One of the most popular Indian sweets, kaju katli is a smooth and fudgy treat made of cashews and a sweetener. I’ve made it a touch healthier by using maple syrup in this recipe. It’s easy to make and so delicious.
Kaju katli seems to be a favorite among most people in terms of Indian sweets. It’s the sweet overtones of cashew nuts and the fudgy texture that makes people fall in love. At least, that’s what did it for me.
I have lots of good memories of going to Devon Ave in Chicago when I was younger with my girlfriends to totally indulge in amazing Indian food. Especially on the coldest winter days. We would stuff ourselves with the puffiest baturas and naan and curries and dosas the were longer than the tables. Then we would roll out into the freezing cold and walk up and down Devon, admiring the beautiful clothing and jewelry in the windows, perusing the supermarkets for spices and lentils, and finally, as the final treat, stopping by one of several Indian sweet shops.
At first, I kept an open mind and would get a small box with a variety of treats to sample. But, over time, I just ordered kaju katli and pista katli, because those were my true sugary loves.
It’s been many, many years since I had real kaju katli. My love for Indian food was rekindled when my husband found a terrific Indian restaurant where we live. Suddenly, I was staying up late at night, browsing Indian cooking blogs and recipes for Indian sweets. And here we are today – with this recipe for kaju katli.
It won the approval of our dear friends, Asmita and Kunal, who are from India, so therefore rank as my Indian food experts. I was definitely nervous when I brought over two different batches for them to try. But they loved it.
I gave most of the third and final batch to them, because otherwise, I would just eat through the entire batch myself. They’re so addicting. Asmita’s kids call these delicious treats “diamond cookies.” And that’s exactly what they are – beautiful diamond cookies that are creamy and chewy and smooth and nutty and melt in your mouth delightfully.
You’ll notice that this is not exactly a “low sugar” recipe. Using regular cane sugar in this recipe would mean that the recipe has 134 g of added sugars. Substituting maple syrup for cane sugar means that the total amount of added sugars is 120. It’s not a huge difference.
So, why bother?
Well, for one thing, cane sugar gives me migraines and makes my skin itch. But aside from my personal reactions to cane sugar, there’s another reason why using maple syrup is better than using cane sugar. Maple syrup has about half the glycemic load of glucose (cane sugar is 100% glucose). Cane sugar scores 100 on the glycemic index. Maple syrup comes in at 54.
What does this mean? I’m not a doctor or scientist, so huge disclaimer here, but any brief internet research will tell you that foods that are higher on the glycemic index are not so great for our health. According to Harvard’s Health Website, a low glycemic index can help with weight loss and a high glycemic index has been found to increase the risk of various cancers as well as Type-2 diabetes and heart disease. So, there’s that.
I cannot look you in the eye and say that this is a “healthy” recipe, but it is definitely “healthier” than the standard version. It’s a special treat that does require a bit of extra work in the kitchen with all the grinding of the nuts. It’s not something I would make every day or even every week. But it’s a lovely treat for the occasional indulgence.
Why You’ll LOVE this Recipe:
- Gluten Free
- Dairy Free
- No Refined Sugars
- Low Cholesterol
Ingredients for Vegan Kaju Katli:
- raw cashews
- maple syrup
- rose water
- Earth Balance Vegan Shortening
Notes on Ingredients:
Raw cashews - Make sure the cashews are raw and not salted or with any oil on them.
Maple syrup – Maple syrup really works beautifully for this recipe. I tried using less, and it didn’t work. I tried using brown rice syrup, and it wasn’t as yummy. Maple syrup is the way to go.
Rose water – This is optional. You can find this in most supermarkets. If you love the floral tones of rose water, then add it in by all means. But if you can’t find it or don’t like rose water, just leave it out.
Earth Balance Vegan Shortening – The perfect alternative to ghee. It melts beautifully and has a mild taste so that the cashew flavor comes through just right.
