Indian milk fritters in syrup with a spoon resting on top.

These rich Indian milk fritters are a traditional Diwali sweet and a Hannukah dessert. Diwali is the grandest holiday of the year in India, and it tends to fall between mid-October and mid-November. It’s also celebrated in several Southeast Asian countries and known as the festival of lights, signifying the triumph of light over dark—although given the spectacular desserts that abound, heck, it may as well be dubbed the festival of sweets.–Renee Schettler

Indian milk fritters in syrup with a spoon resting on top.

Indian Milk Fritters

4.50 / 2 votes
These Indian milk fritters, also known as Gulab jamun, are made with everyday ingredients by making a dough with milk and frying them and dipping them in syrup. A popular Hannukah and Diwali dessert. Here’s how to make them.
Gil Marks
Servings20 balls
Calories130 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • Deep-fry or candy thermometer


For the Indian milk fritters dough

  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons milk, preferably whole fat
  • Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the syrup

  • 2 cups granulated or brown sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 to 5 cardamom pods, (or substitute 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
  • 1 teaspoon rose water, (optional)


Make the Indian milk fritters dough

  • In a large bowl, stir together the milk powder, flour, and baking soda. Add the butter and rub the mixture between your fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs.
  • Gradually stir in the milk and mix just until the dough begins to hold together. Knead briefly until smooth. Divide the dough into 20 equal balls, each about 1 1/2 teaspoons.
  • Heat at least 1 inch oil in a deep-sided pot over medium heat to 350°F (175°C).
  • Add the dough balls to the oil in batches, being careful not to crowd the pot. Cook, turning frequently, until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Use a wire skimmer or slotted spoon to transfer the fritters to a wire rack placed over a baking sheet or a brown paper bag to drain. Let cool.

Make the syrup

  • Stir the sugar and water in a large, wide skillet over low heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to medium, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture is slightly thickened and registers 225°F (110°C) on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, remove the cardamom pods and crush the seeds. Stir the cardamom seeds into the syrup and keep the syrup at a very gentle simmer.

Soak the Indian milk fritters in the syrup

  • After you fry the fritters, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the simmering syrup and let soak until soft and moist. The jamuns will swell in size as they soak up the syrup. Let cool and then sprinkle with rose water, if desired. (Alternatively, if you prefer slightly crisper, less moist jamuns, you can instead simply drizzle the warm syrup over the cooled fritters and let them stand for at least 3 hours.)
  • Serve the milk fritters, chilled or at room temperature, in a small puddle of syrup. (You can keep the fritters in the syrup in a resealable container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.)


What You Need To Know About The Origins Of Indian Milk Fritters

Gulab jamun is a traditional Hannukah recipe among the Bene Israel of Bombay, combining the holiday’s two primary food symbols — dairy and fried. Although gulab means “rose water” in Hindi, some people omit it from the ingredients in this recipe. Originally, this dish was made by cooking the milk over low heat for an extended period until thickened. The invention of dry milk powder led to this easier version. [Editor’s Note: Although we certainly didn’t note any lack of milky richness in this recipe by using powered milk, Marks notes in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food that a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side more than makes up for any lack of dairy goodness—real or imagined.]
The World of Jewish Desserts by Gil Marks

Adapted From

The World of Jewish Desserts

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Serving: 1 ballCalories: 130 kcalCarbohydrates: 26 gProtein: 3 gFat: 2 gSaturated Fat: 1 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 1 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 6 mgSodium: 57 mgPotassium: 154 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 25 gVitamin A: 196 IUVitamin C: 1 mgCalcium: 105 mgIron: 1 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Photo © 2000 Rajeev Moudgil. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This Indian milk fritters recipe is a versatile Indian dessert and a hallmark dessert at all Indian celebrations. The key to getting those gulab jamuns silky and moist is to simmer them in the syrup. Add the cardamom to the syrup as well. As you fry the jamuns, drain them and add them to the simmering syrup for soft and moist jamuns. The jamuns will swell in size. Cool and then add rose water, if desired. I like to serve mine slightly warm. Shubh Diwali.

These milk fritters are a classic Indian dessert, and this recipe is easy enough and yummy enough for all of us to bring a bit of India into our homes! A guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

The only change I would make is to use whole milk powder as nonfat milk didn’t produce the silkiness the gulab jamun so deserve.

About Gil Marks

Gil Marks was a chef, rabbi, writer, historian, and an all-around expert on Jewish cooking. He authored five cookbooks, including The World of Jewish Desserts, the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, and the James Beard award-winning Olive Trees and Honey. Marks was also the founding editor of Kosher Gourmet magazine and wrote for various Jewish and food-related publications. Gil passed away in 2014.

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    1. Hi Katie K. Those occasional intensely dark orbs are simply dough blobs that have been intentionally left in the oil longer to achieve a darkened, almost blackened, effect. This contrast between dark and light is known as kala jamun, meaning “black jamun.” This mingling of light and dark is rife with symbolism, given that these lovely sweetened fried orbs are traditionally consumed at Diwali, a celebration the triumph of light over dark. (By the way, many thanks to recipe tester Sita Krishnaswamy for helping make sure we had all our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed for this response.)

      1. I’m surprised the article doesn’t mention that the Rambam mentions “sofganim” for Chanukah a few hundred years before the German Jews.

        1. Thanks for this, Avdon. There is so much history to convey in a short amount of space. Appreciate you adding this information.