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Malai Kofta



This is my favourite Indian dish of all time.  Apparently, I’m in good company, as Malai Kofta is a product of the Imperial kitchens of the Moghul Empire.  Like many dishes from the Moghuls, it it is made from fresh ingredients, flavourful spices and finished with cream.  Your average 16th C Indian didn’t eat like this.

When we lived in the city, this dish was highlighted, starred and underlined on the takeout menu.  These days, I have to make my own to satisfy the craving.  Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients.  The dish actually comes together relatively quickly.  It may not be the best choice for a busy weeknight, but it won’t take up your whole Saturday afternoon either.  It comes together in just over an hour, working steadily with a glass of wine in hand.

(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Malai Kofta

A dish of deep-fried vegetable-cheese balls in a delicious and creamy curry originally from Northern India.

Serves 4

Read the entire recipe through at least once before you begin.

Vegetable Balls

  • Potatoes, peeled, medium chop – 2 Cups
  • Cauliflower Flowerets, ½” – 1 Cup
  • Carrots, medium chop – ½ Cup
  • Frozen Peas, thawed – ½ Cup
  • Fresh Jalapeno, seeds/pith removed, minced – 1
  • Ground Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Ground Coriander – 1 tsp
  • Cayenne – ¼ tsp
  • Paneer, ricotta or yogurt cheese (see notes) – 1/2 to 1 Cup
  • Bread Crumbs – ½ Cup
  • Cashews, ground to a powder (see notes) – ¼ Cup
  • s&p – to taste
  • Breadcrumbs for breading – ½ Cup
  • Vegetable Oil for frying


  • Butter – 2 Tble
  • Vegetable Oil – 2 Tble
  • Onions, peeled & quartered – 2 medium
  • Canned Tomatoes – 1 Cup
  • Tomato Paste – 1 Tble
  • Garlic, minced – 2 Tble
  • Ginger, minced – 1 Tble
  • Garam Masala – 2 tsp
  • Ground Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Ground Coriander – 1 tsp
  • Cayenne – ½ to 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon – ¼ tsp
  • Whipping Cream – ½ Cup
  • Cashews, ground to a powder – ¼ Cup
  • Water – 1 Cup

Vegetable Balls:  Cover the potatoes in a saucepan with cold water, add ½ tsp salt and bring to the boil.  When boiling, add the cauliflower, carrots and peas.  Cook until very tender, 5-8 more minutes.  Drain and mash the vegetables with a fork or potato masher.  Stir in the jalapeno, cumin, coriander and cumin.  Cool completely (speed things up and use the freezer to cool).

Stir in the cheese, breadcrumbs, cashews and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Form tablespoons full of the mixture into balls and roll the balls in the breadcrumbs.  Set aside while you make the curry.

Curry:  Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  When shimmering, add the onion and saute until lightly golden.  Add the tomatoes, paste, garlic, ginger and spices.  Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

Return the pan to the heat and, stirring occasionally, cook the curry until the oil begins to separate from the liquid of the tomatoes, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the cream, cashews and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to low and keep warm.

Assembly:  Heat 1” vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.  Fry the balls in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown.  Drain on paper toweling.

Serve 4-6 balls/person in a small bowl filled with the curry.  A rice pilaf and simple green salad make the perfect accompaniments.


  • Paneer is traditional.  You can make paneer at home, use ricotta, or do what I do:  use yogurt cheese.  For this recipe, drain 1 Cup full-fat yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a coffee filter for about 4 hours.  After the liquid has been drained away, you’ll be left with about 1/2 Cup of yogurt cheese for the Malai Kofta.
  • Ghee, or clarified butter, can be used in place of the regular butter and oil for frying.
  • Grind the cashews in a clean coffee grinder — easy peasy.