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The Malai Kofta recipe I searched India for: delicious, golden mashed potato and paneer koftas with cashews and raisins, in a creamy, spiced tomato-cashew gravy.
Malai Kofta is one of my most favourite Indian dishes and that is precisely why I have spent so long perfecting this easy Malai Kofta recipe.
It’s literally the first thing I look for on an Indian menu. I even spent weeks in India trying to find the perfect version. I’m already drooling…
I’ve made it at home several times, but it’s a dish so beloved to me that I wanted to make sure I got it really right before I shared it with you.
What is Malai Kofta?
Crumbled paneer, which is an Indian-style cheese, is folded into mashed potato with chopped cashews, cilantro, raisins and a bit of spice. The mixture is shaped into balls, which are lightly fried in oil. The kofta are then gently simmered in a fragrantly spiced cashew-tomato-cream sauce. And it is absolutely blissfully delicious.
The name Malai Kofta is loosely translated from Hindi to English as ’dumplings in cream sauce’. Malai, denoting ’cream’ or ‘creamy’ and ‘kofta’ being balls, or dumplings.
As with most traditional dishes across cultures, there are a few different versions of this delicious Indian dish.
Since there are two components to this dish, there are two avenues in which malai kofta can differ, really – the sauce, and the dumplings.
Typically, the dumplings in Malai Kofta are made of a mix of mashed potato and Indian-style cheese, called paneer.
To that mixture, delicious additions like tiny pieces of dried fruit, nuts of vegetables are sprinkled in, to add a touch of sweetness or crunch as you dig into this truly delightful and comforting dish.
However, some kitchens may disagree and argue that the kofta are to be made of minced meat. This easy malai kofta recipe is my own favourite version, and I personally opt for the potato-cheese dumpling style.
Feeling adventurous? Try making your own paneer with my step-by-step paneer recipe: How to Make Homemade Paneer.
When it comes to Malai Kofta sauce, there is yet again a few different ways I’ve seen it prepared.
This one, with a tomato-cream sauce like an amazing butter chicken recipe, is divine.
But there’s another one out there with a sweet white gravy that is not as flavorful in comparison, and I am not a fan. It’s very rich and not very spiced, made mostly of malai clotted cream.
So I have a bit of a bipolar relationship with restaurant-style Malai Kofta. If I’m wailing into my paratha, I got the wrong one. If you want to know what that feels like, try my Perfect Paratha Recipe (an Indian flatbread like a flaky, layered cousin to naan).
How to Make Malai Kofta
1. Prepare mixture for kofta (dumplings)
White potatoes are boiled and mashed together with paneer cheese, then studded with crunchy, sweet bits to make for an indulgent, balanced kofta.
2. Prepare sauce and simmer to develop flavour
Onion, ginger, garlic and other fragrant Indian spices are sauteed then simmered in a rich sauce made from tomato puree, heavy cream and nut butter.
3. Form kofta mixture into balls
The potato and cheese mixture is rolled into small dumplings to be fried.
4. Fry kofta until golden
The malai kofta dumplings are crisped in oil over the stovetop until perfectly golden.
5. Add kofta to sauce and garnish
Fragrant, bright cilantro and slivered almond are sprinkled atop this dish to really add depth and texture.
Important Tips for Making Malai Kofta
It’s ok to use leftover mashed potatoes, even if you’ve added milk or cream. Just add some breadcrumbs until the mixture is thick enough to easily bind together. We are just frying them to brown the outsides, so don’t use flour or there will be an unpleasant raw, starchy taste.
Instead of paneer, you can use ricotta, but unless you strain it first in cheesecloth, it will have more liquid. Again, add breadcrumbs to the kofta mixture until it easily holds its shape.
The recipe calls for tomato puree – you can use prepared tomato sauce instead, only if the ingredients are listed and it only contains tomato, garlic and onion, and doesn’t say “herbs” or “spices” (in which case it might contain oregano and/or basil, which won’t taste good here).
It is important that the oil reaches 375ºF. Ideally, you can check the oil’s temperature with a thermometer, but in the case that you don’t have one, simply try this ‘bread test’.
