Phirni: Rice Pudding with Saffron & Nuts


Phirni  4


This is a recipe I learned to make this from a very dear friend of mine. Once upon a time on a Friday evening, my friend F walked in with a big bowl of dessert; so aromatic and enticing that I immediately uncovered to see what this orange yellow cream speckled with green & white nuts could be. She smiled & said It’s Phirni, and the hue comes from the color of saffron“.



The dessert was the star of our meal that day. We waited impatiently and finally when we scooped our share, we were stunned beyond words. The creamy goodness was gently infused with the flavors of saffron and cardamom.  I will always be obliged to my friend for introducing Phirni/Firni to our repertoire of Indian dessert.


phirni 1


Phirni is a kind of Rice Pudding, made with coarsely ground rice. It is similar to what we call “kheer” or “payasam” in India, but unlike Kheer/Payasam, it does not use whole grains of rice. It is more more of a “north Indian” dessert, flavored with lots of saffron, cardamom and rose and adorned with a lot of nuts and often some dry fruits too. The consistency of this pudding varies from thick,- where one has to really scoop out with a spoon, to creamy- where the dessert will gently coat a spoon.


Traditionally in India, Phirni is served chilled in earthenware/clay cups called Matkas. Other than just making it look pretty, the clay pot also absorbs some of the liquid giving it a thicker consistency. It tastes better when the flavors are allowed to mature for 6-7 hours or even  for a day. Some versions of Firni are baked in the cups after they are cooked, then chilled & served. I do not bake the Firni. We like our Firni just thick enough to gently coat a spoon. So this version is the lighter one where the milk is not allowed to thicken as much, nor is it baked or served in the matkas.

This dish probably would have been an influence of the Mughal invasions to India. Along with them came the rich fragrant food and thereafter mingled & planted their roots the Indian cuisine to form a part of it. Similar kind of rice puddings, with little variations are also a part of Turkish, Lebanese, Greece, Afghan, African & many other European & Mediterranean cuisines.


phirni 2


Below are the different kinds & names of Rice Puddings around the world…. (info taken from WIKI):

South Asia

  • Kheer (Nepali/Indian/Pakistani) with slow-boiled milk
  • Payasam (South Indian) with slow-boiled milk, sugar/jaggery and lots of nuts
  • Firni (Tajik) and (Pakistani/North Indian) with broken rice, cardamom and pistachio served cold.


Middle East

  • Moghlie (Arab) with anise and ginger
  • Riz bi haleeb (Eastern) or ruz bil-laban (Egyptian), (lit. “rice-in-milk”) (Arab) with rosewater and occasionally mastic
  • Shola-e-zard (Iranian) and (Tajik) with saffron
  • Shir-berinj (Tajik) and (Iranian) Rice pudding



  • Arroz Doce or Arroz de Leite (Portuguese) with rice, sugar, milk, cinnamon and lemon
  • Budino di Riso (Italian) with milk, eggs, raisins and orange peel
  • Arroz con leche (Spanish) with milk, sugar, cinnamon and lemon
  • Сутлијаш (Macedonian) – Лапа – typical rice pudding with black poppy seeds
  • Milchreis (German) with cinnamon or cherries
  • Mlečni riž (Slovene)
  • Mliečna ryža (Slovak)
  • Mляко с ориз (Bulgarian) with milk and cinnamon
  • Orez cu lapte (Romanian) with milk and cinnamon
  • Rijstebrij (Dutch) or Rijstpap (Flemish)
  • Rizogalo or Ryzogalo (ρυζόγαλο ‘rice milk’, Greek) with milk and cinnamon.
  • Riža na mlijeku (Croatian)
  • Sutlijaš (Bosnian/Serbian)
  • Sytlijash (Albanian)
  • Sultjash (Albanian) Dialect
  • Tameloriz (Albanian/Kosovar)
  • Sütlaç (Turkish < sütlaş < sütlü aş ‘rice with milk’), served either hot or cold; often browned in a salamander broiler and garnished with cinnamon. May be sweetened with sugar or pekmez or not.
  • Teurgoule (Normandy)
  • Oriz na vareniku (Montenegrin)
  • Tejberizs (Hungarian) with milk, cinnamon or cocoa powder
  • Сутляш or Мляко с ориз (Bulgarian)
  • Sutlijas (Bosnian)
  • Молочная рисовая каша (Russian)
  • Молочна рисова каша (Ukrainian), also can appear as “кутя” for Christmas (served with dried fruits and nuts)


