Vegetarian Kofta

This Restaurant-Style Vegan Malai Kofta recipe is the ultimate Indian comfort food. Picture crispy potato and chickpea dumplings in a creamy, spiced Indian gravy that will make your tastebuds sing! Soy-free. Glutenfree option. Nut-free option. Jump to Recipe.

Malai Kofta! If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine and this isn’t one of your top 5 Indian dishes you probably just have not tried it yet.


Malai Kofta is a special occasion dish that has its origins in northern India. Kofta is meatballs, and there are variations of them – some from the Balkans and the Middle East, others coming from South Asia. In India, they are typically vegetarian for malai kofta, made with potatoes and paneer cheese. Malai simply means cream. So creamy meatballs.

In this recipe, we make easy swaps for all non-vegan ingredients using potatoes and chickpeas as a base for the “meatballs”  or “vegan kofta”. The result is the most delicious, richest tasting, better-than-restaurant style vegan malai kofta.

This vegan malai kofta will quickly shoot up to one of your favorite dishes. Malai (cream) gravy is super rich, so the best substitute for it is cashew cream. We also add some plant-based milk to the gravy but you can use water instead of the milk and it will still be quite creamy. The acidity in the tomatoes helps to balance the heat of the chili powder, ginger, and cayenne. There are several variations of this recipe and you can make it with all the spices for a really elaborate process or shorten it like this one with a few spices and garam masala. This recipe is adapted from my cookbook version which is completely Nut-free in the book.

Vegan Malai Kofta (Indian dumplings in Tomato onion curry sauce)

This Restaurant-Style Vegan Malai Kofta recipe is the ultimate Indian comfort food. Picture Crispy potato and chickpea dumplings in a creamy, spiced Indian gravy that will make your tastebuds sing! Soy-free. Glutenfree option. Nut-free option.


For the kofta balls:

  • 1/4 cup (50 g) shelled hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds or almond flour or chopped cashews (cashews and almonds are the most neutral flavor)
  • 1 cup (210 g) heaping cup cubed potato or 1 cup grated/shredded potato, raw (1 medium potato)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 15 oz (430 g) can chickpeas or 1.5 cups cooked
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt depends on if using salted or unsalted chickpeas, I used 3/4 tsp
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin preferably roasted or use Dry toasted whole cumin seeds
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne/Indian red chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp oat flour or regular flour Or other flour of choice
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch or other starch
  • a generous pinch of baking soda

For the gravy – Makes 1.5 cups of sauce

  • 2 teaspoons safflower or other neutral oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cloves garlic coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup (160 g) chopped red onion
  • 1 1-inch knob of ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
  • 1 1/2 cups (225 g) chopped tomato fresh or canned
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) raw cashews, See note for nut-free
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water or unsweetened almond or other non-dairy milk divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7 g) dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) sugar
  • Cashew cream or coconut cream for garnish


  • Kofta: Process the hemp seeds or nuts until you have a coarse meal. Add potato and process until coarse. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until most of the chickpeas have broken down but not a paste. (Without a processor, use nut or seed flour and grated potato. Then mash chickpeas and mix)
  • The potato will leak moisture in the mixture in some seconds making it easy to make smooth balls. Do not let the mixture sit for too long at this point. Add more flour or starch if the mixture is too moist. Add a tbsp nutritional yeast for a cheesier flavor profile.
  • Take 2 to 3 Tbsp of the mixture and make round or football-shaped balls – 1.5-inch size or smaller so they cook through. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 F (218 C). For 20 minutes. Or pan-fry in 1/2 inch oil for 5 to 6 minutes until golden on most sides.
  • Gravy: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander, and bay leaf. Cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook until slightly golden on some edges, 2 minutes. Add the onion and ginger, and cook until golden, 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the turmeric, cayenne, and garam masala, and mix for a few seconds.
  • Add the tomato, cashews, 1/4 cup water, and salt, and cook until the tomatoes are saucy, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. Cool slightly, then transfer to a blender.
  • Blend the mixture with 1/4 cup water, half the fenugreek leaves, and sugar until smooth. Fold in the remaining fenugreek leaves. (This sauce is incredibly versatile, you can just add some chickpeas, baked tofu, roasted or par-cooked veggies and simmer and use!)
  • Bring the blended sauce to a boil, add baked kofta balls, and serve. Garnish with some cashew cream or other on dairy cream and cilantro. Serve with Naan or rice. To store: store the balls and sauce Separately until ready to serve.

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