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Title: Kulfi  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ice cream, Pakistani cuisine, Street food of Mumbai, Pistachio ice cream, Chicken karahi
Collection: Frozen Desserts, Gujarati Cuisine, Ice Cream, Indian Desserts, Pakistani Cuisine, Rajasthani Cuisine
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Matka Kulfi
Alternative names Qulfi, Khulfi
Type Ice cream
Course Dessert
Place of origin India, Pakistan
Region or state South Asia
Main ingredients Milk
Cookbook: Kulfi 
Kulfi with strawberry sauce
Pistachio, vanilla and rose flavoured kulfi

Kulfi is a popular frozen dairy dessert from the Indian Subcontinent. It is often described as "traditional Indian Subcontinent ice cream".[1][2] It is popular throughout places such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Burma (Myanmar), and the Middle East, and widely available in Indian restaurants in Australia, Europe, East Asia and North America.

As popularly understood, Kulfi has similarities to ice cream in appearance and taste; however it is denser and creamier.[1][3] It comes in various flavours. The more traditional ones are cream (malai), rose, mango, cardamom (elaichi), saffron (kesar or zafran), and pistachio. There are newer variations such as apple, orange, strawberry, peanut, and avocado. Unlike Western ice creams, kulfi is not whipped, resulting in a solid, dense frozen dessert similar to traditional custard-based ice cream. Thus, it is sometimes considered a distinct category of frozen dairy-based dessert.[3] Due to its density, kulfi takes a longer time to melt than Western ice-cream.


The word "kulfi" is derived from the Persian word for a covered cup. The dessert likely originated in the Mughal Empire, in the 16th century. The mixture of dense evaporated milk was already popular in Hindu sweet dishes. During the Mughal period, this mixture was flavoured with pistachios and saffron, packed into metal cones and immersed in slurry ice, resulting in the invention of Kulfi. Ain-i-Akbari, a detailed record of the Mughal emperor Akbar's administration, mentions use of saltpeter for refrigeration as well as transportation of Himalayan ice to warmer areas.[4]


Kulfi is traditionally prepared by evaporating sweetened and flavoured milk via slow cooking, with almost continuous stirring to keep milk from sticking to the bottom of the vessel where it might burn, until its volume was reduced by a half, thus thickening it, increasing its fat, protein, and lactose density. It has a distinctive taste due to caramelization of lactose and sugar during the lengthy cooking process. The semi-condensed mix is then frozen in tight sealed moulds (often kulhars with their mouths sealed) that are then submerged in ice mixed with salt to speed up the freezing process. The ice/salt mix, along with its submerged kulfi moulds, is placed in a matka or an earthen pot that provides insulation from the external heat and slows down the melting of ice. Kulfi prepared in this manner is hence called Matka Kulfi. Kulfi, thus prepared by slow freezing, also renders a unique smooth mouth feel that is devoid of ice crystals.

An easier version is to boil the milk and add bread crumbs, mawa (dried whole milk), and sugar while stirring. The cream layer formed on the boiling milk is scooped initially and added in the end to thicken the milk.[5] More recently Kulfi is prepared from evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and heavy (double) cream.[6] Then sugar is added and the mixture is further boiled and cornstarch-water paste is added. This paste thickens the mixture, although it is boiled for an additional few minutes. Then flavourings, dried fruits, cardamom, etc. are added. The mixture is then cooled, put in moulds and frozen. If frozen in individual-portion custard bowls for service with a spoon, bowls are removed from the freezer 10–15 minutes before serving to allow for melting at the edges.

It is garnished with ground cardamom, saffron, or pistachio nuts. Kulfi is also served with faloodeh (vermicelli noodles made from starch). In some places, people make it at home and make their own flavors.[7]

Traditionally in India, kulfi is sold by vendors called kulfiwalas, who keep the kulfi frozen by placing the moulds inside a large earthenware pot called a matka,[8] filled with ice and salt. It is served on a leaf or frozen onto a stick. It can be garnished with pistachios, cardamom, and similar items. Often it is served as falooda kulfi, which is kulfi with rice noodles, rose, or any flavour sugar syrup and other ingredients. Popular flavours include pistachio, mango, vanilla, and rose.


  1. ^ a b Caroline Liddell, Robin Weir, Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to Making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights, Macmillan, 1996,  
  2. ^ Lulu Grimes, Cook's Book of Everything, Murdoch Books, 2009,  
  3. ^ a b Matthew Kenney, Entertaining in the Raw, Gibbs Smith, 2009,  
  4. ^ Michael Krondl (2011). Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. Chicago Review Press. p. 48.  
  5. ^
  6. ^ BBC kulfi recipe
  7. ^ Kulfi Flavoured Frozen Indian Ice Cream
  8. ^ Mamta Gupta recipe
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