Malai Kofta is a quick and easy vegetarian Indian dish that is ready to serve in an hour.
Malai Kofta features deep fried balls (known as kofta) prepared with mashed potato and paneer cheese. The balls are dipped in a creamy spiced curry.
Our Malai Kofta recipe features flavourful ingredients like cinnamon, coriander, cardamom, garlic, ginger, onion and cilantro.
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What is Indian Kofta?
Kofta is a family of meatball dishes found in the Indian subcontinent, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Central Asian cuisines. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of ground meat – usually beef, chicken, lamb or mutton, pork, or a mixture – mixed with spices or onions.
Since India is largely a vegetarian country, popular Malai Kofta are prepared without meat. The balls get their plump texture from mixing paneer with potato.
The dishes name translates to malai, which means creamy or buttery and kofta, which means spiced balls.
Malai Kofta as a dish features two distinct parts. The crispy deep fried kofta and creamy curry.
We love serving Vegetable Kofta as an appetizer at dinner or as a light lunch.
Travel to India by Cooking Malai Kofta at Home
After my contract ended in Seoul I travelled throughout Asia for 6 months, visiting the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, The Maldives and India.
I spent over a month traveling through India. I started in the capital, eating my way through the bustling markets and fine dining restaurants in Delhi. I then embarked on a magical weekend getaway to awe-inspiring Taj Mahal in Agra. In India’s north you’ll find plenty of barbecue and wheat based side dishes like scorched naan bread.
For the second half of my Indian adventure I explored the southern state of Kerala. The south is famous for its seafood, coconut, tropical fruits and rice based side dishes like crispy dosa. The colonial capital of Cochin was formerly run by the Portuguese. It’s also one of the only places in India you can find beef on a menu.
My India trip came to a close in the Bollywood capital, bustling and cosmopolitan Mumbai. The city is famous for its specialty street foods and fine dining restaurants at opulent luxury hotels. The Taj Mahal Palace in particular serves one of the world’s most famous Afternoon Teas.
After you’ve traveled to India, return home to prepare an authentic and fragrant feast for friends and family featuring this Malai Kofta recipe.
Where To Eat Vegetarian Malai Kofta
Haven’t traveled to India before? It may be helpful to first sample Vegetable Kofta at a local Indian restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You can also assess the size of the deep fried balls and spices in the creamy curry before trying to make the dish at home from scratch.
My Family Loves Traditional Vegetable Kofta
After traveling throughout India and eating at some of the world’s best Indian restaurants I was excited to share my love of Malai Kofta with family in Toronto.
I served a creamy Chicken Shahi Korma with crunchy Indian Onion Salad for an al fresco lunch in the spring. While in the summer at the cottage in Muskoka we enjoyed a vegetarian feast featuring Shahi Paneer and Indian Chickpea Crepes.
When I finally introduced my parents to vegetarian Malai Kofta they’re eyes bulged with glee. I knew they’d both love the dish because it’s not spicy hot and has a buttery and creamy taste thanks to the smooth curry.
My family love crispy deep fried foods and meatballs so wasn’t surprised when everyone asked for seconds after polishing off their first plate.
If you’ve traveled to India on holiday there is no better way to share your adventure at home with family and friends at home then by serving our homemade Malai Kofta recipe.
Malai Kofta Health Benefits
Our homemade vegetable kofta recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!
It is only recently that scientists have begun to identify the components responsible for garlic’s myriad health benefits. Rich in phytochemicals and potassium, garlic helps boost your immune system, fight cancer and protect your heart.
Ginger contains at least 14 phytochemicals, many of which have impressive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has a good source of copper, which supports your bones, blood and nervous system.
Onions are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of onions can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Rich in a group of phytochemicals called carotenoids, tomatoes may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, and provide protection against cancer. Tomatoes are also a good source of immune-boosting vitamin C.
Consuming dairy products (such as milk, cheese and paneer) provides health benefits — especially improved bone health. Dairy foods provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fibre, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They’re also a good source of copper, magnesium, and manganese — nutrients important for energy production, brain health, immunity, and bone health.
Rich in energy-boosting manganese, cinnamon is also antibacterial and may protect your brain against Alzheimer’s disease.
A good source of bone-strengthening vitamin K, cilantro is also rich in antioxidants that help protect the eyes from damage by free radicals.
Restaurant-Style Malai Kofta Cooking Tips
If it’s your first time cooking restaurant-style Malai Kofta at home be sure to review our detailed step-by-step recipe below. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to get you started:
- Use a large cast iron dutch oven with a high rim to reduce splatter when cooking.
