Malai Kofta is a delicious dish of fried balls of potato and paneer in a rich and creamy mild gravy made with sweet onions and tomatoes. This melt-in-your-mouth recipe is a labor of love, but one that is well worth it. Learn to make this special Indian meal with me! I’ll show you how with step-by-step photos.
What is Malai Kofta
Malai means cream and Kofta are fried balls of various ingredients, popular not only in Indian cuisine, but also in Middle Eastern, Balkan and Asian meals as well.
As an Indian and a vegetarian, the most common types of kofta that I have encountered are made with potatoes and mixed veg. That said, other koftas often includes various meats and can be thought of as similar to Italian meatballs or Middle Eastern kebabs.
Malai kofta is one of the most sought-after Indian dishes in restaurants around the world, and for good reason. The dish requires a lot of effort to make, but in the end, it is all worth it. In this delicious restaurant style malai kofta recipe, the kofta are made with paneer and potatoes.
Crisp on the outside and heavenly smooth on the inside, these tasty fried dumplings are dunked in a smooth, mildly sweet and lighted spiced curry. The combination of the kofta with the curry tastes awesome. You’ll just have to try it to find out!
Why This Recipe Works
There are many variations of malai kofta recipes. This, however, is one of the best malai paneer kofta you can make at home. Trust me when I say: this recipe is for keeps.
In this recipe, the curry gravy is made from ground cashew paste, onion paste and tomato puree. The cashew paste makes the curry rich and creamy. I also add some cream for a luxurious taste as many times this dish is made for special occasions or parties. But you can skip the cream if you want.
The kofta themselves are incredibly tender with a consistency that is nothing short of exquisite. Crispy golden brown on the outside, with a scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth inside, these dumplings are nothing short of a gift.
While this recipe makes about 7 to 8 paneer kofta, with the curry it is more than enough to feed 3 to 4 people. Let me tell you that Malai kofta is a rich and heavy meal, so 1 – 2 kofta should be enough per serving.
I don’t know about you, but all this talk about paneer kofta is making me HUNGRY! Let’s get to cooking, shall we?
How to Make Malai Kofta
The prep work is time intensive, so plan ahead before making the recipe. You need to make the gravy base and the kofta.
For the gravy you need onion paste, cashew paste and tomato paste. Cashew paste and tomato purée can be prepped ahead and refrigerated for a day.
You can choose to make and shape the kofta mixture a day before and refrigerate them to ease your work. This is what I do on occasions. So next day you will only need to fry the kofta and make the gravy.
1. First boil 2 medium to large potatoes (200 grams) in a pan, Instant pot or a pressure cooker until fork tender or knife tender. Here I have boiled the potatoes in a pressure cooker covering them with water for 4 to 5 whistles on medium heat.
2. When the potatoes become warm or cool, peel them and grate them in a bowl. Use a box grater or a hand-held grater.
3. Add the following listed ingredients to the mashed potatoes:
- 100 grams grated paneer or 1 cup grated paneer
- ¼ teaspoon red chili powder (or cayenne pepper or paprika)
- ¼ teaspoon garam masala powder
- salt as required
4. Next add in 2 tablespoons cornflour (cornstarch) or tapioca starch and 3 tablespoons almond flour or fine almond meal.
TIP: Nut free? Don’t worry! Instead of almond flour, you can use 2 tablespoons milk powder OR 3 tablespoons khoya (mawa or dried evaporated milk solids).
5. Mix really well, until the mixture is uniform and form a neat dough. Cover and set aside.
Fill and Shape Kofta
6. Meanwhile rinse if you prefer and finely chop 10 to 12 cashews and 1 tablespoon raisins. Set aside. This will be the sweet-tangy and crunchy stuffing for the kofta.
If you are not a fan of cashews or raisins, choose to skip the stuffing or use your favorite nuts.
7. Portion the kofta mixture and shape into medium sized balls.
8. Take one kofta ball and flatten it with your palms. Place a small portion of the cashews and raisins stuffing on flattened kofta dough. If it feels sticky, rub some oil on your palms before stuffing and shaping the kofta.