Latin America

  • Arroz con leche (Latin American) with cinnamon and condensed milk
  • Arroz con dulce/Arroz con coco (Puerto Rican) with coconut milk, sugar and cinnamon
  • Arroz-doce (Brazilian) with milk, sugar and cinnamon




Now here is Phirni, the very Indian way….
phirni  3


Phirni: Ground Rice Pudding with Saffron and Nuts

Ingredients: (serves 10-12)

  1. 1 cup (8 oz) raw basmati rice
  2. 3/4 gallon whole milk
  3. 1 quart/approximately 950 ml Half and Half or Heavy Whipping Cream (or part half and half and part heavy cream): you may use all whole whole milk and in that case, adjust amount and  simmer to reduce the milk until it is less than half the you have the desired consistency
  4. 1/2- 3/4 cup slivered almonds (or as much or as little as you want)
  5. 7-8 small green cardamoms (seeds only)
  6. 1.5 cup sugar or to taste
  7. a very generous pinch of very good quality saffron, very lightly toasted in a dry skillet
  8. unsalted almonds and pistachios and rose petals for garnish – optional
  9. 1-2 teaspoon rose water



Wash the rich thoroughly & soak in water for about 2 hours. The grains will get longer & white. Drain the water & spread all the rice in a thin layer on a paper towel. Set aside till completely dry to touch. The best way would be to leave it overnight.

Soak the almonds in the water overnight. Peel the almonds. Slice them fine. Set the sliced almonds aside.

Peel the cardamoms & take out the seeds.

Take the dry rice, & the cardamom seeds & dry grind till the rice becomes a powder. It should NOT be as fine as sugar. It should be  like coarse rawa/semolina. Keep aside.

Take 1/2 cup of warm milk, and add the saffron to it. Allow it to soak for about 10 minutes.

Take a thick bottomed pan. Combine all the milk (including the saffron milk) & half & half/heavy cream and simmer at low heat till it reduces a little bit in amount (the amount of reduction will depend on how thick you want the pudding. For a thicker and creamier pudding, you will need more reduction. We like our Phirni to be a bit runny and not as thick as it can be scooped out with a spoon; however that is the right kind of consistency for a traditional Phirni/Firni).

Add the sliced almonds. Now its time to add the dry rice powder. This has to be done in little batches.

Take a tablespoon of rice powder & slowly add it to the boiling milk, while stirring vigorously to prevent the powder from forming lumps. It should all blend it smooth with no lumps at all.

Continue the same process till all the rice powder is added to the milk.

Boil the milk with everything in it while frequently stirring it, till it starts getting thick & the rice is all cooked. Once cooked the rice grains will look like small cooked semolina/rawa.

Add the sugar & boil some more. If you want the Firni/Phirni thicker, keep simmering while stirring frequently, till it reaches the desired consistency.

Switch off the heat, & add the Rose water.

Top it with more saffron strands if you want. Chill for at least 4-5 hrs  (overnight is better) before serving it. If you let it settle down at least overnight, it will have that light yellow-orange tinge of the saffron. Letting it mature also enhances the flavor.


Before serving garnish with  organic rose petals, pistachios and more nuts you would want.




Phirni  5



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48 comments to Phirni: Rice Pudding with Saffron & Nuts

  • Wonderful dear,i absolutely loved the sweet,informative and drool worthy post.
    Thanks for the sending me this awesome firni,i love the flavor that saffron imparts to the dessert and not to forget that nice golden tinge

    Thanks Alka:-)

  • And hey i just realized u even changed the header,its just cute enough…..