- In our recipe below we suggest using an immersion blender to puree the cooked vegetables but you could also use a heavy duty Vitamix.
- We suggest using a high quality rubber spatula spoon when making curry so you can easily stir, scrape down the side of the pot and sip to check if it needs to be seasoned further.
- Strain the curry puree with a fine mesh sieve so the gravy is silky smooth.
- If you like to play DIY in the kitchen why not make homemade paneer for your vegetable kofta?
- Fry kofta over medium high heat. Handle them carefully as the break apart in the oil if the temperature isn’t hot enough.
- Don’t cut out the fat! If you want restaurant-style Malai Kofta to enjoy at home you must realize the butter and cream are essential ingredients.
- You can try making vegan Malai Kofta by substituting shredded paneer with crumbled tofu. Swap out normal butter for vegan butter and add coconut cream instead of whipping cream.
- Malai Kofta is traditionally served with fresh naan. If you love baking why not make your own sourdough naan?
What To Serve with Malai Kofta
There’s nothing more comforting on a cold day then cozying up to a bowl of creamy Malai Kofta.
If you’re hosting a large dinner party you might want to serve our easy Vegetable Kofta as an appetizer before serving heartier mains
If you’re hosting a large Indian-themed dinner party buffet you may want to add spicy chutney, fresh salads, soups, fragrant biryani, homemade naan and a seafood or meat curry.
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If you have leftover Malai Kofta we suggest storing the deep fried balls and curry gravy separately. That way you’ll avoid getting the crispy fried balls soggy.
You can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days. To reheat simply zap the curry sauce in the microwave and crisp up the kofta balls in the oven.
We love doubling our vegetable kofta recipe so we can store leftovers in the freezer and save time on cooking in the kitchen. We suggest storing leftover Malai Kofta in separate Pyrex freezer safe containers that have a snug lid so there’s no spilling.
Be sure to let your sauce and fried kofta balls reach room temperature before storing it in the freezer. If you add a hot containers to a cold freezer it will significantly reduce the interior temperature and potentially spoil your food.
How To Make Homemade Malai Kofta
Vegetarian Malai Kofta
- 1 tbsp Canola oil
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 4 Whole Green Cardamom crushed
- 3 Cloves
- 1 tsp Caraway seeds
- 8 Garlic cloves minced
- 2 inches Fresh Ginger chopped
- 1 Green chile chopped
- 1 Yellow onion chopped
- 2 Large tomatoes chopped
- 1/4 cup Cashews
- 2 cups Water
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1 tsp Coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp Chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
- 3 tbsp Heavy Cream
- Cilantro garish
- 1 cup Mashed potatoes
- 1 cup Grated paneer
- 1 tbsp Fresh ginger chopped
- 1.5 tbsp Cilantro chopped
- 1 Green chile chopped
- 1 tbsp Cashews chopped
- 1 tbsp Raisins chopped
- 1.5 tbsp Cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp White pepper powder
- 1/4 tsp Cardamom powder
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Place pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon oil, bay leaf, cinnamon, green cardamom, cloves and caraway seeds.
- Let the spices sizzle and pop for few seconds and then add the chopped garlic, ginger, green chili and onion. Saute for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, cashews and 2 cups of water. Stir until combined. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until tomatoes have softened.
- Remove from heat and let it cool down down. Discard the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and transfer mixture to a blender. Blitz to a smooth paste. Use a sieve and strain the puree into a bowl.
- Heat the pot again and add 2 tablespoons butter and 1 teaspoon oil. Let the butter melt. Add the pureed gravy and cook for 2 minutes. Add the coriander powder, red chili powder, salt, sugar, garam masala and cream. Let the curry cook for 2 to 3 minutes then set aside and make vegetable kofta.
- To a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients for kofta including mashed potatoes, grated paneer, finely chopped ginger, cilantro, green chili, cashews, raisins, cornstarch, salt, white pepper powder and 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder.
- Mix ingredients together with your hands to form a dough. Make koftas from the dough by taking some dough between your hands and rolling between your palms to make it round like a meatball. Make koftas until there is no more dough.
- Heat enough oil to fry in a wok on medium-high heat. Make sure oil is hot, or koftas will stick to the pan.
- Drop koftas in hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove the fried koftas an let rest on a paper towel.
- To serve, pour curry gravy on a serving plate and drizzle with cream and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
- Enjoy homemade malai kofta with naan or basmati rice.
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