Rice payasam or kheer

Rice Payasam or Kheer

Enriched with a tasty coconut flavour, rice payasam, or rice kheer, is similar to a western rice pudding but is a traditional festival food from the Karalan area of South India and contains the region’s signature nut and spice twists. It may look slightly bland but it packs a flavoursome punch.

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  • 5¼ ounces / 150g basmati rice
  • 14 fluid ounces / 400ml coconut milk
  • 3½ ounces / 100g light soft brown sugar
  • 7 fluid ounces / 200ml milk
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 1 tablespoon of ghee
  • ¾ ounce / 25g cashews
  • ¾ ounce / 25g pistachios
  • ¾ ounce / 25g raisins
  • cinnamon


Soak the rice in cold water for thirty minutes before rinsing thoroughly 2 or 3 times.

Place the rice in a medium saucepan with the coconut milk and 100ml water and cook on a low-medium heat, stirring every now and again to make sure it doesn’t stick, for 20 minutes until the rice is soft.

Add the sugar and milk and cook for a further 20 minutes on a low heat.

While this is cooking, gently fry the cashews in the ghee until they are a nice golden colour, before stirring in the raisins.

Remove the rice from the heat, stir in the cardamom and serve with the nuts and raisins as a garnish.

Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top to taste.


Some form of this dish is almost always a staple of any festival throughout South Asia, whether eaten by the people or offered to the gods. The payasam, being the version traditional to South India, is offered to the gods but also is eaten first by the people at any formal or festival occasion before any other foods.

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