Kaju Katli, translating to "cashew slice," is an Indian cashew-based confection traditionally eaten during Diwali, a five day festival of lights celebrated across the globe by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists.
Kaju Katli has a similar consistency to fudge, and is often served in small, diamond-shaped pieces, with a layer of edible silver leaf on top, known as vark or varak. Its glimmery exterior, shaped like a diamond, reminded me of a lovely gemstone, and its soft, melt-in-your-mouth interior has just enough sweetness, with notes of rose water and cardamom.
Every Diwali, my mom brought home a selection of sweets from the local Indian grocery store. Upon seeing a box of Kaju Katli on the kitchen table, my eyes would widen with excitement.
To this day, Kaju Katli remains one of my favorite desserts, so, after many years of enjoying the store-bought version, I set out to make my own at home.
How to Make Kaju Katli
This recipe transforms a simple set of ingredients (cashews, sugar, water, fat, and spices) into a sweet treat.
- First, grind cashews into powder.
- Next, heat sugar and water until it forms a syrupy, thread-like consistency.
- Add the powdered cashews to the syrup, along with cardamom, ghee, and rosewater (if desired).
- Continue to stir the mixture until it thickens, then let it cool.
- Once cooled, roll it out, top with edible silver, and cut into diamonds.
Tips and Tricks for Making Kaju Katli
Through testing, I learned several essential tips to ensuring your Kaju Katli comes out correctly.
For the cashews: Freeze the nuts to create the best texture, which is essential to the success of the recipe. You will want to grind them to a fine powder, but if you over grind them, they will start turning into cashew butter. Ideally, you are looking for the texture of almond flour, slightly coarser than fine sand. Freezing the cashews helps mitigate this risk.
For the equipment: Use a food processor or large spice grinder to grind the cashews and a fine sieve to achieve the final texture. When in doubt, pulse at short intervals, checking the texture frequently. When done correctly, ground cashews should feel soft and pass through a sieve without difficulty. You can use either a medium or fine-mesh sieve, but make sure it is completely dry to prevent the cashew powder from sticking.
For the sugar syrup: When making the sugar syrup, a candy thermometer is helpful because you will want to heat the liquid between 230°F and 235°F. If the temperature rises above 235°F the Kaju Katli will be too hard. If the syrup does go above 235°F, you will need to start over.
How to Know When the Dough is Ready
You also want to be sure to take the cashew dough off the heat at the right time. To test if the cashew dough has thickened enough, you should be able to take a small spoon of the dough and roll a non-sticky ball in your hands. If it's sticky, let it cook longer.
If the dough is too sticky, it will be difficult to work with and won't firm up properly; if this happens, you can always put the dough back on the heat until it reaches the right consistency. If the dough is too dry, it will be crumbly, and the dough won't come together. You can try adding additional ghee or water to moisten it.
What is Vark (Edible Silver Leaf)?
Vark (or varak) is a type of edible silver pounded down into thin sheets. You can find vark at a specialty Indian grocery store or online—make sure you’re purchasing the edible kind. When you purchase silver leaf, you will notice that the thin sheet of silver is placed in between two thin sheets of paper, like a booklet. To apply silver leaf, carefully open up the booklet, and place your palm on the unexposed paper backing of the silver, then flip your hand directly onto the cashew dough. Try to do this as firmly as possible to prevent the silver from flaking.
When applying the silver leaf, make sure to avoid directly touching it to your skin because it’ll easily stick.
Variations on Kaju Katli
Alternatively, you can swap out the vark for chocolate ganache. If topping the Kaju Katli with ganache, make sure to place the chocolate-coated cashew bars in the fridge to let them set properly and prevent the chocolate from melting.
I recommend keeping your Kaju Katli in the fridge to prevent spoilage. Kaju Katli can be kept in the fridge up to 1 week or frozen for up to 6 weeks in an airtight container or sealed plastic bag. Let thaw at room temperature or serve chilled.
Special equipment: candy thermometer and rolling pin
2 cups (268g) raw cashews
1 cup (200g) granulated white sugar
1/2 (118g) cup water
1 teaspoon ghee or coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon edible rose water (optional)
Edible silver leaf, for coating
Flaky finishing salt (optional)
Grind the cashews into a powder:
Seal cashews in a zip top bag, then place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Add cashews to a food processor or large spice grinder. Depending on the size of your equipment, you may need to do this in batches. Pulse in 5-second intervals until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, making sure to scrape down the bottom and sides frequently.
Pulse at 1-2 second intervals until the mixture resembles a fine powder. It should feel soft and sandy, like the texture of almond flour.
Set a sieve over a medium bowl. Pour the cashews into the sieve and press them with a spoon or your hands as needed. If any large particles remain in the sieve, re-grind them for a couple of seconds and press through the sieve again.
Make the sugar syrup:
Set a medium high-walled pan (preferably non-stick) over high heat. Add sugar and water, constantly stirring with a whisk until liquid comes to a boil, between 3 to 4 minutes.
Place a candy thermometer in the pot, then continue to boil until the liquid temperature reaches between 230°F to 235°F, 2 to 4 minutes. To test doneness without a thermometer, dip the wooden spoon into the syrup and pull it out. The mixture should cling to the back of the spoon
Make the cashew dough:
Reduce the heat of the syrup to low and gradually stir in the powdered cashews with a rubber spatula. Keep stirring for 1 minute until slightly thickened, like the texture of cake batter. Mix in the ghee, cardamom, and rose water (if using).
Continue stirring frequently with a spatula until the dough fully pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 7 to 8 minutes. To check if it's done, scoop a small spoon of the dough and let cool for a minute.
When cool enough to handle, try to form a ball with your hands—it should not stick at all. If sticky, continue to stir on the heat. If non-sticky, turn off the heat.
Prepare parchment and place dough to cool:
Grease two pieces of parchment paper (at least 8.5 inches by 12 inches wide) or wax paper with ghee or coconut oil. Set one piece aside for later use. Scrape dough onto one piece of parchment. Let cool until you're able to handle it, 8 to 10 minutes. Mixture should still be warm to allow easy kneading.
Roll out the dough:
Grease your hands lightly with ghee or coconut oil. Initially, the dough will be crumbly, but it will smooth out after kneading.
Knead the dough for a minute—with the heel of your palm, push the dough away from you. Then fold the dough over itself and repeat until the dough is smooth.
If the dough is still crumbly after kneading it, knead in 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the dough comes together without breaking apart. Continue kneading until the dough feels smooth and homogenous.
Form the dough into the shape of an oval.
Place the other piece of greased parchment paper on top of dough. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick.
Place silver leaf on the dough:
To apply silver leaf, carefully open up the booklet, and place your palm on the unexposed paper backing of the silver, then flip your hand directly onto the cashew dough. Top with flaky salt if desired.
Cut the Kaju Katli:
If the dough is still slightly warm to the touch, let cool until it is fully at room temperature.
To slice into diamond shapes, start by cutting parallel horizontal lines, about an inch apart, across the entire oval. Then, slice vertically on a diagonal to create the diamond.
The resulting pieces should be about 2 inches across (from the farthest corners) and 1 1/4 inches across each of the four sides. Trim off any excess dough at the edges; feel free to snack on these separately.
Let the kaju katli set, then serve:
Let the Kaju Katli sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour to fully firm up, then serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 3g||4%|
|Saturated Fat 1g||3%|
|Total Carbohydrate 8g||3%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||1%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|