Malai broccoli is a popular vegetarian Indian dish featuring broccoli florets cooked in a creamy, spiced sauce called “malai.” The term “malai” refers to cream in Hindi, which signifies the sauce’s rich, creamy texture.
While there are Indian spices in this dish, it isn’t spicy. You just get a big flavor!
I’ve made this many times and thought the creamy flavor tastes best with Greek yogurt, cream cheese, and a little heavy cream.
This is a GREAT dinner menu appetizer recipe to serve with mint yogurt chutney. I think broccoli isn’t used that often in Indian cooking, so it’s usually a dish people haven’t come across or haven’t had very frequently, so it always delights.
Tandoori malai broccoli tikka can be grilled over an open fire. I like to keep things simple and air fry it for a golden brown top. If you want more of a charred texture, use the oven and broil it briefly at the end, or put air-fried broccoli in a grill pan.
If you’re a broccoli and cheese fan, you will love these! It’s leveling up that dish with more flavor and spices and adding a bit of crispiness.
The full recipe and ingredients for malai broccoli tikka are in the recipe card at the end of the post.
- Broccoli florets: Choose fresh broccoli florets for the best flavor and texture. You can blanch them briefly before cooking for a vibrant green color and tender texture.
- Mexican cheese blend: Feel free to use any cheese blend you prefer, such as cheddar pepper jack cheese or mozzarella cheese, for a similar effect.
- Greek yogurt adds creaminess and a slight tanginess to the dish. I only use Greek yogurt because of the texture. It is thick and won’t make the marinade watery. I use 0% fat Fage Greek yogurt, available in the US.
You can use plain yogurt or sour cream as alternatives. If you use plain yogurt, strain it so it isn’t so watery. It will ruin the texture otherwise.
- Salt: Season to taste, but remember other ingredients like cheese and cream cheese may already contain salt, so adjust accordingly.
- Kashmiri chili: Known for its vibrant color and mild heat, Kashmiri chili powder can be adjusted based on your spice preference. Substitute kashmiri chili powder with paprika for color or regular red chili powder for heat.
- Sugar: A touch of sweetness balances the flavors. Adjust according to taste; you can substitute with honey or maple syrup.
- Cream cheese: Adds richness and creaminess to the sauce. Feel free to use mascarpone or ricotta cheese as alternatives.
- Heavy cream: Provides richness and helps create a creamy sauce. For a lighter option, you can use half-and-half or coconut cream for a vegan option.
- Ginger: Fresh ginger adds a warm, aromatic flavor. Use a microplane grater for finely grated ginger.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves minced finely or garlic paste works well to infuse flavor into the dish.
- Garam masala: A blend of warm spices, garam masala adds depth and complexity. You can make your blend or purchase it from stores.
- Onion powder: Adds a savory depth of flavor. Substitute with finely chopped fresh onions if preferred.
- Cardamom powder: Green cardamom adds a subtle floral and citrusy aroma.
You can change up the spices used. Some recipes call for cumin powder, coriander powder, or chaat masala. I sometimes like to sprinkle a little chaat masala at the end but find it overpowering when used in the marinade.
Ginger garlic paste: I use garlic and ginger powder for the convenience and punch of flavor. Substitute with ginger garlic paste if you prefer.
Making Malai Broccoli
- Prep the broccoli
Cut well-dried broccoli into approximately equal-sized pieces. This will ensure they cook evenly.
- Prepare the Sauce:
Combine Greek yogurt, cream cheese, heavy cream, and Mexican cheese blend in a mixing bowl. Mix until well combined and smooth.
Add salt, Kashmiri chili powder, sugar, garam masala, onion powder, and cardamom powder to the sauce mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated.
- Coat the Broccoli: Pour the sauce mixture over the broccoli florets. Toss gently until the broccoli is evenly coated with the sauce.
- Let Broccoli Rest: Cover and let rest 30 minutes in marinade to soak in those flavors.
- Prepare the Air Fryer Basket or Baking Sheet:Lightly grease the air fryer basket or tray with cooking spray or oil to prevent sticking or parchment paper. If using the oven, line the baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Arrange the Broccoli in the Air Fryer:
Arrange the marinated broccoli florets in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Make sure they are not overcrowded to ensure even cooking.
- Air Fry the Broccoli: Place the basket in the preheated air fryer and cook at 375°F (190°C) for 18-20 minutes, shaking the basket halfway through cooking at about 8-10 minutes.
- Check for Doneness:
Check the broccoli for desired crispness and tenderness. If needed, continue cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes.
This is served as a side dish or appetizer. You can top it with a sprinkle of chaat masala, lemon juice, and sliced roasted almonds.
QUICK Air Fryer or Oven Malai Broccoli Tikka
- 1 air fryer or oven
- 1 Mixing bowl
- 4 cup medium broccoli florets 220g, about 18-20 florets
- ½ cup shredded cheese 45g
- ½ cup Greek yogurt 135g, I used 0% fat
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp kashmiri chili powder
- 1½ oz cream cheese
- 1½ tbsp heavy cream
- 1¼ tsp ginger powder
- 1¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1¼ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garam masala
- ⅛ tsp cardamom powder
- Cut broccoli florets into approximately the same size pieces.
- In a bowl, mix the room temperature cream cheese, Greek yogurt, spices together to form a marinade.
- Mix broccoli florets in a bowl with the marinade and cheese. Cover and let rest 30 minutes.
- Place broccoli florets on an air fryer tray or basket or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Line in a single layer. Don't overcrowd them or they won't cook well.
- Air fry or bake until golden brown. Flip half way through. At the end, check for doneness as all air fryers and ovens can vary in time needed.Air fry time: 18-20 minutes at 400FOven time: 20-22 minutes at 425F then broil for 1-2 minutes for a bit of char
- Serve with green chutney or yogurt mint chutney. Optionally, you can sprinkle a little chaat masala on top or a teaspoon of lemon juice. You can also optionally top with roasted ground almond slices.