Experience the delight of traditional Malai Kulfi with almonds using this amazingly easy recipe. Enjoy the irresistible creamy texture and fragrant flavors of cardamom, rose, and saffron.
Table of Contents
What is Kulfi?
Kulfi, a popular Indian frozen dessert, is made with whole milk, sugar, and aromatic flavorings. Referred to as the “Indian ice cream”, it has a denser texture and higher milk solids compared to ice cream, as it lacks air incorporation.
Traditionally, the milk is simmered for hours, resulting in a remarkable nutty flavor through caramelization of milk and added sugars. The malai layer that forms on the top, disintegrates creating a characteristic grainy texture. This concentrated mixture is then frozen in molds.
Like falooda, another sought-after summertime treat, kulfi is believed to have Persian origins. It comes in a variety of flavors, including cardamom, saffron, rose, pistachio, mango, and other fruit puree variations.
Almond Malai Kulfi
Here I chose to make malai kulfi with badam, where the richness of cream and the nuttiness of almonds take center stage. In Hindi and Urdu, malai means cream and badam means almonds. I then flavor it with cardamom, rose water and saffron for a really rich taste, like our Persian ice cream.
Traditional kulfi recipes do not use cream, but here I do use it because we are making “malai kulfi”. This recipe aims to simplify the process by avoiding the lengthy simmering of milk and eliminating the use of condensed milk.
To achieve the traditional grainy and chewy texture more efficiently, I employ a shortcut method of making instant khoa. This khoa is then incorporated into the kulfi mixture, resulting in a remarkably delicious dessert that captures the authentic taste of kulfi.
To infuse the desired caramelized flavor into our kulfi, I utilize evaporated milk. Additionally, corn starch plays a crucial role in thickening the mixture, stabilizing the fat and milk solids, and reducing the formation of ice crystals.
Here's what you'll need.
- Raw Whole Almonds: Look for high-quality whole almonds.
- Evaporated Milk: Check the expiration date and ensure the can is not damaged before using. Opt for a reputable brand for the best quality and flavor.
- Heavy Cream: Choose heavy cream with a high fat content (at least 36%) for a luxurious texture.
- Sugar: Adjust the amount of sugar according to your taste preferences. The mixture should be sweeter than you prefer because some of the sweet taste will be reduced after freezing the kulfi. You can also substitute with honey.
- Non-Fat Milk Powder: Make sure the milk powder is fresh and free from any lumps.
- Corn Starch: It serves as the recipe's thickening agent, similar to how I use it in making Western-style frozen delights like mango gelato and green tea ice cream.
- Ground Cardamom: Use freshly ground cardamom seeds for maximum flavor.
- Saffron & Rose Water: Try high-quality saffron threads for the best aroma and flavor as we did for our saffron tea. Add a pinch of sugar to grind the saffron threads using a mortar and pestle before dissolving in rose water.
- Salt: A pinch of salt enhances the overall flavor and sweetness.
How to Make Malai Kulfi
**Here's a brief overview of the step-by-step process. For the complete recipe, please refer to the end of this blog post.
- Toast almonds in oven. Finely chop or crush the nuts.
- Peel remaining almonds by soaking in boiling water and removing skins.
- Blend peeled almonds with evaporated milk.
- Make khoa by cooking cream, almond milk, sugar, and milk powder, until the mixture thickens and separates from the pan.
- Add almond milk and stir well to combine. Thicken the kulfi mixture using cornstarch paste.
- Add flavors and chopped nuts.
- Fill molds with mixture and insert sticks.
- Freeze overnight. Unmold kulfi by immersing in water or rubbing between palms.
For the perfect malai kulfi, consider the following tips.
While making the instant khoa, lower the heat or take down from stove when adding milk powder and use a whisk to prevent lumps. If there are any hard to mix lumps, crush using a pestle. You can use hand blender on low speed, making sure to retain the grainy texture. Stir often to avoid burning it, especially towards the end of the process, as high heat will burn proteins.
The kulfi mixture should be chilled and thick before pouring it into the molds. This will ensure that the kulfi has a softer bite.
If the mixture becomes thin due to warming up, then it might help to semi-freeze the mixture and give a quick blend before transferring to the molds.
Also, the mixture should be sweeter than you prefer because some of the sweet taste will be lowered after freezing the kulfi.
Use wide popsicle sticks to hold the weight of this heavy and dense dessert.
Do not fill the molds or the disposable cups to the brim. Leave some room on top, as the mixture will expand with freezing.
How To Serve
Here are some serving suggestions for your malai kulfi.
- Serve it plain: It is perfect as it is.
- With flavors: Change up the base flavors or drizzle with aromatic sauces and toppings.
- Sundae: Serve it as an ice cream sundae with toppings such a sauces, whipped cream, nuts and fruits.
- East meets west sundae: Pair it with western flavors such as chocolate sauce.
- Falooda kulfi: Make a show stopping falooda with this malai kulfi.
Storage and Make Ahead
- Freezer: Store the malai kulfi in an airtight container to maintain its creamy consistency in the freezer.
- Shelf Life: Store in the freezer for up to 2 months. For the best flavor and texture, it is recommended to consume it within the first 2 weeks.
- Thawing: Prior to serving, allow the kulfi to sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly.
- You can make the instant khoa and refrigerate for up to a week.
This almond malai kulfi is vegetarian, gluten-free, egg-free, low in sodium, and soy-free. Here are a few variations you can explore.
