Jilebi – a delicate Indian funnel cake

A couple of days ago in lieu of Bakri Eid, I decided to try my hand at making Jilebis, a very delicate and syrupy Indian dessert best eaten hot.  That is, if you’re lucky to be around someone making it fresh – which is pretty rare these days.  So I did make them, and the jilebis came out perfect – like my grandmother made, if I may add.  They were tender crisp and ‘glassy’ from being drenched in a perfect syrup.  Luckily the syrup did not crystalize or it would have resulted in a dull opaque looking Jilebi.
I was ecstatic when I took the first bite.  Perfect crunch was followed by the oozing of the unctuous sugary liquid.  I felt so proud and immediately snapped a couple of shots of my masterpiece and texted them to my family in Zimbabwe.  I basked in the glory of the numerous ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aaahs’ I received from them.  So with great comfort I share this recipe with you.

To make the Jilebis
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 cup plain fat free yogurt
3/4 cup water
a few drops of orange color

Place the flour, baking powder and salt into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Pour in the yogurt, 1/2 cup of water and the orange color.
Whisk to combine.
If the batter is too thick, add the rest of the water – a little at a time.
The mixture should resemble an ‘easy to pour’ smooth pancake batter.
If needed, add more water a couple of tablespoons at a time.
Set aside while making the syrup.

To make the syrup
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
a generous pinch of saffron
Pour the sugar and water into a heavy based, deep saucepan and stir.
Add the saffron.
Place over a medium high heat and bring to a simmer.
DO NOT go anywhere.
Test the constancy of the syrup every few minutes by testing a few drops of the cooled liquid between your fingers.
The syrup, when almost ready should feel slightly slippery and a bit sticky.
Pinch your forefinger and thumb tougher and gently spread them apart.  One thread of syrup will form but immediately break apart.  This is called half-thread consistency.
Immediately take the syrup off the heat and keep warm.

Frying the Jilebis

1 cup ghee
3 cups canola oil

Pour the ghee and oil into a deep frying pan and place on medium heat.
While the fat is heating, pour some of the jilebi batter into a clean plastic ketchup or mustard dispenser.
Test the oil by pouring a couple of drops of batter into the pan.
If it starts sizzling and immediately surfaces.  The fat is ready.
Gently squeeze the batter into the fat in a circular motion at first, to create a circle, then spiral inward to create a jilebi shape.
All the while not breaking the continuity of batter.
Fry the beautiful spirals for a minute on each side.
Immediately dip into the warm syrup and turn over after a minute.
Remove the syrup drenched jilebis and arrange in a steel tray to cool.
Do not put into a closed container as this will ruin the texture of the jilebi.
Simply cover with a net.
Best eaten on the same day.

Tip and Memories

  • Tips
Basically once you start squeezing out jilebi shapes into the oil, don’t stop until you reach the center.  It will take a few trys, so don’t give up too soon.  Its easier than you think.  I tried making jilebis several years ago for the first time.  I was totally frustrated because I couldn’t get the right shape.  As you can see, the jilebis that are soaking in the gorgeous syrup below are not particular alike.  They are different shapes and sizes. Although I do quite like the bottom left jilebi, it looks like a peacock.  If I may toot my own horn, I did feel like a proud peacock after accomplishing such a feat!!
Another important point to remember after making your masterpiece – the jilebis should  not be stored in an closed container as they tend to get soft and soggy.  If they do,  they can be slightly revived by giving them a zap in the microwave.
  • Memories

Maa, my grandmother and my dad’s mum, made these umpteen times when we were growing up.  A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to celebrate Eid at home after many years.  Maa, insisted on making some jilebis whilst I was there.  I obviously did not resist and was rewarded with the perfect jilebis that I adored as a child.

Now the thing with jilebis or any Mithai (Indian Sweets) as a matter of fact, is that eating one piece just does not feel right.  Come on you know who you are out there.  The first bite is the start to pure addiction!  So that has been the goings on in my home this last week.  I can say without half-a-thread of doubt, I singlehandedly demolished a third of a tray of jilebis.  But I did, however, share the rest with my friends, old and new!
(this recipe is a combination of a few different recipes – my family recipe, a recipe by Petrina Sarkar and part mine so I guess it is an adaptation)

7 thoughts on “Jilebi – a delicate Indian funnel cake

    • Hi Herushka, Sorry for taking so long to respond. For some reason I couldn’t access content of my blog until today, phew! I usually line the jilebis on a tray for a day or so, then put them in a container with a very loosely covered lid. I would not recommend an airtight container. Another way to assure they won’t be soggy is to not oversoak them in the syrup. If you think they have been steeped too long, drain them on a cookie rack for a few hours.
      Hope this helps!


  1. Hi Shamim. ..Thanks for posting the recipe. I tried this recipe and I am happy to say they came out delicious. The first lot that I fried were a bit flat, but I added some more baking powder and they came out perfect…..


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