06 March 2011

Malai kofta

Malai kofta, a Punjabi specialty of melt-in-your-mouth balls made with paneer (fresh Indian cheese) cooked in a rich cream and cashew sauce, is one of the most revered Indian dishes.When I was a kid, malai kofta was my favorite Indian dish and probably my favorite dish in any type of cuisine period. I eagerly anticipated my family's weekend trips to Indian restaurants for the lunch buffet, where I hoped and prayed that malai kofta was on the menu. My mom would occasionally make it on her own, but this was a rare occurence considering all of the work involved. The other day though, I made my first attempt at malai kofta based on a recipe video from Sanjeev Kapoor and was very impressed with the results!

The malai in malai kofta means cream, which is a main ingredient in the sauce for this dish, while kofta refers to the balls. Most malai kofta recipes that I have seen call for making the balls with a mix of paneer  and mashed potatoes and/or other vegetables. Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe though calls for balls made just out of paneer, stuffed with a mixture of cashews, almonds and raisins. In addition, this sauce is made entirely with a cashew and cream base and no tomato whatsoever, contrary to many popular versions. The sauce is thus mild and sweet, with only a tiny note of heat coming from the green chillies which you can add more or less of depending how spicy you want the dish to be (traditionally, malai kofta is a very mild dish).

Now just a warning...this recipe, just like any recipe for malai kofta, is a very time-consuming one! This is definitely not a dish to make on a weeknight or when you're pressed for time. Save it for weekends and special occasions! All the more so because it is very rich and certainly not healthy, by any means! Malai kofta is one of those special dishes that should be enjoyed every once in a blue moon, in moderation. But if you're having a party and you make this delectable recipe and serve it with warm naan, chapatis or parathas and with a spicy pickle on the side, your guests will certainly appreciate the extra effort and won't be thinking about the extra calories ;-)

Makes 6 servings

For koftas
10-12 cashews, chopped
10-12 almonds, chopped
25-30 raisins (preferably golden)
500 grams paneer
2 tablespoons corn starch
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 cup water
Additional corn starch, for dusting
Canola oil, for frying

1. Toast the cashews, almonds and raisins until the nuts become golden. Set aside to cool.

2. Grate the paneer.

3. Mix the grated paneer, 2 tablespoons of corn starch, salt and cardamom powder in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of water to bind the mixture together. Form lemon-size balls. Make a small indentation in the middle of each ball and place a bit of the nuts and raisins inside. Cover the indentation and re-form the balls. Roll in additional corn starch.

4. Heat a work or large frying pan with vegetable or canola oil. When oil is hot, fry the koftas a few at a time until slightly golden but not too dark. Once you are done frying all of the koftas, set them aside.

For malai sauce

2 large onions, chopped large
1 cup cashews
2-3 cups water
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 bay leaves
6-8 whole green cardamoms

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger paste
4-6 green chillies, slit in half lengthwise
2-3 cups water
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon green cardamom powder
1/2 cup cream
Chopped fresh coriander, for garnish

1. Boil the onions in a large pot of water until they are tender. Drain and blend in a blender with a little bit of water to form a paste.

2. While the onions are boiling, place cashews along with 2-3 cups water in a food processor and blend well until a creamy paste forms.

3. Heat oil in a large pan. Add the bay leaves and whole green cardamoms and saute until slightly fragrant.  Add the onion paste and saute for 2-3 minutes. Then add the minced garlic and ginger paste and cook for 3-4 minutes more.

4. Add the cashew paste. Cook on low heat for 6-8 minutes, until the mixture forms a lump and starts to ooze oil. At this point, add the slit green chillies.

5. Make the sauce by stirring in 2-3 cups of water (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be). Cook for 6-8 minutes, then add butter and sugar.

6. Taste and then add salt to taste, green cardamom powder and cream. Stir well and bring to a boil.

7. Take off of heat and then add the koftas to the sauce. Stir well and let rest for a few minutes so that the koftas absorb some of the sauce. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve warm, ideally with naan, chapatis or parathas.


  1. This kofta looks great, just mouthwatering. I like your step by step photo, i think i should try and will post on my blog:) thanks for sharing.

  2. I've never seen paneer used like this before. This recipe will be bookmarked to try in the near future. Thank you!

  3. sounds wonderful. love anything with paneer but i think the nuts and raisins stuffed inside would make it amazing!

  4. I loved the look of your gravy..so creamy n thick, just want some butter naan to dunk in the gravy n eat it up :)!
    Am a big Sanjeev kapoor fan too n you recreated the recipe very nicely..Great pictorials :)

    US Masala

  5. I soooo love the look of this recipe! I am going to try it! Thank you for sharing it!!!! :))

  6. My such an elaborate process! I have only had the traditional Malai Kofta, not this type with paneer as the main ingredient for the balls and no-tomatoes in the gravy. This must be very rich. I want to know on what day of the week you made this dish?

  7. first time here delicious site and kofta curry

  8. This is one of the most delicious Indian dishes.. I love it :)

  9. Mouthwatering! I love the cashews! :D

  10. Wow. Indian fried cheese balls. Do you have a reliable source for paneer in Paris?

  11. Thanks for the feedback, everyone! It's true that your typical malai kofta recipe calls for a bit of mashed potato and/or other veggies in the balls rather than just paneer, so this recipe was a little different (and indeed rich!). I'm also going to try a more traditional recipe and compare the two. I loved the nuts and raisins in the balls in this one though!

    Mom - I actually made it on a weeknight, but only because I got home early that day and had seen the video the night before and was gung ho on making it ASAP. You know that cooking videos have that effect on me!

    Camille - Yes, I buy my paneer and most of my other Indian groceries at V.S.Co Cash & Carry at 197 Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Denis, between La Chappelle and Gare du Nord metros. Just saw that they have a website too - http://www.vsco.com/. You can combine a trip there with some lunch at Saravana Bhavan!

  12. Ymmmm...it's a little crazy that with my special Indian badge that I have not tried this dish before. I have every ingredient except the paneer so I will definitely have to attempt this!

  13. Just stopping by to let you know that I have given you a blogger award! :) Because you deserve it! Go to my blog to check it out:


  14. That looks so delicious! Great blog! I'm a new follower! :)

  15. This recipe looks awsm and mouthwatering tasty.

  16. I really would love this right now/ Saving this for later for sure! Do you have a homemade paneer recipe? I found a great Indian shop here, but still would love to try to make it :)

  17. Hello! WOW LOOKS AMAZING! Tried Malai Kofta for the first time at an Indian restaurant recently and have been obsessed with trying to make my own someday. Your recipie and clear photos have given me the confidence to try.

    However I was wondering if it would be possible to do this in steps and freeze it? Is it possible to freeze the uncooked Kofta Balls so that I can take them out and fry them on a whim whenever I like? Will it ruin the dish? That way I dont have to eat a whole serving of Malai Kofta by myself - that would be very unhealthy!!


  18. Hi,
    This seems to be Harpal Sing Sokhi's recipe. Have tried making it n yes the dish tastes lovely. however I would still recommend adding a little tomato puree to mellow down the sweetness and give the gravy a better n smoother texture.
    Happy Cooking :)

  19. Looks good but adding potato to the kofta mix and tomato to the gravy would enrich the taste of the dish. :-)

  20. Looks good but adding potato to the kofta mix and tomato to the gravy would enrich the taste of the dish. :-)