Gulab Jamuns and Kala Jamuns: Indian Sweet Success!

Whoa! I haven’t blogged for over a week! I had quite a few posts started, but I just couldn’t find the motivation (or the time!) to complete them.

But really, if I’m being honest, it’s probably mostly because I just wanted a break from the computer…and the kitchen.

Indian Sweet Kala Jumun

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you may remember my first attempt to make gulab jamuns.  If you’re new to my blog, Namaste and thank you for visiting! You can read all about this tasty little sweet HERE.

Although gulab jamuns are quite tasty, kala jamuns are definitely far superior in taste (in my not-so humble opinion).  Kala jumuns are simply blackened gulab jamuns.  A scant teaspoon (more or less, depending on your recipe) of sugar is added to the dough.

When the dough balls are fried, the sugar begins to caramelize, creating a dark colored shell.

Frying the dough balls

After a few minutes…

Kala Jamuns: Black Gulab Jamuns

I’m not really that good at frying things–remember when I melted the plastic spoon (what was I thinking?!) trying to deep fry samosas?–so some lessons I’ve learned when deep/shallow frying are:

  1.  Do not use plastic utensils.  This should be pretty self explanatory, but apparently it isn’t.  Either that, or I have no common sense.
  2. Don’t keep the heat turned to HIGH, you’ll end up burning your food–and yourself.
  3. Don’t put too many things in the oil at once.  The temperature will lower significantly and the food might be oily/mushy.
  4. Don’t use the wok.  I’m not sure why this didn’t work for me, because it seems like it’d be a great pan to fry stuff in.  But my oil got way too hot, way too fast…and wouldn’t cool down.  My food was burned on the outside and raw on the inside.  Maybe there’s some frying-with-a-wok secret that I’m not aware of?  Care to enlighten me?
  5. While frying stuff–especially things that cook relatively quickly–you’ve got to pay attention.  This isn’t the time to organize your spice cabinet, or unload the dishwasher.  Trust me.

Aside from frying the dough-balls, they also have to be rolled properly.  If your dough balls have cracks all over them, they will probably break apart in the oil.

They might also become hard in the centers…and no one enjoys hard gulab jamuns!  There are a few simple ways to avoid the cracking of your gulab jamun dough.

First, you’ll want to be sure the dough isn’t too dry.  You might need to add a little additional liquid–only a tiny bit at a time.  The ideal gulab jamun dough should be pretty soft, and not crumbly.  It also shouldn’t be sticky or overly wet.  You’re aiming to find a happy balance between wet and dry ingredients.

If your dough seems fine, then maybe you need to re-think your rolling technique.  What i do is pinch a piece of dough and roll a ball between my two hands.  The ball will usually have a few cracks.  Then, I simply flatten it in my hands and re-roll the ball.

The photo on the top is what my dough looked like after I just rolled it into a ball with my hands.  This is what that same piece of dough looked like after I flattened it and re-rolled it:

You can see it’s a pretty huge difference!

Now, since we’ve talked a little about technique, let’s get to the recipe!  This recipe is quite good–perfect, even.  It took quite a few trials, and a lot of failures;

FAIL! The dough was too wet and I used too much baking soda. The dough looked perfect, but as soon as it hit the oil it swelled huge…and then collapsed.  The oil also was not hot enough.

but I’ve finally figured out how to make this extremely popular Indian sweet at home!

After my first trial, I got quite a bit of feedback from blog readers (thank you!) and my in-laws.  In fact, Maa (my mother-in-law) was so determined to help me, she attempted to make a batch so she could give me some pointers (and a great recipe!).

Maa’s looked so pretty, so perfect;

Maa’s beautiful gulab jamuns

but sadly we don’t get fresh khoya (thickened milk “dough”) here in America.  And I definitely didn’t have time to sit over a stove and stir all day.  So I did a little searching and found a bunch of things I could use in replacement of the fresh khoya.

Luckily, I was able to find something called “mawa milk powder” at my local Indian market.  Mawa powder is probably the next best thing to actual fresh khoya.  It’s similar to milk powder–but it’s thicker.  It is basically a dried version of khoya (you can learn about the differences between regular milk powder and mawa powder HERE, if you’re interested).

So now that I had the mawa powder, I had to figure out how to turn it into khoya.  I did a lot of research online, and couldn’t really find a definite answer.  I found one recipe that said to use 2 cups mawa powder and 1 cup of liquid.  So I tried it.  I kept adding milk/mawa until I got the amount of khoya Maa told me I’d need.

The dough looked promising, but it just didn’t work.  The gulab jamuns fell apart in the oil and became quite flat.  After a lot of experimenting, I finally stumbled across the magic and mysterious ratio of mawa powder to liquid!

Kala Jamuns with a candied raspberry, pistachios and rose petals

The sugar syrup is quite easy.  Just toss 3 cups of sugar along with about 2 1/2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  I added a few spices–cardamom and rosewater (I never really measure)–and let it cook for a good 20 minutes, until it thickened and became quite sticky.

