An epicurean adventure to: India (with a nod to Iran, formerly Persia)
This wonderful Firni recipe is prepared using ground rice, milk, evaporated milk, sugar, and your choice of flavourings. To create a beautifully aromatic pudding, we incorporate crushed cardamom and rose water.
Our version of this popular Indian dessert is incredibly simple to make. While traditional Firni involves grinding rice grains into a paste, we're taking a shortcut by using pre-ground rice available at most grocery stores.
The evaporated milk adds a slight caramel taste to the Firni, also lending to it being beautifully rich and creamy.
What is Firni and where is it from?
Firni is a sweet and creamy Indian rice dessert often flavoured with cardamom and saffron. It is cooked slowly until it reaches a thick and pudding-like consistency. It's served chilled and can be garnished with nuts and fruit.
Believed to have originated in ancient Persia or the Middle East, Firni was introduced to India by the Mughals. It has become a staple dessert during festive occasions like Diwali, Raksha Bandhan and the Karwa Chauth Festival. It's particularly popular in North India.
Firni is known by various names in different countries and cultures. In India and Pakistan, it is called "Firni" or "Phirni," while in Iran, it is known as "Sholeh Zard". Similar desserts like "Sütlaç" are popular in Turkey, and plain old "rice pudding" is a dessert enjoyed in Western countries.
- What is Firni and where is it from?
- Fast facts - India
- What's to love about this recipe
- Key ingredient notes and substitutions
- How to make Firni
- Make a vegan Firni
- Topping and decoration ideas for Firni
- Make ahead
- What to serve Firni in
- What's the difference between Firni and Kheer?
- Other Asian dishes you might enjoy
Fast facts - India
|Location||India is located in South Asia and shares its borders with several countries including Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.|
|Language||India is a diverse country with numerous languages spoken across its regions. Hindi and English are the official languages of the Indian government, but there are also 21 officially recognized regional languages, including Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati and many more.|
|Population||Circa 1.3 billion people.|
|Trivia||The Golden Temple of Amritsar provides free meals for up to 100,000 people every day, irrespective of their race, religion or social status. Every day. Additionally, the Golden Temple offers free accommodation for visitors who wish to stay overnight.|
What's to love about this recipe
- This Firni recipe is easy to make with only a handful of simple ingredients.
- Step-by-step photos are provided.
- Evaporated milk makes it rich and creamy and also helps to give it a thick texture.
- Adding traditional flavours like cardamom and rose water to Firni gives it an authentic taste.
- You can add your favourite nuts and toppings to customise it.
- Swap the spices and flavourings for your favourites, like cinnamon and saffron.
- This Indian rice pudding is perfect for serving at parties or special celebrations.
- You can make it ahead and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve.
Key ingredient notes and substitutions
We prefer using full-fat milk (whole milk) for an extra creamy pudding, but you can replace it with semi-skimmed milk.
Almond or oat milk can also be used for a lactose-free version. Replace the evaporated milk with the same amount of almond or oat milk.
This is a ground powder made from rice grains. It can usually be found in the dessert section in the grocery store, next to the semolina.
It's not the same as rice flour, which is finer in consistency. Ground rice is a little more coarse.
You can make your own ground rice at home by whizzing rice grains in a food processor, or coffee grinder until you have a sand-like consistency.
Can be replaced with normal granulated sugar.
We use green cardamom. If you haven't got cardamom pods, or a mortar and pestle, you can use half a teaspoon (or more to taste) of cardamom powder.
You can omit the cardamom, or replace it with a different spice, like cinnamon.
The suggested quarter teaspoon in the recipe will provide a gentle hint of rose. We like to use Nielsen-Massey rose water (no affiliation).
When using rose water in recipes, it's important to begin with a tiny amount and taste it before adding more. Rose water can often be stronger in flavour than expected, so it's best to add it gradually.
If you are adding more, be aware that it can make the rice pudding quite sweet and very perfumy, so balance it out by adding slightly less sugar.
You can leave the rose water out entirely if it's not to your liking.
Can be substituted with other nuts of your choosing, like almonds and cashews.
Medium-large saucepan. We love using a heavy-bottomed pan, like a cast iron pot, for making this rice pudding. It gives a good even heat and is ideal for slow cooking over low heat.
You will also need a whisk.
If you are using cardamom pods, you will need a mortar and pestle to crush the seeds.
How to make Firni
- Crush the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Remove the husks and grind the seeds down into a fine powder.
- Roughly chop the pistachios for decoration and set them aside in a small bowl.
- In a medium or large saucepan, add the milk. Over a low heat, bring the milk up to a simmer.
Be very careful not to burn the milk as it will ruin the taste of the Firni, keep the heat low and keep an eye on it. It may be tempting to increase it to medium heat to speed it up, but don't, milk can burn in a split second.
- Add the evaporated milk, ground rice and caster sugar to the hot milk.
- Stir the milk mixture and bring it up to a gentle boil, still over low heat. Slow cooking is key for the perfect Firni.
