Make creamy Kulfi Ice Cream at home with milk, sugar, cardamoms and nuts. This decadent Kulfi, bursting with flavor is equally delicious when served plain as Malai Kulfi or in a variety of flavors. Indians love their kulfi and it is their favorite summer dessert. Summers in India are incomplete without this frozen treat. For most people growing up in India, it conjures up happy childhood memories. Memories of either waiting impatiently for the roadside kulfiwallah to pull out frozen sticks from their cart, or waiting for mom to remove homemade Kulfi from the fridge.
But that was in the past, now you won’t find kulfiwallah knocking your door, since this has been commercialized in a big way and Kulfi is sold by popular brands in every grocery store & supermarket. Apart from ready to eat kulfis, there are also instant kulfi mix available in many flavors. But all these commercial stuff are loaded with preservatives, colors and stabilizers. Moreover these don’t taste real!
What is Kulfi?
Kulfi is a frozen dessert made with pure full fat milk, sugar and a flavoring ingredient like cardamoms or saffron. Sometimes cream (malai), chopped nuts or fruit purees are also added to it for flavor and richness. While kulfi was perfected in the Indian subcontinent, it is said to be influenced by Persian frozen desserts and introduced in the 16th century by the Moghuls.
While some consider it the Indian ice cream, it is closer to the British sherbet or a creamiscle (Popsicle with milk or cream). Ice creams are whipped or churned, so they tend to be airy and also have a higher fat content with the addition of cream and eggs.
Kulfi, on the other hand, is denser and thicker as it is made by slow cooking milk on the stove top until it has reduced and thickened. If frozen too long, there will be some crystallization as there are no commercial stabilizers in this dessert. But kulfi doesn’t melt as fast as ice cream.
While creamy ice-creams dominate the frozen dessert section, kulfi will never lose its charm. You’ll find it served in Indian restaurants across the world.
As a treat, Kulfi is enjoyed by adults and kids, and makes for a healthier dessert (if there is such a thing) compared to cream & egg-based ice creams.
About this Kulfi Recipe
Traditional way of making kulfi does take a lot of time like this Rabri since the milk has to simmer for hours to reduce and thicken. This kulfi recipe does save a lot of time as it uses little fresh cream and corn starch to thicken the mixture quickly, without compromising on the richness. It yields delicious and creamy kulfi ice cream without the flavor of starch.
So my recipe is made much the traditional way by boiling full fat milk and simmering it on the stove top for about 15 to 20 mins, until it reaches the right consistency. The milk is further thickened by adding cornstarch (corn flour) which helps to thicken the kulfi mixture faster, stabilize & minimize the ice crystals.
Treat my recipe as the base on which you can build different kulfi flavors. Add nuts, purees, and desired flavorings at this stage.
Pour the custard into molds and place in the freezer. Now all you can do is wait patiently for it to set before you dig into a bowl of scrumptious kulfi.
If you’re short on time, you have a quick no-cook method. Add heavy cream to condensed milk & whisk well until slightly thick to get a malai kulfi that has the texture of an ice cream. I have shared more details below under no-cook kulfi section. During the last 2 years, I got to experiment a few flavors which I also shared under flavor variations section below.
Trust me! Nothing matches the flavor and texture of a kulfi that has been cooked to perfection, from scratch.
How to Make Kulfi (Stepwise photos)
1. On a medium heat, bring 2 cups whole milk /full fat milk to a boil in a heavy bottom pot.
2. Reduce the heat slightly and boil for 10 to 11 min on a medium heat , stirring often. This way the milk solids won’t get scorched at the bottom.
3. Add 4 tablespoons organic sugar and mix well to dissolve it. If you want to make other variations which I shared below, consider reducing the quantity of sugar.
4. Keep stirring and boil for another 10 minutes on a low to medium heat. Meanwhile add 2 teaspoons corn starch (corn flour) to one cup milk and dissolve it completely. Make sure there are no lumps.
5. Lower the flame completely and Pour the corn starch slurry/ mixture.
6. Begin to stir it immediately and continue to boil. Keep stirring often to prevent milk at the bottom getting scorched.
7. Meanwhile add 15 pistachios (or any other nuts like cashews or almonds) and 1 pinch saffron (optional) to a grinder jar. Make a fine or coarse powder to suit your liking. If you don’t like small bits of nuts in your kulfi, make a fine powder.
Simmer Kulfi Mixture
8. Add the ground nut /pista powder along with ¼ teaspoon green cardamom powder. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps.
9. Pour ¼ cup cream. I used cream just to achieve the thick & rich consistency quickly. You can also skip it and cook for a little longer. You can also whisk ¼ cup homemade malai/ cream which you get after boiling milk. It has to be at room temperature and whisk it with a fork and add. Any kind of cream works here.
