This is the ultimate gulab jamun recipe! They are rich, soft, juicy, melt in your mouth and irresistible. Plus it’s so easy to make with this no-fail recipe. I am sharing the traditional method where gulab jamun is made with khoya (mawa). Also, sharing all the tips and tricks to perfecting them.
What is Gulab Jamun?
Gulab jamun is one of the popular Indian sweets where milk solid balls are deep fried and soaked into the saffron, cardamom, rose flavored sugar syrup. During the soaking time, balls will absorb some syrup and become soft and juicy.
Have you ever wondered why this dessert called gulab jamun? Gulab=Rose. The sugar syrup is flavored with rose water hence the word ‘Gulab’. Jamun=Indian black plum (fruit). The shape and texture of the balls are similar to the black plum hence the word ‘Jamun’.
Gulab jamuns (along with many other sweets) are often made during the festivals like holi, diwali, eid, raksha bandhan or special occasion. Many people buy these sweets from mithai shop (sweetmeats shops) but I always prefer to make them at home. So I know first, quality ingredients are used and second, made with hygiene and cleanliness.
Variations in making gulab jamun:
- Traditionally it is made with khoya (which can be expensive). And sometimes it is not easily available in the shop for those who live abroad. You can make khoya at home, but it will be the time-consuming task. So in modern lifestyle, there are many variations are adapted.
- To make it cost effective (or vegan), it can be made with potato or sweet potato.
- It can be made with bread.
- Sometimes the little amount of paneer (fresh cheena) is added along with khoya. It is known as kala jamun.
- There is an instant version aka milk powder gulab jamun.
- Dry version - once jamuns have absorbed the syrup then they are removed from syrup and rolled into desiccated coconut.
Main ingredient: Khoya (mawa)
- If you are in India, you can easily buy khoya from your local dairy shop.
- If you are not in India (like me, I am in the USA), you can buy a block of frozen khoya or mawa.
- Or if you have time, you can make khoya at home.
- If using frozen khoya (like me), let it defrost on countertop. Then grate it using a fine grater.
- Measure it to 1 cup, tightly packed and use in the recipe.
How to make gulab jamun with khoya?
- Take measured khoya, all purpose flour (maida), baking powder and cardamom powder in a bowl.
- Mix it with your hands and try pinching the mixture together. It starts to come together. NOTE: if using fresh mawa which has more moisture in it. In that case, you may need more flour. No need to add water in the next step.
- Now add a teaspoon of water at a time and gather it to make a firm ball. Do not knead like a dough, just gather. NOTE: If using fresh mawa which has more moisture then you may need to reduce or eliminate the water amount. Here I have used frozen khoya which is dry, so I added water for binding. So In short, adjust the flour and water amount as per your khoya/mawa quality, type.
- Now divide the dough into small portions and make smooth balls. There should not be any cracks or wrinkles.
- Similarly, make all the balls. I got 22. Keep in refrigerator for 10 minutes.
How to make sugar syrup for gulab jamun?
- Meanwhile, let’s make sugar syrup. Take sugar, saffron and cardamom powder in a saucepan.
- Add water and turn the heat on medium. Let the sugar melt.
- Once it starts boiling, let it simmer for 2-3 minutes and then turn off the stove. We are not looking for one thread consistency. We need just sticky syrup. Now add rose water, mix.
How to perfectly fry gulab jamun? (with tips)
- Heat the oil in a pan on MEDIUM-LOW heat for frying. Traditionally ghee is used which gives a rich taste. Oil also works fine.
- Oil should be just hot. Not too hot like we do for pakora. Try checking by adding a small portion in the oil. It stays at the bottom of the pan for a few seconds and then comes on top steadily, meaning the oil is perfect for frying. If the added dough comes on top quickly meaning the oil is too hot.
- Add one ball first and see. If it breaks while frying, add little more flour in the dough and make balls again.
- Add a few balls into the hot enough oil.
- Once it starts to have tiny golden spots on them, keep turning and moving around for even frying. Fry till they are golden brown in color. During the frying process adjust the gas heat to keep the oil temperature consistent and make sure it does not get too hot otherwise you will have a raw lump in the center of the ball.
- Once fried remove them in the plate and fry rest. One batch will take around 7-8 minutes. Once fried all of them let it cool for 5 minutes only. Do not add hot, fried jamun in the syrup, let it cool slightly and then add.
- Now the sugar syrup may get cold. So just warm it up. And then add gulab jamun in the syrup. Jamun will float in the syrup. If they sink in the bottom meaning they are not fried properly, they are heavy and dense or they are raw from inside. Let it sit for 3-4 hours, during this time they will soak up some syrup and will get slightly bigger in size.
