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 am not even getting into all the other reasons why any animal loving Indian should shun milk: the hormones used to make the cows produce more milk, the painful machines the animals' udders are hooked up to in order to extract the milk, the filthy conditions the cows often are forced to live in, and the lack of medical or any care through their lifetimes. Here's an excellent piece from The Hindu newspaper. India's dairy production system looks a lot today like factory farms here in the United States. Gone are the days when your friendly neighborhood milk vendor would milk the one or two cows he kept in his backyard and treated like family. Most milk sold today in India comes of terrible cruelty. It's not enough to end the slaughter of cows-- it is time to stop consuming milk because it's just as cruel and just as deadly as any slaughter is.
The other, very good reason to avoid milk is, of course, your own health. Milk is packed with artery-clogging cholesterol and sugar, and although you will often hear people argue about the importance of calcium from dairy, there is really no evidence that the consumption of calcium from milk products helps strengthen your bones. You aren't a calf, are you? India and the United States, both large consumers of dairy products, have among the world's highest rates of osteoporosis and diabetes. In India, where dairy consumption is growing each year, researchers have found a new phenomenon: a rise in osteoporosis rates among young women.
On the other hand, calcium is abundantly available in vegan foods and in vegetables. If you look through the nutrition labels of most of the recipes I share here on Holy Cow!, you will know that you can get good quantities of calcium from most homemade vegan food. And that calcium is better absorbed by your body than the calcium in cow's milk is. Many vegan foods you can buy off the shelf are also fortified with calcium.
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.
This Vegan Gulab Jamun is all that: it is spongy and soft and it soaks up all of that cardamom-y, sugar-syrup goodness into its very core. It is also really easy to make: your hands-on work is no more than 15 minutes, tops. The jamuns themselves need just two ingredients: bread and cashews. And the sugar syrup needs three: sugar, cardamom, and a squeeze of lemon juice. You do need oil for frying, and water, of course, but I'm not counting that one. Imagine so much deliciousness with just six ingredients. But you don't have to imagine -- try 'em!
More Indian Vegan Sweets:
Vegan Gulab Jamun
For the gulab jamuns:
- 2 ½ cups 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)
- Vegetable oil for deep frying 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 green cardamom pods (crushed with a mortar and pestle so the seeds are ground. You can use 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom)
- 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).
These Jamuns I made half the quantity cose was not sure how they will be… for my surprise they are excellent… will make this week full quantity 😉
Awesome, so happy you loved them Soniaa.
Thank you for touching upon the abuse of cows in dairy industry. Not many chefs talk about it. You did a great job!!!!
Vaishali, as a vegetarian turned vegan - mostly for health reasons, as you do, come across many indians who cannot give up their dairy. Diary puts women at a higher risk for breast cancer. Sugar in the milk puts people higher risk for Diabetes and in addition adding all the extra sugar make it worse. I love all your indian healthier sweets. Will have to try some time.
Can I use store-bought breadcrumbs?
They could be too dry.
I was so happy that I'd found a vegan version of my favorite dessert of all! Thank you for this recipe! It is delicious!
So happy you loved it!
I made the gulab jamuns exactly as you say. It came out very well.very tasty and delicious also. I poke the jamoons in three or four places with safety pin before putting them into the sugar syrup.so they juicey to the core.thank you Vaishali for this tasty and easy one
Awesome, so happy you loved them Suguna.
Thank you for touching upon the abuse of cows in dairy industry. Not many chefs talk about it. You did a great job!!!!
these are awesome
So happy to hear! 🙂
Hi Julie, can I know why you are using white bread instead of like flour or something?
I'm gonna try this recipe soon 🙂
I made this twice and it is a great recipe! Thank you for sharing it. I was trying to find good vegan versions of south asian desserts and now I found one! The second time I made this recipe, I didnt add the cardamom to the syrup. I liked the taste a bit more when I did this.
Hi A, you can definitely leave out the cardamom if you prefer not to use it. I love cardamom, so always add it to my Indian sweet recipes. So happy you loved the jamuns. 🙂
Will give these a go, thank you for the awareness and recipe ?
Let me know if you try it!
Do you think these would cook the same in an air fryer?
Hi Glenda, I can't say for sure, but it's definitely worth a try. It's a good idea, because the jamuns would probably soak in the syrup better when they are dryer...let me know how it turns out if you try. I expect they won't have the same color, but that's a small sacrifice.
