• KATE .J


Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Nothing can be compared to the sweet and creamy taste of ice cream. Ice cream is indeed a serious business and is known to be an $8 billion enterprise. For instance, Americans consume almost 28 pounds of ice cream every year, on average, as stated by the United States Department of Agriculture.


But in India, there is a healthier version of ice cream which forgoes preservatives, air (as an additive), and eggs for natural flavors, milk, and sugar. This ice cream is knownn as “Kulfi.” Kulfi is creamier, richer, and tastier than the typical ice cream or dairy desserts while sustaining its frozen state. They are even available online and are available in 9 flavors, and these include strawberry, coconut, and pistachio almond.

The History of Kulfi Ice Cream

Kulfi is a frozen dairy dessert that was invented in the 16th century and originated from the Indian subcontinent. This was during the era of the Mughlai empire, which was under the Akbar administration. The word “kulfi” or “Qulfi” is derived from the Farsi language (Iran), and it means “covered up,” indicating that it is of Arabic origin. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; India has had an arduous history of foreign intrusion by both the Arabs and the Turks.

Kulfi – known as the traditional Indian ice cream – is a mixture of dense evaporated milk that started gaining popularity in sweet dishes in the Indian subcontinent. During the Mughal era, this thick mixture was usually flavored with saffron and pistachios. Then packed solid into metal cones and plunged in slurry ice, thereby resulting in the invention of Kulfi.

There is an elaborate record of the administration of Akbar, the Mughal emperor which mentioned the use of saltpeter as a method of refrigerating the mixture. There was also a brief mention of the fact that Himalayan ice was transported to warmer regions.

Kulfi has grown in popularity over the years and is much loved in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, the Middle East, and Burma (Myanmar). It is also available in restaurants that serve cuisines originating from the Indian subcontinent.

The word “kulfi” or “Qulfi” is derived from the Farsi language (Iran), and it means “covered up,” indicating that it is of Arabic origin

KULFI is served traditionally in a “matka” in Hindi. A matka is an earthen cup and is a renowned trademark which buttresses the fact that this dessert is unique and revered in Delhi. This earthen cup called Matka is filled with tasty kulfi, and then it is covered with a small piece of fabric which in turn is secured with a string.

This neat closure makes the entire ensemble look very attractive. However, it does more than that; the fabric helps in preserving the ice cream from being frostbitten. Now, you understand why it was called “kulfi,” i.e., covered up or covered cup.

Kulfi is denser and richer than the conventional ice cream, all thanks to its secret ingredient: bread. The fact that it is not whipped like the traditional ice cream adds profoundly to its density. And thirdly, this Indian frozen dessert is made using evaporated milk or what is referred to as “malai.”


Kulfi has a distinct caramelized taste which is as a result of the heating of lactose. This is another crucial element which differentiates it from the usual ice cream that you grew up to know. It can be found in different flavors such as rose, vanilla, mango, cream, cardamom, etc.


India, the second most populous country in the entire world, is blessed with a variety of dishes. One of the most popular dishes – which is also regarded with great favor in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc. – is kulfi, a frozen dessert which hailed from the Indian subcontinent in the 16th century.

Kulfi is usually described as India’s traditional ice cream since it bears a striking resemblance with the conventional ice cream in taste and appearance. But here is where the similarities end. Kulfi or Qufli – which is a Persian word that means “covered up” – is creamier and denser than the conventional ice cream.

Kulfi is also not whipped – unlike ice cream – and this results in numerous flavors. The more traditional versions are cardamom (elaichi), cream (malai), pistachio, and saffron (zafran or kesar). There are also newer versions such as strawberry, avocado, orange, peanut, and apple.

Since kulfi is not whipped, it is a dense, frozen dessert which does not melt as quickly as the conventional ice cream.

Preparation of Kulfi

Kulfi is prepared traditionally by evaporating flavored and sweetened milk via slow cooking and is stirred continuously to ensure that the milk does not stick to the bottom of the cooking vessel where it might burn and ruin the mixture.

The slow cooking and stirring process continues until the volume of the mixture is significantly reduced by half. By this time, the mixture is already thickened, thereby increasing its lactose, protein, and fat density. The protein-rich cream is then mixed with sugar and breadcrumbs, thus producing a paste that is delightfully dense with a unique texture.

The heating of the lactose also gives kulfi a caramelized taste, and this adds to its distinction from conventional ice cream.

As soon as the heating process is complete, the taste of the cream is further heightened by spicing it with cherries, rose water, saffron, cinnamon, pistachios, and cardamom. This already exuberant taste is then garnished with salt to round it all up.

The semi-condensed cream is then frozen in molds that are sealed tightly – in most cases, kulhars with their mouths sealed – and submerged in ice that is already mixed with salt to hasten the freezing process. The ice/salt mix – along with the submerged kulfi molds – are placed in an earthen pot which slows down the melting of ice and serves as an insulator.

When kulfi is prepared in this manner, it is called Matka Kulfi. Kulfi that is developed via this process renders a smooth mouthfeel and its consistency undisturbed, thanks to the lack of ice crystals.

An Alternative Methods of Preparing Kulfi

An easier version of preparing kulfi entails boiling the milk and then adding the breadcrumbs, sugar, and dried whole milk – known as mawa – while stirring everything in. A creamy layer forms on the boiling milk, and this is scooped initially and then added in the end to thicken the boiled milk.

Another – more recent – method of making kulfi is by using heavy (double) cream, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. Sugar is added to the mixture which is then boiled while cornstarch-water paste is added later on. The newly-added paste thickens the mix; however, the mixture is further boiled for a few more minutes.

Then dried fruits, cardamom, flavorings, etc. are added to the mixture which is then allowed to cool, put in molds, and frozen consequently.


Kulfi ice cream is one tasty dish that is highly revered in India and other neighboring countries. Its distinct taste, uniqueness, and flavorings make it a far better option than the conventional ice cream.

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