- Keep whisking for a further 6-8 minutes from boiling point until the Firni is thick with a creamy texture. It will thicken even further when cooling.
To check if the Firni is the right consistency, coat the back of a spoon with it. When you draw a line through the mixture, it should hold its shape without immediately filling in.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the optional ground cardamom and rose water.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming as it cools.
- Allow the pudding to cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.
- When the Firni has cooled, spoon it into individual glass serving bowls or traditional small earthen bowls.
- Sprinkle over the chopped pistachios.
Optional decoration: Rosebuds, or rose petals, edible silver leaf.
- Saffron - A highly prized spice that adds a rich, golden colour and a delicate floral flavour to the Firni.
- Cinnamon - Cinnamon adds warmth and sweetness.
- Nutmeg - Nutmeg adds a subtle, earthy aroma to the Firni.
- Almonds - Almonds can be chopped or ground and added to the Firni for a crunchy texture and nutty flavour.
- Vanilla - A classic flavour that adds a sweet, creamy note to the Firni.
- Coconut - A tropical flavour that adds a sweet, nutty taste. Coconut milk or shredded coconut can be added to the recipe.
- Orange Blossom Water - Adds a sweet, floral flavour to the Firni and is commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern desserts.
- Ginger - A spicy and slightly sweet flavour that adds a warming sensation to the Firni. Ginger can be grated or ground and added to the recipe for a spicy kick.
- Caramel - Add caramel sauce on top of the Firni.
- Coffee - A bold and slightly bitter flavour that can be infused into the Firni by adding instant coffee or coffee extract.
- Coconut and Lime - For a tropical flavour combination, add coconut milk and lime zest.
- Mango - Fresh or canned mango pulp can be added to, or on top of the Firni for a sweet and fruity taste.
Make a vegan Firni
To make this pudding vegan, replace the milk and evaporated milk with almond or oat milk.
Topping and decoration ideas for Firni
- Chopped nuts like almonds, cashews and pistachios.
- Fresh fruit like mango, pineapple and pomegranate seeds.
- Rose petals or dried rose buds.
- Strands of saffron, if it was added as an ingredient.
- Chocolate shavings.
- Whipped cream.
- A sprinkle of cinnamon.
- Edible silver leaf, also known as 'vark' or 'varak', is a popular decoration for desserts in many cultures, including Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It can definitely be used to decorate Firni as well! We added a few shredded bits to our rice pudding and it looks very pretty.
You can store leftover Firni in the fridge, covered tightly in plastic wrap, aluminium foil, or inside an airtight container for up to three days.
Not suitable for freezing.
This dessert is perfect for preparing in advance. It's best enjoyed cold from the fridge, so make it the day before your event and keep it in the fridge overnight.
You can also serve it at room temperature if you prefer.
What to serve Firni in
Firni is traditionally served in small clay pots called "matkas" or "shikoras". These earthen pots are made of clay and are typically unglazed, giving them a rustic and authentic look. Matkas are also used to serve other desserts like Kulfi and Rabri.
In addition to matkas, Firni can also be served in small bowls or cups made of ceramic or glass.
You can also serve it in very small portions by spooning it into large shot glasses.
What's the difference between Firni and Kheer?
Firni is made with ground rice, milk and sugar. It has a smoother texture compared to kheer and is thickened using ground rice instead of whole rice grains. It's served cold.
On the other hand, kheer is made with whole rice grains, milk and sugar. It has a grainier texture compared to Firni and is typically served warm.
So, they are quite similar except for the texture. One uses ground rice while the other uses whole rice grains. Other than that, they share similar ingredients and flavours.
Other Asian dishes you might enjoy
Firni - Creamy rice pudding
- 1 medium saucepan
- 300 millilitre whole milk
- 400 millilitre evaporated milk
- 50 grams ground rice
- 60 grams caster sugar
- 5 cardamom pods - finely ground, optional
- ¼ teaspoon rose water - optional
- 2 teaspoons pistachios - roughly chopped
- Crush the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Remove the husks and ground the seeds down into a fine powder.
- Roughly chop the pistachios for decoration.
Make the Firni
- In a medium saucepan, add the milk. Over a low heat, bring the milk up to a simmer. Be very careful not to burn the milk as it will ruin the taste of the Firni, keep the heat low and keep an eye on it.
- Add the evaporated milk, ground rice and caster sugar. Stir and bring it up to a gentle boil, still over a low heat.
- Keep whisking for a further 6-8 minutes from boiling point until the Firni is thick and creamy. It will thicken even further when cooling.
- Remove from the heat and whisk in the optional cardamom and rose water.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Allow the pudding to cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.
- When the Firni has cooled, spoon into small bowls. Sprinkle over the chopped pistachios. Optional decoration: Rose buds, or rose petals, silver edible foil.
**Nutritional data disclaimer**
Please keep in mind that the nutritional information provided below is calculated by a third party and we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We try our best to give you the most accurate information, but we do not take responsibility for errors that may be present. Also, the nutritional value of the recipe may change depending on the exact brands and products used. We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalised advice on your dietary needs.