Arabic Rice Pudding (Riz bi Haleeb)

Rice and milk are a wonderful combination that has become popular in many parts of the world. Rice pudding is very easy to prepare and makes the perfect dessert for any occasion. Let me show you how to make Arabic rice pudding at home.

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What is Arabic Rice Pudding?

Rice pudding is a dish consisting of rice cooked in milk and sweetened with sugar. It’s a popular dessert in many countries across the world, from India, the Middle East, Europe to the US. And that’s for a good reason. Rice and milk are staple ingredients in most cuisines. Combining them will give you a wonderful dessert that can be enjoyed warm or cold, as a dessert or for breakfast.

Every cuisine and region has their own way of making rice pudding. In the Middle East, rice pudding is known as riz bi haleeb (rice with milk) and is wonderfully creamy, sweet and floral. Middle Eastern rice pudding doesn’t just have sugar to make up for the sweetness and flavor. In fact, authentic Arabic rice pudding will have a combination of sweetness and fruitiness. This is achieved with rose water and/or orange blossom water which are two staple ingredients in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Ingredients

Below are the ingredients for Arabic rice pudding following my family’s recipe.

  • Rice: Obviously, rice is the key ingredient to rice pudding. You can use Jasmine rice or a type of short grain rice. If none of them is available to you, even Basmati rice will work well.
  • Milk: Milk is the second key ingredient to riz bi haleeb. For Middle Eastern rice pudding, most people use regular whole milk. Semi-skimmed / low fat alternatives won’t be as creamy, so I recommend that you stick to whole milk. Some people like to mix in some heavy cream to make the consistency creamier/thicker. It makes the rice pudding heavier (and fattier). I usually prefer it only with milk, but you’re free to substitute some of the milk with heavy cream.
  • Sugar: Sugar will make your rice pudding sweet, which is what most people prefer. The amount of sugar is entirely up to you. The amount of sugar in my recipe is on the low side. You can add more sugar for a sweeter taste.
  • Cornstarch: To achieve the creamy texture, we’ll need a bit of cornstarch.
  • Rose water & orange blossom water: Two ingredients that are unique in Arabic rice pudding are rose water and orange blossom water. You can find them in any Middle Eastern grocery store or order them online. I usually go for a combination of both, as they compliment each other really well. If you don’t like the rose and orange blossom water or can’t find them, you could add some vanilla instead. That’s not Middle Eastern, but it’s a good alternative.
  • Pistachios: Last but not least, nuts (especially pistachios) are used for garnish. If you don’t have them, you can leave them out.

Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.

Riz bi haleeb recipe Welcome2Jordan

How to Make Arabic Rice Pudding

Ready to make riz bi haleeb? Let’s get started!

Step 1: Wash the rice

Wash the rice once, to remove any dirt or dust from the surface. Unlike for other rice dishes (where we’d like to get rid of the starch), it’s important not to wash off the starch when making rice pudding. It adds to the creamy texture.

Step 2: Boil rice and milk

Add the milk to a saucepan. Set aside about 100 ml (half a cup)! Add the rice to the saucepan. Turn on the stove and bring the milk to a boil on medium heat. Cook the milk rice mixture for about 20-25 minutes until the rice is very soft.

Be sure to keep an eye on the process and stir regularly. Milk boils quickly and rises in the saucepan if the heat is too much. If that happens, immediately reduce the heat or take the saucepan from the stove for a moment. Don’t let the milk overcook.

Step 3: Prepare cornstarch slurry

While the rice and milk are cooking, prepare the cornstarch slurry with the milk that you set aside in the previous step. Pour the milk in a small bowl and add the cornstarch to the cold milk (!). Stir well to combine. This will help avoid lumps. Set aside until the milk rice mixture is ready.

Step 4: Add sugar, blossom waters and cornstarch

Once the rice milk mixture is ready, add sugar, rose water, orange blossom water and the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan and whisk to combine. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Once it’s ready, turn off the heat.

Step 5: Garnish and serve

You can serve your rice pudding immediately (hot), let it cool for a bit, serve at room temperature or chilled. The consistency will thicken as your rice pudding cools. Garnish with finely chopped pistachios.

