Vegan Gulab Jamun

Vegan Gulab Jamun is an Indian dessert to die for. These gulab jamuns come together in a jiffy, using bread and cashew cream, but they are so delicious, no one can tell they are divinely dairy-free.

A gulab jamun is the ultimate Indian dessert. You’ve likely run into these red-gold orbs of deliciousness scented with cardamom and dunked in a flavorful sugar syrup at an Indian restaurant. Or you’ve likely tried making them at home. Either way, you know that to eat one is to fall in love with it forever.

Traditionally, the gulab jamun, like most Indian sweets, is made with cream, or a reduction of milk called khoya. But the version I have for you today is vegan, of course, and therefore uses neither: instead, it uses a common ingredient that you likely already have in your kitchen, white bread, along with cashew cream.

The milk is completely unnecessary: the bread jamuns are just as delicious and no one will be able to tell the difference. But moving away from dairy can make a world of a difference: to your own health, and to the health of the millions of cows caught up in India’s milk production system.

I am always a little amused when people I meet assume, more often than not, that my veganism is a byproduct of being Indian born. I was not raised in a vegetarian household, and the truth is, only about 30 percent of India’s population is vegetarian (not vegan). Indian vegetarians have always included generous amounts of milk products in their diet. Ghee, yogurt, buttermilk and milk are eaten every day in most homes, and their consumption — and the production of milk — is on the rise in India.

But at the same time, there is an almost naive lack of understanding among most Indians about where that dairy comes from. The cow is revered as holy by Hindus, but no one really seems to question the cruel abuse of cows in factory farms and tabelas that supply India’s greed for milk. For those who still believe that cows do not die to produce milk, here’s some food for thought: what do you think happens to the male calves, while you’re busy glugging the milk produced by his mom– for him? He either gets turned out onto the streets or is starved to death or gets sent to a slaughterhouse, along with tens of thousands of others like him.

And what happens to the mom, kept in a constant state of pregnancy through artificial insemination until she’s four or five, once her usefulness has waned and she can’t produce milk anymore? Until recently, she — despite still having more than a decade of living left in her — would have been sent to slaughter (India is one of the world’s largest beef exporters). But under a new law passed very recently, cows in India can’t be slaughtered anymore. While that would be great if the government were to guarantee care of the cows after they have finished producing milk, what will very likely happen is that these cows will be turned out on the streets, to join the already large population of stray bovines in India. Once there, they will end up eating plastic bags for lunch or starving to death anyway.

I have been veganizing Indian sweets over the years, and I am a little surprised myself that it took me a while to get to this, my most favorite of all Indian desserts, but as you will no doubt agree if you try these, they were worth the wait.


For the gulab jamuns:

  • 2 ½ cups fine white bread crumbs (about six to eight slices of bread. Trim off the crusts and use the white portion only) It is important that the breadcrumbs are ground pretty fine, so you get smooth, even jamuns.
  • ½ cup cashews blended with ½ cup water into a very smooth cream
  • Oil for deep frying the jamuns
  • 2 tablespoon chopped nuts like cashews, almonds or pistachios, for garnish (optional)

For the syrup:

  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 8 pods green cardamom, crushed with a mortar and pestle so the seeds are ground.
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


Make the sugar syrup:

  • Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to a simmer, add the cardamom and lemon juice, and let it cook for another five minutes. Turn off heat.

Make the gulab jamuns:

  • Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and mix in the cashew cream, a little at a time until you have a smooth, pliable dough that’s not too stiff or dry.
  • Divide into 14 equal sized pieces and roll each into a ball. You want a very smooth ball with no visible cracks on the surface. You can use some oil to grease your palms, which will help you shape the jamuns more easily.
  • Heat oil in a wok or a fryer. You don’t want to oil to be too hot, around 300 degrees is ideal. If the oil is too hot, the jamuns will brown very fast on the outside and not cook all the way through.
  • Now place the jamuns, a few at a time so as to not clutter, into the fryer or wok. The oil should bubble only slightly. Don’t let the jamuns settle at the bottom. Use your spider or a slotted ladle to keep moving them around until they become a deep, reddish color.
  • Remove them to a plate lined with a paper towel. When the jamun is still warm but can be handled, use a very thin pin or needle to poke holes all around. This will help it better absorb the syrup.
  • Place the jamuns inside the syrup while the syrup is still warm but not very hot. They should be completely immersed. Let them stand for 3 hours before serving, so they have enough time to soak up the syrup.
  • Serve jamuns with a drizzle of the syrup and a sprinkling of nuts (optional).

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