Malai Kofta Recipe (Paneer Kofta Curry)

Updated: July 2, 2024, By Swasthi

This Malai Kofta is the ultimate North Indian showstopper! Crispy Indian cheese dumplings known as paneer kofta are served with a rich, luxurious & super delicious malai (creamy) gravy. This Malai Kofta curry is a celebratory dish that brings gourmet Indian flavors to your dinner table. It is an exciting side usually made for special occasions and meals.

Whether you are hosting a North Indian themed dinner or want to whip up a special meal for your loved ones, this restaurant style dish fits the bill perfectly. In this post I share how to make the best Malai Kofta at home. The koftas are crisp on the outside, with a melt-in-the-mouth inside that you can also serve them as an appetizer.

Malai Kofta is a North Indian dish



The sauce is equally delicious – slightly spicy, tangy and creamy with a burst of flavors. Serve this classic vegetarian Indian dish with Butter Naan, whole wheat roti, paratha, Tandoori Roti, Plain steamed Basmati or flavored rice like Cumin Rice, Ghee rice or Turmeric rice. For a special or festive meal, extend your menu to some Halwa and raita.

About Malai Kofta

Malai Kofta is a curried vegetarian dish consisting of crisp fried potato paneer balls (koftas) dunked in a creamy, silky smooth and rich sauce/ curry. The Hindi word malai translates to cream and kofta to fried balls, so obviously the dish is made with cream (dairy).

Originally, Kofta belongs to a family of meatballs from the Central Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan Cuisines. They come in different sizes & shapes like balls, patties and cylindrical.

In India, the vegetarian Malai kofta is hugely popular in the restaurants. There are also many other vegetarian variations using lauki (bottle gourd), mixed vegetables and raw bananas. North Indian restaurants typically serve this Malai Kofta in 2 colors – white and orange.

The white Mughlai gravy is made similar to this Methi Malai Matar or Shahi Paneer, without tomatoes, turmeric and red chili powder. But the orange one has a base similar like the Paneer Butter Masala.

My Recipe

These paneer kofta are made with a mix of mashed/grated boiled potatoes, crumbled paneer, corn starch (flour), spices and herbs. This mixture is shaped to small balls and deep fried. For a healthier option you may bake, air fry or use a paniyaram pan to pan fry them.

Every restaurant has a different formula to make their kofta gravy. But in general a paste made with boiled onions, cashews and sometimes poppy seeds are used to make the white gravy. My recipe is much simpler and makes use of tomatoes too as it makes a super perfect and delicious gravy.

Onions and cashews impart natural sweetness while tomatoes lend a tang and spices infuse the best aromas to the gravy. Many people feel making malai kofta at home is a very difficult task. But with proper planning and preparing ahead it is easy to make. It involves several preparation steps so it takes some time but is easy and not difficult.

For convenience, you may split the recipe and make the gravy the previous day or ahead. The day you plan to serve the malai kofta, just prepare the koftas and heat the gravy. Please read the Ingredients & substitutes and Pro Tips sections below.

More Paneer recipes,
Kadai paneer
Paneer lababdar
Paneer tikka masala
Palak paneer
Matar paneer

Photo Guide

How to make Malai Kofta (Stepwise Photos)

Preparation

1. Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon oil. For a oil-free saute, you may start without oil & dry saute. Add

  • 2 green cardamoms
  • ½ inch cinnamon piece
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cup cubed onions (2 medium). Saute until the onions turn transparent, for 3 to 4 mins. (Tip: If you do not have ginger garlic paste to add in step 6, you may add half inch peeled ginger slice and 3 medium garlic cloves here and omit using later. Avoid adding too much ginger, it can make the dish bitter.)

2. Add 1½ cups chopped tomatoes (about 3 medium) and 15 cashew nuts. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Pour ½ cup water and cook covered until onions and tomatoes turn soft.

4. Cool completely & transfer to a blender.

boiling onion tomatoes to make malai kofta

5. Blend it to a super smooth puree. If it is not smooth, you may filter or strain the puree to a bowl. Keep this aside.

making smooth puree of onion tomatoes

Make Gravy

6. On a medium flame, heat 2 tablespoons oil or butter in a pan. Add

  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • ½ inch cinnamon piece (optional)
  • 2 green cardamoms. (optional)
    When they sizzle, add 1½ teaspoon ginger garlic paste and saute for 30 to 60 seconds. (until the raw smell has gone)
fry spices in oil for making malai kofta gravy

7. Turn down the flame to lowest and quickly stir in

  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 to 1¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Then immediately pour the tomato onion puree. Be careful and do not burn the spices. You can also do the other way like I did poured the puree first and then added the ground spices.
pouring tomato puree for kofta curry

