Kulfi, also known as traditional Indian ice cream, is a frozen dessert that’s enjoyed in India, Pakistan, the Middle East, and Trinidad and Tobago. Kulfi ice cream is a sweet, thick and dense dessert that’s packed with flavor. It’s also incredibly easy to make—no ice cream maker required!
What is kulfi?
Kulfi, often called Indian ice cream, is a frozen dairy dessert made with heavy whipping cream, whole milk and sweetened condensed milk. It’s generously flavored with saffron, cardamom and pistachios.
How is kulfi different from ice cream?
A key difference between kulfi and ice cream is what they’re made of: A standard ice cream recipe typically uses eggs, whereas kulfi is an eggless recipe. The lack of eggs in kulfi creates a creamy frozen dessert that isn’t as airy or fluffy as ice cream.
Kulfi and ice cream also differ in how they’re made: Ice cream is churned before freezing, which aerates the frozen dessert. Kulfi does not undergo an aeration process and is simply added to a container and immediately placed in the freezer. This results in a denser and thicker consistency that doesn’t melt quite as quickly as ice cream does.
Kulfi differs from gelato for the same reason. While neither gelato nor kulfi contains eggs, gelato is airy like ice cream because it gets aerated from churning.
- Sweetened condensed milk: Sweetened condensed milk is essential for making kulfi. It lowers the freezing point of kulfi, which creates a smooth and creamy texture.
- Nonfat dry milk powder: This ingredient absorbs excess water, which prevents crystallization in kulfi. This leads to more body and structure in the finished kulfi.
- Cardamom: Cardamom is a traditional ingredient in kulfi. It adds peppery, piney and floral notes to the frozen treat. You can either use pre-ground cardamom or grind the cardamom pods yourself.
- Saffron: Another traditional kulfi ingredient is saffron. Saffron is sweet, earthy and floral, and it adds a richly golden hue to its recipes. Considering the fact that saffron is one of the most expensive spices in the world, you should feel free to sub in turmeric.
- Cashews and pistachios: These nuts add a soft crunch and gentle earthy sweetness, offering a pleasant contrast to kulfi’s creamy texture and floral spice.
Step 1: Combine and cook the mixture
In a large heavy saucepan, whisk together the condensed milk, whole milk, cream, milk powder, cardamom, sea salt and, if desired, saffron until blended. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil at any point.
Step 2: Strain and cool the mixture
Remove from heat. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a small heatproof bowl. Let cool.
Editor’s Tip: To speed up the cooling time, find a bowl that’s slightly larger than the bowl holding your strained kulfi mixture. Fill the slightly larger bowl with ice and water. Place the kulfi bowl in the ice water bowl, and stir the kulfi mixture until cool.
Step 3: Add the mix-ins
Stir in the cashews, pistachios and almond extract. This is a great time to add any additional flavorings you’d like as well!
Step 4: Freeze the kulfi
Spoon the mixture evenly into six 4-ounce ramekins. Cover and freeze them for 8 hours or overnight. If desired, garnish each serving with additional nuts.
- Mango: Add a new flavor profile to this kulfi recipe by using mango pulp in place of the whole milk.
- Strawberry: Fold diced strawberries into the kulfi mixture when the other mix-ins are added.
- Rose: Yes, you can use rose water for cooking and baking! The incredibly floral flavor of roses pairs famously well with three of the main ingredients in this recipe—pistachios, saffron and cardamom. If you want to add rose to this recipe, use about one tablespoon, and, optionally, garnish your kulfi with dried rose petals before serving.
- Cocoa or chocolate: If you’re a lover of chocolate, trying adding cocoa powder or chocolate chips to this kulfi.
- Roasted nuts: If you’re not a fan of pistachios or cashews, try other roasted nuts like pecans, walnuts or almonds.
How to Store Kulfi
Kulfi can be poured into ramekins, ice cream containers or popsicle molds and stored in the freezer for up to two months. After taking the kulfi out of the freezer, let it stand at room temperature for just a few minutes so it’s easier to eat.
Why isn’t my kulfi freezing?
Your kulfi might not be freezing properly if the mixture was not reduced enough while cooking and contained excess water. Another possible cause is if one of the dairy ingredients called for was swapped out for one that had less fat. This would leave behind more water, which could throw off the recipe.
Why does my kulfi have a gritty texture?
Your kulfi might have a gritty texture if it’s been frozen then unfrozen, a process which forms large, gritty ice crystals in the kulfi ice cream. To prevent this, freeze the kulfi in single-serving molds so you don’t have to freeze and un-freeze a big batch of kulfi each time you serve up a scoop.