Vegan Malai Kofta
Make this vegan malai kofta and you’ll think you’re enjoying a meal at your favourite Indian restaurant! We swap the paneer for tofu in these dumplings, then cook them to perfection in a creamy tomato sauce. Yum!
Before I went vegan, I always loved ordering malai kofta at Indian restaurants. The tender dumplings, the rich, creamy sauce—it’s pretty much irresistible, but because it’s made with cheese and cream, it’s off-limits if you’re living a vegan lifestyle. But if you make it at home? Well, then you can make a vegan version with a few easy swaps!
What Is Malai Kofta?
Not to be confused with my Middle Eastern-style vegan kofta, malai kofta is an Indian dish consisting of fried dumplings that are made with a combination of paneer (cheese), potatoes, and lots of spices. The dumplings are then cooked in a creamy tomato-based sauce. Like many Indian dishes, malai kofta is typically served with either naan or basmati rice, making it a filling meal.
While malai kofta originated in North India, it’s popular throughout the subcontinent, and, of course, at Indian restaurants around the world! To make vegan malai kofta, we first swap the paneer for extra-firm tofu, which has a mild flavour and similar texture to paneer. Then, trade the heavy cream in the sauce for coconut milk. Easy!
Notes on Ingredients
Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.
- Raw cashews – Don’t use roasted or salted cashews; you’ll need raw.
- Potatoes – Russet potatoes are fine, or you can use red potatoes or Yukon gold.
- Extra-firm tofu – Learn more: How To Cook Tofu 101 + Best Tips on Making the Most Delicious Tofu
- Kashmiri red chili powder
- Garam masala
- Golden raisins – These add just a little bit of sweetness that works well in this vegan malai kofta recipe.
- Onion – Yellow or white onion are best.
- Fresh ginger
- Oil – Any oil you like or have on hand for cooking.
- Green cardamom
- Cinnamon stick
- Bay leaf
- Full-fat coconut milk – This replaces the heavy cream, so you want to use full-fat and not lite coconut milk, which isn’t nearly as creamy.
- Cilantro – For garnish.
Is Kashmiri Chili Powder the Same as Chili Powder?
No, Kashmiri chili powder is a type of mild red chili powder that is used in Indian cuisine. It’s different from regular chili powder, which is more of a Tex-Mex flavor and typically contains more heat and smokiness. It’s important to note that the two are not interchangeable, so make sure you use the correct type when making this vegan malai kofta recipe.
How to Make Vegan Malai Kofta
This isn’t the kind of meal you can whip up for a busy weeknight dinner, but trust me that it is so worth the effort.
Start the Dumplings:
- Soak the cashews. Place 15 raw cashews in a bowl with enough water to cover them. Soak for 30 minutes.
- Cook the potatoes. Place the potatoes into a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Cool for 10 minutes.
- Prep the unsoaked cashews and raisins. Finely chop the remaining 12 cashews, then chop the raisins and combine them in a small bowl.
- Make the dumpling mixture. Use a potato ricer to mash the potatoes into a large bowl. Stir in the crumbled tofu, cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon of Kashmiri red chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon of garam masala, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
- Form the dumplings. Divide the potato mixture into 8 equal balls, then press each ball into a thick patty. Place 1 1/2 teaspoon of the cashew-raisin mixture in the center, then form the dumpling mixture into a ball again around the filling. Chill the dumplings for 30 minutes.
Make the Sauce:
- Start the sauce. Drain the soaking cashews. Add the onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and soaked cashews to a pot over set medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Puree the tomato mixture. Remove the tomato mixture from the heat and let it cool slightly. Then, pour the tomato mixture into a blender and puree until smooth.
- Cook the whole spices. In another pot, combine the oil, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf. Sauté over medium heat for 1 minute.
- Simmer the sauce. Carefully pour the tomato puree into the hot oil. Stir and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, along with the turmeric, cumin, Kashmiri red chili powder, coriander, and 1 cup of water to the sauce and continue to simmer for 5 minutes, or until it thickens slightly.
- Finish the sauce. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon garam masala, fenugreek leaves, and coconut milk, then cover and remove from the heat.
Cook the Dumplings and Serve:
- Start the oil. Heat 2 inches of oil in a deep skillet until it reaches 360ºF.
- Fry the dumplings. Carefully place the kofta in the hot oil, frying 2 to 3 at a time for about 5 minutes, turning every minute or so until they’re golden brown all over. Transfer to a wire rack.
