Normally I’m not a fan of rice pudding.  If it’s served to me, I will eat it but it’s never the thing I pick out on the menu.  I watch other people go gaga over it but to me it usually just tastes like milky rice.  What’s to love???  I also am not the biggest fan of Middle Eastern desserts.  I often find them to be too syrupy sweet or too perfumey.  I prefer my desserts to be creamy or chocolaty or buttery or preferably all of the above.  However, I like this rice pudding.  A lot.  It’s the perfect balance of sweet, savory and fragrant with a texture that’s unique from all other rice puddings I have tried.  It’s easy to make but does require a bit of time and elbow grease and it’s totally worth it.  I thought it might be a tough sell to a crowd but having served it at two different dinner parties I can say that it’s a hit.

Most other rice pudding recipes that I’ve seen or tasted have a ton of dairy in them.  I love that this one can be made from pantry staples and it comes out tasting much greater than the sum of its parts.  No milky rice and it’s vegan.

cooking rice for rice pudding

This rice has been washed clean a few times. I thought this was strange since you’d think you’d want the starch in there to make it stick together but trust me, it comes together even after the washing.

Boiling rice for pudding

After you add the sugar it changes texture a bit. You want to be mindful of the rice at this point because starch and sugar love to stick to the bottom of a hot pan so keep stirring and don’t leave this unattended for more than a couple minutes at a time.

saffron rice pudding cooking down

This is after the addition of saffron water, rose water, cardamom, and coconut oil and almost an hour and a half of cooking. You can barely see any rice grains left and it’s coming together nicely!

letting the saffron rice pudding set

You can spray the pan first to make it easier to dislodge later. This can be served in the pan like this or cut it into squares and serve them on a platter garnished with slivered almonds, pistachios and dried rose petals. It’s as beautiful as it is delicious.

I guess the closest comparison to the texture of this dessert would be custard.  It’s definitely not as creamy as a custard but it’s smooth and holds it’s shape.  You can taste the nuttiness of the rice and the fragrance of the saffron and rosewater but it’s not overpowering.  It’s great as dessert but also makes a fantastic snack or breakfast.  As they say in Iran, Noosh eh Jan!

Delightful Recipe

Serves 12
Adapted from Family Spice

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cup basmati rice, uncooked
  • 8 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron, crushed and steeped in 2 Tablespoons hot water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 4 Tablespoon almond slivers
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup rose water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoon pistachios
  • In a large bowl, add the rice and then add enough cold water to cover by a couple inches.  Stir the rice with your hands, massaging the grains, rinsing off the starch gently until the water is milky.  Strain and then repeat two more times until the water is translucent.  The rice is going to cook for a long time so you want to get rid of some of the starch.
  • In a large dutch oven add the washed rice, 8 cups of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
  • Bring the rice to a boil and skim the surface of foam as it forms.
  • Cover and simmer over medium low heat for 30 minutes until rice is over cooked and very soft.
  • Stir in 3 cups of sugar and cook for 20 more minutes stirring almost constantly.  I mean, you can take a pee break but make it a quick one and give the pot a good stir before you walk off.
  • After the rice and sugar have cooked for 20 minutes, stir in the saffron water, rose water, coconut oil, cardamom and 2 Tablespoons of almond slivers.
  • Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  You don’t want the pudding to stick to the bottom of the pot and burn.  If the pudding gets super thick before the 45 minutes is up, just add more water in Tablespoon increments.
  • After the pudding is done cooking, pour it into a shallow baking dish and spread into an even layer.  Put it in the fridge to set for a few hours or overnight.  When it’s set, cut it into squares and serve dusted with cinnamon and topped with pistachios, slivered almonds and crushed rose petals.
saffron rice pudding

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