9. Bring the edges together and shape into a neat ball. Ensure that the stuffing remains in the center.
10. Stuff and shape all the kofta balls. Cover with a lid and set aside at room temperature or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Prepare Kofta Gravy Elements
11. Now prepare each the cashew paste, onion paste and tomato purée. Set aside. For this step, I always use the Magic Bullet because unlike a blender or chutney grinder, it is quick and very easy to clean.
- For onion paste – Roughly chop 2 medium to large onions. Measure and you should get about 1 cup heaped chopped onions. Add in a blender. Without adding any water blend to a fine consistency. If you have difficulty blending them, then add in a few tablespoons of water. Transfer the onion paste or onion puree to another bowl and set aside.
- For cashew paste – Soak 12 to 15 tablespoons of cashews in hot water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the water, add the soaked cashews in the same blender with 2 to 3 tablespoons water or as needed to make a thick or medium-thick fine paste. Set aside. If you measure, you will get about 6 to 7 tablespoons of cashew paste. Remove it from the blender in a bowl and set aside.
- For tomato puree – Chop 2 medium to large tomatoes. Ensure to include tomatoes that have a sweet-tangy taste and not very sour. Add them in the same blender and blend to a fine puree. When you measure the puree, it should be 1 cup. I recommend measuring the puree before you begin cooking so that there is a balance in the flavors. If using packaged tomato puree, add 1 cup of it.
Make Malai Kofta Gravy
12. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a thick-bottomed or heavy frying pan or in a wok (kadai). Add the following whole spices and fry them for a few seconds or till they release their aroma in the oil.
- 1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 1 black cardamom
- 2 green cardamoms
- 2 single mace strands
- 2 cloves
13. Add the prepared onion paste. Keep in mind that sautéing onion paste takes more time. Add a few pinches of salt to make it get cooking faster.
14. Stirring often sauté onion paste on a low to medium-low heat.
15. After 9 to 10 minutes on a low to medium-low heat, the onion paste will become light golden, get cooked and leave the sides of the pan.
As you continue to sauté, It will become lumpy, start gathering around itself and gradually become golden. Stir non-stop so that the paste cooks evenly.
While sautéing onions if they start sticking onto the pan, add a few splashes of water. Mix and deglaze removing the stuck onion paste particles from the pan. Continue to sauté.
16. Continue to sauté further for 5 to 6 minutes or until it gets browned.
17. When onion paste has become golden add 2 teaspoons ginger-garlic paste. Mix and sauté for about 10 seconds or until raw aroma of ginger, garlic goes away.
18. Add the tomato purée.
19. Mix and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes on medium-low heat.
20. Now add the following ground spices:
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon fennel powder – optional
- ¼ teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon kashmiri red chilli powder or paprika (or ½ teaspoon red chilli powder or cayenne)
21. Mix well and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes.
22. Add the cashew paste.
23. Mix and sauté till the oil starts to leave the side of the masala paste. This will take about 9 to 10 minutes on low to medium-low heat. The paste will become lumpy and gather around itself. It will also become slightly glossy and you will see some oil releasing from the sides.
24. Add ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar and salt according to taste.
25. Add 2 cups of water. Combine water thoroughly with the sautéed masala paste with a spoon or wired whisk.
26. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes on low to medium-low heat or until the gravy becomes thick and creamy enough. You should also see some oil specks on the top layer of the gravy.
Malai kofta gravy is usually smooth, creamy and slightly thick. You can keep it slightly medium-thick consistency, the way I have done.
27. Add 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and 2 tablespoons light cream or cooking cream. Crush the dried fenugreek leaves in your palms and add. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes more.
You can also use 1 tablespoon heavy or whipping cream instead of light cream.
28. Mix well and switch off the heat. Check the taste of the curry and add sugar or salt if needed.
Fry Paneer Kofta
29. Before shaping and frying the entire batch, check a small tiny piece of the paneer kofta in hot oil. If it does not break or fall apart, then you can easily fry the remaining koftas.
