A Delicious Treat: Gulab Jamun

March 5th, 20105:50 pm @ Angela Odom


I finally did it and three times was the charm. Gulab Jamun is one of my favorite Indian deserts, particularly when served warm (or at room temperature) with cold ice cream. Gulab Jamun is also one of India’s most popular desserts. The name Gulab means rose and Jamun is a kind of deep purple colored Indian berry. The name fits because the syrup used for Gulab Jamun contains rose water or essence and the little dumplings when cooked are kind of orange or dark brown.

On my first attempt, I used melted butter and tried to get away with using a non-dairy creamer. I ended up with dumplings that cooked too fast, were crumbly and not exactly what I wanted.

On my second attempt I used soft butter and milk. The little dumplings still cooked too fast for my taste and crumbly.  Instead of using cardamon seeds I used powdered cardamon and still the syrup didn’t provide the taste I was looking for.

On my third attempt I looked for recipes that were different than those I had already tried. The final recipe, found at showmethecurry.com was right on. Their recipe called for Ghee (also known as clarified butter) and rose water (or rose essence) for the syrup.

I always have ghee at home and I can easily make it myself. Fortunately, there is a wonderful grocery store close by where I can purchase all sorts of exotic ingredients and I was overjoyed to see they also sell ghee. You can also purchase ghee at Whole Foods.

As for the rose water, I got lucky. I really did not want to travel to India Sweets and Spices in Duate or on Los Feliz (the larger store). Instead, I did a Hail Mary and traveled over to Whole Foods where I was pleasantly surprised to find they actually sell rose water. Fabulous.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had everything set out for attempt No. 3. The recipe is not difficult and does not require a lot of ingredients. The following is what you will need:

For the dumplings:
Instant Dry Milk (Milk Powder) – 1/2 cup
All Purpose Flour – 2 tbsp
Yogurt – 2 tbsp (I used condensed milk)
Clarified Butter (Ghee) – 1 tbsp
Baking Soda – 1/4 tsp

For the syrup:
Water – 2 cups
Sugar – 2 cups
Rose Essence – few drops, optional (I used rose water)
Cardamom Powder – 1/2 tsp or to taste
Saffron – few strands, optional

Oil – for deep frying

My Gulab Jamuns

For mixing and all of the how tos of preparing the Gulab Jamun, I’ll ask you to head over to showmethecurry.com to both view the video and read the description on how to prepare.

I will add a few things to what they offer there as something to watch for if you plan on preparing a batch of delicious Gulab Jamun. Ghee is important as it does not burn as fast as butter.  The milk particles in Ghee are removed, i.e., clarified butter. I love it because I can easily cook with ghee without having to worry about food cooking too fast or burning — like my first two batches. There are numerous recipes for Gulab Jamun that lists butter as one of the ingredients. I personally would recommend purchasing clarified butter or ghee instead and just keep it in the fridge. If you ever need to saute something and you would typically use butter, try ghee instead. You will be glad you did.

Using ghee made frying the dumplings a whole lot better. They didn’t burn as quickly and I could watch them turn that beautiful golden brown (I call them orange balls) without having to worry about them getting crusty. The butter was clearly not a good idea.

Second, you may have to add milk to your dough mix if you find your balls are too crumbly. The recipe above lists yogurt as the bonding agent. I did not have plain yogurt at home, instead I used what I had and that was condensed milk. You don’t need much but, while kneading the dough, if you find the dough too crumbly or if your balls are consistently coming up with cracks, add more milk. I found I could get the perfect ball when the dough had a gooey, sticky consistency. A perfect ball is when you roll it around in your hands and you don’t see a crack or dent anywhere. That’s a perfect ball.

I’ll add one more thing and you will see this in the video, spread a little ghee around in your hands prior to making the balls. This will keep the dough from sticking to your hands. That was one very good piece of advice.

It is also important to note that while rolling the ball in your hands, squish it a few times and roll out. This helps to create a nice tight ball and you will need a nice tight ball when you begin the frying process.

Finally, the missing ingredient for the syrup was rose water. What a big difference. The rose water in combination with the ground cardamon was just what I needed to get the authentic taste I was looking for.

Health Benefits:

I’ll start with the Rose Water since it dates back to ancient Egypt and is a popular oil for the senses and romance. Rose Water can be applied directly onto the skin to soothe it and, like Lemon Oil, if ingested orally can ease the digestion process. Just opening a bottle of rose water is enough aromatherapy to cause you to feel lifted from the kitchen and planted somewhere in a field of roses.

Cardamon, my favorite, is known as the “queen of spices” and numerous health benefits, such as improving digestion and stimulating metabolism. The seeds contain a volatile oil. The principal constituents of the volatile oil are cineol, terpineol, terpinene, limonene, sabinene, and terpineol in the form of formic and acetic acids.

It too is the spice of love as Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Arab cultures considered it to have aphrodisiac qualities and was used in love potions. The Arabian Nights makes frequent reference to it.

Saffron, another aromatherapy favorite, has been credited with enhancing memory. I wouldn’t know because I am taking and dealing with so much I’m in a fog every day. But, be that as it may, saffron contains carotenoids and medical studies have proven that it helps in enhancing oxygen diffusivity in the plasma and other liquids while improving pulmonary oxygenation. The carotenoids in saffron are known to inhibit skin tumors and improve arthritis in various independent medical studies. The numerous active constituents in saffron are also known to bring about a positive effect on people with neurodegenerative disorders and memory impairment.

Ghee (Clarified Butter) in your diet will carry fat-soluble foods quickly and easily inside cells. Such foods will reach where they are supposed to reach, to work the way they are supposed to work. Ghee has beta-carotene and vitamin E, both known anti-oxidants that counter the effects of free radicals. Ghee supposedly even repairs the mucus lining of the stomach and evens out the acid balance. I highly recommend it and of course, aromatherapy, aromatherapy, aromatherapy.


I was very delighted with my final product. It took three tries and different recipes but I finally got it. Now, instead of driving long distances to buy a few for $6.00 or $7.00, I can make a 10 or 20 of them at home and keep them in the fridge. It was a beautiful thing.

So, if you’re ready, willing and able, head on over to showmethecurry.com, prepare your hands and fingers and get started. It’s worth it.

My Favorite Links

Show Me The Curry — ShowMeTheCurry.com is an Indian recipe website. They produce and distribute free Indian cooking videos through which they attempt to show the viewers step-by-step, easy to follow instructions on how to make delicious Indian food.

Titli’s Busy Kitchen — A wealth of recipes here from all over the world.

Manjula’s Kitchen — your home for Indian Vegetarian Recipes and Cooking Videos.