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How to Serve Riz bi Haleeb

Most people eat it warm (right after cooking), but some enjoy it at room temperature or chilled.

Nuts are great for garnish. You can use chopped pistachios, pecans, walnuts or almonds.

Although riz bi haleeb is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert, you could even serve it for breakfast. In that case, add some fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.

Storage & Make Ahead

Rice pudding can be perfectly made ahead of time. In fact, it makes perfect sense to prepare a larger portion to consume over several days, especially if you have a small family.

If you’d like to keep your rice pudding to eat over multiple days, let cool completely after cooking. Transfer into an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a week. It can be enjoyed chilled, at room temperature or warm (briefly warm up in the microwave).

Note that the consistency will change if you refrigerate your rice pudding. It will be very creamy and a bit runny right after cooking and thicken when cooled. Both taste great. If you like it more runny, you can add a bit of milk or water when warming it up.

Freezing is not recommended, as the consistency won’t be the same.

Any Questions or Feedback?

If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.

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Learn Middle Eastern Cooking

Are you a new to Middle Eastern cuisine? Then this Middle Eastern cookbook is what you need! In addition to a varied choice of recipes, the cookbook offers plenty of insights on ingredients, cooking techniques and Middle Eastern food culture.

Rice pudding riz bi haleeb Welcome2Jordan

Arabic Rice Pudding (Riz bi Haleeb)

Kitty Ramasamy
Riz bi haleeb is a Middle Eastern rice pudding that makes the perfect dessert for any occasion. Flavored with rose water and orange blossom water, this Arabic rice pudding is a pleasant combination of sweetness and fruitiness.
5 from 2 votes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Servings 6 people
Calories 222 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 100 g (0.5 cups) Jasmine rice or short grain rice
  • 1 litre (4 cups) whole milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 1 tsp orange blossom water
  • 40 g (0.33 cups) pistachios for garnish

Instructions
 

  • Place the rice in a bowl. Rinse once with water to remove and dust from the surface. Don’t wash thoroughly; the rice starch should be retained.
  • Add milk and rice to a saucepan. Keep 100 ml (½ cup) milk aside for step 3. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Keep an eye on the process (milk boils fast). Cook for about 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally No lid required. During that time the rice will cook all the way through (for rice pudding, it should be very soft).
  • Meanwhile, pour the milk (cold milk!) that you set aside (step 2) in a mixing bowl and add the cornstarch. Stir well to combine (avoids lumps).
  • Once the rice milk mixture is ready, add sugar, rose water, orange blossom water and the cornstarch slurry to the saucepan. Stir well. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the pudding thickens and becomes creamy.
  • Take the saucepan from the stove. Rice pudding can be served hot immediately after cooking, at room temperature or chilled. The consistency will thicken as the rice pudding cools. Garnish with chopped pistachios.

Notes

  • Use Jasmine rice or a type of short grain rice (Egyptian rice).
  • This recipe calls for a rather low amount of sugar, meaning that the sweetness will be low-moderate. You can add more sugar if you prefer.
  • Be sure to use whole milk (not skimmed milk) as this will make your rice pudding creamier. You can add heavy cream if you’d like the texture to be very creamy and don’t mind some extra calories. I personally don’t add heavy cream but only whole milk as it will make the pudding lighter.
  • Two ingredients that are unique in Arabic rice pudding are rose water and orange blossom water. You can find them in any Middle Eastern grocery store or order them online. If you don’t like the rose and orange blossom water or can’t find them, you could add some vanilla instead. That’s not Middle Eastern, but it’s a good alternative.
  • Don’t wash your rice throughly as you’d usually do. For rice pudding, it’s important to preserve the starch. A quick rinse is enough.
  • Garnish with nuts (pistachios, pecans, walnuts…) or fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries…).

Nutrition

Calories: 222kcalCarbohydrates: 28gProtein: 8gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 21mgSodium: 66mgPotassium: 345mgFiber: 1gSugar: 13gVitamin A: 306IUVitamin C: 0.4mgCalcium: 223mgIron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.

Keyword Rice Pudding, Riz bi Haleeb
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