How to Make Gulab Jamun, the Indian Dessert Everyone Should Know

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It's easier than you think to learn how to make gulab jamun, the irresistible Indian dessert flavored with rose water and cardamom.

To make the Indian sweet gulab jamun, we traditionally use khoya or milk solids. But there are other ways to do it! This is a soft and delicious instant gulab jamun recipe, made with milk powder.

What Is Gulab Jamun?

In Hindi, the word gulab means rose, and jamun is the berry-sized java plum fruit. Gulab jamuns are small balls that are deep-fried and soaked in rose-flavored sugar syrup.

It’s a popular dessert recipe across India—if there is one dessert that you can find at all weddings, parties and festivals, along with kheer, it’s gulab jamun. But it’s not just for special occasions. It’s a perfect dessert for casual parties and potlucks, too. In our house, food for Diwali, the Festival of Lights, is incomplete without gulab jamun.

What Are the Ingredients for Gulab Jamun?

You’ll need a handful of special ingredients for making gulab jamun. First, to make the deep-fried jamuns, we need milk powder. You can often find milk powder (like this King Arthur milk powder) in the baking aisle at the grocery store or online. I highly recommend looking for whole milk powder, rather than non-fat. You need milk powder with full-fat content! In Indian grocery stores, you can find it labeled as mawa or milk mawa powder.

For the rose-flavored sugar syrup, there are two key ingredients. One is whole green cardamom pods, which you can find at specialty spice shops. The syrup also calls for rose essence or rose water. Rose essence is more concentrated, so a few drops will provide plenty of flavor. But if you are using rose water, you can add 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons,  depending upon the concentration. For this recipe, I went with rose essence.

How to Make Gulab Jamun: Step-by-Step Recipe

The process is straightforward, but you can’t rush any of the steps. Patience is the key when it comes to making perfect gulab jamuns. You need to first prepare the dough and roll out small balls from the dough. Then, prepare the sugar syrup and, as you deep-fry the jamun, add them to the syrup.

Ingredients

For the jamun:

How to make gulab jamun Gulabjamun IngredientsSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

  • 1 cup full-fat milk powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (You can find ghee at the store or make it from scratch.)
  • 5 to 6 tablespoons milk, as needed
  • Oil for deep-frying

For the sugar syrup:

How to make gulab jamun Gulabjamun Ingredients 1Srividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/4 cup water
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1/8 teaspoon rose essence (If using rose water, use 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (This prevents the sugar syrup from crystallizing.)

Directions

Step 1: Prepare the dough

Prepare the dough How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

In a mixing bowl, add the milk powder, all-purpose flour, baking powder and ghee.

Slowly add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and gently form the dough by mixing. It should be a stiff dough. If the dough is sticky, grease your palms with oil and gently mix. Do not knead the dough—it will make the jamuns hard.

Step 2: Let the dough rest

Let the dough rest How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Cover the dough with a damp cloth. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Step 3: Prepare the sugar syrup

Prepare the sugar syrup How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

In a saucepan, add the sugar, water and two green cardamom pods, crushed.

Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. When the sugar is completely dissolved, simmer over medium-low heat for 5 to 6 minutes. We need a sticky-consistency sugar syrup here. You can test it by removing a small amount of sugar syrup and letting it cool a bit. Then touch the sugar syrup with your index finger and press it with your thumb. You should feel the stickiness.

When it’s ready, remove the syrup from the heat and add the rose essence or rose water. Set aside.

Step 4: Roll the jamuns

Roll the jamuns How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Grease your palms and pinch a small amount of dough. Roll gently to form a small, smooth ball—to give you an idea of the size, I make about 20 jamuns using this recipe.

Step 5: Fry the jamuns

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat a few inches of oil over low heat.

The oil should not be very hot while frying the gulab jamuns. To test the oil, drop in a small piece of the dough. It will sink initially, but after 30 seconds or so, it will float up, and the color should not change. That’s the right temperature.

Fry the jamuns How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Slowly drop in 4 to 5 balls, depending on the pan size, and deep-fry the jamuns until they turn golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, keep rotating them in the oil for even cooking and coloring. It takes me 4 to 5 minutes for each batch. Do not rush the frying process!

Fry the jamuns How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

When the jamuns are golden brown, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Fry the jamuns How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Step 6: Add jamuns to the sugar syrup

Add jamuns to the sugar syrup How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

Let each jamun sit for 45 to 60 seconds, and then add the fried jamuns to the warm sugar syrup.

Repeat with the next batch of jamuns, frying them and then adding them to the sugar syrup. Let the jamuns soak in the sugar syrup for at least 2 hours. Overnight soaking is fine, too.

Step 7: Garnish

Garnish How to make gulab jamunSrividhya Gopalakrishnan for Taste of Home

You can eat gulab jamun cold or warm. Put the jamuns in a serving bowl and drizzle the extra syrup on top. Garnish with nuts or rose petals and serve.

Gulab Jamun Tips

The recipe is straightforward, but there are some tricks that will yield perfect gulab jamuns every single time.

Why is my gulab jamun dough breaking?

If there isn’t sufficient moisture, the dough might break, so add milk as needed. The dough should not be too dry.

Be sure there are no cracks while rolling. The rolled ball should be smooth.

Which oil is best for gulab jamun?

Traditionally, ghee or clarified butter is used for frying the gulab jamun. But you can use any neutral oil for frying.

Why are my gulab jamuns not cooked inside?

If the oil is too hot, the gulab jamuns will turn brown immediately, and the outside will cook faster than the inside. Fry the jamuns in medium-low oil for even cooking.

Why are my jamuns hard?

If you knead the dough, the jamuns will become hard. Do not knead! Roll the dough gently.

How to Store Gulab Jamun

Gulab jamun usually stays good at room temperature for 4 to 5 days. You can refrigerate and freeze them, too. But trust me, they are super addictive, and will be gone in no time!

If you are refrigerating, you can reheat them in the microwave for 30 seconds and serve warm or bring them to room temperature and serve. For a decadent treat, make one of these Indian recipes for dinner, followed by warm gulab jamun paired with homemade ice cream.

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Srividhya Gopalakrishnan
Srividhya Gopalakrishnan is a passionate home cook, recipe developer and vegetarian food blogger, based out of California. She is the author of two cookbooks, Instant Pot Vegetarian Cookbook and The Essential South Indian Cookbook. She firmly believes that that the mouth is the way to the heart. She loves to share family recipes and exciting vegetarian recipes from all over the world. From traditional, authentic recipes to fusion and eggless bakes, you can find it all in her blog.