Pakistan’s National Dessert, Gulab Jamun with Milk Powder, is one of the most popular desserts in all of South Asia. Small fried dough balls, traditionally made with milk solids, called Khoya are then dipped in a hot sugar syrup. A garnish of pistachios and on occasion, rose petals and silver leaf, helps create the perfect dessert experience.
Some Fun Facts
The word Gulab Jamun is Persian and means (Gulab) “flower water” and (Jamun) “black plum”. There are a few theories regarding the origins of the recipe:
- The first theory states that a Persian dessert called Bamieh inspired the chef of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to create something similar for him.
- Another theory likens the delicious funnel cake like fried balls to the Arab dessert Luqmat-al-Qadi and thinks that the Gulab Jamun recipe evolved from this.
- The third and last theory has a Sikh Chef, Sajjan Dhillon, create the Indian Dessert for the then ruler of Punjab.
However the dessert evolved, it can be found at sweet shops all across Pakistan, India and even here in the USA.
This is the one dessert that is served at all special occasions such as weddings and during the festive season of Eid.
The dessert is so special that there is an entire day dedicated to it! World Gulab Jamun Day is on October 10th every year!
How To Make Them
There are many different ways to make Gulab Jamun:
- Use a mix such as Shan Gulab Jamun Mix
- Try the old fashioned Gulab jamun recipe with Milk Solids
- Use a traditional Milk Powder recipe
- Use this recipe with Bisquick Pancake Mix and make perfect Gulab Jamuns everytime!
Why Use Bisquick?
Needless to say, the best method of making Gulab Jamun is with Milk Solids. However, these aren’t always easy to find in the USA.
The store bought mixes work in a pinch but I personally am not a big fan and this recipe is so simple that you can whip up your delicious dessert in no time!
The Bisquick recipe is basically the Milk Powder recipe simplified! Instead of adding in the powdered milk, plain flour and leavening agent separately, only 3 ingredients are needed!
The Bisquick mix contains all-purpose flour, fat, leavening and salt. One cup of this, mixed with 2 cup milk powder (non fat) and 1 cup heavy cream is all that’s needed to form the Gulab jamun dough.
Recipe credits here go to two people. The first is an old friend whom I met right after moving to America as a newlywed, Natasha. Though we've lost touch, I always remember her through this Bisquick Gulab Jamun recipe.
Second credit is to one of my oldest and dearest friends Saima who came to the rescue when I lost my original handwritten copy of the recipe and gave me her identical one. Phew! I can't thank her enough because of all the recipes I've tried this is by far the easiest and in my opinion yields the most delicious Gulab Jamun!
Make The Dough Balls
The sticky dough comes together quickly. Don’t over work it as this leads to gluten formation and results in hard jamun. Divide the dough into equal portions and use the palms of your hands to make small balls. You’re looking for a smooth dough, without any cracks.
If the dough seems too sticky don’t worry, it will smooth out as you make the ball shape. If needed, keep some heavy cream on hand and dip your fingers in it to smooth out any cracks.
Make sure to make little balls, as the Gulab Jamun double in size when fried, due to the leavening agent.
Make The Sugar Syrup
The sweet syrup is easy to make, as it’s basically a flavored simple syrup. The main thing to keep in mind is the consistency! If the syrup is too thick the Gulab Jamun won’t absorb it. If it’s too thin it can make the Gulab Jamun break.
The way to test the consistency is to place a teaspoon of the hot syrup on a small plate. This allows it to cool a little so you don’t burn your fingers. After about 10 seconds dip your forefinger in the syrup. Press the finger against your thumb and test to see if the syrup is sticky. It does not need to form a thread but just be sticky!
Place the required cups water in a medium saucepan and add sugar. Remove some cardamom seeds from the cardamom pods, slightly crush them to release the aroma and add them to the syrup. Similarly, take the saffron, gently crush it between your fingers and add it to the sugar and water solution.
Last of all, add in the lemon juice and cook on medium high heat till a syrup forms. The acid in the lemon prevents the sugar from crystalizing as the syrup cools.
The rose water syrup, if you wish to use it can be added in later, once the syrup is at room temperature as it doesn’t need heat to release its aroma.
The syrup needs to be warm when the Gulab Jamun are added to it in order for the fried dough balls to absorb the sweet liquid properly. Soak for about 15-20 minutes before removing from the syrup.
