Gulab Jamun: The quintessential Pakistani dessert

Published: March 9, 2017

It’s difficult to describe something that just melts in your mouth once bitten into. PHOTO: ARHAMA SIDDIQA.

It’s March 1 and Isloo is on lockdown. Since my brain is fine tuned to waking up at 6am, I decided to make my mid-week sudden day-off as productive as possible.

I am of the firm belief that it is important to treat yourself – it’s the philosophy I follow in my cooking. However, too much of anything will not make anyone appreciate the time and effort that goes into making a dish. Hence, for me, moderation is key.

Now I am not a huge fan of desi sweets but if there are two desi delights I would pick over any cake/chocolate, one would be jalebi (and that too only the thin crispy kind) and the other is gulab jamun, the quintessential Pakistani dessert!

Gulab jamuns (translated very roughly as ‘rose-fruits’) got their name from the fact that they resemble a jamun (a subcontinent fruit) shape-wise and are usually soaked in a rosewater-scented syrup. While some say they were introduced by Central Asian Turkic invaders to the subcontinent, others claim that they were discovered accidentally by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s personal chef.

Essentially, they are deep fried balls made of milk powder, flour, butter and cream or milk, and then soaked in sugar syrup. I know they sound terrible when I put it like that, but they are oh-so-delectable (I promise).

It’s difficult to describe something that just melts in your mouth once bitten into, something which travels through your food pipe filling it with its warmth and leaving you with a kind of satisfaction that only really good food can give.

But that is exactly how gulab jamuns make me feel. These soft pillows of syrup laden fried dough give you the kind of comfort that you feel when you are around family. Not to mention that no desi celebration is complete unless these delights are present – be it a shaadi, Eid, aunty committee parties… I could go on and on here. Heck, my mom even randomly buys them to fulfil her sweet-tooth cravings.

After many disasters and triumphs, gulab jamuns were part of my triumphal parade. Here goes… 


For the dough balls:

Milk powder – 1cup (dried)

Ghee – 1 tbsp

Flour – 2 tbsp

Cream – 2 tbsp

Baking powder –1½ tsp

Egg – 1

Cardamon powder – 1 tsp

For the syrup:

Sugar – 1½ cup

Water – 1 cup


1. Sift the flour, baking powder and dried milk together. Next, add ghee, egg, cream and cardamom (Illaichi) powder.

2. Mix well and make a dough. Knead and make small one-inch balls.

3. Heat the oil on low flame and add the balls when the oil is moderately hot, still keeping it on a low flame.

4. Take out when light brown and put them into the syrup immediately. Enjoy hot or cold!


Keep in mind that the dough gets drier and heavier as it sits, and if they are heavy before cooking, they will be tough after cooking. As with pancakes, muffins, etc. you should stir gently and only until the ingredients have combined. If you work the dough too much, it will be hard.

If you are a gulab jamun aficionado and haven’t tried to make them yet, you are definitely missing out.

So if you don’t want to miss out on these heavenly pieces of fried dough, try them out today!

All photos: Arhama Siddiqa

Arhama Siddiqa

Arhama Siddiqa

The author is a LUMS and University of Warwick Alumnus and is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI). She calls herself a bibliophile,a dreamer and an avid foodie.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Rohan

    They’re Indian .PeriodRecommend

  • vinsin

    What about TNT?Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Cry my ( even other wise elusive ) slender waist , cry !!Recommend

  • Hamsid

    True but what if you are in foreign land and don’t have access to a mithai shop =pRecommend

  • Hamsid

    And what sort of dessert would u recommend? I should try that out next !Recommend

  • Hamsid

    I love your comments just saying … acknowledgment where acknowledgement is due !Recommend

  • Sudhanshu Swami

    egg in Gulab jamun ????Recommend

  • Parvez

    You are absolutely right…..I checked one made by my mithai walla and at is said in small letters ‘ Made in India ‘……. Gosh ! please grow up.Recommend

  • Parvez

    ….and I like reading your blog….because you make it……readable.Recommend

  • Parvez

    This requires a little bit of thought……in my mind a dessert is something fancy, served after a nice preferably sit down dinner. That sound a bit snobbish but I don’t intend it to be so.
    Gulab-jamun falls into the category of ‘ meetha ‘ …eaten out of a box or at a wedding dinner where its common to have Gulab-jamuns along with warm ‘ gajaar ka halwa ‘ ….. or warm Gulab-jamuns with plain vanilla ice cream or kulfi.Recommend

  • Parvez

    When ever I’m out of Pakistan which now a days is not often…..I have a rule …. I will eat anything but Indian or Pakistani food.Recommend

  • Hamsid

    i agree! kulfi can be tried next!
    gajar ka halwa doesn’t have blog demands I think , but I’ll ask since I made some only last week !Recommend

  • Hamsid

    hahaha ! , that true! , but what if someone has to live in foreign lands? you miss home sometimes, no?Recommend

  • Rohan

    Yea well saying it came from Mughal invaders is childish ,I know you love your bogus ideology but give it a rest it’s no more relevant after 1971Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Yes Marco POLO brought spaghetti to Italy from China.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Humza if you go to Sicily they will tell you that pasta was being made in the Sicilian town of Trabia years before Marco Polo was born…..but then can you blame the Italians for laying claim to something as delicious as pasta.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Our country was one in the Mauryan eraRecommend

  • Maha Khan

    wow,so sweet and looking tasty
    I am very glad to look this blog for recipe.
    Your Way of cooking good I am following you and one another website for making delicious recipe
    sharing link with you
    this video also provide video for making best foodRecommend