoya or Mawa is thickened milk, similar to the consistency of ricotta cheese. Milk is slowly reduced in a pan, until all the liquid is evaporated. This forms the base of many Indian sweets.

Indian Milk Sweets


  • Peda – sweetened disk-shaped balls of khoya.
  • Barfi – a milk fudge made of khoya and other ingredients such as chocolate, cashews, pistachios, coconut, and fruit.
  • Gulab jamun – deep fried ball of khoya, soaked in a sweetened honey rose syrup.
  • Shrikhand – sweetened strained yogurt.
  • Rasgulla – balls of paneer steeped in a sweet sugar syrup.
  • Rasmalai – balls of paneer steeped in a sweetened malai, or cream.
  • Kheer – Indian rice pudding, made with milk, ghee, sugar, cardamom, pistachios, raisins.
  • Kulfi – a sweetened, spiced, frozen milk dessert. Aka Indian ice-cream.

And now, we all know a little bit more than we did before! Be sure to read #foodisbeautiful: the holy cow for more deliciously interesting knowledge about milk in India!

Much love,

More later,


Leave a Reply