Rice kheer is true Indian tradition

India is all about festivities and food! Let me tell you, no Indian feast is reckoned celebratory without a desert delicacy. The one that is most popular on festivals is a rice kheer. Kheer is a milk based dessert recipe, where milk, rice and nuts are cooked together for prolonged hours. Essentially, the longer you cook the tastier it gets. You may also find many versions of rice kheer in different cultures like “Sheer” in Persian cultures, “Payesh” in Bengal region of India or “Firni” in Middle east, Pakistan and North India.

My memories of Diwali festival & Rice Kheer…..

In my home it’s customary to prepare rice kheer on Diwali. For me it’s a childhood memory when every Diwali morning my mom would set me and my brother up for decorating the house. In the kitchen, she would start preparing for the grand Diwali dinner.

First and foremost, to go on fire is the giant vessel with at least 10 liters of milk that is just beginning to simmer. In the afternoon me and my mom would start preparing the Rangoli on the floor. By then fragrance of the thickening milk and cardamom are already paroling the house. We would take turns to run to the kitchen and stir the milk, and each time my anxiety to relish it would elevate.

By early evening, the rice is added to the kheer and the next half of simmering starts, this time with the added fragrance of Basmati. By the time we put up the last round of flower decorations and prepare the lamps for Diwali rituals, mom would have sweetened the kheer, not just with sugar, but love. We would finally begin the Diwali Pooja, offer the kheer to Goddess Laxmi, light the house with Diyas and savor the sweetness of mom’s love in a bowl of Rice Kheer.

Truly for me making rice kheer is like loving my family. Today I am grown into a mom myself and every Diwali I love to prepare kheer for my family with the same emotion like my mom. Sometimes I make different versions of it as it’s my passion to experiment food fusion. I often prepare a carrot kheer, beetroot and fig kheer. Today I am sharing with you my recipe of Caramel Rice Kheer.

Caramel Rice Kheer
Caramel Rice Kheer

5 important details to master the culinary art of Kheer

What vessel to use?

Traditionally kheer is made in a stainless steel vessel called “Bhagona”. You can check this link here. Basically, you should use a vessel that is:

  • Big so that the milk doesn’t spill out when you boil and simmer it
  • Wide open to allow evaporation while you are thickening the milk
  • Has high walls, so that the milk can condense around the walls
  • Has a heavy bottom, so that the milk does not stick or burn at the bottom, during prolonged simmering

Note: Don’t use a non-stick coated utensil. The process of thickening milk includes a lot of scratching from the walls, that may damage a non-stick coating.

What sweetener works the best?

Honest answer – White sugar works the best! However, I understand that we all prefer to eat healthy these days. So, here are my healthy recommendations:

  • The best sugar substitute for rice kheer recipe is agave syrup.
  • Honey may work fine too if it does not have a strong odor (like raw honey has).
  • Brown sugar may be fine too, however it may darken the color of kheer slightly.
  • I will not advise you to use cane sugar or coconut palm sugar as they have a very strong odor that will take away from the taste/ fragrance of the thickened milk.

What rice works the best?

White rice works the best, however you may want to choose between the regular white rice or Basmati rice.

  • The benefit of using the regular white rice is that it gets cooked and blended with the milk more easily. This helps with the thickening of milk. In most traditional kheer recipes people use the regular white rice.
  • On the other hand, if you use Basmati, then you may have to cook and smash the rice a little extra but the taste will be richer. Also, I personally love the fragrance of Basmati cooked in milk. I normally use Basmati for making kheer.

What milk works best?

Unfortunately, there are not many substitutes or options here. Kheer is a milk based recipe, that includes thickening of milk. Therefore, it is best to use full fat milk. Even if you use low fat milk, you are eventually thickening and making it rich. So just stick to the full fat. Its ok to treat yourself on special occasions. Also, as you may have guessed by now, dairy free substitutes like Almond, Soy, Coconut milk won’t really work in this recipe too, as they will not thicken as well as regular milk.

When to stop thickening the milk?

The process of thickening the milk requires true patience and precision. You have to love cooking truly to get this right. There can be short cuts to thicken the milk like using canned condensed milk, adding artificial flavors or adding some flour to thicken the milk. Skip all of this because nothing tastes as authentic as milk slow simmered for hours. However, during the thickening process it’s important to understand when to stop. Reducing the milk to about half (or a little more) of the original quantity is good. You should not thicken the milk so much that there is not enough fluid per rice.

You will notice that as you keep the kheer for a while it becomes thicker automatically, as rice soaks the milk further. Also if you refrigerate the kheer it will become even more thicker. Therefore, always stop cooking when the consistency is a little less thick than you want.

Whoaaa, if you really read this far, means you are serious about getting this recipe right.

Then get started with my Rice kheer recipe – the Indian Rice Pudding with a touch of Caramel!


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