South Indian Coconut Rice Pudding

Maunika Gowardhan
Recipe by
Maunika Gowardhan

Did you know that India's Jews come from four distinct groups and can trace their roots there back to ancient times? As in all Jewish communities around the world, Indian Jews translated their culinary tastes and the laws of kashrut to embrace the foods of the region. Here's a recipe that's perfect for Shavuot and all year 'round.

My craving for a hearty rice pudding led to this gorgeous dish. Rice puddings are a very common snack and dessert in Indian communities. My mum would cook us Indian rice pudding regularly with spices and toasted nuts. Southern Indian rice pudding, also known as payasam, is similar in ways to the kheer Indian rice pudding. Traditional payasam is made with rice and is a tad milky in consistency. There is a variety of ways to cook this dish and local communities also make a delicious version with broken or cracked wheat.

I have eaten ‘Thengai paal Payasam’ at weddings and pujas in the past. Coconut rice pudding is full of flavor, decadent, and almost always makes me go for second helpings. Topped with fried pistachios, cashew nuts, and puffy raisins; this pudding is a mouthful of gorgeousness. My favourite are the raisins, so asking mum to add extra raisins was the done thing. I have used jaggery to cook the payasam, which lends a lovely sweetness but also gives it that caramel color. Palm sugar or unrefined brown sugar would be a perfect alternative.

Learn more about the history of Indian Jewry and find more Jewish Indian recipes.

1/3 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup full fat milk
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup jaggery or unrefined brown sugar
5 cardamom pods; seeds only - pounded to a fine powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1 tablespoon pistachios
1 tablespoon raisins
Pinch of saffron

To prepare the pudding

  • In a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan add the rice, full fat milk, coconut milk over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently.
  • Reduce to a simmer and add the jaggery and cardamom powder.
  • Cook for an hour, stirring often and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan making sure it doesn’t stick. Once the rice is cooked and the pudding is a creamy consistency turn the heat off and cover with a lid. Leave to cool slightly.

To prepare the topping

  • In a frying pan heat the butter and add cashew nuts and brown slightly. Add the pistachios and raisins and fry for a few seconds.
  • Pour the fried nuts and butter over the payasam and serve warm.

    Raised in Mumbai, Chef Maunika Gowardhan's food influences stem from traditional home cooking, and creating authentic and delicious Indian dishes full of flavour and spice. She is the author of Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian Home CookingMaunika’s career in Indian food, spanning over a decade, has stemmed from her love for authentic flavours, cooking techniques, and being able to share a fresh perspective on the cuisine. She regularly contributes to a number of publications, including the Sunday Times, Telegraph, and Jamie Magazine, and is the contributing editor for Vogue India where she shares all the latest on the global Indian food scene. Maunika has cooked curries with TV chef Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal.