Vegan Malai Kofta

Does everyone have her or his homemade garam masala (from two weeks ago, because apparently my life has become a wormhole from blog post to blog post (in which I can continue to live in denial of the fact that I’m ever late for anything (especially xkcd references)))?

vegan Malai Kofta

Malai kofta is an Indian dish, and, as with most Indian dishes, its name derives from its ingredients (as opposed to western dishes, which often have names reflective of their origin, sauce, or preparation style).

Malai is essentially clotted cream or cream, and kofta are spiced meat or vegetable balls common in the Middle East, Arabia, and South Asia. Malai kofta, therefore, is creamy spiced vegetable balls—and it doesn’t seem complete without raisins and cashews stirred into the sauce. It’s perfect when served with basmati rice and a little naan.

We veganised India Snack’s Malai Kofta recipe and tweaked it a little bit to suit our tastes. The balls are really easy to make, but you’re going to need some besan, or chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour. Bonus: you can make vegan egg replacer with a 1:1 ratio of besan and water! The flavour and texture won’t be the same without besan, but you could sub garfava flour in a pinch.

You can also freeze the balls to make in batches and add to fresh malai curry sauce for an easy weeknight meal. This is a nice comfort food, but it’s also chock full of vegetables and whole grains, so you really can’t go wrong.

Serves: 6-8 (makes 24 kofta balls and a bunch of sauce)

Special equipment: grater, baking sheet (with optional silpat)


1 c cashews

For the kofta:

1 summer squash

1 zucchini

1 small onion

1 c besan (sub garfava flour)

1 T coriander or cumin seeds (or both), ground

1/2 t cayenne (adjust to your taste)

pinch salt

1/2 t baking powder

For the curry sauce:

2 t cumin seeds

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

1 thumb-sized piece ginger root, peeled and minced

1 jalapeño, minced

1 t curry powder

2 t paprika

2-3 tomatoes (1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes is fine)

2 t garam masala

handful raisins

handful cashews

1 c rice, for serving

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (425ºF). Soak the first cup of cashews in enough water to cover them.

Grate the squash, zucchini, and onion. Wrap them in a dish towel and twist it up to remove some of the moisture from them. This doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to keep them from turning your dough/batter into a soggy mess.

Throw the gratings into a bowl when they’ve been squeezed.

Sift the besan, coriander and/or cumin, cayenne, salt, and baking powder into the bowl and stir well to combine.

You’ll end up with something between a dough and a batter—a little drier than that when you’re making banana bread or zucchini bread. The batter should stick together, and it shouldn’t drip.

vegan kofta dough is halfway between batter and dough

Sprinkle in besan by the tablespoon if it seems too wet, or sprinkle in water by the teaspoon if it seems too dry.

The batter will get wetter as it sits, so work quickly.

Roll or spoon into 1-2″ balls—about the size of a ridiculous orange golf ball.

vegan kofta should be about the size of a golf ball, unless you don't want them that size

It’s surprisingly difficult to make them into small balls, so feel free to lie to whomever you’re cooking for and say that you like your kofta bigger. I got 24 balls out of this batter (well, 25, but then I punished the 25th and fused him to five of his kofta brethren).

Place the balls a thumb’s width apart on a silpat on a baking sheet.

vegan kofta balls

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. They should bake, but not turn really brown.

While they kofta are baking, start your rice. I like brown basmati with this.


After you’ve got your rice going, make your sauce.

Drain the cashews and place them in a blender with a cup of fresh water. Blend for a few minutes until very smooth—rub the liquid between your fingers to make sure that it’s not at all grainy.

vegan cashew cream

Grab your minced garlic, ginger, and chili. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds. Give them a quick rough chop until they’re chunky—doesn’t have to be a perfect dice.

Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a little bit of olive oil and the cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to sizzle, heat for a few seconds—not more than a minute.

vegan malai kofta beginnings…

Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño and sauté just until the garlic begins to turn golden. Add the curry powder, paprika, and tomatoes and turn the heat down to medium. Break up the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon until the curry is more sauce than chunky-tomato-thing.

vegan malai kofta curry beginnings…yes!

Cook most of the tomato liquid off, then add the cashew cream from the blender. Stir well to incorporate the cashew cream. When the mixture begins to bubble, add a cup of water and stir again to mix that in. When the mixture begins to bubble again, turn the heat down to low for 5 minutes, or until the kofta are done baking.

Just before adding the kofta, turn the heat off; add the garam masala, raisins, and cashews; and give the sauce a quick stir.

When the kofta are done baking, add them to the sauce. You may need to take some time to split the sauce and kofta up into to two batches, depending on your skillet size.

vegan Malai Kofta, ready for serving

Soften the kofta (with the burner still off) in the sauce for 5-10 minutes, or until you run out of patience and just want to eat everything.

a vegan Malai Kofta ball split to serve

Serve over rice with naan.

Garnishes: a little bit of diced jalapeño or a spoonful of onion chutney
Goes well with: fresh cucumber salad, a little cucumber mint vegan yoghurt sauce, and a nice ale

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  • Malai Kofta Recipe #vegan #veganrecipes

  • Made this tonight and oh wow was it good! Thank you for the recipe!

    • Kelly,
      Glad that you enjoyed it! It’s certainly a treat. =)

  • Deedota72

    After I finally got the sauce the rest became perfecto!

    • Excellent! Glad to hear that it all came together. I think that using cashew cream in curries is a huge success, but then again, I’m biased…

    • Excellent! Glad to hear that it all came together. I think that using cashew cream in curries is a huge success, but then again, I’m biased…

    • Excellent! Glad to hear that it all came together. I think that using cashew cream in curries is a huge success, but then again, I’m biased…

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  • ICanHasVeggieBurger

    Thanks so much for this recipe. I paleo-ized this by using almond and sweet rice flour instead of the garfava/besan. The kofta came out gooey and became little mounds while baking. They barely stayed together in the sauce but retained some chewiness and it was quite tasty. Next time I will try to make some potato version of the kofta.

    • Hi,

      I’m not sure that potato flour would work—it’s likely that your mix was already too starchy with the sweet rice flour. Honestly I’m a little surprised, as almond flour will soak up any water that dares so much to look at it. I’m not sure that either potatoes themselves or potato flour/starch would yield better results.

      • Gemika Pearl Maloney

        Mashed potato is traditionally used in Indian kofta. I find potato starch more absorbent than oily nut flours. It looks like a delicious recipe though. I love the sauce idea. Love using cashews in recipes that call for cream.

        • Thanks for the tip, Gemika!