How To Make Indian Rice Pudding
Chawal Ki Kheer with Green Cardamom and Saffron
Chawal ki kheer, or Indian rice pudding, is a decadent dessert that spans the spectrum of sweet and savory. It is naturally gluten free and can easily be made dairy free and vegan by substituting the whole milk with a non-dairy alternative. Upon indulging in this classic Indian dish, your senses will be fully engaged by a whirlwind of aromatics and flavoring components. Plus, it's creamy and comforting!
To make the most basic version of Indian rice kheer, you need just three simple ingredients found in just about any household—milk, rice, and sugar. From there, you can add a wide variety of flavoring and texturizing components. The ingredients are simmered together and slow-cooked to perfection, taking little more effort than the occasional stirring.
It is quite common to find kheer accented with cardamom, saffron, nuts, and golden raisins. We chose a mix of classic ingredients, including green cardamom, threads of saffron, and nuts, but also enhanced ours with a bit dried papaya and swapped out some of the sugar with maple syrup and added vanilla extract for added depth in flavor without sacrificing sweetness. Another alteration we made was in the type of rice we used. Traditionally, this dish is made with basmati or another long-grain rice, but we wanted our pudding to be extra creamy, so we chose arborio, which is a starchier, short-grain variety known for providing that desired creaminess in risotto.
Feel free to play around with this recipe, eliminating or adding ingredients as you see fit. There really aren’t any bad choices!
Creamy Cardamom and Saffron Rice Kheer
- ⅓ cup arborio, or other short-grain rice
- ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons hot water
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 ½ tablespoons cane sugar (or vanilla sugar)
- 2 ½ tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 8 whole green cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ¼ cup chopped dried papaya
- ¼ cup chopped pecans or cashews (or other chopped nuts)
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Rinse and soak your rice for 20 minutes.
Gently crush the saffron using the back of a spoon and place it in the hot water for about 15 minutes.
Grind your cardamom pods, using a spice grinder, mortar and pestle, or your other preferred grinding method. If you are unable to fully grind the outer pods, pull them out and just grind the seeds.
Bring the milk to a boil, taking care not to scorch it.
Drain your rice and stir it into the milk.
Bring it back to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring consistently, before turning it down to low heat.
Simmer it for 35 minutes, stirring frequently to keep it from burning or sticking to the sides.
Stir in the sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, ground cardamom, and saffron.
Simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes, until you have a creamy, pudding-like consistency.
Stir in the chopped pecans, cashews, papaya, and sea salt.
Serving SuggestionsWe prefer to serve this dessert warm, topped with extra nuts and dried papaya, but it is also fantastic as a chilled dessert, so feel free to make it ahead of time.
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