Kaju Katli is an Indian fudge made with cashew nuts and flavored quite simply with saffron and cardamom. This vegan Kaju Katli is dairy free and made without ghee, but it is just as delicious. It is also a gluten-free recipe.
Diwali is the time of year when most of us transplanted Indians, so far from the motherland, long to be back at least for a day. Or two or three or five, because that's how long Diwali lasts. It's the time India lights up with little earthen lamps, brilliant paper lanterns, and the assertive flare of firecrackers. It's the time children strut around in shiny new clothes, men play cards for good luck in the new year, and women paint intricate patterns on the ground with colored sand to welcome the gods. In the country of a million colors there is no time more colorful than this.
Diwali is also the time for some delicious sweets and each year I try to share a few vegam versions with you. This time I have for you what is arguably India's favorite store bought sweet: vegan Kaju Katli.
As easy as it is to make vegan Kaju Katli in modern kitchens, most Indians back in the day I lived in India would buy it from halwais who sold them in glass-fronted shops. The ivory-white Kaju Katli may have looked like the plain cousin amidst tiers of jewel-colored sweets, but in fact it was the belle of the ball. The one everyone wanted to take home and devour.
If you have ever eaten this sweet, you would know why. The buttery cashew and the fragrant cardamom combine to create food magic. And best of all they do it without any help from dairy, usually so pervasive in Indian sweets, making this dish divinely vegan.
It is hard to mess up this vegan Kaju Katli but there is one part where you do need to exercise some technique: the making of the sugar syrup. Make it too thin and it will keep your katli from solidifying. Make it too thick and the burfi will harden up on you instead of staying soft and mellifluous, the way it should.
Here's the recipe. A glorious Diwali to all readers of Holy Cow! May your new year be sweet and filled with all of your favorite things.
More vegan Indian sweets
Vegan Kaju Katli
- 1 cup cashews (powdered in a clean coffee grinder or blender with 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. You want a fine powder with no pieces of cashew in there.)
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon saffron
- ½ teaspoon vegetable oil
- Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and let it come to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer, add the cardamom and saffron, and let the syrup cook about five minutes. Check it regularly to see if it has achieved a one-thread consistency. What this means is that when you place a drop of the hot sugar syrup on the tip of your thumb (don’t burn yourself) and touch the tip pf your forefinger to it, the syrup should pull up in a short thread as you separate the thumb and forefinger. If that is too complicated just get yourself a candy thermometer and take the syrup off the heat when the temperature reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Easy.
- Heat a nonstick saucepan over low heat. Add the cashew powder and cook, stirring, about two minutes or until it is warmed through. Then add the sugar syrup to it. Turn off the heat and mix well. The mixture will start pulling away from the sides of the pan.
- At this point empty the cashew paste on a clean surface, rub some oil on your palms and fingers, and knead the paste a few times until it looks really smooth.
- Pat the cashew paste into a greased plate or tray and spread it evenly. The layer should be about a quarter of an inch thick.
- Set the plate aside to cool completely, then cut into diamond shapes, the way Kaju Katli is always cut.
Thanks for this lovely recipe. My vegan son is coming over for dinner and while indian mains can be easily vegan desserts are a different story. Can i soak the cashews in almond milk, grind to a paste and cook it down to fudge consistency. I am worried that blitzing them in the vitamix might turn it into cashew butter. Thanks again.
Hi Swapna, I think that might be okay. Blitzing for short spurts with the cornstarch for the dry powder should work, but blend it with milk if that makes you more comfortable.
Raw cashews or roasted unsalted cashews?
My syrup must have been to thick. It was too dry. So I added coconut oil and made into balls.
I really want to dry one more time after I get my answers.
Always raw cashews, unless specified otherwise.
I love this kaju katli. I've been making your recipe for years, and plan to again this year for Diwali. Thanks for keeping us well fed on a vegan diet, Vaishali. 🙂
This looks yum.... what can I use instead of any oil... I’m completely on oil free dairy vegan diet . Thanks
Oh man, I remember having had these a couple times - they are delicious! I had no idea what was in them, though.
Happy Diwali to you! I was in an Indian part of town yesterday and it was so beautifully decorated in the street. Everything smelled so good and there was music playing out of storefronts!
Hi Foodfeud, a very happy Diwali to you!
East Meets West Veg
Happy Diwali! This looks delicious. Thanks for sharing! I love your vegan Indian recipes!
Hi EMWV, thanks, and a very happy Diwali to you!
Happy Diwali Vaishali! I'm no exception, I love Kaju Katli as much as the next indian. I've never made it myself though. You make it sound easy enough that I'd want to try it.
Happy Diwali to you, Archana, and it really is easy. I hope you try it!
Happy Diwali Vaishali !
Love your posts and looking forward to many more exciting ones 🙂
Thanks, dear Sunila, and a very happy Diwali to you!
Very Happy Diwali to everyone! Holy Cow recipe blog is a festival of light among food blogs and I'm so happy to be a part of this festival. Thanks Vaishali, for keeping the light bright and delicious.
Ammasdtr, a very happy Diwali, and thanks for your lovely and motivating words! 🙂
Happy Diwali to you, dear Vaishali!
The kaju katli looks delicious. The use of walnut oil is new to me. Bet it adds to the flavor.
Hi Manasi, happy Diwali! The walnut oil is a ghee substitute but any vegetable oil would be fine.
YUM! I often make kaju katil. I use vegan sugar -sugar in the raw , to make these yummy sweet.
Thanks again for posting so many tasty vegan sweet recipes...
Hi Kumudha, happy Diwali to you. I use sugar in the raw too for this and all sweetl recipes.
Happy Divali from one of your readers living in England!
Mum lives in an area where she has many Indian neighbours. I love the many tiny lights and decorations at Divali, we were blessed when Mums neighbour brought us round some gulabjamun.
I do enjoy your blog, I often make your dads not-mutton mushroom curry.
Happy Diwali, Kath! Thanks for the wishes, and I am so happy you enjoy the blog-- and my favorite curry!
Does the cornstarch make it easier to powder the cashews? Keep the powder from sticking maybe? What's the reason for adding it?
Right on both counts. It also helps with setting.
Hi ? love your blog post ?? Is there a replacement for corn starch? Can we use something else instead of it ?
Hi, Maida would be a good substitute.