Kaju katli is the quintessential Indian sweet and a popular item on any Diwali menu. My Vegan Kaju Katli is dairy-free but delectable and it is flavored headily with saffron and cardamom.
With Diwali knocking at the door, take a few minutes to cook up one of the season's most popular sweets: a divinely vegan kaju katli.
This is one of the easiest Indian vegan sweets you can put together and it needs just four ingredients, including the star ingredient, cashews (kaju). It takes mere minutes to make, and it is almost foolproof.
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What is kaju katli?
Kaju katli (translation "slice of cashew") is sometimes described as a "cashew fudge." But even if you love fudge, a kaju katli is so much more. This distinctively diamond-shaped Indian sweet, often coated with silver foil, is slimmer than fudge, has a delicate mouth feel and a firm bite. It is addictively scented with cardamom, as so many Indian sweets are. Eat one and it is impossible to stop!
Why you will love this vegan kaju katli recipe
- Truly delicious. A kaju katli is a simple combination of sugar, cashews and cardamom but it is truly a thing of beauty. The cashews play beautifully with the cardamom and saffron, creating a unique, gorgeous flavor that's hard to forget.
- Easy recipe. You will find all sorts of recipes for kaju katli around the web, but I've condensed all the wisdom down into an extremely simple, doable recipe that you can ace.
- Soy-free and gluten-free. Unfortunately this cannot be a nut-free recipe, but it is suitable for most other diets.
- Raw cashews. Since cashews, or kaju, are the star ingredient here, they are indispensable. You will need to grind the cashews very fine in a blender or food processor.
- Corn starch or tapioca starch. You need just a little bit of corn starch to help the cashews grind into a powder without glomming into a paste. Still, be careful not to overprocess the cashews.
- Sugar. You can start out with any granulated sugar but keep in mind that using an unrefined sugar will make the katli brown, veering away from its traditional, ivory-white color.
- Green cardamom or ground cardamom. You can powder green cardamom seeds yourself, which will always give you the best flavor, or use ground cardamom from a jar.
- Saffron. I love the warmth of saffron in kaju katli but you can skip it.
How to make vegan kaju katli
Blend the cashews with the cornstarch into a very fine powder. Set aside.
Place the sugar syrup ingredients -- sugar and water -- in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then add the ground cardamom and saffron. Continue boiling five more minutes until the syrup reaches 225 degrees Fahrenheit/110 degrees Celsius.
If you don't have a thermometer, you can test the syrup by carefully scooping some into a ladle. Blow on it to cool it before touching the tip of your forefinger to the syrup. Then gently touch the forefinger with your thumb. If the syrup pulls away in a single string, the syrup is done.
As the syrup is finishing up, place the cashew powder in a wok and toast for a couple of minutes. Don't brown the cashew powder, you just want to toast it lightly so it doesn't taste raw.
Pour the prepared sugar syrup into the cashew powder and mix immediately with a ladle.
With the heat on medium or medium-low, continue cooking the cashew-sugar-syrup mixture until it begins pulling up from the sides and forms a wet-dough-like consistency.
Turn the cashew mixture onto a clean surface. Rub some oil into the palms of your hands. Now carefully, using a bench scraper if you have one, knead the cashew mixture briefly. Be very careful because the mixture is very hot at this stage. Wait a minute or so if it's too difficult to handle, but don't wait too long.
The dough should look smoother and shinier when you are done.
Grease a small plate or baking sheet. Press the cashew paste evenly into the tray using your fingers or a rolling pin, to a thickness of a third of an inch. Set aside to cool for a couple of hours. Once the kaju katli has set up and firmed, use a sharp knife to cut into diamond shapes.
Yes. Raw cashew flour is available online and in some stores and you can simply substitute that for the raw cashews. Be sure to roast it.
For the longest time the silver foil used to decorate the top of kaju katli, also called "chandi ka vark," was not vegetarian: it was made by pounding silver sheets between cow intestines or skin. This should have made it a major no-no for all Hindu vegetarians, who consume silver vark in all sorts of Indian sweets and shun eating cow meat, but for some reason it didn't. Now, with more awareness, you can easily buy silver foil or vark labeled as "vegan". Here in the United States it is available from online retailers, including Amazon. Because it's just decorative and doesn't really change the flavor of the kaju katli, I leave it out.
You can add a small splash of edible rose water to the sugar syrup, which would be divine.
- At room temperature: You can store the kaju katli at room temperature in an airtight jar for up to a week.
- Refrigerate: Store the vegan kaju katli in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a month.
More yummy vegan Indian sweets
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Vegan Kaju Katli
- Non-stick wok or skillet
- Small cookie sheet or tray
- Place the cashews in a blender with the corn starch and blend until a very fine powder forms. There shouldn't be any cashew pieces. Be careful and do this slowly because any nut, when overly processed, can turn into nut butter.
- 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 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/110 degrees Celsius.
- Heat a nonstick wok or skillet 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 heat to low and continue mixing the mixture with the ladle. Eventually, in a couple of minutes, the mixture will thicken and will start pulling away from the sides of the pan, and will achieve a wet-dough-like consistency.
- Turn out 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. Be very careful because the paste is still hot.
- Pat the cashew paste into a greased plate or tray and spread it evenly. You can also do this with a rolling pin if the mixture is still hot to handle. The layer should be about a third of an inch thick.
- Set the plate aside to cool completely for two hours. Use a sharp knife to cut into diamond shapes.