Drop a very small piece of bread into the oil. It should sizzle and float, and become deep golden in 30 seconds. If the bread becomes a deep golden color sooner than 30 seconds, the oil is too hot. If it takes longer, let it heat up more.
What to Serve with Malai Kofta
As with any Indian dish, pillowy, fluffy soft flatbreads are an Indian staple and truly heavenly when dipped into this fragrant, creamy sauce.
Here are two of my easy flatbread recipes for you to try:
More Delicious Indian Recipes
- ¼ cup ghee or vegetable oil
- 2 ½ cups finely chopped onion from 2 medium-large
- 1 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- ½ tsp cayenne powder
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 10 whole green cardamom pods smashed with flat side of knife
- 1 ½ cups tomato puree either puree diced tomato or use jarred passata – see note in post on tomato sauce
- ¼ cup cashew or almond butter
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup whipping cream aka double cream, 33% or 35% milkfat
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp finely minced cilantro
- 225 grams 8 oz paneer OR full-fat ricotta cheese (see note in post)
- 2 cups mashed potato from about 1 large russet
- 1 tsp kosher salt *with no salt in paneer or potato cooking water; start with half the salt that if either paneer/potato was salted
- 2 tbsp finely chopped raisins or currants
- 2 tbsp finely chopped cashews or blanched almonds
- 1 tbsp packed finely minced cilantro
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- oil for frying
- Boil the potato for kofta until tender, then drain in colander and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat ghee over medium-low heat and cook onions until very soft and deep golden brown, about 25 minutes (don’t rush this step, it’s important for the flavour). Add ginger and garlic, and cook 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in salt, cumin, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon and cardamom pods and cook a minute more. Add tomato puree, nut butter and water; cook until oil starts to bubble up and shimmer on top. Stir in cream and sugar; simmer, covered, about 10 minutes then turn off the heat and let stand while you finish making the koftas.
- Prepare oil for frying by heating 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, grate or crumble the paneer into a large bowl (or just measure in the ricotta). Add remaining ingredients and stir very well to make sure the spices are evenly distributed. Form mixture into golfball-sized balls.
- Check to see that the oil has reached about 375ºF (see my tips above for how to check the oil’s temperature without a thermometer). Carefully slide 5 or 6 koftas into the hot oil. Fry until deep golden brown, gently turning once using a slotted metal spoon (about 2 minutes total). Transfer koftas to paper towel-lined plate, and proceed with the next batch (for a total of about 4 batches).
- Over low heat, bring the sauce back up to a gentle simmer. Taste and add salt, if needed, then slide the fried koftas in and gently stir to coat. Top with cilantro.
Last Updated on April 14, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
I made the ricotta and potato balls only as I had a jar of korma ready sauce to cut corners (not very nice but anyway…..) If I make again I will add flour to make them more robust and simmer in water like gnocchi. They were way too soft to stir through the sauce.
I’m looking forward to trying more of your recipes.
Best sauce ever! After being diagnosed with Coeliac, I thought I’d never get to eat my favourite meal again. Malai kofta seems to be the only curry containing gluten at every Indian restaurant I call.
This sauce is everything you could ever want.
The kofta are delicious but even when I added a handful of gluten free breadcrumbs to the mixture (I used ricotta), they were still too soft.
I’m going to try adding some cornflour as well as extra breadcrumbs next time.
Thank you so much for sharing your recipe. This has improved my life substantially.
The sauce is amazing, though next time I make it I will try it without the cardamom pods and perhaps sub ground cardamom. Also, the kofta are super yummy but since I don’t like frying things, I may just switch them out for chunks of potato and paneer and see what happens. Thank you for this recipe! I wouldn’t have believed it possible to make such a superb sauce at home.
These look very tasty.
As one of the mandatory gluten-free folks, I agree that the hype is a problem. I am so grateful that the food makers are taking time to improve taste and texture for those of us who have to avoid gluten. I get very frustrated with people who use it for weight loss or other reasons because it actually makes it harder in dealing with restaurants and other providers because they aren’t as careful.
Anyway, thank you for sharing the recipe.
I couldn’t agree more regarding the whole gluten free hype. Good stuff as always.