8. Mix everything well and saute for 3 to 4 mins. You don’t need to saute long here. The raw smell of onions and tomatoes is reduced since they are boiled first.

saute sauce to make paneer kofta

9. Pour ¾ cup water and mix well. If the gravy looks too thick then pour another ¼ cup.

pouring water to simmer gravy

10. Cover and cook for about 10 to 14 minutes or until the gravy turns thick.

cooking covered

11. When the gravy is ready, it will be thicker and you will see little traces of oil on top.

gravy thickens for malai kofta

12. Take 1 teaspoon kasuri methi to your palm and crush it in between both your palms. Add this and give a good mix. Taste test the gravy and add more salt if needed.

adding kasuri methi to gravy

13. Lower the flame. Pour 3 to 4 tablespoons of cream and mix well. You can use whipping cream, heavy cream or cooking cream here. Malai gravy is ready. Set this aside to cool down slightly.

adding cream to malai kofta curry

Make Kofta

14. Boil 4 medium (or 2 large) potatoes until fork tender but not mushy or soggy. I usually boil them in a steamer or pressure cooker for 2 whistles with little water. Cool them completely, peel the skin. Crumble or grate them. Ensure you don’t use mushy potatoes here.

boiled potatoes for malai kofta

15. To a mixing bowl add

  • 1 heaped cup crumbled potatoes (or grated)
  • 1 heaped cup crumbled paneer (or grated)
  • 2½ tablespoons cornstarch (cornflour, do not add more)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste or grated ginger
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 to 2 green chili (chopped, skip for kids)
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves (chopped)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
adding ingredients for malai kofta

16. Add 1 tablespoon chopped cashews and 1 tablespoon raisins. Taste test and add more salt if required.

adding cashews raisins for paner kofta

17. Mix the ingredients and divide the mixture to 8 parts. Make them to smooth balls. The mixture should not be sticky here.

making balls for malai kofta recipe

Fry Kofta

18. Heat oil in a deep fry pan. Check if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small portion of the mixture in hot oil. The ball has to rise to the surface without browning a lot. If the oil is not hot enough, the balls will sink in the oil, may disperse and stick up to the kadai.

19. Once the oil is hot, regulate the flame to medium heat. Slide in 1 ball to check the temperature and binding. If all goes well then slide the rest of the kofta balls and fry till golden and crisp. Do not fry them in extremely hot oil.

frying kofta in oil to make malai kofta

20. Remove the paneer koftas to a steel colander. Cool them.

remove kofta to a tissue

Assemble Malai Kofta

1. Transfer the cooled malai gravy to a deep dish.
2. Just before serving, place the koftas in the gravy else they won’t remain crispy. Ensure the koftas and the gravy both are cool and not hot. Else the koftas will become soft in no time.
3. Garnish with 1 tablespoon cream and coriander leaves. Serve with butter naan, roti or jeera rice.

Malai kofta made with potato paneer spices and onion tomato masala

Ingredients & Substitutes

  • Boiled Potatoes: Cook potatoes just until fork tender yet fully cooked. We don’t want mushy and water-logged potatoes because that makes the koftas too soft and they can break & fall apart while frying.
  • Paneer: You may use homemade or store bought paneer. Both work well equally. Your homemade paneer (if using) should be completely drained and not contain any whey. Too much moisture in the paneer can again make the paneer koftas too soft. You may substitute paneer with pressed extra firm tofu.
  • Corn flour: Also known as corn-starch is used to bind the ingredients and give the koftas a crisp and firm texture. It can be substituted with arrow root powder, sattu (powdered roasted gram/ chutney dal) or roasted gram flour/ roasted besan.
  • Cashews add a creamy texture to the malai gravy. They can be substituted with almond flour or nut butter. But the flavors will be slightly different. If you can’t eat nuts, simply use more heavy cream and cut down the amount of water.
  • Heavy Cream or whipping cream adds another layer of richness to the curry. You can omit it by using little more cashews or adding 2 to 3 paneer cubes while blending the onions and tomatoes.

Expert Tips

  • If your homemade paneer is too wet with whey, grate it, spread on a tray and leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight. Excess moisture will be dried out.
  • You can make stuffed kofta with chopped raisins and cashews. In restaurants, fine chopped cashews, raisins and mawa is mixed and stuffed inside the koftas. I prefer to add the nuts and raisins to the kofta mixture instead, for ease of making.
  • If you don’t like to saute your onions in oil, simply dry saute for 3 to 4 mins and then continue with the recipe. Though the flavor is different while you saute, the end result is delicious and tastes the same.
  • You can substitute ginger garlic paste with chopped/sliced ginger and garlic. Add it when you saute the onions.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

malai kofta

Malai Kofta Recipe (Paneer Kofta Curry)