Cornstarch – You need a little cornstarch just for kneading the dough and making it less sticky so that you can roll it out. Any starch will do the trick, so if you can’t eat corn, use potato starch or arrowroot starch. I like cornstarch for this particular recipe, because cornstarch has the least flavor of all the starches. But any starch really should be fine for the purpose here.
How to Make Vegan Kaju Katli From Scratch
This is a pretty easy recipe once you have all the cashews ground. You could grind the cashews a day ahead of time, then make the kaju katli the next day, and serve it the next. It’s a lovely recipe in that it stores well at room temperature and doesn’t need to be eaten the same day it’s made.
Grinding the cashews is the first step. If you only use one grinder, then use a spice grinder, because it’s important that the cashews are ground finely. I have a small coffee/spice grinder that I use only for grinding spices and nuts. I don’t recommend using a grinder that you also use for grinding coffee. Coffee is a very strong flavor and will get into the cashew powder.
I like to toss the whole lot of cashews into the food processor first to give it a good first grind. Then, I sieve the ground cashews and grind the remaining large chunks in the spice grinder.
Now you’re ready to make the kaju katli.
In a medium pot over high heat, heat the maple syrup until it boils. Don’t let it boil for too long or it will evaporate. Let it boil for just about 1 minute.
Then, add the ground cashews, and stir to combine. Add the rose water (if using) and Earth Balance at this point. Continue stirring until the mixture pulls away from the pan – about 5-10 minutes. If it looks like it’s too gloopy to put on a surface and knead, then it is. Just keep stirring until it looks like a nice ball of dough that could be easily transferred to a prepared surface.
Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of a cutting board. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the center of the parchment paper.
Use a wooden spoon (not your hands – it’s too hot!!) to move the cashew dough from the pot onto the cornstarch on the parchment paper.
Wait until the dough is cool enough to handle and then knead the dough with your hands to make the dough smooth.
Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a rectangle with a thickness of about ¼”.
Let the dough cool for about 15-30 minutes before cutting it. Waiting for the dough to cool makes it so much easier to cut as the dough doesn’t stick to the knife as much.
Cut the dough into diamond shapes by cutting first vertically and then horizontally. You can make larger diamond shapes of 1” x 2” or smaller, bite-sized ones. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days.
More Sugar Free Dessert Recipes
Paleo Sugar Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Frosting
Gluten Free Sugar Free Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate
Paleo Sugar Free Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake
Vegan Kaju Katli – No Refined Sugars
- 2 cups cashews, raw
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon rose water (optional)
- 1 teaspoon Earth Balance Vegan Shortening Sticks
- ⅛ cup cornstarch
- Grind the cashews into a fine powder. Use a food processor to grind the cashews. Then, sieve the ground cashews over a large bowl. Process the larger bits of cashews that remain in the sieve in a coffee grinder or spice grinder. You can use only a spice grinder, but you will probably have to work in smaller batches. I like to do a big blitz in the food processor first and then work in smaller batches with the spice grinder.
- In a medium pot over high heat, heat the maple syrup until it boils.
- Add the ground cashews, and stir to combine.
- Add the rose water (if using) and Earth Balance at this point. Continue stirring until the mixture pulls away from the pan – about 5-10 minutes.
- Place a large piece of parchment paper on top of a cutting board. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the center of the parchment paper.
- Use a wooden spoon (not your hands – it’s too hot!!) to move the cashew dough from the pot onto the cornstarch on the parchment paper.
- Wait until the dough is cool enough to handle, and then knead the dough with your hands to make the dough smooth.
- Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a rectangle with a thickness of about ¼”.
- Let the dough cool for about 15-30 minutes before cutting it. Waiting for the dough to cool makes it so much easier to cut.
- Cut the dough into diamond shapes by cutting first vertically and then horizontally. You can make larger diamond shapes of 1” x 2” or smaller, bite-sized ones.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 7 days.
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