My Mom’s Shortcut Gulab Jambu Is the MVP of Indian Desserts

published Oct 22, 2022
Kitchn Love Letters
Ma’s Shortcut Gulab Jambu Recipe

Sweet, spiced, fried, saffron-soaked, and deeply satisfying — gulab jambu is the MVP of Indian desserts.

Serves8

Makes26 to 40

Prep30 minutes

Cook20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Credit: Dan de Jesus
Gulab jambu

In my opinion, gulab jambu is the MVP of Indian desserts. It is sweet, spiced, fried, and deeply satisfying. Gulab jambu literally translates to rose berry (gulab means rose, and jambu is a berry-esque fruit native to India). The fruit is called “jamun” in Hindi and “jambu” in Gujarati, which is what my family speaks and is why we call this dessert gulab jambu instead of gulab jamun, although they are the same dessert.

The “real” way to make gulab jambu is to use an ingredient called mawa, which is milk that’s cooked down until all of the liquid has evaporated, so you’re left with just milk solids. It’s an ingredient that’s readily available in India, but it’s a bit of a process to make it from scratch.

I’ve only ever known this shortcut version that my mom has been making my whole life. She uses dried milk powder and boxed baking mix, which makes it easy to have homemade gulab jambus in just a few steps. She makes the dessert for special occasions throughout the year — birthdays, holidays, or just because! But she always recalls having it at Diwali time, so I love to make it around this time of year. My favorite part is to steal one directly from the refrigerator — the cold, saffron-soaked donuts are the perfect pick-me-up.

The treat also figures large in my professional life. I’m the founder and CEO of Malai Ice Cream in Brooklyn, New York, a company I started to highlight South Asian flavors, traditions, culture, and heritage. At Malai, my mom’s gulab jambu was the inspiration for our Gulab Jamun ice cream cake, one of our signature desserts.

Ma’s Shortcut Gulab Jambu Recipe

Sweet, spiced, fried, saffron-soaked, and deeply satisfying — gulab jambu is the MVP of Indian desserts.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Makes 26 to 40

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the jambu:

  • 1/2 cup

    Bisquick Original Pancake and Baking Mix

  • 1 cup

    dried milk powder

  • 2 tablespoons

    ghee

  • 1/4 cup

    whole milk

  • 1 to 2 cups

    ghee or neutral oil, for deep frying

For the chasni:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    water

  • 1 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 4

    green cardamom pods

  • 5 strands

    saffron

  • 1 teaspoon

    lemon juice (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon

    rose water (optional)

Instructions

Make the jambu dough:

  1. Sift 1/2 cup Bisquick into a medium bowl. Add 1 cup dried milk powder and whisk until combined. Melt 2 tablespoons ghee in the microwave or on the stovetop. Pour into the Bisquick mixture and stir until the texture is crumbly and you can visibly see no more ghee. Add 1/4 cup whole milk and stir until a sticky and wet dough forms.

  2. Scoop out 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of the dough and roll in between your hands or pinch and press together until smooth and oval in shape (or round if desired). Place on a baking sheet or large plate. Cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Repeat until all the dough is formed, placing them in a single layer.

  3. Cover with a kitchen towel or damp cloth. Let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the chasni.

Make the chasni:

  1. Place 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup granulated sugar in a small pot (about 3 quarts). Add 4 green cardamom pods and crumble in 5 saffron strands. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Continue boiling for 2 to 5 minutes.

  2. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 1 teaspoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon rose water if using. Cover to keep warm.

Fry the jambu:

  1. Heat enough ghee or neutral oil in a large saucepan to go about 1/3-inch up the sides over medium heat. The oil is ready when you add a small piece of the dough and the ghee starts bubbling.

  2. Fry the jambu in batches of 6 to 8: Slowly add one at a time to the hot oil. Fry, constantly moving them with a slotted spoon so they fry evenly, until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using the slotted spoon, transfer onto a plate.

  3. Remove and discard the cardamom from the chasmi. Transfer the jambus to the chasni and let sit for 4 to 5 hours at room temperature to soak. Eat as is, warm up again, or, do what we always did, which was to refrigerate them in an airtight container for a few hours and eat chilled.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.