This is literally the best gujab jamun recipe!! Thank you so much!
So happy to hear! ❤️
How “creamy” does the cashew cream has to be? Can i use cashew milk or other vegan milk, like coconut, oat, or almond? (Store-bought)
It should be quite thick--about the consistency of full fat coconut milk out of a can. Storebought cashew milk will be thinner.
Can't wait to try this! Thank you for highlighting the plight of dairy animals, too many cow-worshipping "vegetarian" Indians turn a blind eye to the unnecessary suffering of these animals.
I'm thinking of incorporating some soymilk powder and rose water into the recipe.
This is magic! I can't even imagine how you could come up with this recipe, but this is mind-blowing - it's super easy and quick to make and the gulab jamuns come out unbelievably delicious. Just in time for Diwali! Thank you, Vaishali!
I'd also like to commend your willingness to discuss the cruelty in dairy industries, big and small. It underlines the importance of trying out this recipe even more. Thanks again!
Hi Deeksha, so happy to hear. 🙂 Happy Diwali.
What a wonderful recipe, it's so delicious and straightforward, even for me. My only question is can I fry the balls the day before and put them in the syrup the next day?
Hi Smita, I've never tried that before, so can't give an honest answer. Why would you want to not put them in the syrup rightaway and then store them? The jamuns will be tastier the longer they remain in the syrup.
the recipe sounds great, yet to make it!
I was considering putting in a chocolate chip into each of the Jamun balls, my son is a vegan and a chocolate freak! what say you?
Sounds like a great idea!
Is there a gluten free option?
You can make these with gluten-free bread.
Do you have a YouTube/video version of this recipe? I’m confused about the white bread crumbs. Do I tear the slices of bread into smaller pieces? Thanks for your help!
Blend or process the bread into very fine crumbs!
Can I make it with maida and cashew cream instead of bread?
Hi!! This recipe looks so delicious and I’ve been meaning to give this a try for a while but can’t find any vegan white bread!! I always just get the whole grain ones… which I don’t think will come out the same way. Can you please include any specific brands/stores in US where I can find those will be greatly appreciated! Thanks again!!
Thank you for your generous sharing of fabulous recipes. I never attempt indian desserts and trying to veganise some was time consuming. I did doubt the Gulab Jamun but oh my gosh they were simply delicious! How did you ever come up with that. Using old bread for crumbs and cashews etc. amazing, thank you. Truly a legend masterchef! Keep loving life and stay healthy.
Hi Julie, thanks for the lovely message. So happy you loved them!
Would Panko bread crumbs work? Do you toast the bread to get fine crumbs? Thank you!!!
Panko wouldn't work here. Just use regular white bread and no need to toast.
I made these and they came out a bit dense on the inside. How are you making the bread crumbs - do I let the bread dry out first?
Dry bread crumbs from older bread work well in this. Also make sure you pierce them all over and put them in warm syrup.
Hi there, this recipe looks amazing and I'm planning to try it this week. I wanted to know if I could use store bought white bread crumbs? Or does it have to be from fresh bread?
Store bought white bread is perfect!
Thank you for the recipe, the gulab jamuns turned out amazing! Now trying out carrot halwa!
Awesome, Swetha, so happy you tried it.
Absolutely amazing. Thank you so much. You are a lifesaver.
So happy you liked them!
Can I use soy milk instead of almond or cashew milk ?
Hey Vaishali! I made these jamuns today (using almond pulp instead of cashews) and it was excellent!!! Thank you so much for the recipe, and for the passionate case you made for veganism in your post. As a vegan and an Indian, it was a pleasure to read and share with others! Thanks again!
Hi Tina, that's great to hear and also nice to meet a fellow Indian vegan! Great idea using almond pulp instead of cashews.
Just made these tonight for Diwali festivities tomorrow. They are so good! My hubby is delighted he can enjoy his favourite Indian dessert again.
I doubled the recipe and used 1/2 cup of cashews and 1/2 cup of raw sunflower seeds to make the cream and it came or perfectly. Can’t wait to taste again tomorrow and see how it turned out.
Thanks for this delicious recipe!
Hi, I was going through your Vegan Gulab Jamun recipe. Here you have mentioned to mix crushed cashews with smooth cream. I am unsure what kind of cream are you referring to? Is it a vegan cream? if we don't add cream, will it make a difference?