- Dairy Free/Vegan/Coconut Malai Kulfi: Introduce a tropical twist by replacing dairy milk/cream/milk powder with full-fat coconut milk from cans, coconut cream and coconut milk powder to make the kulfi mixture.
- Nut Free: Skip the nuts and use finely shredded or desiccated coconut. You can also make the base using coconut milk as above if you wish.
- Pistachio Malai Kulfi: Enhance the nutty flavor by incorporating crushed pistachios into the mixture. The vibrant green color of the pistachios also adds visual appeal.
- Mango Malai Kulfi: Add a tropical twist by blending ripe mangoes into the mixture. The sweet and tangy flavors of mango complement the creamy base.
- Chocolate Malai Kulfi: Create a decadent treat by adding cocoa powder or melted chocolate to the base mixture.
- Reduced Sugar Kulfi: For a low-calorie, low-carb alternative that maintains creaminess, try using allulose, a natural sugar substitute that works well in frozen dessert recipes.
- Refined Sugar-Free: Experiment with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, as we did for the maple ice cream recipe.
Here are some frequently asked questions about making malai kulfi.
Combine whole milk and evaporated milk and cook it down until it reaches a thicker consistency. This method lowers the cooking time to half, while giving a traditional kulfi texture.
In a wide non-stick pan, combine 1 cup of full-fat milk powder, ⅓ cup of whole milk, and 2 tablespoons of ghee. Stir until smooth. Add sugar and continue stirring until dissolved. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens and separates from the pan, approximately 5 minutes.
If the mixture becomes thin due to the ingredients warming up, then it might help to semi-freeze the mixture and give a quick blend before transferring to the molds.
More Summer Treats
- Mahalabia (with interesting adaptations)
- Peach Smoothie Recipes
- Date Shake Recipe
- Easy Fruit Salad With Orange Juice
- Strawberry Shortcake Bars
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Malai Kulfi Recipe
- ¾ cup whole almonds raw
- 3 cups evaporated milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup sugar extra 1 tablespoon if you like it sweeter
- 1 cup non-fat milk powder
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 1½ teaspoons ground cardamom freshly ground seeds
- ¼ teaspoon saffron ground and dissolved in 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1 tablespoon rose water to use with saffron
- 1 pinch salt
- Finely chopped almonds
- Toast Almonds: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread ¼ cup almonds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toast for 5-10 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Transfer to a cutting board to cool. Finely chop using a sharp knife or crush using a mortar and pestle.
- Peel Almonds: Place the remaining ½ cup almonds in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit for 3 minutes, then rinse under cold water. Gently squeeze each almond to remove the skin.
- Blend Almond Milk: In a blender, combine the peeled almonds and evaporated milk. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Instant Khoa With Sugar: In a wide non-stick pan, heat 1 cup of cream and ½ cup of the prepared almond milk over low-medium heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Reduce the heat to low. Whisk in 1 cup of milk powder and stir until smooth. Cook on low heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and separates from the pan, about 5 minutes.
- Make Kulfi Base: Add 2 cups of the prepared almond milk and stir until well combined. Mix cornstarch with the remaining ½ cup of almond milk to make a paste. Whisk the cornstarch paste into the heated kulfi mixture and cook until slightly thickened.
- Add Flavors and Nuts: Stir in the ground cardamom, saffron dissolved in rose water and pinch of salt. Add half of the chopped nuts. Taste and adjust sugar. Chill the mixture.
- Fill the Molds: Sprinkle the remaining nuts into the kulfi molds. Pour the mixture into small disposable cups, kulfi molds, or popsicle molds. If using disposable cups, cover with foil and insert wide popsicle sticks through the foil into the center.
- Freeze Overnight: Place the molds in the freezer and allow them to freeze overnight.
- Unmold and Serve: Briefly immerse the molds in a bowl of water for 1 minute or rub them between your palms for 30 seconds. Carefully hold the stick and unmold the kulfi. Sprinkle with chopped almonds and serve immediately.
- Store malai kulfi in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- While making the instant khoa, lower the heat or take down from stove when adding milk powder and use a whisk to prevent lumps. If there are any hard to mix lumps, crush using a pestle. You can use hand blender on low speed, making sure to retain the grainy texture. Stir often to avoid burning it, especially towards the end of the process, as high heat will burn proteins.
- For ingredient notes, expert tips, recommended equipment, variations, serving suggestions, recipe FAQs etc, refer to the blog post.
- Quicker Kulfi: For a quick version, whip 2 cups of heavy cream until stiff peaks. Then gradually fold in a can of condensed milk. Stir in ¼ cup readymade mawa powder, saffron infused rose water, ground cardamom and finely chopped roasted almonds. Fill the kulfi molds and freeze.
- Healthier Kulfi: This kulfi comes with less added sugar and saturated fat than the traditional version, like our chunky banana ice cream.
- In a high speed blender, take 1½ cups frozen banana pieces, ½ cup evaporated milk, ¼ cup cream, ¼ cup honey, 1½ teaspoons ground cardamom, saffron water (¼ teaspoon saffron, ground and dissolved in 1 tablespoon rose water) and pinch of salt. Blend it well, and stir as needed.
- Add 1½ cups ricotta cheese, ¼ cup finely chopped toasted almonds and pulse just to combine.
- Fill the thick and chilled mixture into kulfi molds and freeze.
More Frozen Desserts
This post was first published on October 5th 2017 and has been updated with improvements in recipe, photos, tips, FAQs and additional enhancements.