Kulfi – Indian Pistachio Ice Cream Recipe

Try this cool, cardamom and pistachio flavored dessert for Deepavali / Diwali festival dinners.

Kulfi ready to eat

We recently went out for dinner with some family friends of ours who took us to a popular Indian restaurant in town. The food was quite good, and we stuffed ourselves on naan, various biryani and curries. Even though we were full, our hosts suggested we have some kulfi (Indian ice cream) for dessert. I had never had kulfi before, so I agreed to try it. And I’m glad I did.

The texture was different from Western style ice creams – more substantial and not so airy. Another interesting thing about this kulfi is, it is served as an upright cylinder instead of a round scoop. This is because of the mold that they use to freeze the milk in.

Noticing the resemblance to our Royal Selangor Jelly Mould, Annie suggested that we make some kulfi as one of our entries in the Royal Selangor Jellyriffic Challenge. She found the recipe online, and I was tasked with the production. It almost didn’t get made.

Kulfi – Indian Pistachio Ice Cream Recipe

from Saveur Magazine Issue #126
Prep time: 10 min / Total Time: 10 hrs


8 cups whole milk
1/8 tsp saffron threads
8 Tbsp sugar
cardamom seeds from 2 pods, crushed
4 Tbsp finely chopped pistachios


1. Heat 8 cups milk in a large Dutch oven over med-high heat, stirring constantly until it reaches a boil.

2. Reduce heat to low, add saffron, and simmer milk for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally until the milk is reduced to 3 cups.

kulfi ingredients - milk pistachios saffron 3. Remove pan from heat and whisk in sugar and cardamom seeds. Let cool to room temperature. Strain out the reduced milk to remove any milk solids.

4. Stir in pistachios.

evaporated milk and ground pistachios

5. Pour mixture into moulds and freeze for 6 hours.

Kulfi ready to freeze 6. To serve, dip the moulds in warm water for about 10 seconds, then invert over a plate. Serve immediately.

Optional: garnish with more chopped pistachios.

Kulfi Ready to Eat

Kulfi ready to eat

Can This Dessert Be Saved?

As I was saying, this dessert almost didn’t get made. When I poured the 8 cups of milk into the dutch oven and turned it to med-high heat, I thought that it would take a while to come to a boil. So I went into the other kitchen (we have a wet and dry kitchen in our house) to wash some dishes.


You know how they say “a watched pot never boils.”? The converse is also true – an unwatched pot always boils. I was halfway into washing the dishes when I heard this loud HISSSSS from the wet kitchen.

I uttered an expletive and rushed to the kitchen to see foaming milk POURING out onto the stove, counter and floor. I got the pot off the stove but it was too late – there was hot milk everywhere.

My head in my hands, I called out a few more choice words as Annie came into the kitchen to survey the damage. “Well don’t just stand there; hand me a towel!” She commanded.

No use crying over spilt milk, I guess.

I handed her the towel, got the mop and together we wiped down the cooking area. I thought that the dessert was ruined and that I’d have to start over from scratch. The thought of wasting the remainder of the milk just irked me.

Maybe I’ll just strain it out and see how it tastes. It turns out I lost about 2 cups of milk. But the remainder tasted fine so I scrubbed the pot down, topped off the milk, and started over.

This time, I watched that pot like a hawk, the whole 4 hours that it took to reduce.

It took a while longer for the milk to cool to room temperature. That didn’t require any watching. Which was a good thing, because we were busy fussing over the Apple Pie-in-the-Sky recipe at the time. We didn’t get the milk into the moulds and then the freezer until AFTER the apple pies were made. And we didn’t get to taste the kulfi until after dinner the next day.

Was it Worth It?

Our rating system (our two kids) said that the apple pie was two enthusiastic thumbs up, the Mulled Apple Cider Jelly was only one thumb up, and the kulfi was another two-thumber.

I like the clear cardamom flavors in this kulfi. It’s a spice I’m enjoying more and more and I can’t wait to use it in more dishes. The ground pistachios were more textural and I wish that I hadn’t made them so fine – bigger pieces would have delivered greater pistachio punch.

Would I make it again? I don’t know if I would start with whole milk and then spend so long reducing it. I note that there are other recipes like this one from Journey Kitchen that calls for heavy cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk. This will cut down on the cooking time tremendously. Perhaps I’ll revisit this dish some other time and try some different flavors.

Aloha, Nate

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4 thoughts on “Kulfi – Indian Pistachio Ice Cream Recipe”

  1. And even though I have a MAJOR sweet tooth,and love sweets/desserts,Kulfi and frozen desserts have a special place in my heart!
    The pictures are very nice!
    Yes,from the next time you may like to use heavy cream.Some people like to use cornflour to thicken the milk quickly,or fresh bread crumbs.However,I feel reducing the milk this old fashioned way gives the best flavor!:-)
    Thank you for sharing!:-)

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