Malai kofta recipe with video & step by step photos. Originally Koftas are meatballs dunked in delicious gravy or served as kababs. In India the vegetarian version of koftas are quite popular. These are made either with Paneer & potato or with veggies like bottle gourd, mixed vegetables or raw banana. Koftas are served with a rich, delicious and creamy gravy to which malai (cream) has been added.
What is malai kofta?
Malai means cream and kofta are fried balls. So malai kofta literally translates to koftas dunked in a creamy sauce. It is a popular Indian vegetarian dish in which potato paneer balls are served with a smooth, rich & creamy gravy.
There are various versions of making this dish. The recipe of malai kofta shared here is not Mughlai malai kofta that is served in white gravy.
We do not prefer Mughlai white gravy for any recipe, just a personal choice. So whenever I make kofta recipe, I follow the one shared here.
This recipe takes some time to prepare but the end results are great and worth the effort.
The malai kofta gravy shared here is one of the best you can make at home. The taste of the gravy is well balanced with a natural sweetness that comes from onions. Slight tang that comes from tomatoes.
How is malai kofta made?
Firstly a smooth and creamy gravy is made with onions, tomatoes, cashews and spices. Next crispy paneer koftas are made with paneer, potatoes, spices, ginger and coriander leaves. These koftas are served with the creamy gravy.
Making creamy gravy: Every restaurant has their own way of making the gravy for koftas. Most restaurants make it with a paste made of boiled onions, cashews and sometimes poppy seeds. However I prefer to use tomatoes as it makes a super perfect and delicious gravy similar to the paneer butter masala.
Onions and tomatoes are sautéed first and then pureed with cashews & water. The gravy is then spiced and simmered well until flavorful, thick and creamy.
Making paneer kofta: In restaurants, koftas are always deep fried. However they can also be baked in the oven or fried in a paniyaram pan or air fryer.
To make the koftas, Firstly mash together paneer, boiled potato, salt, herbs & spice powders. Then to absorb the excess moisture sprinkle some corn flour. Then bind the mixture together to a ball and then make small paneer koftas.
These are then deep fried until crisp. Then served with the creamy onion tomato based gravy.
My kids’ love malai kofta. So I make it for most special occasions at home. Here are my tips to make the perfect koftas.
1. Heat a pan or pot with 1 tbsp oil. Add onions, cashews, cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves. Saute them until the onions turn light golden or transparent. Then add tomatoes and saute until they turn soft. You can also cover and cook.
OR Alternately you can also add all the ingredients to a pan along with half cup water. Cover and boil until tomatoes turn soft.
2. Cool completely. Add them to a blender. Make a smooth puree. If your blender is not powerful enough and cannot make a smooth gravy, then filter/strain the puree to a bowl.
3. Heat a pan with oil and saute bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cardamoms for a minute. Add ginger garlic paste and saute until the raw smell goes away.
4. Turn down the flame to lowest and quickly stir in chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder, salt and sugar. 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.
5. 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.
6. Cook covered for 3 to 5 mins.
Making gravy for kofta
7. Pour water and mix well.
8. Cook covered until the gravy thickens and traces of oil are seen.
9. Add kasuri methi and check salt and spice.
10. Lower the flame. Pour cream and mix well. Gravy is ready. Set this aside.
How to make kofta
1. Boil 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 and crumble.
2. To a mixing bowl add crumbled potatoes, crumbled paneer, corn flour, ginger, garam masala, green chili, coriander leaves and salt.
3. Add cashews and raisins. You can also stuff them in the balls later.
4. Mix the ingredients and divide the mixture to 8 parts. Make them to smooth balls. Also check if there is enough salt and spice. You can add a bit more if needed.
5. Heat oil in a kadai or 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. If the oil is not hot enough, the balls will sink in the oil, may disperse and stick up to the kadai.
6. 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.
7. Drain them on a kitchen tissue.
Assembling malai kofta
1. Transfer the gravy to a deep dish.
2. Just before serving place the koftas in the gravy otherwise they will not remain crispy.
3. Garnish with cream and with coriander leaves if desired.
Tips to make best malai kofta
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 corn starch 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, then filter (strain) the pureed onion tomatoes first and then add it to the pot for making gravy.
- Corn starch 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 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.
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 goes very well.
Ingredients (1 cup = 240ml )
For malai kofta
- 1 heaped cup paneer crumbled (about 150 grams)
- 1 heaped cup potato boiled & crumbled (about 2 large)
- 2½ 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 cup onions cubed (substitute with tomatoes)
- 1 ½ cup tomatoes cubed
- 15 cashew nuts
- 4 green cardamoms (skip if you don't have)
- 1 inch cinnamon stick (optional)
- 4 cloves (optional)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 bay leaf (optional)
- 1 inch cinnamon stick (optional)
- 2 cardamoms (optional)
- 1 tablespoon 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 (use more if needed)
- ¾ teaspoon kasuri methi (fenugreek leaves)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons cream
How to make the recipe
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon, cashews and onions.
- Saute until onions turn transparent or golden.
- Next add tomatoes & saute until they turn soft and mushy. or You can also pour half cup water & boil all the ingredients until soft.
- Turn off the stove and cool completely. Blend this to a smooth puree. If your blender is not powerful enough to make a smooth puree, then strain the puree (filter) through a strainer to another bowl.
- Heat a pan with oil. Add bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamoms. 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.
- Cook covered until the mixture thickens for about 3 to 5 mins.
- Pour 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 check for salt and spice.
- 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 until just done 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.
- Wait for the oil to heat up and then slide 1 kofta ball to ensure they don't disintegrate.
- If the ball does not disintegrate or disperse in oil, then go ahead.
- 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.
NUTRITION (estimation only)
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.