This Lebanese Rice Pudding Recipe Is The Perfect Dessert For A Hot Summer Day
Gladys Soriano is the recipe developer, food stylist, and food photographer behind the Mediterranean-inspired blog Forks and Foliage. Here, she's sharing authentic Lebanese dishes and recipes inspired by her love for Mediterranean flavors (originally published on Forks and Foliage). Take it away, Gladys!
This Lebanese rice pudding or riz bi haleeb is a delicious, floral version of rice pudding. This traditional recipe was handed down to me by mom, and it truly is the best I have ever had!
In Arabic, riz bi haleeb translates to rice in milk. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Lebanese rice pudding starts with cooking rice in milk, then flavoring it with mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water. The result is truly dreamy. My mom's recipe calls for heavy cream, which makes the rice pudding extra creamy and rich. She also does not use any cornstarch as most recipes do, but instead relies on the natural starches in the rice to thicken it perfectly. I don't make riz bi haleeb any other way now!
What I love about Lebanese rice pudding is how versatile it is. It's not too sweet and makes for a delicious breakfast or snack. But it's sweet enough to be a light dessert!
Lebanese Rice Pudding Ingredients
- ½ cup medium grain rice
- ¼ cup water
- 4 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon mastic, ground
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon rose water
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
- Crushed pistachios, for garnish
- Dried rose petals, optional, for garnish
1. To start, rinse the rice just one time. The key to making Lebanese rice pudding without cornstarch is not to rinse the rice too much or you'll lose a lot of its thickening starch.
2. Add the rinsed rice, water, milk, and heavy cream to a large sauce pan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture begins to boil, about 10 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir every couple of minutes to prevent sticking, until the rice has puffed up and can be mashed with a spoon or between your fingers, about 15 minutes.
4. Once the rice is cooked, add the sugar and continue stirring until the rice pudding has thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes. You can test it by leaving a plate in the freezer while making it, then spoon some pudding on the cold plate and tilt it. If the pudding runs a little bit then stops in its tracks, it's done. If it keeps running even after it has cooled on the plate, it needs more time to thicken.
5. When the rice pudding has thickened, turn off the heat and add the ground mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water and stir to combine. If using whole mastic, place them in a mortar with a pinch of salt and grind them with the pestle into a fine powder. You don't want any chunks of mastic in the pudding as they can be bitter and overpowering in one bite.
How To Serve Lebanese Rice Pudding (Riz Bi Haleeb)
While the rice pudding is still warm, transfer it into little bowls or ramekins for individual servings. Alternatively, you can transfer it to one serving bowl. Let them cool to room temperature, then cover them and place them in the refrigerator until fully set and chilled.
No one will judge you if you eat half of it while it's still warm. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.
Once you are ready to serve the Lebanese rice pudding, top them with crushed pistachios for a delicious, nutty crunch. If you want to elevate it even further, dried rose petals are a dreamy garnish for riz bi haleeb.
Tips On Making The Best Lebanese Rice Pudding
- Don't rinse the rice more than once. We want to save its starches to make the pudding thick and creamy.
- Use whole milk. For the creamiest rice pudding, use whole milk instead of skim or low-fat. (If you're vegan and/or dairy-free, substitute the milk and heavy cream for a plant-based milk you enjoy instead.)
- Skip recipes that call for cornstarch. Rice is already loaded with starch - there is absolutely no need to add another type of starch.
- Be patient. Not using cornstarch means it will take a little longer for the pudding to thicken. But it's so worth it! The rice will absorb the milk and cream slowly while thickening the mixture into a perfect consistency and a much more flavorful rice pudding.
- Stir frequently. You don't want the bottom to stick and burn. Stay nearby and give it a stir and scrape the bottom every couple of minutes.
- Don't skip the mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water. Unless it is impossible for you to access them, I would highly advise you against omitting them as they add such a delicious, delicate flavor to the rice pudding. It's not really Lebanese rice pudding without them. If you must omit something, I would say omit the mastic. But I say that with hesitation and a heavy heart.
Frequently Asked Questions
What type of rice is best for rice pudding?
I have found that medium grain rice results in the best rice pudding. You can experiment with different types and see what you prefer. Short grain rice is starchier so it will yield a mushier pudding. Long grain rice is less starchy so it's a little less creamy and the rice is firmer.
Should I wash my rice when making rice pudding?
Regardless of what you are making, you should always always wash your rice. In the case of rice pudding, rinse the rice just once to wash off any dust and debris. But don't rinse it more, as we need all the starch possible.
Why is my rice pudding so runny/thick?
A runny rice pudding means you haven't cooked it long enough. Continue cooking and it will thicken, I promise. If the pudding is too thick, you cooked it too long. Remember, rice pudding thickens quite a bit as it cools. It should still be a pourable consistence when it's done. If it's too thick, place it over medium-low heat and add milk and stir until it thins out a bit.
Can I make rice pudding with cooked rice?
Yes, you can use leftover rice to make rice pudding but it will not be the same consistency. Place the cooked rice in a pot and add enough milk and cream to cover it and cook, stirring often. Follow the rest of the recipe as is, adjusting the amounts according to how much cooked rice you're using.
How long will rice pudding keep?
Store the Lebanese rice pudding covered in the fridge for up to one week.
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Gladys is the recipe developer, food stylist, and food photographer behind her blog, Forks and Foliage. You'll find her sharing authentic Lebanese dishes as well as recipes inspired by her love for Mediterranean flavors. Follow Gladys along on her blog and social media accounts for wholesome, seasonal recipes with the occasional indulgence.