No products in the cart.
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.
What is 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.
There are several variations of rice pudding. Even in the Middle East, you’ll encounter different varieties. While the basic recipe is the same, the spices and flavorings vary from one region to another. Besides, some people prefer a thicker consistency while others prefer it more runny. Below are the ingredients for my family recipe.
- Rice: Obviously, rice is the key ingredient to rice pudding. You can use short grain rice (Egyptian rice) or Basmati rice.
- Whole milk: Milk is the second key ingredient to riz bi haleeb. For Middle Eastern rice pudding, most people use regular whole milk. Avoid semi-skimmed / low fat alternatives though. Some people like to mix in some condensed milk or heavy cream to make it thicker. However, with the right cooking technique, you’ll get the right consistency with just whole milk. Whole milk is much lower in fat and calories when compared to condensed milk or cream. However, if you want an extra creamy consistency and don’t mind the calories, you can mix in some heavy cream too (ratio 50:50).
- 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.
- 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.
How to Make Arabic Rice Pudding
Ready to make riz bi haleeb? Let’s get started!
Step 1: Soak the rice
Place the rice in a large bowl. Add hot water and cover it. Soak the rice for at least 30 minutes, ideally for 60 minutes. Drain the water.
If you have read my recipe for Arabic rice, you’ll surely remember me telling how important it is to wash your rice thoroughly. That’s true when making conventional rice as a side dish or main dish (you’d want to get rid of as much starch as possible). For rice pudding, it’s a little different. Don’t wash your rice as you’d usually do! In fact, to get the right consistency, it’s important to preserve the starch. Soaking will make your rice cook faster. It will also wash off and dust, without getting rid of too much starch.
Step 2: Combine rice and milk
Transfer the soaked rice in a large saucepan. Add the milk to the rice and stir briefly. Turn on the stove and bring the milk to a boil on high heat.
Step 3: Boil the milk
Once the milk starts to boil, reduce your stove to low. Be sure to keep an eye on the process. You’ll notice that the milk will quickly rise in the saucepan. You should immediately reduce your stove once that happens. Don’t let the milk overcook.
Step 4: Let simmer
Let the rice pudding simmer for about 25-30 minutes. That’s a little longer than you’d to for regular rice because the consistency is different. During that time, the rice will become soft and the milk will thicken. Rice pudding should have a soft and creamy texture. Stir every 2-3 minutes to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of your saucepan.
Step 5: Add sugar, rose water and orange blossom water
Now come the magic ingredients that make Middle Eastern rice pudding so unique. In addition to regular white sugar, you’ll need a hint of rose water and orange blossom water. Add all three ingredients to the saucepan. Stir well to combine. Let simmer for another 5 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.
Step 6: Serve
Take the saucepan from the stove. 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.
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. When serving riz bi haleeb for breakfast, I like to add some fresh fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or blueberries.
- Rice pudding with leftover rice: It’s best to make this recipe from scratch with uncooked rice, instead of using (cooked) leftover rice. That’s mainly because the starch is required to achieve the creamy texture. If you use leftover rice, I recommend that you cook it with the milk, sugar, rose and orange blossom water for about 10 minutes to soften it. I also recommend that you add in some heavy cream if using leftover rice.
- Is rice pudding good for you? Whether rice pudding is good or not largely depends on the way you prepare it. My recipe uses only whole milk and a little sugar. That’s of course much lower in calories when compared to heavy cream and a lot of sugar (for more sweetness).
- Vegan rice pudding: You can make this rice pudding vegan by using a plant based alternative to whole milk. Rice milk works great (tried it myself). I believe almond milk would work just as well. Note that your riz bi haleeb will be less creamy when using plant based milk.
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.
Arabic Rice Pudding (Riz bi Haleeb)
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.
- 100 g (0.5 cups) rice Basmati or Egyptian rice
- 1 litre (4 cups) whole milk
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp rose water
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 40 g (0.33 cups) pistachios for garnish
- Place the rice in a bowl. Add hot water and cover. Soak for at least 30 minutes, better 60 minutes. Drain.
- Place the rice in a saucepan and add the milk. Bring to a boil on high heat.
- Once the milk is boiling, reduce your stove to low-medium.
- Let simmer for about 25-30 minutes. Stir every 2 minutes. No lid required. During that time, the milk will thicken and the rice will cook all the way through.
- About 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add sugar, rose water and orange blossom water to the saucepan. Stir well.
- Take the saucepan from the stove. Rice pudding can be served hot immediately after cooking, at room temperature or chilled. For a thicker consistency, let rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking. The consistency will thicken as the rice pudding cools. To enjoy it chilled, let cool after cooking. Then place it in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving. Garnish with chopped pistachios (optional).
- Use Basmati rice or a type of short grain rice (Egyptian rice).
- Sweetness: 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.
- Milk: Be sure to use whole 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. Some people add additional starch (corn starch). That’s okay if you like your rice pudding to be more firm. I personally don’t ever add any additional starch, but prefer using the natural starch of the rice.
- 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. 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 as you’d usually do. For rice pudding, it’s important to preserve the starch.
- Garnish with nuts (pistachios, pecans, walnuts…) or fresh fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries…).
Calories: 325kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 12gFat: 13gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 99mgPotassium: 518mgFiber: 1gSugar: 19gVitamin A: 459IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 335mgIron: 1mg
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.
Did you enjoy this recipe?Let me know how it was in the comments below or tag welcome2jordan.blog on Instagram.