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"Jalabi" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Jalabi, Iran.
Awadhi jalebi.jpg
Jalebis as served in India
Alternative names Jal-vallika, kundalika (ancient India); jilebi, jilawii; zoolbia (Middle East); jeri (Nepal)
Course dessert
Region or state Middle East, Indian Subcontinent & East Africa
Creator South Asia
Main ingredients Maida flour, saffron, ghee, sugar
Variations Jaangiri or Imarti
Cookbook:Jalebi  Jalebi
Jalebi being prepared in a roadside shop in Bangalore

Jalebi, or Jilapi,[1] or Jilawii (and sometimes Zulbia[2]) is a sweet popular in countries of the Indian Subcontinent such as India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, like Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria. As well as several East African countries such as Zanzibar, Comoros and Mayotte. It is made by deep-frying a wheat flour (maida flour) batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup. They are particularly popular in the subcontinent during Ramadan and Diwali.

The sweets are served warm or cold. They have a somewhat chewy texture with a crystallized sugary exterior coating. Citric acid or lime juice is sometimes added to the syrup, as well as rose water or other flavours, such as kewra water.

Similar sweets are imarti (Bengali: অমৃতি omriti), which is red-orange tangerine in color and sweeter in taste, and angoor aana which is grape-green; unlike jalebi, these are made from the batter of urad lentil. They are made in North Indian states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. A variant chhena jalebi (Bengali: ছানার জিলিপি omrimiti), made with chhena, is popular in parts of West Bengal, Rajasthan, and Orissa; the form can differ significantly from place to place.

In India, jalebi is served as the "Celebration Sweet", popular during national holidays like Independence Day and Republic Day, on which it is supplied in government offices, defence facilities, and other organisations. It is used as a remedy for headaches in some parts of India, where it is placed in boiling milk and left to stand before eating.


Names for the dish include Bengali: jilipi; Telugu: జిలేబి; Kannada: ಜಿಲೇಬಿ; Urdu: جلیبی‎; Sindhi: جلیبی; Sinhala: පැණි වළලු; Pashto: jalebī; Tamil: ஜிலேபி; Pashto: ځلوبۍ‎ źəlobəi; Persian: زولبیا zulbia; Lurish: زله‏یبی zuleybi; Arabic: zalābiyah (Egyptian Arabic: مشبك moshabbak.


Jalebi batter being dropped on hot oil. Howrah, West Bengal

The origins of Jalebi can be traced to ancient India, where it was produced from fermented wheat and dahi (yoghurt) batter, and called kundalika or jal-vallika (jal means watery, vallika means crescent-shaped).[3][4][5] In later dialects of Sanskrit, Jal-vallika became Jalebi which likely arrived in the middle east during Muslim rule, through cultural diffusion and trade from the Indian subcontinent, and its local name jalebi became zalebi as s is more common in Middle-Eastern languages.

The sweet is also known as Zalabia in Comoros Islands and Zanzibar, where it is thought to have been introduced by Middle Eastern settlers and traders.

The earliest written references to the sweet are found in a 13th-century cookbook by Muhammad bin Hasan al-Baghdadi. In Iran, where it is known as zulbia, the sweet was traditionally given to the poor during Ramadan.

In the early 1900s, jalebi was used to hold ice cream. This idea was made by Ernest A Hamwi. Jalebi was a treat for an American family, until the invention of cones.[6]

One of the earliest known Indian references for the sweet exists in a Jain work — Priyamkarnrpakatha — by Jinasura, apparently composed in AD 1450. This work was subsequently cited in cookery books published in later centuries including the 17th-century classic Bhojan-kutuhala by Raghunatha.[7]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Jilapi in Bangladesh, generally consumed as a sweetmeat, happens to be one of the popular starters in different parties.
Zulbiā and bāmieh in Iran, a close dessert to Jalebi.
Close-up of a Jalebi

In ancient India, it was called kundalika or jal-vallika.

The word for jalebi is zoolbia (زولبیا) in Persian, and in Pashto źəlobəi (ځلوبۍ). In Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, it is known as "zalabia" (زلابية) (sometimes spelt "zalabiya").[8] In the Maldives, it is known by the name "zilēbi."

This sweet is called "jeri" in Nepal, a word derived from jangiri, and the Mogul Emperor Jahangir.[9]

In Algeria and Tunisia, this sweet is known as zlebia or zlabia.

Zlebia (Maghreb)[edit]

Zlebia or zlabia (Arabic: زلابية) is a type of pastry eaten in parts of northwest Africa such as Algeria, Tunisia and Libya.

Natural ingredients include flour, yeast, yoghurt, and sugar. This is then mixed with water and commonly two seeds of cardamom (oil for the crackling).


Zalābiya are fried dough foods including types similar to straight doughnuts in and around the Arab countries world Yemen, Egypt,[10] Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Comoros and Algeria. They are made by a zalbāni. Zalābiya are made from a batter composed of eggs, flour and milk, and then cooked in oil.

Zalābiya mushabbaka are latticed fritters made in discs, balls, and squares. They are dipped in clarified honey perfumed with rose water, musk, and camphor. A recipe from a caliph's kitchen suggests milk clarified butter, sugar and pepper be added.[this quote needs a citation]

Zalabiya funiyya is a "sponge cake" version cooked in a special round pot on a trivet and cooked in a tannur.[11] They are often stick shaped. They are eaten year-round, including in expatriate communities such as France, where they are especially popular during Ramadan celebrations.[12]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Round and round for the best jilapis
  2. ^ Festival Feasts
  3. ^ Anil Sinha (2000), Anthropology of sweetmeats, Gyan Publishing, ISBN 81-212-0665-0, page 262
  4. ^ Mohite, B. V., Chaudhari, G. A., Ingale, H. S., & Mahajan, V. N. (2013), Effect of fermentation and processing on in vitro mineral estimation of selected fermented foods, International Food Research Journal, 20(3), 1373-1377
  5. ^ Joseph A. Kurmann, Jeremija L. Rasic (1992), Manfred Kroger, Encyclopedia of Fermented Fresh Milk Products, Van Nostrand Rheinhold, ISBN 0-442-00869-4; page 150
  6. ^ "Newsletter Article". Icescreamers.com. Retrieved 2013-01-03. 
  7. ^ Journey of the jalebi
  8. ^ Recipe for Zalabiya
  9. ^ Jalebi khani
  10. ^ Maya Shatzmiller Labour in the medieval Islamic world page 110
  11. ^ Translated by Nawal Nasrallah Annals of the caliphs' kitchens: Ibn Sayyār al-Warrāq's tenth-century Baghdadi cookbook Volume 70 of Islamic history and civilization Edition illustrated 2007 ISBN 90-04-15867-7, ISBN 978-90-04-15867-2 867 pages BRILL page 413-417
  12. ^ Hadi Yahmid French Ramadan About Solidarity IslamOnline
  13. ^ "Double Dhamaal". IMDB. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]