September 25, 2021


For remarkable cuisine

Nik Sharma’s Spiced Coffee Kulfi: A frosty treat to help beat the heat

(Photography by Nik Sharma)

Nik Sharma’s Spiced Coffee Kulfi is an icy-cool sweet that’s also a little bitter. Just as great-sounding: it’s really easy to make, requiring no special equipment — not even a coffee maker, just some ramekins or kulfi molds if you’ve got ‘em. So if an easy, coffee-plus-kulfi treat is your idea of a good way to beat the heat, this one’s for you! Scroll down to grab the recipe, which comes from his cookbook, The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking in 114 Essential Recipes

Spiced Coffee Kulfi

By Nik Sharma

When I was in high school in India, a street-food vendor would drop by the school every afternoon during our lunch break. Attached to the back of his bicycle was a large metal box filled with chunks of ice and metal containers of frozen kulfi. I’m hesitant to call kulfi an Indian ice cream, because it really isn’t that; it’s a type of frozen dessert. Unlike ice cream, in which ice crystals are a negative trait, a kulfi will contain a certain amount of ice crystals and is a little firmer than a soft ice cream. Kulfi is one of the easiest treats to make at home. Make ahead of time to allow ample time to freeze.

The flavor approach:

The flavor molecules in the whole spices are extracted into the milk fat for a more delicate flavor to complement the coffee. For a stronger dose of spice, add ½ tsp of ground spices directly to the milk. If you want to reduce the flavor of coffee, use ½ Tbsp.

The use of instant coffee helps in two ways: It dissolves very easily, and it provides a very concentrated dose of coffee flavor without increasing the liquid volume, which would otherwise pose a problem in achieving the correct frozen texture. Excess water will cause a higher proportion of ice crystal formation by changing the ratios of the ingredients involved such as fat, proteins, and sugars.

Evaporated milk acts as a shortcut here; it provides the taste of caramelized lactose, a characteristic feature of kulfis made in India.


  • 1 cup (240 mL) heavy cream
  • One 14 oz (400 g) can evaporated milk
  • One 14 oz (400 g) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso or coffee
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 green cardamom pods, cracked
  • 2 in (5 cm) piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 or 2 star anise
  • 1¼ oz (35 g) ground toasted hazelnuts


Stir together the heavy cream, evaporated milk, condensed milk, instant espresso, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, until the espresso dissolves and the liquids are combined. Bring to a boil and remove from the heat. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming on the surface and let the mixture steep for 1 hour at room temperature. Remove the whole spices and discard. Pour the liquid into 6 freezer-safe ramekins or kulfi molds. Wrap the tops with plastic wrap or top with kulfi lids. Transfer to the freezer and let firm for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

The kulfi can be served directly in the ramekins. If using kulfi molds, run the metal mold under water for a few seconds, flip, and tap gently to release the kulfi. Garnish with the toasted hazelnuts.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Excerpted from The Flavor Equation: The Science of Great Cooking in 114 Essential Recipes by Nik Sharma (C) 2020 Reproduced by permission of Chronicle Books. All rights reserved.