Buttery, crispy, and deliciously aromatic, Nan Khatai (Pakistani Cardamom Shortbread Cookies) are among the most popular cookies in Pakistan, especially in Lahore. A few pantry staples and a 20-minute baking time are all you need to enjoy this recipe with a delicious cup of Kashmiri Chai.
I've always loved Nan Khatais; my earliest memory of eating them is in my grandmother's kitchen. Her simple recipe was whipped up in no time: a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth small white dome-shaped cookie with a dot of yellow on top.
The famous Khalifa Nankhatai is very different: flatter, bigger, crispier, and chock-full of almonds. One of the most famous bakeries in the city of Lahore in Pakistan, Khalifa Bakers, has been in business since 1925.
As old as Pakistan, the shop exists in its original location and serves as a bakery and a landmark. Famous enough to be featured on Forbes.com, the shop is a must-visit destination for those visiting the city of Lahore.
Why you'll love this recipe
- A make-ahead recipe - The cardamom shortbread can be stored for 2-3 weeks, making it ideal for planning for an event.
- Perfect teatime snack - These cardamom shortbread cookies are perfect for enjoying with a cup of tea. Add some aloo pakora, chicken patties, and shami kabab for a delicious hi-tea menu.
- Egg-free recipe - Unlike many other types of cookies, this recipe is egg-free and suitable for a vegetarian diet.
- Great for gifting - This easy recipe bakes in only 20 minutes, making it wonderful to have on hand when planning a gift for a friend.
- Flour - Traditional Pakistani baked goods are made with "maida." Maida is a wheat flour type, and the best substitute for it is all-purpose flour. I use it in most Pakistani baked goods recipes, such as my coffee cake, and almond cake.
- Chickpea flour - Chickpea flour, known as besan in Pakistan, is versatile. This ingredient is essential to the crispy texture of the cardamom shortbread. In other recipes, like my bihari kabab, it aids as a binding agent.
- Ghee - Traditional Pakistani baked goods are made with this ingredient. Although butter can be substituted for ghee, this helps the cardamom shortbread with its crispy texture.
- Powdered sugar - This is essentially granulated sugar ground to a powder. However, most store-bought powdered sugar has some cornstarch added to it. The cornstarch benefits this particular recipe since we are aiming for a crispy texture. If you want a softer texture, grind granulated sugar to a powder yourself.
- Almonds - I recommend whole almonds, roasted in a nonstick pan and then broken down into roughly chopped pieces for this recipe.
- Cardamom - crush the whole cardamom using a mortar and a pestle for best results.
- Milk - This helps give the cardamom shortbread a nice brown top. The egg does the same but adds a gloss. Since I'm emulating the traditional Khalifa Nan Khatai, the milk, with its rustic appearance, works best.
- Baking soda -Baking soda acts as a leavening agent and helps create the melt-in-your-mouth texture of Nan Khatai.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients, measurements, and recipe instructions.
Substitutions & variations
- Add some semolina - Many cardamom shortbread recipes add semolina for a crispier texture. Try adding 1 tbsp to this recipe and see if you like it.
- Use pistachios - A sprinkle of chopped pistachios on top of the Nan Khatai adds extra flavor and looks pretty.
- Add saffron or rose - Adding saffron or rose water or both in addition to the cardamom makes a nice change.
- Try the cookies with butter - Butter can be substituted for the ghee if necessary.
- Use Maida or whole wheat flour - Maida is a traditional fine wheat flour often used to make the Nan Khatai. Try it or whole wheat flour to make a healthier version of the cookies.
- First step - Place the flour, sugar, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
- Second step - Break open the cardamom pods, remove the seeds, and discard the husks.
- Third step - Grind the seeds to a coarse powder using a mortar and pestle.
- Fourth step - Preheat a frying pan and dry roast the gram flour. Stir constantly and roast only until you smell a nutty aroma. Do not overcook it, or it will burn.
- Fifth step - Next, roast the almonds using the same frying pan.
- Sixth step - Cool the nuts, place them in a zip-lock bag, and roughly chop them using a rolling pin.
- Seventh step - add the almonds, roasted gram flour, and crushed cardamom to the flour mixture.
- Eighth step - Add the ghee and start mixing everything until all the ingredients are blended.
- Ninth step - Continue mixing the dough at a slightly higher speed. It will change from a sandy texture to a coarse, crumbly dough.
- Tenth step - Change the speed and blend until you have a well-formed dough. Chill this for 15 minutes before you start shaping the cookies.
- Eleventh step - After 15 minutes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and shape the cookies into 24 round balls. Place the Nan Khatai on 2 baking sheets and space them out as they will expand when baked. Flatten each ball with your hand and brush the tops with the milk.
- Twelfth step - Bake for 20 minutes, turn the oven off, remove the cardamom shortbread, and cool them completely before serving!
- Use whole cardamom - If you've ever broken open a cardamom pod and crushed the seeds, you know exactly what I'm talking about! As the seeds are crushed, the essential oils are released, along with their aroma. Although more convenient, the bottled version has a very mild aroma.
- Chill before baking - This step is essential, as it solidifies the ghee. The fat melts slowly in the oven, producing crisp and flaky cardamom shortbread.
- Make the dough a day ahead - This is a huge time saver when you want to serve freshly baked cookies for a special event.
- Shape and freeze the Nan Khatai - If you want to be prepared for unexpected company or a sudden craving, make the dough, shape the cardamom shortbread, and freeze the cookies for up to 3 months. Bake them straight from the freezer, adding 2-3 minutes to the baking time.
- Brush with milk vs eggs - For an authentic Khalifa copycat Nan Khatai, use milk instead of an egg wash on the cookies. The result will be a nice brown crust.
- Don't overbake the cookies - The Nan Khatai will seem a little pale and soft when done. Resist the temptation to overbake the cookies, as they will harden as they cool.
Yes, the cardamom shortbread can be made with only flour. The texture will be a little softer, but the cookies will still be delicious.
The word Nan means bread, and Khatai means biscuit.
The Nan Khatai originated in the 16th century in Surat, Gujarat. A Dutch-owned bakery was passed on to an employee when the owners left India. He then created this famous biscuit, which is popular in India, Pakistan, and Iran.
Nan Khatai can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
Other recipes you may like
For more Pakistani recipes like this, check out 20 popular Pakistani recipes. If you decide to try this recipe, Please don't forget to leave a rating and comment below! If you take a picture then tag me on Instagram! Thank You!
Khalifa Nan Khatai (Pakistani Cardamom Shortbread Cookies)
- 2 cups flour
- 4 tbsp gram flour (see notes)
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1 cup almonds
- 1 cup ghee
- 20 pods cardamom (See notes)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ⅛ cup milk
- Dry roast the almonds in a non stick frying pan.
- Cool and place the almonds in a ziplock bag and pound them with a rolling pin to chop them roughly.
- Dry roast the gram flour in a saucepan.
- Crush the cardamom pods using a mortar and pestle and remove the seeds. Throw away the green outer shells and grind the seeds to a powder.
- Mix all of your ingredients except the milk using a KitchenAid stand mixer or hand beaters (see notes).
- Cool the mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Shape the cookie dough into 24 round balls and place them on 2 baking sheets, leaving some room in between for the cookies to expand.
- Flatten the top with your hand to create a round disc.
- Brush the top with the milk and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove the cookies and cool completely on the tray before moving to a cooling rack. (see notes)