Rice pudding is one dish that stands the test of time and spans cultures. There are dozens of cultural variations of rice pudding, but Indian kheer is truly a standout. Creamy and aromatic, kheer is delicious, easy to make, and a staple treat in Indian cuisine. Flavored with cardamom and rosewater, there really isn’t another rice pudding like it.
Rosewater in Cooking
I’ve always loved how rosewater can make a dish so wonderfully aromatic. The use of rosewater in Indian kheer really sets it apart from other rice puddings I’ve tried. Rosewater’s culinary history likely began in Persia. It spread throughout the Middle East and into North Africa. Rosewater then made its way to West and South Asia, where it has been used in cooking for centuries. Rosewater’s unique flavor pairs particularly well with sweet desserts, but you’ll find it in savory dishes as well. As a flavor, it was quite popular in Europe and the U.S., but vanilla took the spotlight at the end of the nineteenth-century.
Rice Pudding Across Cultures
Many cultures have their own take on this dish—the variety is endless! Almonds or pistachios are usually blended in or sprinkled on top for appearance and texture. Rice pudding can be flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, but lemon and orange are also popular. In the Philippines, it’s known as champorado and flavored with chocolate. Imagine that! The Greek version of rice pudding, ryzogalo, uses honey as a sweetener. Danish ris a’la monde is known for being a Christmas dessert. Those are only a few of many, but let’s move on with our kheer recipe.
Rice pudding likely originated in India or China, and kheer can be traced back to 6000 BCE. This dish has truly stood the test of time! Rice pudding was thought to have medicinal properties, and while it might not be prescribed to you by your doctor, it’s definitely a staple that you’ll make again and again.
Indian kheer makes for a hearty dessert and is quite warming—perfect for Christmas or other winter holidays. It’s often made for religious festivals and celebrations in India. For Diwali, it’s an absolute must! But you don’t have to wait for a special day to enjoy it. Kheer is a perfect after-dinner dessert all year round as well. Rice kheer can be served chilled, but it smells so delicious that you’ll be ready to try it hot from the pan.
Step by step photos:
- Gather all the ingredients and have them measured out, chopped and ready to go. Tip: Grind the cardamom seeds fresh! Pull them from the pods then use a mortal and pestle or spice grinder.
- Place the coconut milk, whole milk and sugar in a large sauce pan. Heat on medium-high until the mixture boils while stirring frequently.
- Turn the heat to low-medium then add the rice that has been rinsed and drained. Stir frequently for 20 minutes until it thickens. Do not allow it to boil.
- Once the mixture is thick add the raisins, cardamom and rosewater. Simmer for a 3-5 minutes to allow the raisins to get soft and the flavors to combine. Serve in bowls and garnish with chopped almonds and pistachios.
Frequently asked questions:
- How long can I store the kheer rice pudding? Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the refrigerator.
- Can I freeze the kheer? No, since this dish contains dairy it will have an unpleasant texture when thawed.
- Can I serve this chilled? Sure, warm or chilled is fine and totally your choice.
- Are there other flavors I can add to the kheer? Sure, adding a couple strands of saffron during the thickening stage will add a pop of flavor and color. You can experiment with the amount of rose water you prefer. Try different dried fruits too.
- Can I make this recipe vegan? Sure, just swap the whole milk for almond milk.
Do you want to explore more recipes of India? Chicken xacuti brings some awesome flavors with some heat as well. Lamb kofta kari (lamb meatballs) can be served as an appetizer. Both of these dishes pair well with rice or naan bread.
Kheer: Indian Rice Pudding Recipe
Kheer is a sweet Indian rice pudding dessert that’s flavored with rosewater and cardamom. Often served as dessert, this delicious dish will be something you’ll want to save room for!
Rice pudding ingredients:
Place the coconut milk, whole milk and sugar in a large sauce pan.
Heat on medium-high until the mixture comes to a boil while stirring frequently.
While heating the liquid, rinse the rice in a colander until the water runs clear, set aside and allow to drain.
Once the liquid boils reduce the heat to low-medium and add the rice.
Simmer for 20 minutes and stir frequently. Do not allow to boil.
Once the mixture is thick add the raisins, cardamom and rosewater. Simmer for a 3-5 minutes to allow the raisins to get soft and the flavors to combine.
Serve in bowls and top with chopped almonds and pistachios.