Gulab jamun recipe with milk powder or khoya – A complete step by step photo and video guide with 2 recipes to make great gulab jamuns at home every time. Gulab jamun is a classic Indian sweet made with milk solids, sugar, rose water & cardamom powder. It is very famous & is enjoyed in most festive and celebration meals.
Traditionally gulab jamun were made using khoya i.e milk solids as the main ingredient. But khoya is not available in many places and is very tedious to make at home. So many people make them with milk powder.
If you are new to Indian foods, then you may be wondering
What is gulab jamun?
Gulab jamun are soft delicious berry sized balls made of milk solids, flour & a leavening agent. These are soaked in rose flavored sugar syrup & enjoyed. The word “Gulab” translates to rose in hindi & “jamun” to berry. So gulab jamun are berry sized balls dunked in rose flavored sugar syrup.
2 ways to make Gulab jamun
In this post I have shared 2 recipes of making them. One with milk powder and the second one with khoya
1. Making gulab jamun with milk powder is for those who do not have access to khoya and do not prefer to toil at home making it for hours. This Gulab jamun recipe using milk powder is good even for beginners to try. I have shown this method in the recipe card & step by step photos.
2. Making gulab jamun with khoya is also easy if you have access to it. Khoya is also known as mawa and is sold in the frozen sections of the Indian grocery stores. There are different kinds of khoya available, this recipe needs plain unsweetened khoya. It is usually labelled as suitable to make gulab jamun.
I have shared this recipe in the video towards the end of the post. For step by step photos you can check this link of Khoya jamun.
Tips to make gulab jamun dough correctly
Measure the dry and wet ingredients correctly and set aside. Ensure they are all at room temperature. Also set aside some extra milk which you may need while making the dough.
Add all the dry ingredients to a wide bowl called for the jamun dough. Mix them well. Make a small well in the centre and pour the wet ingredients.
Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients to form a smooth dough. Add more milk if needed. Do not knead the dough as kneading forms gluten and makes hard gulab jamuns.
The amount of milk to use depends on the milk powder or mawa. So you may need more than mentioned in the recipe. Do note that you will need to use milk only as needed to make a smooth dough.
If you are making gulab jamun with milk powder, then the dough will be too sticky and will refuse to leave your fingers. Just grease your fingers and make a ball.
The prepared final gulab jamun dough has to be soft and smooth without any cracks. The dough should not be dry or crumbly. Do not proceed further without this smooth texture else the jamuns will have cracks, will turn hard and remain uncooked inside.
Making balls right
Divide the dough to equal parts. Remember not to knead, not to put pressure on the dough. With light hands, roll the dough to smooth crack-free balls in between your palms.
Finish making all the balls and keep them covered until the ghee or oil heats up.
Tips to make sugar syrup correctly
Choose a slightly wider pot so all the gulab jamuns get enough space to soak well in the syrup. Add sugar and pour water to it. Heat it on a medium flame until the sugar dissolves completely.
Boil this until the syrup turns sticky. To check take ¼ teaspoon of the syrup and cool it slightly. Take a portion of this in between your thumb and forefinger. Slowly move the fingers apart to separate them. You should feel the syrup is sticky. The syrup should not go beyond this sticky stage and form strings otherwise the jamuns will not absorb the syrup.
The sticky stage is achieved prior to reaching a single string consistency.
Repeat the test a few times to ensure the syrup is of right consistency. Ensure the syrup is sticky. If it is below the sticky stage (means watery) the jamuns will turn soggy, may break and not remain firm in shape.
So the right consistency is the syrup being sticky and must not be cooked beyond this stage.
Once it reaches the correct sticky consistency, take off the sugar syrup from the stove else it will continue to cook if you leave on the hot burner. Then add lemon juice, cardamom powder and rose water. Set this aside to keep it hot.
Frying gulab jamuns perfectly
Traditionally ghee is used to fry them. However you can also use oil. Alternately you can also add a few tbsps of ghee to the oil while you fry. This will give a similar flavour as the ghee fried gulab jamuns.