    Thanks! Very few noticed:-)… might go thru more change

  • Mmmm … jodio ami mishti bhalobashina amake mishti banatei hoye karon amar hubbyr mishti chara chole na. Eta kokhono banaini … ebar banabo. 🙂 Great going Soma! 🙂

    My hubby has a very very sweet tooth.. he needs to have something sweet after every meal:)

  • Oh Oh I traveled the whole world with that firni. looks yuumy, comforting and delish…..

    LOL Lubna.. ! Hope U enjoyed the trip.

  • Looks lovely, I am sure it tastes divine. One universally loved dessert it seems.

    Thank you very much!

  • looks so inviting soma! I really want some right now…

    Thanks ! U are welcome to come over:-)

  • Beautiful photos, Soma! Great post with lot of information, thanks! :))

    Asha ! Thank you very much!

  • Hey, you’ve got Croatian up there! 😀 I was about to tell you about it when I spotted it.

    Btw, I’ve been meaning to tell you I like the new look of your blog!

    Yes I do.. Tho I could not say it ! Thanks!

  • Fabulous! Sounds great with saffron and all the nuts – love it!

    Thanks Natasha!

  • Looks so yummy delicious, wish i had one bowl of that delicious payasom 🙂


  • Cham

    Looks divine the firni an international dessert!

    Thanks Cham!

  • mohana

    Firni is my all time favorite ! thanks for posting the recipie !

    Thanks Mohana!!

  • hi soma,Lip-smacking firni..wonderful and eazy one:)will sure give it a try:)

    Thanks Chitra!

  • This looks soooo good! I love rice puddings like this!

    Thank you Jenn!

  • Phirni looks absolutely fantastic, very tempting…nice informative post !

    Usha Thank u!

  • this is sooo delicious… lovely pictures 🙂

    Thanks Indhu!

  • Pocture looks kool, on a silk saree…you are very creative!

    Thanks Malar!

  • Oh this looks fabulous, the photography is stunning, Saffron, nuts.. Firni.. Rice Pudding.. Oh my goodness.. the words alone sound DELISH!

    Thanks !

  • Thanks for taking us on a world tour on puddings/kheer.

    Heard a lot about firni. Haven’t got a chance to taste it yet. Your pics are tempting me to try it.

    Thanks Jayasree:-)

  • sra

    that’s a neat list, useful for ready reference

    Thanks Sra!

  • Lovely firni.Please trail back for my
    token of gratitude

    Thanks a Lot Yasmeen!

  • phirni looks deleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecious. :))

    Mahimaa Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaank You!:-)

  • OMG Soma, I am really drooling. I like this kind of dessert. I made Srikand once, and I realy fall in love. Now, I see this rice pudding with saffron (my son’s favorite ingredients, after capers) Just lovely.

    Thanks Elra!

  • A&N

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve just made this for A, and it tastes amazing 🙂

    Thanks much for testifying me & so glad that u liked it:-)

  • Fatema

    Soma…Ami kothaye post korbo boloje aami ja kichu ranna shikhechi shob tomar kach theke…Ekkhon sikhchi ecurry theke………

    Fatema eta to tomar kach thekei shekha:-)

  • I haven’t had rice pudding in I don’t know how long. This looks amazing … the saffron is a great addition. I can smell it from here.

    Thanks Chuck!

  • sandeepa

    Darun Chobi hoyeche, tomar valentines day prep je byapok parchi 😀

  • sandeepa

    Sorry bolte jachilam…”prep je byapok hoyeche bujhte parchi”

    Hehehe Sandeepa:-) barite boshe bachchader niye khawa chara to ar kichu bhabte pari na:-).. ,kintu shobi V day r aage shesh:-)

  • Its great to see that so many cultures eat almost the same thing. I’m not surprised, because it tastes so good! Yours looks gorgeous.

    Thanks Yaar!

  • PG

    I like firni much better than keer because of the coarsely ground rice whic gives it a lovely consistency. Your bowls and the pictures look so elegant. beautiful!

    Same here PG! & Thanks!

