This is an easy recipe that uses milk powder to make fluffy gulab jamun which is soaked in a not-too-sweet cardamom, saffron, and rose syrup.
What are gulab jamuns?
Gulab jamun is a delicious, spongy, milk-based donut that is fried and dunked into a cardamom, saffron, and rose syrup. My amma (mom) would turn our home into a gulab jamun-making factory during Diwali time so that we could hand out these sweet treats to all of our neighbors.
I made over 200 gulab jamuns trying out different variables and ingredients, including using khoya vs. paneer, changing the ratio of flour and milk powder, and using baking soda vs. baking powder to give you insights on what works and what doesn't. You can read all about my trials and errors with ingredients and techniques in this blog post packed with tips and tricks to help beginners make the best gulab jamuns.
Why whole milk powder is the key to easy gulab jamuns
- Milk powder delivers the taste of milk without the prep time of khoya/mawa. Traditionally, gulab jamuns were made by condensing milk into a thick and sweet substance called khoya or mawa. However, this process takes many hours of patiently stirring and ensuring that the milk doesn't burn.
- Milk powder helps standardize the recipe. Loads of recipes use khoya or paneer to achieve the milky flavor in the gulab jamuns. However, the quality and water content in different brands of khoya and paneer differ widely, which can dramatically alter how much flour is needed to create a stiff dough. Using milk powder helps standardize the amount of liquid needed and yields in a consistent recipe for beginners to follow.
- Milk powder tends to be more accessible than khoya in the United States.
- Whole milk powder is better for tenderness and fluffiness than low-fat milk powder. It has tons of milk solids which is key to making really rich tasting gulab jamuns. If you are in a pinch and only have low-fat milk powder, use ~1 tablespoon of melted ghee. In addition, you may need to add heavy cream in additions of 1 teaspoon as low-fat milk powder tends to require more liquid to form a supple dough.
Making a not-too-sweet gulab jamun
My biggest issue with gulab jamuns is that they can be too sweet. Typically folks use a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water; however, as the syrup thickens it gets even sweeter. This recipe uses a 4:5 ratio of sugar to water, which means that for 1 cup of sugar there are 1.25 cups of water, which yields a less sweet syrup. If you are looking for ideas on how to use your leftover gulab jamun syrup, you can check out this blog post that dives deep on how to use the leftover gulab jamun syrup.
Ideas to serve gulab jamun
Gulab jamuns are so delicious served warm with either vanilla ice cream or pista ice cream. The combo of warm and cold is a match made in heaven. Alternatively, adding a crunchy element such as crushed nuts or chikkis (Indian jaggery peanut brittle) contrasts nicely with the soft jamun.
Storing gulab jamuns
Store gulab jamuns in the syrup in a wide tupperware with a lid. Do not over-crowd or stack gulab jamuns on top of each other as they can break. You can store gulab jamuns in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Important tips for making gulab jamuns
Here are some high level tips for making gulab jamuns. However, check out this detailed blog post if you want in-depth tips and solutions for common mistakes when making gulab jamuns.
- Fry gulab jamuns at 325 Fahrenheit for 3-4 minutes. Frying low and slow is key to fluffy, fully cooked jamuns that can absorb syrup.
- Use pressure and ghee create smooth balls. Greasing your hands with ghee helps create a smooth exterior on the gulab jamun balls.
- Soak the jamun in syrup right after frying. Soaking the jamun while it's still warm will ensure that it is soft and spongy.
- Serve gulab jamuns at room temperature or slightly warmed for the softest texture. When heating gulab jamuns in the microwave, heat in small, 10 second intervals as the jamuns can burst if they get too hot.
Gulab jamun variations
This is my original gulab jamun recipe that serves as the base for these gulab jamun variations. The stuffed gulab jamun recipe is great for adding an extra surprise in the center of the gulab jamun and the dry gulab jamun is a perfect variation to pass out during the Diwali season. I hope these give you inspiration for how you can riff and create gulab jamun variations of your own.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can store gulab jamuns in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Gulab jamuns are so delicious served warm with either vanilla ice cream or pista ice cream.
The easiest way to warm gulab jamuns is in the microwave in short intervals of 10 seconds. Heating the gulab jamun too much can cause it to break apart.
Kala jamun is jamun that is a deeper brown and almost black in color whereas gulab jamun is a lighter shade of brown. You can use this recipe to make kala jamun but simply turn the heat up when you reach the 3 minute mark to get a darker color on the exterior.
Yes! Use whole milk powder for a tender gulab jamun with a more pronounced milk flavor. If you are in a pinch, you can use low-fat but compensate by adding 1 tablespoon of ghee. You may have to add additional heavy cream in 1 teaspoon increments until the dough is supple as low-fat milk powder tends to need more liquid.
There are many reasons ranging from using too much leavener (baking powder/baking soda) to the consistency of the dough. Check out this blog post that goes into detail about why your gulab jamun may have broken in the oil and how to fix it.
There are many reasons ranging from using too much leavener (baking powder/baking soda) to the consistency of the dough. Check out this blog post that goes into detail about why your gulab jamun may have broken in the syrup and how to fix it.
There are many reasons ranging from using too much flour to not frying the jamuns properly. Check out this blog post that goes into detail about why your gulab jamun may be hard and how to fix it.
You can buy milk powder at most grocery stores or online.
You can use gulab jamun syrup as syrup for pancakes or cocktails. This blog post gives many ideas about what to do with extra gulab jamun syrup.