While frying make sure the oil is not too hot but is still hot enough. Here are the steps to test:
Heat oil in a deep kadai or fry pan on a medium heat. Check if the oil is ready to fry by dropping a very small piece of the dough into it. The ball has to go down and slowly rise up with few bubbles and should not turn brown immediately. This is the right stage.
If the oil is not hot enough, jamuns will soak up lots of oil and turn soggy. They will also not hold the shape well and may form a crusty layer over the gulab jamuns later.
If the oil is too hot, the dough will get dispersed in the oil or the jamuns will get plenty of cracks. Also they will get browned quickly without cooking inside. There will be a hard centre even after soaking since the dough has remained uncooked.
Once the oil is hot, regulate the flame to medium. Drop the balls one after the other slowly. Do not add a lot of them and crowd the pan as they need enough space to fry and become big while frying. Do not disturb them until they firm up and cook a bit.
Once you see the jamuns are turning firm, then reduce the flame to low and fry gently stirring them until evenly golden.
Adding jamuns to syrup
When they turn golden evenly, then remove and add to the hot syrup. The syrup has to be hot and not boiling hot otherwise the jamuns may crack. If the syrup is not hot, then also the jamuns will not absorb the syrup.
Soak them for about 3 hours before serving.
Faqs & troubleshooting
I have consolidated the readers’ queries from my comment section here. So they will be helpful to you.
Why did my gulab jamuns turn hard, tough or dense?
Not enough moisture, not enough leavening agent or too much flour in the dough are the common causes for the jamuns to turn hard, tough or dense.
Not enough moisture (milk) in the dough: Dry, crumbly & cracked dough means there is not enough moisture. The prepared dough should have enough moisture in it otherwise the dough cannot expand & get cooked while frying. Troubleshooting: sprinkle some milk and mix until the dough is soft and smooth.
Incorrect usage of leavening agent (baking soda or baking powder): Improper measuring, using low quality leavening agent or making 1 to 1 substitution of one for the other will result in hard and dense balls. So stick on to the recipe, use correct measurements and use good quality leavening agent that is within the expiry date.
Why did my gulab jamuns turn too soft, break or disintegrate?
If they turned too soft, broke or integrated while/after frying it means too much baking powder or baking soda has been used. Excess leavening agent will prevent them from retaining their round shape.
If they became too soft, mushy or broke after adding to the syrup, then the syrup may be watery and has not reached a sticky stage yet.
Why do my gulab jamuns not taste good?
Adding too much of baking powder and baking soda than mentioned in the recipe often leaves an aftertaste. So ensure you use the right amount and also use the correct amount of acidic ingredient like lemon juice or yogurt to activate the soda.
Extra tips for milk powder jamun
The key to milk powder gulab jamun is using curd/yogurt or lemon juice. You will not get the taste of curd or lemon juice in the jamuns if it is used in the mentioned quantities.
In this gulab jamun recipe, soda reacts with the yogurt or lemon juice and then makes the dough light. So we get light and soft jamuns.
I highly suggest not to alter the recipe as it may not work. After several trial I got these right, just the way one would get in North Indian restaurants and sweet stalls. Soft, juicy, mouth melting and delicious.
Please note that this gulab jamun recipe may not work with low fat milk powder. I have used everyday regular milk powder from Nestle.
Don’ts for the sugar syrup
Avoid using a cast iron pot for the syrup. Most times the sugar syrup turns very thick & crystallizes after cooling down since it gets cooked even after turning off.
Gulab jamuns are often made during festivals like Eid, holi, diwali & navratri. If you are making these for a special occasion, then you can make these ahead.
Gulab jamun recipe – Recipe 1
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
To make gulab jamun
For sugar syrup
- 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups Sugar
- 1 ½ cup water
- 4 pods green cardamom or ¼ tsp cardamom powder
- 1 tsp rose water
How to make the recipe
Preparation of sugar syrup
- Mix together water, sugar and crushed cardamoms in a pot.
