Shahi Tukda or Shahi Tukra is a popular Pakistani / Indian dessert made by frying bread slices in ghee or oil. The bread is then soaked in rich and creamy cardamom and saffron infused milk syrup. It’s topped with nuts, and served chilled.
Rich, creamy and decadent Shahi Tukda is one of my favorite Pakistani desserts, along with chana daal halwa and kheer. Think of it as a Pakistani / Indian bread pudding flavored with saffron and cardamom. It’s thought to have originated from the Mughal kitchens, where it was a popular sweet dish in the month of Ramadan. The same tradition continues in modern times, with the dessert being served at dawaats and Eid celebrations.
Meaning of Shahi Tukda
The word “Shahi” means royal in Hindi / Urdu and the word “Tukda” means pieces of bread. Tukda is the singular form of the word, and tukday is the plural form which is why this dessert is called shahi tukda as well as shahi tukday. Read on to find the step-by-step recipe, along with expert tips on how to make this royal festive dessert.
As fancy as this Desi bread pudding looks, it requires basic pantry ingredients. It’s also a great way to use stale bread.
- Bread – Plain white sandwich bread. Use 1 – 2 days old bread as that fries better and doesn’t absorb a lot of ghee / oil. Crusts are removed, and the bread is cut diagonally before frying for presentation. Turn crusts into breadcrumbs.
- Ghee or oil – Traditionally ghee is used to fry bread, however, I usually use a neutral cooking oil.
- Sugar – can be adjusted to taste.
- Milk – Full fat whole milk is ideal for this recipe. I use Paul’s whole milk with cream on top for a richer and creamier taste.
- Cream – for added creaminess.
- Cardamom – use fresh cardamom pods, and crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle to release their flavor.
- Saffron – added for a unique floral flavor and color. Can be skipped if you don’t like saffron. Crush the saffron strands in a mortar and pestle to enhance their flavor.
- Nuts – I use chopped almonds and pistachios. Feel free to switch it up based on personal preference, or what is available.
Check out my guide on how to stock a Pakistani Kitchen + Pakistani Pantry List (with English translation and descriptions).
Learn how to make Shahi Tukda step-by-step, including assembly instructions.
Step 1: Cut the bread slices
Use a sharp serrated knife to remove bread crusts, and then cut bread into triangles or squares. Triangle is traditional, square can be easier to layer in a rectangle dish.
Step 2: Fry the bread slices
Heat oil / ghee in a large shallow frying pan, and fry the bread slices till golden. Oil needs to be at medium heat – too hot, the bread slices will burn. If it’s not hot enough, the bread slices won’t brown, and absorb too much oil.
Step 3: Crush cardamom seeds
Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods, and place in a mortar and pestle. Coarsely grind with a pestle to release their flavor and aroma.
Step 4: Cook the milk
Add crushed cardamom seeds to milk, and bring to a boil on medium heat. Turn heat to low-medium, and let it simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour, till milk reduces in quantity by about 30%, and color changes from white to off-white/cream. Stir constantly, and keep on low-medium heat to ensure that the milk doesn’t burn.
Step 5: Add sugar and cream
Add sugar and cream to the milk. Stir to make sure sugar dissolves, and then let simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Step 6: Add saffron and nuts
Add crushed saffron to the milk, and let it simmer for a few minutes to infuse the flavor. Add half of the crushed nuts to the milk mixture, reserving the remainder for layering and garnish.
Shahi Tukda / Shahi Tukra - Assembly
There are different ways that you can assemble shahi tukda. My preferred way is to layer in a glass dish - bread first, then the infused milk, followed by nuts. Then it's bread - milk - nuts again. This ensures that all the bread slices get soaked with the cardamom and saffron milk.
Once you have assembled the shahi tukda, cover the dish with a lid or cling wrap, and then chill for at least 3 – 4 hours. Though shahi tukray can be served hot or chilled, we have always eaten them chilled at our house.
The other option is to place the fried bread slices in a dish, and then pour the infused milk syrup over, topping with nuts in the end. When making it this way, it's best to make sure the milk is sufficiently thickened so it both soaks and coats the bread slice. when serving this way, the bread slices aren't completely soaked through so they are both crispy and soft.
This recipe is the traditional version of shahi tukda made with full fat whole milk and cream, and deep fried. See below for other variations that you can try out:
- Shallow fry: Instead of deep frying, you can also shallow fry the bread slices in either ghee / oil. I have done both, and the taste is great either way. Best to use a large frying pan so you can fry multiple pieces of bread at the same time.
- Use condensed milk: Instead of using regular milk, you can also use condensed milk to make shahi tukda. This is a quick and easy version, as you don’t have to cook the milk till it reduces in quantity. Make sure to adjust the amount of sugar used.
- Use plant based milk: To make a dairy free or vegan version of this Pakistani / Indian bread pudding you can use plant based milk instead of regular milk.
