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Gulab Jamun (Soaked Indian Fried Donuts)

Gulab Jamun is often described as a fried donut soaked in spiced sugar syrup. These plump sweets are probably the first thing you had at an Indian restaurant or elicit fond memories from older days. Although we didn’t make this dessert much when I was a kid since I was always craving semiya payasam, Gulab Jamun is one of those iconic sweets to offer for special occasions (or really any time). My mom grew determined to learn how to make it. I think I got my incessant recipe testing from her. No matter the time of day or how many things were already cooked, there was always time for a test to see if you could perfect a dish you had in mind.
The process of making Gulab Jamun is surprisingly simple, but, much like how every household has their own version of making chaya (tea), this is one of those recipes I already know will get lovingly scrutinized. Some will make this with milk solids as opposed to milk powder. Some will add spices to the dough. Rose petals will be used as opposed to rose essence. Speaking of rose essence, it’s not the same as rose water. Rose water is a more diluted form of the essence so a little essence goes a long way!
If you decide to make this recipe or have any questions about how to make it, head over to my instagram @thefamiliarkitchen so we can connect and I can see how it turned out for you!


  • Oil for frying, ghee or canola oil
  • Pistachios, chopped, optional garnish
Sugar Syrup
  • Sugar, 2.5 cups
  • Water, 2 cups
  • Green Cardamom Pods, 8, ground
  • Cloves, 2, ground
  • Lime Juice, 1 tsp
  • Salt, 1/4 tsp
  • Rose Essence, 1/4 tsp
  • Saffron, 2 pinches
  • Milk Powder, 1 cup
  • AP Flour, 1/4 cup
  • Baking Soda, 1/2 tsp
  • Ghee, 1 tbsp
  • Yogurt, 1 tbsp
  • Warm Milk, 1/3 cup
  • Lime juice, 1/2 tsp


Make the gulab jamun sugar syrup. 
In a sauce pot, add all of the ingredients for the sugar syrup EXCEPT the rose essence and saffron. Once this comes to a boil, stir and let boil on medium for about 4-5 minutes. After about 5 minutes (or once it feels lightly sticky to the touch), add in the rose essence and saffron. Set aside.
Make the dough. 
In a mixing bowl, add the milk powder, AP flour, and baking powder. Whisk together. Drop the ghee into the bowl and then use your fingertips to start pinching the ghee and powder mix together. Do this until you get small clumps of dough. Now in a cup, lightly mix the milk and yogurt together. Pour this in batches to the dough mix and use the same pinching method with your fingertips to clump the dough together. When the milk and yogurt is mostly incorporated, add in the lime juice and repeat the process. Once everything is evenly mixed together, knead this really well and then let rest for about 20-30 minutes with a damp cloth over your bowl so the dough doesn’t dry up. You should be able to pinch the dough together so that it holds and it should be a little sticky.
Form the balls.
Lightly grease your hands with some ghee and then grab enough dough so that you can form a round shape about 1″ diameter. Keep in mind these will plump up once we add them to the sugar syrup so you don’t want the dough balls to be too large. Tightly roll these balls in your hands so that there are no cracks. Once completely smooth set aside, covered with a paper towel.
Fry and soak. 
In a deep skillet, add enough oil so it’s about 2″ deep. Heat the oil and then reduce the heat to low. Add a few of the dough balls at a time into the oil. Let this cook on low for 2-3 minutes using a slotted spoon to roll the balls and help cook evenly all around. Once a deep golden brown color forms, drop it into the warm sugar syrup. Let this soak for about an hour or overnight. You can eat these warm or cold. Enjoy!

Hey! My name is Ann Ittoop and I am a South Indian/American South food blogger. Growing up as a second-generation Indian-American, I got the chance to experience the best of both food worlds, oftentimes on one plate! On one hand I had Kerala staples like appam and chicken curry. On the other I had chicken and waffles. If there’s one thing that has helped me understand my identity and express both ends of my cultural upbringing, it’s most definitely food. I have a firm belief there is literally magic in the cooking process. That’s why most nights you’ll find me in the kitchen. I’m there always testing and creating new recipes that stem from my wild imagination. And I’m there searching for the familiar memories of my childhood. I started The Familiar Kitchen to not only help myself find this magic, but for those seeking a way to find their own magic. Join me on my adventures through cooking classic Kerala-inspired dishes, some of my Southern favorites, and all the recipes in between.

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