If it does break, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch) as a binder. Mix the binder in well, then shape into koftas.
As soon as you add this small piece of kofta, it should come up gradually and swiftly on top of the oil. This means that the oil is hot enough for the kofta to be fried.
If the kofta ball remains at the bottom or comes up slowly, the oil is warm. This will make your kofta absorb a lot of oil and they may fall apart in the oil.
If it comes up too quickly and gets browned or burnt, the oil is very hot. A highly hot oil will cook the kofta from outside but the insides will be raw or undercooked.
30. Heat oil in a pan until it reaches 180 to 190 degrees Celsius (356 to 374 degrees Fahrenheit).
Note: You can shallow fry or deep fry the kofta as you like. Here I have deep-fried, but on occasions, I flatten the kofta to a patty/tikki shape and shallow fry.
Carefully add the paneer kofta to the hot oil, being careful not to spatter the oil.
31. When one side becomes golden, gently turn over with a slotted spoon and fry the second side. Fry turning over a couple of times until golden on both sides.
32. Remove to a paper towel lined plate. Working in batches, fry all the paneer kofta this way and drain them on a paper napkin so that the extra oil is absorbed.
Serve Malai Kofta
33. To serve, add the fried kofta to the malai gravy. Now you have the option of adding the kofta to the gravy in the pan and serving immediately. Or assemble in a serving bowl to make these look good and then serve.
If planning to serve it separately, then take the hot gravy in a serving bowl.
TIP: If serving malai kofta later, you can prepare the gravy and the kofta and refrigerate them separately. Only combine while serving. Heat the gravy in a pan until it is hot. If the gravy looks very thick, add a bit of hot water. Warm the kofta in a preheated oven for some minutes at 120 degrees Celsius (250 degrees Fahrenheit).
These paneer koftas are really soft, so if you add them to the gravy while storing, they will break and fall apart. So only add them to the gravy when you are about to serve.
34. Gently place the paneer kofta on the gravy. Pour a drizzle of cream or top with grated paneer.
35. Garnish malai kofta with coriander leaves or mint leaves and serve with roti, naan or jeera rice, saffron rice or paratha or rumali roti.
You can also use soaked almonds instead! If you are nut free, you can opt to use a little bit more cream in the recipe.
While making the kofta, Instead of almond flour, use 2 tablespoons milk powder OR 3 tablespoons khoya (mawa or dried evaporated milk solids).
To make any paneer dish, it is always better to use homemade paneer.
Malai kofta is best served with roti, paratha, naan or roomali roti. I also love serving it with phulka. If you are avoiding gluten, plain steamed basmati rice or jeera rice goes well with it.
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Malai Kofta is a delicious recipe of fried balls of potato and paneer in a rich, lightly sweet, creamy mild gravy made with onions, tomatoes, cashews and spices. This melt-in-your-mouth recipe is a labor of love, but one that is well worth it.
Prep Time 45 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins
For stuffing kofta – optional
Making paneer kofta
Mix all the ingredients mentioned under “For making paneer kofta” ingredient list except oil in a bowl.
Rinse with water if you prefer and finely chop 10 to 12 cashews and 1 tablespoon raisins. Set aside. This will be the sweet-tangy and crunchy stuffing for the kofta.
Make medium sized balls from the kofta mixture. If it feels sticky, rub some oil on your palms before shaping the kofta.
Flatten one kofta ball lightly with your palms on a chopping board or a rolling board. Place a small portion of the cashews and raisins stuffing on it.
Gently bringing the edges together, shape into a neat ball. Rub some oil in your palms while shaping. Make sure that the stuffing remains in the center of the kofta.
Fill and shape all the kofta in this manner.
Cover with a lid and set aside at room temperature or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Making kofta gravy
Heat oil in a thick bottomed or heavy pan or skillet.
Add all the whole spices and fry for a few seconds or until the spices crackle and the oil becomes fragrant.
