Indian Malai Kofta

Christina Galioto

Kofta, if you don’t know, is a football-shaped Indian meatball, in this case a vegan one.  Malai means “cream” and as per usual when I want South Asian creaminess, I combine cashews and coconut milk. Each forkful is a feast of flavor and texture , dip into the creamy curry sauce to hunt for the soft dumpling with its crisp coating, sink your fork in, and inside you’ll find toasted almonds and little bits of zucchini. You can add basmati rice to soak up the cream but if you’re cutting carbs it is very satisfying on its own.


For the kofta:

1/2 of a 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 3/4 cup

1/2 cup slivered almonds

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds

8 ounces zucchini, shredded

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Several pinches of freshly ground black pepper

1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

For the curry sauce:

1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight

2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tablespoon refined coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, very finely diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (14-ounce) can lite coconut milk

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup frozen peas


Prepare the Kofta Mixture:

In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas until they’re mushy but not quite puréed.

Preheat a large, heavy pan over medium heat. Toast the almonds for about 7 minutes, tossing frequently, until they are golden and browned in some spots. Transfer them immediately to the bowl. Next, toast the cumin seeds for 3 minutes or so, until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Transfer those to the bowl as well.

Add the zucchini, cilantro, ginger, garlic, salt, and black pepper, and mix well.

Now add the bread crumbs and use your hands to mix and mush until it holds together. Cover with plastic wrap (or a plate) and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the curry sauce:

Drain the cashews and add them to a blender along with the broth. Blend until very smooth. This could take anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes depending on the strength of your machine, so give your blender a break every minute or so and test the sauce for smoothness. It should be very smooth, with only a slight graininess. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure you get everything.

Preheat a 4-quart pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil. Sauté the onion in the oil for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook just until fragrant, 15 seconds or so. Add the curry powder, garam masala, and cumin and toss for a minute or so, just to toast the spices a bit.

Add the coconut milk, tomato paste, blended cashews, and salt. Bring to a low simmer and let cook for 15 minutes or so. It should thicken up nicely. Add the peas and let them warm through. Taste for seasonings, then turn off the heat and cover until ready to serve.

Cook the kofta:

Preheat a large cast-iron pan over medium heat, or any pan that is nonstick and good for frying. Line the counter with some parchment paper to keep the formed kofta from sticking. Scoop up a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture. Roll between your hands to pack it well, and then roll into a football shape. Set on the parchment paper and continue to form all 12 kofta.

When the pan is hot enough, add some coconut oil and make sure it coats the bottom of the pan. Now add the kofta, rolling each one around in the pan when you add it, making sure to coat all sides. Use a little extra oil, if needed.

Fry them for about 7 minutes, rolling them around in the pan to get them browned on all sides. They don’t have to be uniformly browned; just do your best. Once browned, turn off the heat.

To assemble:

Scoop some rice (if using) onto each plate, place 3 kofta on top of the rice, and cover with sauce. Garnish with cilantro, if you like, and serve 🙂


*It’s easy to shred the zucchini by hand using the big holes on a box grater. I prefer the shorter strands of zuke that this produces, as opposed to the longer strands you might get with a food processor. Since it’s not that large of an amount, it’s not too much of a chore to do it by hand.

*I love the convenience of this recipe because the kofta ingredients don’t need any sautéing before you throw them together; you just need to do a little toasting for the cumin and almonds. That little extra work is totally worth it! You can toast them while you’re assembling the other ingredients. And what’s even better is that you can use that same pan for panfrying the kofta later on; no need to wash it first.