Food & Wine

Indian rice pudding: Serve up the ideal holiday dessert

With the holidays fast approaching, hosts and hostesses are searching for quick, simple desserts to prepare for friends and family at dinner parties or get-togethers. Why buy and thaw a frozen dessert when it could take you less time to make a creamy and delicious Indian rice pudding?

Rice Kheer is a classic dessert served at festive occasions in India. It is typically made with milk, but you can substitute condensed milk or heavy cream. I use low-fat milk and flavor it with fragrant cardamom powder and rose water. Saffron adds an additional holiday flavor to this dessert. It is one of the most popular and flavorful desserts in India, and once simmered to perfection, it’s truly special. You can garnish it with fresh rose petals, slivered pistachio nuts, almonds or raisins to give it a royal touch.

For those of you who do not cook with dairy, you can make this recipe with almond milk. It might take more time to thicken, but if you simmer it, it will cook in approximately 20 minutes.

This aromatic finale to a holiday meal is sure to add some sweet memories to your festivities.

Gitika Baveja is author of “Indian Flavors to Savor: The Easy Home Cooked Way.”

For more information and additional recipes, visit

• 2 tablespoons basmati rice (picked, washed and soaked in warm water for an hour)

• 2 cups low-fat milk (adjust accordingly if using heavy cream)

• 4-5 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste (reduce for less sweetness)

• 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder, or 2-3 crushed seeds of green cardamom (pounded after removing skins)

• 4-5 crushed saffron threads (optional)

• 1 tablespoon rose water

• 2 tablespoons blanched and sliced almonds or chopped pistachios (garnish)


In saucepan, combine rice and milk and bring to boil on low to medium heat. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Make sure ingredients do not stick to pan.

Add sugar and cardamom powder and simmer, stirring, for another few minutes until rice starts to soften and becomes tender and mixture starts to turn creamy. Add saffron threads and additional milk if necessary. Taste for sweetness and adjust accordingly.

Once mixture cools a bit, add rose water. Garnish with chopped nuts. Serve hot or cold. Makes two servings.

Note: The key to cooking rice kheer is to simmer it so that the rice cooks with the milk without scorching the pan. You can also add a few tablespoons of heavy cream or Half and Half to the milk to make it extra smooth and creamy.

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