- Boil the syrup until it turns slightly sticky.
- Turn off the stove before it goes to a 1 string consistency.
- If it reaches a 1 string consistency, then add 2 tbsp of water and mix.
- Add rose water and mix. Set aside to keep it hot.
Making gulab jamun balls
- Fluff up the flour in the jar with a fork and then measure correctly.
- Mix together flour, milk powder and soda in a bowl. Either sieve it or mix uniformly.
- Add ghee to it. Mix well.
- In a small bowl, mix together lemon juice or yogurt and 2 tbsp milk.
- Pour 1.5 tbsp of this to the flour mixture.
- Begin to bring the flour together to make a dough.
- If the dough is too dry, add little more milk & curd until you get a smooth dough. Do not add a lot. Use only as needed.
- The dough turns sticky. Grease your fingers and make a ball.
- The dough must not be soggy. It must hold the shape well and should be smooth without any cracks.
- Divide to 14 to 18 equal sized portions. Grease your hands and roll to smooth balls.
- They must be smooth without any cracks or lines otherwise you will find many cracks on the gulab jamuns. Keep them covered.
How to make gulab jamun
- Heat up the pan with ghee or oil on a medium heat.
- Also check if the syrup is hot. If it is not hot, heat it up a bit. It must be hot and not very hot.
- To check the right temp, you can drop a small piece of dough in the oil.
- It must rise slowly without changing its color.
- If it rises rapidly then you will need to cool the oil a bit before frying.
- When the ghee is just medium hot, add the balls.
- Make sure the oil is not very hot else the gulab jamuns will brown without cooking well.
- Fry the balls on a medium flame for 1 to 2 mins. Then regulate the flame to low flame & fry until golden. Keep stirring gently to fry them uniformly.
- Add them to the hot syrup. Allow them to rest for 3 hours and serve.
- Garnish gulab jamun with chopped pistachios.
Recipe 2 – video of gulab jamun with khoyaYou can find the ingredient in the video
NUTRITION (estimation only)
Notes for gulab jamun recipe
- Please use correct measuring spoons and cups. This recipe will not work with approximations.
- The recipe will not work without baking soda. Check the expiry of the baking soda before using.
- If you are trying the recipe for the first time, you can halve the recipe and try.
- The amount of milk & curd mentioned in the recipe may or may not be sufficient. It depends on the milk powder used. If the dough turns dry, then use little more milk until you get a smooth dough.
- This recipe may not work with low fat milk powder.
- Addition of even little more soda may disintegrate the jamuns while frying or while soaking in syrup.
- Frying the balls on a very low flame will make them hard.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
If you are new to cooking, follow my detailed step by step photo instructions for best results.
Recipe 1 – step by step photos
Making sugar syrup
1. Add 1.5 cups sugar and lightly crushed 4 green cardamoms to a pot. You can also use organic or turbinado sugar, the color of the syrup will be darker.
2. Pour 1.5 cups water.
3. Boil this until the syrup turns slightly sticky. To check this, cool little syrup in a small plate. Dip your fore finger in it and touch with your thumb. You should feel it is slightly sticky. It should not reach one string consistency.
If you fail to make the syrup correctly, then the jamuns will not soak the syrup and turn soft. If you go past the sticky syrup stage, you will end up in a one string consistency. In that case, add little water and stir. Check again. Switch off. Add rose water.
4. Measure 1 cup milk powder, ¼ cup +1 tbsps all purpose flour or maida and then a large pinch of soda. If you use more soda then the balls may break.
5. Then mix them up very well or sieve it. Make sure the mixture is uniform. Add 1 tsp of ghee.
6. Next mix well everything.
7. Take 1 tbsp of yogurt or ¾ tbsp lemon juice and 2 tbsp of milk. Mix both together.
8. Pour 1.5 tbsp of this to the flour. Begin to mix. Use up the rest as needed. I used up full 2 tbsp of it. Do not knead the dough. If the dough is too dry use little more milk.
