KESARI PHIRNI – केसरी फ़िरनी (Saffron Rice Custard Pudding)


Phirni is a popular north Indian dessert which is basically rice kheer (rice pudding) but with a twist. Unlike the regular rice kheer the texture of this kheer is silken with small fine grains of rice. It is a kind of rice custard, if I can take the liberty to call it that. The rice is soaked for some time in water, then dried, ground coarsely and finally cooked in milk till it attains an almost custard like consistency. The pudding is perfumed with aromatics, transferred to small earthen pots (highly preferred) and served chilled. Another difference between this pudding and regular rice puddings is that it comes together faster.

My mother had this thumb rule of measuring rice to milk ratio when making chawal kheer (rice pudding) which was that she added one fistful of rice to one litre of milk. One fistful equals fifty grams (plus/minus) of rice and for phirni she used one and a half fistful which comes to somewhere around seventy grams of rice. But the ratio can be adjusted to suit one’s taste. You basically need anywhere between sixty to seventy five grams of rice (Amount will depend on the quality of milk being used. Full fat milk requires less rice compared to ‘toned’ or low fat milk). The dessert is mostly served for festivals and special occasions and is also a very popular summer dessert for dinner parties. It also comes across as a healthy way to cater to your sweet tooth and for snacking. Enjoy this healthy-ish dessert for Holi this year 🙂

You will need the following for this easy and exquisite dessert…

2 tbsp Milk

A generous pinch Saffron (use a good quality saffron for best result)

60 gm Rice (good quality Basmati rice)

¾ Cup Milk (low fat)

1 litre Full Fat Milk (can be swapped with coconut or almond milk)

¼ to 1/3 C Almond Meal (Powdered Almonds), adjust to taste

½ C scrapped, Date Palm Jaggery OR Sugar (adjust to taste)

¼ to ½ tsp cardamom powder (adjust amount to taste)

2 – 3 tablespoons finely chopped Mixed Nuts of your choice (I use almonds and pistachio)

Soak the saffron in two tablespoons of warm milk and set aside.

Wash the rice no more than twice or thrice. Soak it for half an hour in plenty of water. Drain the rice and spread it over a kitchen towel or napkin to dry. You can dab the rice and then allow it to dry out completely (it took me approximately one and a half hour) Grind the rice till it attains semolina like consistency (add no water while grinding). Do not grind it in one go or it will turn to powder. Grind the rice in short pulses of a few second each and then stopping. Pulsing again and then stopping. Keep checking texture, between the pulses, till desired consistency of texture is attained. Set aside.

In case your jaggery has impurities, transfer it to a small pan and add a tablespoon of water. Stir it continuously on low heat till it is completely dissolved. Switch off the heat and sieve the jaggery to get rid of any impurities or grit. Set aside.

Transfer the milk to a heavy bottom pot. Bring it to a boil while stirring occasionally. (Keep stirring it if you are boiling it on high flame to prevent it from catching and burning at the bottom of the container) Once it begins to boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer till it reduces to three fourth the quantity. Stir in the saffron milk.

Add three fourth cup of milk along with ground almonds to the ground rice and stir well. Add this to the simmering milk, stirring continuously. Keep cooking on low heat, stirring continuously till the phirni thickens but is of pouring consistency. It took me approximately ten minutes to reach the desired consistency. The time will vary depending on what kind of milk you are using. (the phirni will thicken further when it cools, so keep that in mind while checking the consistency)

Remove from heat and keep stirring the pudding. Stir in the jaggery (if you are adding the jaggery dissolved in water, then you need to cook it for a couple of minutes) and immediately transfer the hot kheer to the prepared earthen pots (i.e. washed and soaked in water for least ten to twelve hours and then dried out) or serve in bowls of your choice. Sprinkle dried chopped nuts.

Once the pudding is cool, keep the pudding in the refrigerator to get chilled for a couple of hours.

(Do not cover the pots with any cling wrap since we want that thick rich layer of pudding to form over the top of the pudding which is characteristic of phirni)

Once chilled, remove them from the refrigerator and serve immediately. This dessert is mostly served during summers or after a rich or spicy meal.

Note – The dessert is always served in individual portions.

Note – Serving the phirni in small and shallow earthern pots is highly recommended since that is the traditional way of serving it. Else you can serve it in small glass bowls, preferably shallow.

Serves – 10

Thanks for your visit and see you soon again, with another exciting recipe!

16 thoughts on “KESARI PHIRNI – केसरी फ़िरनी (Saffron Rice Custard Pudding)

  1. I love rice pudding but do have a problem with the kernels of rice getting stuck in the back of my throat. Therefore, I love that this is more of a custard. It sounds and looks absolutely delicious!

  2. First, your photo is stunning! And this recipe sounds so lovely. I especially love that addition of cardamom. Saving this recipe, thanks!

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