10. Keep stirring and cook the kulfi mixture further. Under 6 to 8 mins it reaches a thick consistency as seen in the picture. Switch off and cool completely. The mixture thickens further upon cooling. If you under cook the mixture, ice crystals may form, so it has to be cooked until it is thick and of pouring consistency. (check video for right consistency). Taste test this to ensure there is no starch flavor, actually you won’t taste the starch.
Set Malai Kulfi in moulds
11. Fill the moulds as desired. You can also use popsicle moulds. I do not prefer plastic moulds so I use steel cups. Cover the moulds with foil and gently insert ice cream sticks. Freeze until kulfi is set. It may take anywhere from 8 to 12 hours depending on your fridge.
12. Rub the moulds in between your palms and demould the kulfi gently. You can leave it at room temperature for 2 to 3 mins so it comes out easily.
Sprinkle chopped pistachios and serve kulfi immediately.
No-cook Instant Kulfi
Here are some easier no-cook instant versions I make when my boys hurry me up for an instant kulfi.
To make instant kulfi, Mix together 240 ml (1 cup) chilled cream with ¼ cup milk powder. Make sure there are no lumps, whisk this until thick and slightly light. Grind together 6 tablespoons sugar, 1 pinch saffron, 4 cardamoms, 10 pistachios, 10 almonds and 10 cashews to a super fine powder. Stir this with the cream. Taste test to check the sugar levels. If you want add more powdered sugar. Mix well and pour to moulds. The final mixture is of flowing consistency.
Make instant kulfi with condensed milk and whipping cream. Whisk together 1 cup of whipping cream with ½ can (400 grams) sweetened condensed milk until thick. Powder 15 to 20 pistachios or cashew or almonds of a mix of all with 3 cardamoms and a pinch of saffron. Add this to the whipped cream and condensed milk. Mix well and taste test. Pour this to moulds.
Rose Kulfi – Follow the recipe in the recipe card but reduce the sugar to 2 tbps. Turn off the stove and add 4 tbsps gulkand, 1 tbsp rose water and few drops of organic pink food color (optional). If you don’t like rose petals in your kulfi, simply blend gulkand with ¼ cup milk (called for in the recipe) in a small grinder, scrape the sides and grind. Add this to the prepared kulfi mixture. Taste test and add more gulkand if you want.
Paan kulfi – Follow the recipe in the recipe card and reduce the sugar to 2 tbsps. Buy 4 meetha paans from your favorite paanwala and blend them with ¼ cup cream. Remove the cloves if any before blending. Add this little by little to the cooled kulfi mixture. Do not add all at once as it can become too strong. Taste test and add more.
- Adding more corn starch can leave a starchy flavor or texture to your kulfi. We add it just to prevent the kulfi getting icy. Also it cut shorts the cook time. A reader has used some custard powder for in place of corn starch. You may consider that if you don’t mind changing the basic flavor of your kulfi.
- I love my steel cups for freezing this. If you want you can buy kulfi molds online or use any popsicle molds or disposable cups. The Kulfi molds all I have found are made of aluminum but steel ones too work great.
- If you want to make the authentic kulfi, make this Rabri and use it to set.
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- 2 cups full fat milk
- 1 cup milk (mix with corn starch or arrowroot powder)
- 2 teaspoons corn starch (white corn flour or arrowroot powder)
- ¼ cup organic sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder (elaichi)
- 1 Pinch saffron strands or kesar (optional) (about 10)
- 10 to 15 pistachios (or almonds & cashews)
- ¼ cup cream or malai or mawa (optional, tastes rich)
- 4 chopped pistas for garnish
- Bring 2 cups milk to a boil in a heavy bottom pot. Allow it to boil further for 10 mins on a medium flame. Keep stirring often to prevent the milk solids getting burnt at the bottom.
- Meanwhile add pistachios along with saffron to a blender jar and make a slightly coarse powder. Set this aside.
- After 10 minutes of boiling the milk, add sugar and continue to boil for another 10 to 12 mins. Keep stirring often to prevent the milk getting scorched at the bottom.
- Add corn flour to 1 cup milk and stir well. Make sure there are no lumps.
- Lower the flame completely and pour this to the pot. Keep stirring and boil.
- Add the nuts powder and cardamom powder. Mix well and make sure there are no lumps.
- Pour cream if using and Cook for 6 to 8 minutess more. Keep stirring. Under 8 mins it turns thick. It should be of pouring consistency.
- Switch off the stove & Cool this completely. The mixture thickens further upon cooling.
How to Make Kulfi
- Pour this to kulfi molds, steel cups or Popsicle molds. Cover with a foil and gently insert a ice cream stick.
- Freeze overnight. Immerse these in a bowl filled with water for 1 min or rub the moulds in between your palms for 30 seconds.
- Gently hold the stick and demould it. Sprinkle chopped pistas and serve kesar pista kulfi immediately.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Kulfi Recipe first published in April 2017. Updated and republished in April 2022.
I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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