- Bake or air fry: Instead of frying, you can also bake or fry the bread slices. To bake the bread, use a pastry brush to spread a little oil / ghee on both sides of the bread slices. Then bake at 180 C till golden brown. The bake method does have a different texture versus the fried ones, but it’s healthier. Plus you can bake the bread slices in one batch.
The shahi tukda can be stored covered in the fridge for 2 - 3 days easily. In fact, I feel that it becomes richer and creamier the next day. However, the bread slices do tend to get soft and lose their shape.
Make Ahead Instructions
Shahi Tukda is a great make-ahead dessert. It can be made the night before party, or in the morning then kept in the fridge. The 8 – 10 hours chill in the fridge will allow the milk to infuse the bread slices properly.
Shahi tukda can be served hot, chilled or at room temperature. The way that I have always eaten it has been chilled. It tastes delicious, whatever way you serve it.
Shahi tukda is also called Hyderabadi double ka meetha. People hailing from the region of Hyderabad Deccan in India will call this dessert double ka meetha, whereas people from North India or Pakistan will call it shahi tukda or shahi tukday. Doreen Hassan in her book “Saffron & Pearls” mentions that the term “Double ka Meetha” comes from because is known as double roti in Hyderabad, India. It’s the same case in Pakistan – we call bread ‘double roti’ in Urdu.
Other Pakistani / Indian Desserts to Try
Shahi Tukda (Bread Pudding with Saffron and Cardamom)
- 750 ml full-fat milk
- 4 - 6 cardamom pods
- 1 ½ cups sugar
- 1 cup cream
- 2-3 strands of saffron optional
- 3 tablespoon almonds crushed
- 3 tablespoon pistachios crushed
- 10 – 12 slices of large loaf bread or 15 - 18 slices of normal size bread, preferably 1-2 days old
- Ghee for deep frying can be substituted with oil
- Cut the crusts of the bread. Don’t throw away the edges – use them as breadcrumbs in some other recipe. Cut the bread slice into triangles or squares based on the serving dish / style. Triangle is the traditional style, though square can be easier to layer in a rectangle dish. Best to use a sharp serrated knife to cut the bread.
- Heat oil / ghee in a large shallow frying pan, and fry the bread slices till golden. The oil needs to be at medium heat – if it’s too hot, the bread slices will burn. And if it’s not hot enough, the bread slices won’t fry properly, and absorb too much oil / ghee. Use a slotted spoon to remove bread and drain on kitchen towels. See notes on instructions for shallow frying, air frying and baking.
- Remove the cardamom seeds from the cardamom pods. Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar pestle. Alternatively, you can use a spice or coffee grinder or a rolling pin.
- Place the milk along with the crushed cardamom seeds in a large heavy bottomed pot. Heat on low-medium heat till the milk comes to a boil.
- Turn heat to low and let the milk simmer for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Keep stirring occasionally to ensure that the milk does not burn. As the milk cooks, the quantity will reduce and change color from white to off-white/cream.
- Add sugar and cream to milk. Stir with a whisk to make sure the sugar dissolves and cream is mixed properly. Let it simmer for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Dissolve saffron (if using) in a tablespoon of cold milk and then add it to the hot milk mixture. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes to let the flavor infuse.
- Crush almonds and pistachios and set aside. Add half of the nuts mixture in the milk and set aside the rest for layering and garnish. Turn off the heat and set aside the infused milk.
- Take a glass or ceramic serving dish and start assembling the shahi tukda. Start by placing a layer of the fried bread slices on the bottom. Top with a few ladles of milk, enough to soak the bread, along with 1 teaspoon of the crushed nuts. Layer with more bread slices, milk and nuts till the dish is full. This is similar how you'd layer a bread pudding. The shahi tukray taste best when they are soaked in the milk properly, so choose a shallow rectangle dish or keep to a maximum of 3 layers. If using a deep dish, move the bread slices from top to bottom, and bottom to top after an hour of chilling to let them soak the milk properly.
- Cover the assembled shahi tukda with cling wrap and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours. The shahi tukda can be served hot or cold, but in my house it's always served cold.
- Bread Slices: It's essential to use 1 - 2 days old bread to make this recipe. Stale bread fries up better, and will also not absorb a lot of ghee / oil. If you only have fresh bread available, bake it for 10 - 15 minutes, so it dries out a little.
- Shallow fry Instructions: Instead of deep frying, you can also shallow fry the bread slices in either ghee / oil. I have done both, and the taste is great either way. Best to use a large frying pan so you can fry multiple pieces of bread at the same time.
- Bake or air fryer Instruction: Instead of frying, you can also bake or fry the bread slices to make shahi tukda. To bake the bread, use a pastry brush to spread a little oil / ghee on both sides of the bread slices. Then bake at 180 C till golden brown. The bake method does have a different texture versus the fried ones, but it’s healthier. Plus you can bake the bread slices in one batch.
- Vegan Shahi Tukda: To make a dairy free or vegan version of this Pakistani / Indian bread pudding you can use plant based milk and plant based cream. Also, use vegetable oil instead of ghee for frying.