“As a child, I would watch in wide-eyed wonder as my mom lifted one jalebi after another out of the frying pan, forming mouthwatering piles of orange spirals. Nothing beats gathering loved ones around a mountain of these freshly fried treats and biting into the hot chewy-crispy swirls straight out of the fryer.
These South Asian treats look intimidatingly beautiful, but jalebi are simple to make. Don’t let the deep-frying deter you—wintery days are the ideal time to turn on the stove and go on a jalebi journey. The urad dal (ivory white lentil) powder in the batter helps the jalebi stay crisp no matter how long they soak in the cardamom-rose syrup. Not a fan of rose? Feel free to flavor your syrup with warm spices or some orange-flower water. Whatever you do, just don’t forget the lemon juice; it prevents the syrup from crystallizing while your jalebi soak it all up.” —Mehreen Karim
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cup raw pistachios
Tbsp. urad dal
cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
tsp. baking powder
Tbsp. melted ghee or clarified butter
cups (200 g) sugar
cardamom pods, lightly crushed
saffron threads (optional)
tsp. rose water (optional)
Pinch of kosher salt
Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
cups vegetable oil
A deep-fry thermometer
Toast pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing halfway through, until golden brown, 10–13 minutes. Let cool, then finely chop.
Process or blend urad dal in a food processor or blender to a powder (some grainier pieces will remain). Transfer urad dal powder to a large bowl and whisk in flour, baking powder, and ghee. Whisking constantly, gradually pour in 1 cup water; whisk until no large lumps of flour remain. Batter should be viscous. Add more water 1 Tbsp. at a time (up to 5 Tbsp.), whisking constantly, until batter is smooth and falls off the whisk in a long ribbon that slowly dissolves on surface of batter. (You will still have some small, granular lumps of dal.) Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a ¼”-diameter tip (or, use a gallon-size resealable plastic bag with a corner cut off to make a ¼” opening or a squeeze bottle).
Bring sugar, cardamom, saffron (if using), rose water (if using), salt, and 1¼ cups water to a rolling boil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until syrup coats a spoon, 5–7 minutes. Remove syrup from heat and stir in lemon juice; set aside.
Fit thermometer to a medium Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Pour in oil and heat over medium until thermometer registers 350°. Squeeze a drop of batter into oil. The batter should immediately start to bubble and rise to the surface, but if the batter browns immediately, the oil is too hot. If the batter drops to the bottom of the pot, the oil is not hot enough. Adjust heat as needed. Once oil is ready, carefully squeeze batter into oil to create a 2″–3″-wide spiral, starting from the outside and circling in. To keep jalebi from sticking together, squeeze no more than 3 spirals into pot at a time. Fry until golden brown, 2–3 minutes, then turn over and fry on other side until golden brown, 2–3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer jalebi to reserved syrup and let soak 3–5 minutes. Remove soaked jalebi from syrup and place on a platter. Repeat process with remaining batter, squeezing the batter of your next batch into oil while the previous batch is soaking in the syrup. Sprinkle pistachios over jalebi and serve warm.