Jalebi is one of my favorite Indian sweets, made by deep-frying spiral swirls of batter into a tangled pretzel shape, then soaking them in spiced saffron syrup while still hot. They're crisp on the outside, pleasantly chewy-sweet on the inside, and are best eaten piping hot. Jalebi is a popular Indian street food, as well as a popular dessert to serve at weddings and special occasions. You can find a variety of jalebi in India—every region makes its own slightly different version.
My favorite jalebi is from my hometown of Jabalpur, in central India. It's crunchy on the outside and full of syrup inside. And yes, jalebi is sweet, supersweet indeed, but a good version will retain the toasty flavor of the fried batter. I found the jalebi in Mumbai, for example, to be too sweet and lacking that complexity.
Whenever I visit my parents, jalebi is one of the first things I request to eat. My dad goes to the shop early in the morning and brings home hot samosas and hot jalebi. That, to me, is the best breakfast in the world. I have not yet found anything that beats it.
This recipe is for quick jalebi, something you can prepare in your own home kitchen if you're stricken with a sudden craving for this beloved sweet. If this treat is something you've never tried before, I highly encourage you to give it a whirl.
Hear more from Resident Chetna Makhan on our new podcast, Either Side Eaters, where cross-Atlantic friends Katie Quinn and Jen Phanomrat compare notes with their guests on everything from scone etiquette to charcuterie trends. —Chetna Makan
Test Kitchen Notes
Add an extra pinch of saffron to the syrup for a brighter color and more pronounced saffron flavor. —The Editors
- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 20 minutes
- Serves 4 to 6
(150 grams) all-purpose flour
(120 milliliters) water
Sunflower oil, for deep-frying
- Sugar syrup
1 1/2 cups
(300 grams) granulated sugar
(225 milliliters) water
Pinch of saffron
Pinch of ground cardamom
- Combine the flour, cornstarch, and baking soda in a large bowl, then add the yogurt. Pour in the water a little at a time and whisk until smooth. You're looking for a thick pancake batter consistency. Cover and leave the batter for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Once the batter has rested, beat the mixture once again to make sure it's completely smooth, then transfer it to a piping bag and set aside.
- Fill a deep pan halfway with sunflower oil and heat over medium heat to 320°F (160°C).
- While the oil is heating, prepare the sugar syrup in another pan by heating the sugar, water, saffron, and cardamom until the sugar has fully melted. Cook this for a minute on low heat to thicken slightly, then remove from the heat.
- Pipe the batter into the hot oil, close to the surface to prevent splattering, using a gentle spiral motion to create the "tangled" shape (see video for more detail). Cook for a minute or so on each side until crisp and golden.
- Remove the jalebi from the oil and transfer straight into the hot sugar syrup. Let the syrup soak in for a few seconds before taking them out, draining off the excess syrup before transferring them to a plate. Serve immediately, or allow to cool and store in an airtight container for a day or two.