Nankhatai are those traditional Indian cookies that will have your heart. They are soft, 'buttery' (the ghee makes them so), and crumbly with real cardamom to add even more flavor. Bite into one and you'll feel the textures and sweetness melting in your mouth!
I won't lie. It took four attempts to get these nankhatai where I wanted them to be: soft, flaky, buttery and melt in the mouth. But I finally nailed it. Now, I can make these on repeat and they never fail me. So, I thought it was time to share the recipe:)
What is Nankhatai made of?
Nankhatai are traditional Indian shortbread cookies made of three basic ingredients: all-purpose flour (maida), ghee (clarified butter), and granulated white sugar. Chickpea flour (besan), semolina flour (suji), and ground cardamom are added for texture and flavor. A few ingredients and an easy method is all that is required to create these beauties.
You can top the nankhatai with slivered almonds or pistachios too, but I made them without nuts. If adding nuts, make small indentations on top of the shaped dough and press a few slivers of almonds into them. You can do this before the cookies go into the oven to be baked.
Things to note about this nankhatai recipe
- There are no eggs in nankhatai. Traditionally, Indian cookies are made without eggs and they turn out fantastic, so I'm not complaining.
- There's no baking powder either. Why add something just for the heck of it? These cookies are light and airy without adding any baking powder or soda.
- There is quite a bit of fat in there! No butter, but ghee is what makes the nankhatai soft and tasty, so please don't skimp on the ghee.
How to make Nankhatai
- Blitz the granulated sugar along with the cardamom seeds in a spice grinder to make a powder. I like to throw the cardamom seeds in with the sugar because grinding a little bit of cardamom is difficult. An alternative is to use caster sugar and store-bought cardamom powder and skip this step.
- Beat the ghee and sugar-cardamom in a large bowl until fluffy. This will take 3-4 minutes at the most.
- Add the flours (all-purpose, semolina, chickpea) and just a pinch of salt. Knead into a thick dough and break off tablespoon sized portions of dough. Using your hands, shape them into flat discs and place on a parchment covered baking tray. Space the discs apart so that they have room for expanding a bit while baking. Cover the baking tray with cling wrap and keep in the fridge for one hour or more if you have the time.
Note: If you want to use a cookie cutter to do this part, you will have to stick the dough into the fridge for at least an hour to make it firmer. Or else it will be too soft and pliable to use cookie cutters effectively.
- While the discs of dough are chilling in the fridge, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 180 degrees Celsius). Remove the cling wrap and place the baking tray in the middle rack of the oven. Set the timer for 18 minutes. Once done, take the tray out of the oven, but do not touch the cookies yet. They are still quite soft and will break if you touch them. Let them cool down first. Once they come to room temperature, you can even put the tray back in the fridge for half an hour to firm them up even more. Or if you want to eat them slightly warm, dig in!
Pro tips to make the perfect, no-fail cookies
- Beating the ghee and sugar is important! I did not do this when I was experimenting with this nankhatai recipe, and the result was that the cookies were slightly hard and chewy. Nankhatai is not supposed to be chewy.
- Don't be tempted to add any liquid (milk or water) to the the dough. This is the secret to the flakiness of the biscuit.
- Chill the prepared dough for one hour or more before baking. The cookies retain their shape and do not spread out in all directions if you keep the dough in the refrigerator for some time. I like to cut the cookie rounds first before sticking them in the fridge. This way, the baking tray can go directly in the oven once the dough has chilled and the dough does not become too soft again with the warmth of my hands.
- Make sure the dough is soft and pliable, not hard and dry. If you follow the recipe, you won't go wrong, but if your dough is not soft, add a little more ghee to it. That's all there is to it.
- Do keep the dough covered in the fridge as it's chilling. It will dry out if you don't:)
Other Easy Desserts You Might Like
Rasgullas - Fat, juicy balls of a special ricotta like cheese that taste divine in a sweet syrup.
Chilled Fruit Custard - A thick and creamy vanilla custard sauce brimming with seasonal fruit. A perfect dessert for the summer months.
Badam Burfi - Sweet squares made with just five easy ingredients and twelve minutes in the microwave!
Nankhatai (Eggless Indian Shortbread Cookies)
- 0.5 cup white sugar
- 0.5 cup ghee room temperature
- 0.5 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 0.5 cup chickpea flour
- 2 tablespoon semolina flour
- a pinch of salt
- Put the sugar and cardamom seeds in a dry grinder and grind to make a powder. Or use caster sugar and powdered cardamom.
- Beat the sugar, cardamom, and ghee using a stand mixer or a hand mixer for 3-4 minutes or until light and frothy.
- Add the three flours (all-purpose, chickpea, and semolina) and salt and knead into a soft dough.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Break off tablespoon-sized balls from the dough and shape into discs. Place the discs on the baking tray a couple of inches apart. Cover with clingwrap and keep in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit or 180 degrees Celsius. Remove the clingwrap and place the baking tray in the middle rack. Set the timer to 18 minutes.
- When the timer beeps, take out the tray and let it cool down completely. Once cool, put the tray back in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Take out the tray and remove the nankhatai. Store them in an air tight container.
- Do not skip beating the sugar and ghee. This is what makes the cookies soft and airy.
- Don't add any liquid (milk or water) to soften the dough. The ghee will do the trick, and you can add a tablespoon more if the dough appears to be dry.
- Do chill the prepared discs of dough for one hour before baking. This ensures that the cookies don't spread too much.