Fry The Gulab Jamun
Traditionally, Gulab Jamun are fried in Ghee, due to its high smoke point. Since they’re deep fried and you’ll need a lot of ghee this can get very expensive. Some good alternate options are grapeseed oil or peanut oil. Alternatively, you can mix some ghee with one of these high smoke point oils to get some of that ghee flavor.
While you need to start off with hot oil, as soon as you drop the balls in, you need to reduce the temperature to medium heat, or even low heat if the oil seems too hot. For best results, use a thermometer such as the thermoworks.com chefalarm to maintain a frying temperature of 225–250 degrees Fahrenheit.
The right temperature is key here. Make sure to leave enough space between the dough balls as you deep fry them. This will allow you to use a slotted spoon to move them around constantly so they get a nice and even brown color all over.
Once they seem done, about 8-10 minutes per batch, remove them onto some paper towels to soak up the grease. Leave them there for about 30 seconds before placing them in the warm syrup.
Problem Solving & Tips
Making the perfect Gulab Jamun takes patience and practice. The following tips may help you along the way!
Why Are My Gulab Jamun Hard?
There are a few reasons why this can happen:
- There’s too much flour in the mix.
- There’s not enough moisture in the dough.
- There wasn’t enough leavening.
Measuring your ingredients accurately is key. If the dough seems to dry, add a teaspoon or two of the heavy whipping cream.
In the case of the leavening, make sure it’s fresh. If it’s been sitting around in your cupboard for too long then it may have lost its effectiveness.
Why Are My Gulab Jamun Too Soft?
Two things can cause soft Gulab jamuns
- The dough had too much moisture in it.
- There was excess leavening in the mix.
- The syrup was watery.
Adding a teaspoon or two of milk powder will help reduce the moisture and fix that problem.
With the leavening, be sure to measure accurately and with the syrup, make sure to test it before adding the Gulab Jamun to it.
Why Are My Gulab Jamun Tasting Bitter?
Two main things can cause this to happen:
- You added too much leavening agent.
- The Gulab jamun was too hot when you added it to the syrup. This caused the syrup to burn and the Jamun to taste bitter.
Once again, measure accurately, and cool the Gulab Jamun for 30 seconds before adding to warm syrup.
Storage and Reheating
- The Gulab Jamun can stay out on the counter at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
- The Gulab Jamun can be refrigerated for up to 7-10 days in an airtight container.
- The freezer life of the Gulab Jamun is 3 months in an airtight container.
The Gulab Jamun can be heated in the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm them up. If they are in the freezer, then defrost them first.
Now you’re armed to make the best and easiest Gulab Jamun! Garnish them with some chopped pistachios, silver leaf and rose petals and serve them at your next feast! Want to make your dessert truly decadent? Serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
However you choose to garnish or eat them don't forget to drop a rating and comment below!
Gulab Jamun With Milk Powder
- 1 cup bisquick mix
- 2 cups dry low fat milk powder
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 5 pods cardamom
- ¼ tsp saffron strands
- 1 tsp rose water (OPTIONAL)
- 4 tbsp chopped pistachios
- 2 tbsp rose petals (OPTIONAL)
- 2 silver leafs (OPTIONAL)
- Mix the water, sugar and lemon juice in a sauce pan and set it on a high flame to make the syrup.
- Break open the cardamom pods, discard the husk, slightly crush the seeds and add to the syrup.
- Take the saffron, slightly crush it between your fingers and add to the syrup.
- Cook just till the sugar is dissolved and the syrup starts to bubble around the edges.
- Take a teaspoon of the syrup and place it on a plate. After about 10 seconds or so, once it has slightly cooled, dip your forefinger and thumb in it and press together. if they feel sticky the syrup is ready and you can stop cooking it.
- If you're adding rose syrup, now is the time to do so.
The Gulab Jamun
- Mix together the Bisquick mix, flour and heavy whipping cream just until the mixture comes together. (SEE NOTES)
- Divide the mix into 24 equal portions and shape into tiny balls. (SEE NOTES)
- Heat the cooking oil.
- Fry the dough balls on medium low heat for 8-10 minutes till they are a nice brown color. Use a slotted spoon to constantly move them around so they brown evenly on all sides.
- After they are cooked, remove them onto a paper towel for about 30 seconds.
- After the oil has drained and they've cooled slightly place them in the sugar syrup for 10 minutes.
- After the soaking period is over remove the Gulab Jamun and sprinkle with your garnishings.