Sticks of kulfi on a plate
What Is Indian Kulfi And How Is It Different From Ice Cream?

Sold on streets or made at home in India and Pakistan, kulfi is a form of ice cream traced back to the 16th century — when it was mentioned in Mughal Emperor Akbar’s court records.

Indian Mughal cuisine is said to be influenced by Persian cuisine, which might explain why the name "kulfi" comes from the Persian word for certain cone-shaped cups called "qulfe."

The process of making kulfi starts with simmering milk overnight in a wok called a kadai. The milk is simmered until it develops a rich flavor from the caramelized milk proteins.

The simmered milk solution, or rabri, is then flavored with regional ingredients like pistachio, saffron, cardamom, malai (sweet cream), and mango and frozen into conical molds.

The result is a dense dessert with a thick, creamy texture and a mild, nutty taste. Served on wooden sticks by street vendors called kulfiwallahs, it somewhat resembles a popsicle.

That said, kulfi differs from ice cream. Ice cream often uses eggs for creaminess and stability, whereas kulfi is made using only full-fat milk, so it's more stable and less airy.

Rich in butterfat and milk solids, kulfi is creamy and dense, whereas most American ice creams only meet a requirement of 10% milk fat, so they're often whipped and thus fluffier.