  • This really looks great with saffron! I’ve never tried with saffron. Rice puddings are always so delicious. It’s great that you put the effort to to inform us about all the rice puddings aroundt he world! Very much appreciated.

    ThankS! I just took the info from WIKI!

  • ohhh that looks phirni turned out to be a big flop coz lots of lumps formed..dint try after that day…

    Divz thats the trikcy part in Firni. U have to add in vert little amount & stir constantly while doing it:-) Good luck if u try it again.

  • …and you talk about my photos being tempting! hmph!

    Your Pictures are always beautiul Priya. I did not like these pictures at all. It does not show the pretty color of the Firni once it settles overnight. But i did not have the patience to take another set of pictures just when we were ready to eat:-)

  • Very nice pictures. really like detail in the steps. Have you tried using any other spices in the pudding?

  • Ruchi

    thanks soma for sharing the awesome recipe. Shall definitely try cause i got half and half that needs to be consumed. Am not sure if i would have the patience to peel the almonds – i might just grind it with the skin in a coffee blender…
    your web site looks great….

  • Andrea

    The flavor is delicious, but I guess I didn’t cook it long enough…it’s still milky. My boyfriend’s yiayia couldn’t believe it called for almost a gallon of milk! I’ll be making this again and let it thicken more next time.


    If you are making for just 2, please reduce the quantity of everything. The amount I gave will make a LOT!! (imagine all that rice powder & a gallon of milk! ) & if u want it quick & don’t bother about diet, use less milk & more half & half. It is much easier & quicker with evaporated milk & half & half… but too much calories go in there .. so i do not make it.

    If u need to reduce the quantity of milk, do more reduction before adding the rice..u do not want the rice to be overcooked & get lumped up.


  • Ruchi

    thanks for the awesome recipe. I finally tried it and it turned out to be delicious. THe only mistake i made was i should have grinded the rice a bit more finely.

  • Deepti

    yumm! hopefully I can impress a few people with this! I am not a fan of the regular Indian kheer/or rice puddings..but because the rice is broken and blended with almonds! I am ready for this one! Plus I like cold desserts! Good one!

  • […] notably, was this kheer-like dessert called “firni.” Firni is like kheer (Indian rice pudding) on crack because it is divine, delicious, creamy, and […]

  • Thanks, really interesting. Actually,I was born in Moscow in 1969 but my parents fled and came here to Britain. Truthfully, I didnt really care much about my russian history until my mother died recently, now I’ve been trying to discover as much as I can. Seemed like food was as good a place as any to start ! You dont generally hear much about russian cuisine do you? Anyway, I found a lot of russian recipes here that other readers might be interested in too.

  • poonam

    Thanks for the awesome recipe.I will pucca try this yummy delight.

  • Cecília Almeida

    Hi! Arroz doce is not brésilien, but a portuguese word. In Brésil, they speak portuguese. Arroz doce (Sweet rice) as you described, is a very traditional dessert in Portugal, sometimes we add egg yolks to make it richer and so delicious…

  • […] tasty she can never re-tell me the exact recipe. Hence, resorting to one of my favourite bloggers eCurry, who has compiled a beautiful post on Firni along with the different variations that it is known as […]

  • Em

    Finnish would be: “riisipuuro” served usually in Christmas Eve with either cinnamon and sugar or with sweet soup made of mixed dried fruits (richer) or just of either raisins or prunes (plain).

  • suchi

    its jz awesm…i olws wntd 2learn d method f cukng ds wonderful dessert…n wntd 2mk ds for my family….bt i cdnt du so…bt 2dy ftr getting ds recipe on net m flng so gd dt nw i cn mk my family smile by serving ds 2dm..
    thnx alot.

  • Ami ekhkhuni aschhi tomar baari. Looks too good.

  • Lisa

    Beautiful idea to use ground rice! I always loved Milchreis (Milch=Milk, so it’s “with milk” in German, too) and recently tried Kheer. Instant fan!

  • […] Not the best thing to have in winters unless of course you’re one of those who love the chill. eCurry sets aside a recipe with plenty of […]

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