- Serve. Pour the sauce into a dish and set the kofta in the sauce. Drizzle additional coconut milk over the top and sprinkle with the cilantro.
Tips for Success
These tips will help you make sure your vegan malai kofta turns out perfect!
- Soak the cashews. This will help them blend into a smooth, creamy sauce.
- Don’t overcook the potatoes. They should be just soft enough to pierce with a fork. If they’re too mushy, it will be difficult to form your dumplings.
- Use a thermometer for the oil. That way, you’ll be sure you’re frying the kofta at the perfect temperature. If the oil is too cool, the dumplings will end up greasy; too hot and they’ll be over-done on the outside, but not cooked all the way through.
Malai kofta makes a delicious vegan meal when served with steamed basmati rice, vegan naan (or garlic naan!), or other Indian breads. Although it’s not exactly authentic, you can also serve this dish with cauliflower rice or quinoa.
How to Store Leftovers
If you have leftover malai kofta, it’s best to store the kofta and sauce separately. Place them in separate containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat them separately in the microwave, then add the dumplings into the sauce before serving.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
This malai kofta can be frozen, but again: the sauce and dumplings should be stored separately. This will help keep the kofta from getting mushy! Let them thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat according to the instructions above.
More Indian-Inspired Vegan Recipes
- Vegan Coconut Curry Lentil Soup
- Vegan Mulligatawny Soup
- Easy Lentil Soup (Vegan & Spiced)
- Vegan Butter Chicken (With Tofu!)
Enjoy friends! If you make this malai kofta recipe, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!
Vegan Malai Kofta
- 27 Raw Cashews, 43 grams, divided
- 2 Potatoes 600 grams, cut into 1 inch cubes 600 grams
- 1 Cup Extra Firm Tofu, crumbled 163 grams
- 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch, 24 grams
- 1 ¼ teaspoon Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, divided
- ½ teaspoon Garam Masala, divided
- 1 teaspoon Salt, divided
- 1 Tablespoon Golden Raisins, finely chopped 10 grams
- 1 Cup Onion, chopped 113 grams
- 1 ½ teaspoon Fresh Ginger, peeled and sliced 15 grams
- 2 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 2 Tomatoes, 300 grams, cut into chunks
- 3 Tablespoons Oil
- 3 Cloves
- 2-3 Green Cardamom
- 1 inch Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Bay Leaf
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Coriander
- 1 Cup Water
- ¼ teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Fenugreek Leave, crushed
- ¼ cup Full Fat Coconut Milk, plus more for drizzling 60 ml
- Cilantro for garnish, optional
- Place 15 raw cashews in a bowl with enough water to cover it. Allow them to soak for 30 minutes.
- Place the potatoes into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until just soft enough to pierce with a fork, about 15 minutes. Do not cook until mushy or they will be too wet to form balls.
- Remove the potatoes from heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- While the potatoes are cooling, finely chop the remaining 12 cashews and the raisins and mix together.
- Use a potato ricer to mash the potatoes. Add the crumbled tofu, cornstarch, 1⁄4 teaspoon
- Kashmiri Red Chili Powder, 1⁄4 teaspoon Garam Masala and 1⁄2 teaspoon Salt. Mix well.
- Divide the potato mixture into 8 equal balls.
- Press each ball into a thick patty and place 1 1⁄2 teaspoon of the cashew-raisin mixture in the center. Form the potatoes into a ball around the filling.
- Place the balls on a plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- While the kofta are chilling, prepare the curry sauce.
- Pour the water off of the soaking cashews.
- Add onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and soaked cashews to a pot over medium heat.
- Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the tomato mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Set aside.
- In a clean pot, add oil, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Saute over medium heat for 1 minute.
- Pour the tomato puree into the hot oil. Be careful, it will pop and splatter. Stir well.
- Reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pot and simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, turmeric, cumin, kashmiri red chili powder, coriander and 1 cup of water to the tomato puree. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes. It will thicken slightly.
- Stir in 1⁄4 teaspoon garam masala, fenugreek leaves and coconut milk.
- Cover and remove from heat.
- Heat 2 inches of oil to 360 degrees in a deep skillet.
- Fry the kofta 2-3 at a time for about 5 minutes each or until golden brown. Turn them about every minute to achieve and even color.
- Remove to drain on a wire rack.
- Pour the curry sauce into a dish and place the kofta in the sauce. Drizzle with additional coconut milk and sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
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