First add the onion paste. Stirring often sauté the onion paste until it becomes golden. To quicken the cooking of onions, add a few pinches of salt when you begin to sauté the paste.
When the onion paste has become golden, add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for about ten seconds or until the raw aroma of the ginger and garlic goes away.
Add the tomato puree and sauté for 6 to 7 minutes on a low to medium-low heat.
Add turmeric powder, coriander powder, fennel powder, kashmiri red chili powder, garam masala powder.
Mix well and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes stirring often.
Add cashew paste. Mix well and sauté until the oil starts to leave the side of the masala paste.
This sautéing takes about 9 to 10 minutes on low to medium-low heat. You will see that the paste becomes lumpy and gathers around itself. It will also become slightly glossy with some oil releasing at the sides.
Then add sugar and salt as per taste.
Add water. Mix thoroughly with a spoon or wired whisk.
Simmer until the gravy begins to thicken. This takes about 8 to 10 minutes on a low to medium-low heat. The consistency of the gravy can be medium-thick to thick. When the gravy is cooked through, you will some oil specks on the top of the gravy.
Lastly add the crushed dry fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) and cream.
Mix well and set the gravy aside. Check the taste and add more salt or sugar if needed.
Heat oil in a frying pan or a wok (kadai).
Before shaping and frying the entire batch, check a small tiny piece of the paneer kofta in hot oil. If it does not break, then you can easily fry the remaining koftas.
If it does break, then add 1 to 2 tablespoons of cornflour (cornstarch) as a binder. Mix the binder in well, then shape into koftas.
The kofta should also come up swiftly yet gradually in the hot oil. This means the oil is hot enough for the kofta to be fried. If it browns too quickly, the oil is very hot and if the kofta remains at the bottom, the oil is warm.
Carefully add the paneer kofta to the hot oil, being careful not to spatter the oil. The oil should be medium hot and have a temperature of 180 to 190 degrees Celsius (356 to 374 degrees Fahrenheit).
When one side becomes golden, gently turn over with a slotted spoon and fry the second side. Fry turning over a couple of times until golden on both sides.
Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Working in batches, fry all the paneer kofta this way and drain them on a paper napkin so that the extra oil is absorbed.
Serving malai kofta
If serving immediately, add the fried paneer kofta to the gravy in the pan.
Or if you want to serve it in a better way, take some of the gravy in a serving bowl. Place the kofta neatly on the gravy. Drizzle some cream or top with grated paneer. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves or mint leaves and serve.
If serving a few hours later, reheat the gravy until hot. If it looks very thick, add a bit of hot water. Warm the kofta in an oven at 120 degrees Celsius or 250 degrees Fahrenheit for some minutes. Place kofta on the gravy. Add the garnishes and serve.
Note that these paneer kofta are really soft. So if you add them to the gravy and serve them later, they will break. You have to serve them immediately as soon as you add them to the gravy.
Serve malai kofta hot or warm with roti, naan, steamed basmati rice or jeera rice.
- For best tasting, koftas use fresh homemade paneer.
- Add the paneer kofta to the gravy only when you are about to serve.
- The recipe can be halved, or doubled or tripled.
- Use tomatoes that have a sweet taste. Highly sour-tasting tomatoes will make the gravy too tangy and it becomes to difficult to balance the tanginess.
- You can alter the consistency of the gravy by adding more or less. Keep the gravy medium to a thick consistency.
Malai Kofta Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 539 Calories from Fat 351
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 9g56%
Polyunsaturated Fat 2g
Monounsaturated Fat 20g
Vitamin A 908IU18%
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) 1mg67%
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) 1mg59%
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) 2mg10%
Vitamin B6 1mg50%
Vitamin B12 1µg17%
Vitamin C 34mg41%
Vitamin D 1µg7%
Vitamin E 8mg53%
Vitamin K 18µg17%
Vitamin B9 (Folate) 38µg10%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This Malai Kofta recipe post from the blog archives (first published on May 2013) has been republished and updated on 4 June 2021.