It’s the cream you get by blending the cashews and water,
Cant it be in the syrup for week
Hi Vaishali, i had lot of trouble trying to make vegan desserts for my Son who had turned vegan a couple of years ago. I almost gave up and you came along ! Thank you so much for the vegan gulab jamoon.
Hope people like you all will make the earth a better place for all living beings.
May this generation promote veganism from obscurity to mandatory !
Thank you for your amazing post! You give crystal clear reasons why Indian vegetarians should turn to veganism, I can't wait to try out the recipe!!
Wow!!!.....When I turned vegan, I felt I lost my Mithais.....I felt really bad cuz I haave spent my childhood eating them...but your amazing recipe gives me immense happiness...and I want to make it someday soon!!!....THANK YOU!
Dear Vaishali, thanks for the great website and awesome vegan recipes. I am interested to make these Gulab Jamuns. I am not sure how to grind up the white bread into small crumbs. Fresh white bread is soft, moist and mushy, if you try to grind it I think it will just mash together into a hard ball, rather than break up into crumbs. Or do you recommend toasting or drying out the bread before grinding it up? What kitchen tools do you recommend for doing the grinding?
Appreciate your advice, thanks again. - Mohan
Hi Mohan, use bread that's at least a day or more old so it's quite dry. You might want to use a bread that has a drier crumb, like a baguette, instead of a sandwich bread that is mushy and soft. I use a food processor to break the bread into crumbs.
Hi Vaishali, how exactly do you make the breadcrumbs? Any chance you could shar if you make pieves with your hands, use a food processor, and how do you mix is with the cashew?
I would love to make this recipe! Could you advise what "white" bread you are using? I haven't been able to find any so far that doesn't contain dairy products. Thanks!
I am certain there are white breads on the market that are vegan, but I usually make my own bread and for this one I used a bread machine recipe, somewhat like this one. In recipes that call for butter or milk, sub with oil and non-dairy milk.
Thanks this recipe will help me so much to my daughter who is vegan.
Hi Smita, hope she loves it! 🙂
Hi ma'am..very well written on veganism...
Even i am switching over from vegetarian to vegan...
But here in india if i speak about veganism ..people are not at all agreeing..even my own educated friends...i will definitely try these Jamoons...Jamoons look delicious and pretty...
Hi Roopa, I hear you. My dad, after all these years, will still insist I drink tea with milk. 🙂 Most Indians truly believe milk is healthy, but people like you can help spread awareness.
Ha ha ha..not only your dad ma,am, all parents are same. When I told my mom about veganism, she started to scold me..But I do what I feel is right..
But is soy products tasty, I have never tried them..Please advise.
Soy products can be tasty, but I prefer to use a variety of beans, legumes and grains for my protein needs, There are so many great ways to get vegetable protein in the Indian diet without any need for soy or meat.
You are my hero! I thought Gulab Jamun would be impossible to veganize and you have done it! Your vegan carrot halwa is a favorite.. I actually think it is better than the version with dairy. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Ambica! So happy you like the vegan carrot halwa. It's a huge favorite around here too and I have a big bag of carrots, so could be just the right time to make some more. 🙂
Hi, can you provide the link to the carrothalwa. Not finding the search option anywhere on recipes tab or on the page , have to go through every recipe name to find, not sure why. Please provide the link:)
Your vegan gulab jamuns look absolutely divine. Bookmarked to try real soon. Thanks for sharing this.
Hope you try, Pavani! 🙂
Thank you so much for this vegan option on gulab jamoon, and also on the detailed explanation on the cow reality prevailing in India. Congratulations! keep up posting and I promise I'll keep reading.
Warm regards all the way from Guanajuato, México,
Thanks for your kind words, Gabriel. 🙂
This is one of your best posts, Vaishali. You write intelligently (armed with facts and logic) as well as straight from the heart. I have never been able to figure out how ethical vegetarians can defend dairy consumption. And it never ceases to amaze and depress me how otherwise decent and kind people justify eating meat and dairy by wilfully denying and/or ignoring the unspeakable horror of animal slaughter in general and factory farms in particular. At the same time, I remain hopeful that the spread of knowledge and information coupled with legislation will bring about change even if it seems glacial at times. Thank you for your cruelty free gulab jamun recipe! xx Ira
Thanks, Ira! 🙂