Malai kofta also known as paneer kofta

Malai Kofta Recipe (Paneer Kofta Curry)

By Swasthi on June 10, 2023, Comments, Jump to Recipe

Malai Kofta, the ultimate North Indian Comfort food! Crispy Paneer dumplings known as Kofta, served with a rich, creamy, luxurious & super delicious gravy. This Malai kofta curry brings Gourmet Indian flavors to your dinner table & can make your special meal times much exciting. Serve this classic vegetarian Indian dish with Butter Naan, Roti, Paratha, Plain steamed basmati or flavored rice like Cumin Rice, Ghee rice or Turmeric rice.

Malai Kofta is a North Indian dish

For a special or festive meal, extend your menu to some halwa and raita.

What is Malai Kofta?

Malai Kofta is a curried vegetarian dish consisting of crisp fried potato paneer koftas (fried balls) served with a creamy, smooth and rich sauce/ curry. The word Malai means cream in Hindi and Kofta are fried balls. So Malai kofta literally translates to koftas dunked in a creamy sauce.

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

In India, the vegetarian version known as Malai kofta is hugely popular in the restaurants. There are also many other vegetarian versions like lauki kofta (bottle gourd kofta), mixed vegetable kofta and raw banana koftas.

There are 2 kinds of Malai kofta served in Indian restaurants. The first being the Mughlai style that’s white in color and the other is the koftas in Orange gravy. The key difference between the 2 is the use of tomatoes and spices like red chilli powder and turmeric. In this post I share the later one.

About This Recipe

This malai kofta is a delight for all your senses! It smells great, looks fantastic and tastes the best. The paneer koftas are crisp on the outside with a soft and mouth-melting light texture inside. The gravy is super delicious, brimming with flavor and absolutely finger-licking good.

The paneer kofta are made with mix of mashed/grated boiled potatoes, crumbled paneer, corn starch, spices and herbs. This mixture is shaped to small balls and deep fried. For a healthier option you may bake or air 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 is 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 similar to the paneer butter masala.

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 want 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,
Paneer butter masala
Kadai paneer
Paneer lababdar
Paneer tikka masala
Palak paneer
Matar paneer

How to Make Malai Kofta (Stepwise Photos)

Preparation

1. Heat a pan with 1 tablespoon oil. Then add

  • 3 green cardamoms
  • ½ inch cinnamon piece
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 cup cubed onions (2 medium). Saute all of them until the onions turn light golden.

2. Then add 1½ cups chopped tomatoes (about 3 medium) and 15 cashewnuts. Saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Then pour ½ cup water and cook covered until all of them turn soft.

4. Once done all the onions and tomatoes will be mushy. Cool completely & transfer to a blender.

boiling onion tomatoes to make malai kofta

5. Blend it super smooth. 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. Then 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 goes away)
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 spice powders.
pouring tomato puree for kofta curry

8. Mix everything well and saute for 3 to 4 mins. You don’t need to saute until the mixture leaves the pan. The raw smell of onions and tomatoes goes away since they are boiled first. Then used here.

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.

adding cream to malai kofta curry

Make Kofta

14. Boil 4 medium (or 2 large potatoes) until just done but not mushy & 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
  • 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 needed.

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 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 otherwise they will not remain crispy. Ensure the koftas and the gravy both are cool and not hot. Otherwise 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

Pro Tips

My kids’ love malai kofta. So I make it a lot of times for special occasions. Here are some helpful tips from my experience

Boiling potatoes: Do not overcook the potatoes to the extent they turn soggy. Overcooked potatoes often make very soft koftas. For the koftas to be crisp, firm and yet soft inside, cook potatoes just until done.

Paneer: For this recipe you can use store bought or homemade paneer. Both work well here.

Cornflour: Also known as cornstarch is one of the key ingredient used to bind the kofta mixture well. It also gives a firm texture. Without corn flour, the koftas will turn out very soft inside and get mushy very quickly after they are added to the gravy. So do not skip this.

Stuffing: The paneer kofta I have shown in this post is made without stuffing. I have just added some raisins & cashews to the mixture. You can also use the same to stuff inside the koftas. Basically I find no difference in the taste.

Cashews add a creamy texture to the malai gravy without the need of too much cream in the dish. Any changes to the given quantities may alter the taste of the malai kofta curry.

Cream: I have made this recipe several times with whipping cream, heavy cream & cooking cream. You may use any of them.

Smooth gravy: If you do not have a powerful blender, filter (strain) the pureed onion tomatoes first and then add it to the pot for making gravy.

Substitutes

  • Cornstarch can be substituted with arrow root powder or roasted gram flour/ besan.
  • Cashews can be substituted with blanched and soaked almonds or with poppy seeds.
  • Paneer can be substituted with extra firm tofu.
  • Cream can be substituted with cashew cream.
  • You can substitute potatoes with raw banana, yam or sweet potato. But note the koftas will not taste the same.

Servings suggestions

Most times I go the easiest way and serve malai kofta with plain basmati rice cooked with some whole spices & a tbsp of ghee. However it can also be served with Jeera rice, ghee rice, pulao or plain Paratha or naan.

Since malai kofta is on the heavier side, plain basmati rice also goes very well.

If you plan for a simple Indian meal then malai kofta, basmati rice, carrot halwa & lassi go well together.

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

malai kofta

Malai Kofta Recipe (Paneer Kofta Curry)

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 to 3 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.

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.

Video

Watch Malai Kofta 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.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

Malai Kofta Recipe (Paneer Kofta Curry)

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
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!

5 stars
My husband is a huge fan of my MILs meat koftas. I was looking for a vegetarian alternate and this one turned out fantastic. He loved these malai koftas and the gravy too. We also made your naans & seviyan kheer to go with this. The meal turned out to be awesome. Thank you!

Swasthi your recipes are always so delicious! I’ve never gone wrong with using your recipes, no matter what region of Indian food I’m making. My family thinks I’m an amazing cook thanks to you! ?

5 stars
I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the detail, authenticity and love you put into your recipes! I have been cooking from your website weekly, and have yet to find a recipe that isn’t fantastic. Before a few months ago, I was completely new to Indian cooking and my significant other (who is native to Northern India) is astounded by what I can make, thanks to you!

5 stars
This was absolutely amazing! The gravy( mine was more like a sauce, not as thick) was delicious. I want to put it on everything. I substituted the paneer for tofu as that is what I had on hand. I will definitely being keeping this recipe to make frequently. Thank you