Different ways to serve gulab jamun
- Gulab jamun can be served warm or chilled or at room temperature. It’s a personal preference. To serve warm, reheat in the microwave for a few seconds.
- Enjoy this gulab jamun as a dessert after a meal or along with your meal.
- Drain the syrup, cut the balls into half. Arrange them on a serving platter. Top with rabdi and garnish with sliced almonds.
- Instead of rabdi, you can use whipped cream.
- Drain the syrup, roll the balls into desiccated coconut or nuts powder then arrange on the platter.
- Or top the balls with chocolate sauce or chocolate ganache and garnish with pistachios.
Storing gulab jamun:
- At room temperature - it stays fresh for 1-2 days depending on the climate/weather where you live.
- In the refrigerator - it stays good for a week or two when stored in an airtight container.
- In the freezer - gulab jamuns can be frozen and stays good for up to 4 months.
Now, we learned how to make gulab jamun. Let’s go through some troubleshooting questions. If you have read the steps above and followed them carefully, I am sure you won’t run into any issues. But just in case, if you need some answers.
Why my gulab jamun breaks?
- If there is too much moisture in the dough ball, they will break in the oil while frying. In this case, add some more flour (maida), gather the dough and make the balls again.
- If there is an excess amount of baking powder added. So always measure with measuring spoons, do not eyeball.
- The dough balls (jamuns) should be crack-free (wrinkle-free). The surface must be smooth all around.
- Once added into the oil, do not touch them immediately with a spatula. Touch them once you see a few golden spots on them.
Why gulab jamun become hard?
- If the dough is overworked or kneaded like chapati dough than gluten will form and jamuns will become hard.
- To make soft gulab jamuns, just gather the mixture to make a dough ball. DO NOT knead.
- If the balls are fried on high heat than they stay raw from the center and gets brown quickly from outside. This raw center will remain hard even after soaking in the syrup.
What to do with leftover syrup?
- Make shakkarpara - knead the dough with wheat flour (chapati atta), ghee and leftover sugar syrup.
- Make sweet rice - Soak the rice and bring the sugar syrup to boil (rice: syrup ratio 1:2). Once starts boiling, add rice, cover and cook till soft. Garnish with nuts.
- Sweet cheela or pudla - make the thick runny batter using wheat flour (or all purpose flour), cardamom powder and syrup. Make cheela using ghee or oil just like you make pancakes.
- You can freeze in smaller portions and use as needed.
- NEVER ever try to make nimbu pani (lemonade) using leftover syrup. It won’t taste good at all.
Gulab jamun recipe (with khoya)
For gulab jamun recipe:
- 1 cup Khoya (Mawa) fresh or frozen
- 2 1/2 tablespoons All purpose flour (Maida)
- ¼ teaspoon Baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon Green cardamom seeds powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Water
- Ghee (clarified butter) or Oil, for deep frying
For sugar syrup:
- 1 1/2 cups White granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Water
- ¼ teaspoon Green cardamom seeds powder or 3-4 whole cardamoms
- few strands Saffron optional
- 2 teaspoons Rose water
Making the dough:
- If using frozen khoya like me then defrost and grate it. Measure it to 1 cup tightly packed. If using fresh khoya then crumble it, measure and use.
- Add khoya in a bowl along with all purpose flour, baking powder, and cardamom powder.
- Start mixing and pinching together, it should start to come together.
- Now add a teaspoon of water at a time and gather the mixture to make a firm dough ball. Do not knead or overwork.
- NOTE: if using fresh khoya then you may not need any water because it has more moisture. If fresh mawa has too much moisture then you may need little more flour. In short, adjust the water and flour quantity as per your mawa type, quality.
- Make smooth (crack-free) balls using your palm. You will get around 22.
- Keep in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
Making sugar syrup:
- Take sugar, cardamom powder, saffron, and water in a saucepan and turn the heat on medium.
- Once it starts boiling, let it simmer for 2-3 minutes to make sticky syrup.
- Turn off the stove and keep it aside.
Making perfect gulab jamun recipe:
- Heat the oil or ghee in a pan on medium-low heat for frying.
- Oil should be just hot. Once hot enough add few balls in the oil.
- Once they get tiny golden spots, you can turn and move around for even frying. During the frying process adjust the gas heat to keep the oil temperature consistent and make sure it does not get too hot
- Fry till they are golden brown in color from all sides. Once batch may take around 7-8 minutes.
- Once ready remove it to a plate using a slotted spatula.
- Let the fried jamuns cool for 5 minutes only.
- On the other side, reheat the sugar syrup to just make it warm. Add fried balls in warm syrup.
- Let them soak for 3-4 hours at room temperature and now ready to serve.