When it’s the right consistency, remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

You can add cardamom, clove, cinnamon, maple syrup, lavender, rose water…the options are endless!  Just be sure to taste and add a little at a time so that the spices don’t become overwhelming  (especially important with cinnamon and rosewater!).

This makes quite a lot of syrup, more than you’ll ever eat with the gulab jamuns.  When the sweets are gone, I strain the syrup into a bottle and toss it in the fridge, labeled as “Gulab Jamun Syrup”.  It’s perfect on pancakes, in coffee, or to use in baking!

Gulab Jamun (Kala Jamun) Recipe:

Makes approximately 15 gulab jamuns–depending what size you make the dough balls


  • 1 c. Mawa powder (available at Indian grocery stores, or online)
  • 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 small pinches baking soda (approximately 1/8 tsp.)
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. half & half (start with 4, add more if needed)
  • spices- as desired (cardamom, clove, cinnamon…ect. Add whatever you like, just be sure not to add too much)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (only if making kala jamuns, leave out if making gulab jamuns).


  • Heat a mixture of oil and ghee (I add about a tbsp. of ghee to whatever the amount of oil) in a heavy bottomed pan (I used a non-stick fry-pan).  You don’t need a ton of oil, maybe anywhere from 1/2 c. to 1 c. (this can be re-used a couple times).   Heat to approximately 300 degrees F.
  • While the oil is coming to temperature, toss all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Knead the mixture for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and soft.  Add additional liquid, as needed.
  • Roll the dough into crack-free balls, about the size of a large marble.  They will expand while cooking.
  • Once the oil comes to temperature, fry the dough balls in batches–about 4 at a time–until the outsides become brown or black (for kala jamuns) and the interior is cooked.  This should take about 4 minutes.  Be sure to flip the balls around so that all parts have equal color.
  • Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel for 30 seconds to a minute.  Toss into the syrup.
  • Let the gulab jamuns sit in the syrup for at least 20 minutes to an hour before serving–for best flavor!

Kala jamuns, unlike gulab jamuns, are not traditionally served in a bowl of sugar syrup.  Instead, they are usually left to soak the syrup, and then served “dry.”  But I say, do what you want! 🙂  Rules are made to be broken!

This recipe is absolutely perfect, and I think it’s the closest I could possibly get to recreating what I tasted in India!  Especially for the kala jamuns.  The outsides were sweet, black and oh so tasty!  The insides were moist and soft–not at all dry!

Piyush and I enjoyed these outside with a steaming glass of chai.  Indian sweets pair excellently with chai!

We also shared most of the sweets with friends and family (after all, I made about 5 batches…I was determined to make them perfect!), but they can also be frozen along with some syrup.

If you freeze them, pop them in the microwave for a minute–or so–to warm them up!


26 thoughts on “Gulab Jamuns and Kala Jamuns: Indian Sweet Success!

    1. Shari Post author

      I hope you get the chance! It’s true, they look quite different than most deserts Americans or other “westerners” are used to…but they’re so so good!

  1. kt

    Was in south India for 7 months, loved gulag jamins, and all the food of the region. Had another friend that successfully made the standard version. Looks amazing!

  2. Janet (your cousin!)

    Don’t feel bad about melting a spoon – in 1993 your Auntie Ruth badly burned her hand pouring hot oil from Rosettes in a plastic bottle….not so good! 😦

  3. Pingback: World food comes to Sunshine Beach « eatingwithem

  4. Sanya

    Hey Shari,

    Yours kala jamun are so great. I am a sweets nuts. I can tell you you from the look of opened up jamun in one of your photos.

    I tried to make, and mine got sucked in when I put them in the syrup, I mean they became concave balls with big dimples as if they got pulled inside. Would you, please, share how to fix that.

    My temp was lowest min I could get on the stove top, or is it the mawa/liquid ratios.

    Please share the secret to the fix or I may come to your house and eat all yours.



    1. Shari Post author


      Thank you for the nice compliments! It took a few trials (and a phone call to my mother-in-law in India) to finally figure out how to make the kala jamuns turn out right.

      I think the key to cooking them properly is heating the oil to a lower heat–but not too low, you don’t want the sweet to suck in a lot of oil–and once the oil is at the right temperature, cook your kala jumun slowly. I got the best results when I let the sweet fry for about 4 minutes. I then move them from the oil onto a plate with a paper towel–to help soak excess oil. After a minute I transfer the sweet into the syrup.

      Also, don’t put too many in the pan at once. I usually do one at first, to check my oil temperature, and then do 4 at a time after that.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you still have troubles, I can call Maa again! 🙂

  5. Nags

    Your pictures are gorgeous and I truly commend your patience in trying out these authentic Indian dishes which not even many Indians know how to make. Way to go! Piyush is one lucky guy 🙂

  6. smayan

    I hope Piyush knows how lucky he is 🙂
    Even many Indian ladies (me) do not cook Indian dishes with so much love I think

    1. Shari Post author

      hello! Fresh mawa is actually ideal! I’m not sure how much to replace though, I will give it a try and update the recipe (I’ve actually made quite a lot of improvements to this recipe over the years).


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