9. The dough turns slightly sticky and refuses to leave the fingers. Grease your fingers and make a stiff yet soft dough. This should be the right consistency of the dough. If by chance it turns sticky sprinkle another tsp of plain flour. This is just to fix and does alter the texture.
10. Divide the dough to 14 to 18 equal portions and make smooth balls without any lines or cracks on them. Do not knead or press the balls. Be gentle in handling the dough.
Check your syrup if it is still hot. If not, heat it up once more. The syrup must be hot and not very hot. When you dip your finger, you must feel it is hot. But not very hot that you cannot tolerate the heat. Leave it on the stove.
How to make gulab jamun
11. Pour ghee or oil to a hot pan. I prefer ghee to oil since ghee has a better smoke point than oil.
12. Ghee or oil must be just medium hot and not very hot. Else the gulab jamun will brown without cooking inside. To check the correct temperature, add a small piece of the dough to the oil.
The ball must rise slowly without changing its color much. This is the right temperature. If the ball rises fast, then it means the temperate is a bit high. Then take off from the stove for a while.
13. Add the balls gently and fry them on a medium heat for 1 to 2 mins. I added all of them at one time. But be sure not to crowd them. While frying they will increase in size, so provide them enough space in the pan.
14. After 2 mins of frying, reduce the flame to low and fry until golden. Keep stirring gently to fry them evenly. Since I used a flat pan, I tilted my pan slightly and fried to give them a even color.
15. When they turn golden, take them off the pan using a deep fry skimmer or a strainer. Drain them very well.
16. Add them directly to the hot sugar syrup. Do not dunk them with oil dripping. The sugar syrup must be hot, not very hot or steaming hot.
Garnish with chopped pistachios and serve after 3 hours.
Pic of soft gulab jamun after 5 hours of soaking.
Recipe 2 – Gulab jamun with khoya
Please watch video to make this recipe.
125 grams khoya or mawa (evaporated milk solids) (1 heaped cup grated)
2½ tablespoons Maida (all-purpose flour)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
2 to 4 tablespoons milk or water (use more if needed)
2 tablespoons paneer (optional)
Oil or ghee as needed for frying
1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup water
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
1 teaspoon rose water (optional)
1½ teaspoon lemon juice
Make sugar syrup
- To a wide pot, add sugar and water. Heat on a medium flame until the sugar dissolves. The let the syrup boil until it reaches a sticky consistency.
- Take ¼ tsp of it, cool slightly. Take a little in between your thumb and forefinger. It should be sticky when you separate your fingers.
- Add rose water, cardamom powder and lemon juice. Mix well and set it aside to keep the syrup slightly hot.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together grated mawa, add flour, cardamom powder and then baking powder.
- Pour milk only as needed little by little to make a smooth crack-free dough. You can gently knead it but don’t over knead as it affects the texture and forms gluten. You must get a dough ball that is smooth with not many cracks. It should not be dry or crumbly.
- Divide the dough to 14 to 16 parts.
- Take each balls in between your palms, rub it gently a few times until smooth and roll to a ball. The balls should be smooth and crack-free.
How to make
- Heat oil in a deep pot or kadai.
- Check if the oil is hot by gently sliding a small piece of dough. It must go in and rise slowly with bubbles & should not brown. This is the right time to fry the balls.
- Regulate the flame to medium. Begin to drop one ball at a time. Slowly add as many balls as possible.
- After frying for few minutes they will firm up. Keep stirring and fry them uniformly until golden brown. If needed switch the stove flame to low and medium.
- Remove the gulab jamuns to a colander. Continue frying and removing the fried ones to a colander.
- Allow the balls to cool a bit for 3 to 5 mins. Add them to slightly hot syrup. The syrup should not be very hot. When you dip your finger you must feel the syrup is hot but not very hot.
- Gently rotate the gulab jamuns in the syrup. Let them soak for 45 mintues before serving.
- Serve gulab jamun with sugar syrup or vanilla ice cream. Garnish with thinly sliced pistachios.