4.99 from 455 votes
Malai kofta is an Indian dish of potato paneer balls served with a flavorful, creamy and delicious curry. It is served with naan, roti, paratha or basmati rice.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Total Time1 hour 10 minutes
Servings4 people
AuthorSwasthi

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

For malai kofta

  • 1 heaped cup paneer crumbled (about 150 grams)
  • 1 heaped cup potato boiled & crumbled (about 2 large)
  • tablespoons corn flour (corn starch)
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons coriander leaves chopped finely
  • salt as needed
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 tablespoons cashews chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoons raisins (optional)
  • Oil for deep frying

To saute & puree

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup onions cubed
  • cup tomatoes cubed
  • 15 cashew nuts
  • 2 green cardamoms
  • ½ inch cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 3 cloves (optional)

other ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil (or 2 tbsp butter)
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • ½ inch cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 2 cardamoms (optional)
  • teaspoons ginger garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • ¾ to 1¼ teaspoon garam masala (adjust to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup water (¼ cup more if needed)
  • 1 teaspoon kasuri methi (fenugreek leaves)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cream


Instructions

Preparation

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. When the oil turns hot, add cardamoms, cloves & cinnamon.
  • Then add onions and saute until they turn transparent or golden. 
  • Next add tomatoes & cashews. Saute for 2 to 3 mins. Pour half cup water & boil all the ingredients until soft & mushy.
  • Turn off the stove and cool completely. Add to a blender jar, retain all the whole spices we used. Don't discard them. Blend this to a smooth puree. Strain the puree (filter) through a strainer to another bowl.

Make Kofta Curry

  • Heat a pan with oil or butter. Add bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamoms (all spices are optional here). Saute for a minute.
  • Add ginger garlic paste and saute on a low heat till the raw smell goes away. This takes about 2 to 3 mins.
  • Quickly stir in chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder,salt and sugar. Pour the onion tomato puree. Mix it well.
  • Saute for 3 to 4 mins for the raw smell of chili powder to go away.
  • Pour ½ to ¾ cup water to make a gravy. Cook covered until the gravy thickens and traces of oil are seen on top. The raw smell of the ingredients should have gone.
  • Add kasuri methi and taste test. If needed add more salt.
  • Regulate the flame to low and add cream. Stir and turn off the heat. Set this aside.

How to Make Malai Kofta

  • To make malai kofta, boil potatoes just until fork tender and not mushy. 
  • Crumble them and add to a mixing bowl along with crumbled paneer, ginger paste, corn flour, salt, garam masala and chopped coriander leaves.
  • Also add raisins and cashews. Or you can stuff them in the koftas.
  • Mix everything well and divide the dough to 8 equal parts. Roll them to balls.
  • If you prefer, you can also flatten each ball. Place the cashews and raisins in the center and seal.
  • Heat oil in a kadai for deep frying. Check if the oil is hot enough by sliding in a small portion of the malai kofta mixture.
  • It has to rise without browning a lot. This is the right temperature. 
  • Test the dough: Wait for the oil to heat up. Pinch off 1 teaspoon of the kofta mixture and roll to a small ball. Slide it to the hot oil to ensure the mixture is right and does not disintegrate.
  • If the ball does not disintegrate or disperse in oil, then go ahead with the next step. If the ball disintegrates, add more corn starch to fix it (refer notes).
  • Slide the koftas one by one gently to the hot oil.
  • Deep fry on a medium flame until crisp and golden. Remove them to a steel colander or plate.

Assemble Malai Kofta

  • Cool the gravy completelt and transfer it to a serving dish.
  • Cool the malai koftas slightly. Place them in the gravy and pour 1 tbsp of cream. (avoid adding hot koftas to hot gravy)
  • Garnish malai kofta with coriander leaves & serve with butter naan or Jeera Rice.


Notes

  • Mushy potatoes are not suitable to make malai kofta. Too much moisture in your potatoes will disintegrate your koftas. Cook the potatoes just until fork tender. 
  • If you add the kofta balls to oil that is not hot enough, the balls will disperse in the oil. So ensure the oil is hot enough before you fry the first ball.
  • Paneer: You can use store bought paneer or homemade. If using homemade make sure it is completely dry and not soggy. You don’t need to set the paneer after straining and hanging it. I usually put the whole pack of hung paneer uncovered (along with the muslin/ cheese cloth) in the fridge, overnight. By the next day most of the moisture would have gone and it turns out perfect.
    To substitute paneer, use extra firm tofu. You may need to add more corn starch if your kofta mixture is sticky.
  • Potatoes: Make sure you boil the potatoes only until fork tender and not mushy or too soft. Overcooked potatoes retain excess moisture & that’s not good for koftas. If your potatoes are mushy with lots of moisture you may use more corn starch but that can alter the texture of your koftas. So make sure they are boiled whole just until fork tender.
  • Corn Starch: Corn starch is the same as white corn flour. It helps the kofta ingredients bind together. Arrow root powder or tapioca flour works well too but make sure you use only little oil to fry them.
  • Cashews: Cashews are used in both kofta balls and even in the curry. They add richness, creaminess and milky aroma to the curry. I have used cashews to cut down the amount of cream and that also helps to cut down the calories and makes for a healthier and lighter dish.
  • To substitute cashews, you may use cashew meal, almond meal, cashew or almond butter. For a nut-free option, use sunflower seeds, white poppy seeds or magaz seeds (melon seeds).
  • Cream: If you want you may skip the cream from the gravy but without cream/malai the dish won’t be malai kofta. But you can still make it equally creamy with the addition of more cashews.

Video

NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Malai Kofta Recipe (Paneer Kofta Curry)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 442 Calories from Fat 306
% Daily Value*
Fat 34g52%
Saturated Fat 6g38%
Cholesterol 20mg7%
Sodium 188mg8%
Potassium 589mg17%
Carbohydrates 32g11%
Fiber 6g25%
Sugar 9g10%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 740IU15%
Vitamin C 16.8mg20%
Calcium 78mg8%
Iron 3.2mg18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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About Swasthi

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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5 stars
I didn’t read the recipe well enough, got the ingredients and cooked it beautifully, everything turned out well served over some basmati rice cooked with a little fried onion. Difference is I served the koftas and gravy both warm, so they were a little soft but still delicious. Not so soft that they fell apart. I will make this again

5 stars
Malai Kofta was awesome

5 stars
Malai Kofta was awesome. Everyone liked it

5 stars
I try this kofta. Very very tasty but the color isn’t the same as yours.

Thank you. I will do that next time I make it. Cheers!

5 stars
Tasty and healthy yammy

5 stars
I’ve made this twice and it is delicious.
I don’t have fenugreek leaves (think I left them out before), but I do have fenugreek seeds. Can I substitute some seeds for leaves?

Making it now for company later- thanks for the quick reply!

5 stars
Best Malai Kofta…. Followed this exactly as written and it turned out great. Thank you for sharing such delicious recipes.

5 stars
Made this for the first time ever and it turned delicious. Seriously it’s one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, I can’t wait to share it with friends and family! I was a little slow getting everything together but overall the instructions were pretty simple and easy to follow, thanks for a great recipe 🙂

5 stars
i am planning to make malai kofta today, and i will be share with you how it tastes….

5 stars
yes maam i am following you.. from last 2-3 years. but not commented yet.. i like the way you write discuss each things very clearly, give us the tips and hyperlink the special dished in between i like it so much, everyone is replying back to you

5 stars
Wow! This is better than any restaurant version I’ve had. Will definitely be making again. So delicious!!!!!

5 stars
very tasty and delicious recipe. its yummy.

Hi Swasthi, Wondering if the kofta can be baked rather than deep fried. Thank you!

5 stars
Thank you Swasthi! I tried this recipe today deep fried. It was absolutely delicious. Thank you so much!

5 stars
Your recipe is perfect… easy to follow and a delicious sauce and koftas. Thank you

5 stars
Delicious Malai Kofta. Made this as per the recipe and left out cashews. Used lesser water to cook the gravy and tripled the cream. Turned out perfect!!! My new favorite…

Hi Swasthi, can the koftas be stored in the freezer? I made a lot of paneer and wondering if I can make koftas/pakodas and freeze them. Thank you!

5 stars
Being a working woman, i hate cooking but I tried Butter Paneer and Mutton curry Recipe and it became so delicious. Thanks. Now every day trying something new from ur recipes. God bless you.

5 stars
The recipe was a big success. I followed the instructions just as you said. Thank you!

5 stars
I made the best use of my paniyaram pan and fried these kofta in ghee. It’s not that we don’t eat deep fried foods. I am a bit scared to deep fry because I am still learning to cook. The malai masala turned out too yummy. Over all a very good dish. Thank you very much.

5 stars
This is such a good recipe! I have never made anything this delicious. Air fried the koftas to make them low fat. Brushed them with melted butter. The gravy and koftas both tasted amazing. Highly recommend this.

5 stars
Hello Swasthi,
We made this malai kofta & butter chicken for New Year dinner party. They turned out so delicious. Everyone was asking for the recipes. I showed them your website. Thank you for sharing easy and delicious recipes.

5 stars
I made this malai kofta curry for a small family dinner. Turned out stunning & delicious! Everyone raved about it and they didn’t even know what was in it. Thank you. This goes into my bookmarks!