Vegan Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding)

Vegan Kheer: Indian Rice Pudding Recipe
Kheer (or chawal ki kheer in Hindi) is a rice pudding that’s beloved by many Indian households. It’s the one dessert I always ate as a child growing up in India, especially if there was a celebration to be had. My own Indian rice kheer recipe has just a few simple ingredients – milk, rice, sugar, and spices — making it easily accessible as a staple dessert in any home. Kheer is delicious, comforting, and so easy to make, and this vegan version is no exception, substituting the dairy with a delicious combination of coconut and almond milk. The end result is a decadent rice pudding topped with fragrant saffron, cardamom, and chopped pistachios. Yum!

Indian Rice Pudding (Kheer)

Kheer is a delicious Indian rice pudding, and this vegan version is made with yummy ingredients. It is the quintessential Indian dessert that every Indian grows up eating!

  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Allergens: Tree Nuts
  • Servings: 10

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil or vegan butter (I prefer the Miyoko’s Creamery brand)
  • 3 green cardamom pods (slightly crushed)
  • 2 cups almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 5 tablespoon coconut sugar
  • 3 tablespoon chopped nuts (pistachios, cashews, almonds)
  • 2 tablespoon raisins (optional)
  • 1 pinch Pinch of saffron (crush saffron strands and add to 1-2 tablespoons of warmed almond milk) (crush saffron strands and add 1-2 tbsp warm almond milk)

Instructions

  1. Rinse the basmati rice until the water turns clear, then soak the rice in water for 20 minutes. Drain the rice using a colander and set aside.

  2. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan on medium heat, then add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or vegan butter, the drained rice, and the crushed green cardamom pods, mixing well and cooking for another minute.

  3. Add the almond milk and coconut milk to the pan and stir well. Set the heat to medium-high and let the milk come to a boil.

  4. Once the milk comes to a boil, lower the heat to low and let the kheer cook for about 25 minutes on low heat, stirring every 2 minutes or so. The milk will reduce considerably after 25 minutes, the kheer will look thick, and the rice will be completely cooked. (If you want super-thick kheer, cook for 15 more minutes.)

  5. Add in the coconut sugar, chopped nuts, raisins, and saffron mixed with milk, then cook for another 5 minutes. (Don't worry if your kheer doesn't look very thick at this point; it will continue to thicken as it cools down.)

  6. Let the kheer cool completely and serve immediately or store it in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days in the fridge or for 3 months in the freezer.

BON APPÉTIT!

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN KHEER AND PHIRNI?

Similar to kheer, phirni or firni is also made with milk, sugar, cardamom, saffron, and sometimes vanilla and rose water. Phirni is a popular North Indian rice pudding that is said to have originated in ancient Persia during the Mughal dynasty and later introduced to India. The difference between the two is that kheer is made with whole long-grain basmati rice, whereas phirni uses ground rice and as a result is much smoother and creamier — the ground rice acts as a thickening agent when combined with milk, and cooks faster than kheer because there is less milk to boil off. Additionally, phirni tends to be served chilled, whereas kheer can be served hot or chilled.

Vegan Kheer: Indian Rice Pudding Recipe

WHAT DOES KHEER TASTE LIKE?

That’s easy: rice pudding! Kheer is the ultimate comfort food in Southern Indian cuisine and a staple dessert worldwide, making the variation possibilities endless. While the word “pudding” may be off-putting, you definitely need to be open-minded about trying Indian kheer. Classic Southern-style pudding tends to be thick and creamy, whereas kheer is a bit looser and relies upon add-ins such as raisins, nuts, and spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and saffron. In my vegan kheer recipe, the milk and basmati rice are slowly cooked down and then further enhanced by the addition of coconut sugar and traditional spices. The basmati rice provides for a mellow base, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’ll be bland! This rich and velvety rice pudding will have you coming back for seconds…maybe even thirds!

IS KHEER EATEN HOT OR COLD?

What’s amazing about kheer is the difference in taste when serving it hot or chilled. It’s really a personal preference — many like it straight from the refrigerator; others like it hot off the stove. Well, why should you have to choose? If you make vegan Indian kheer and somehow there are leftovers (which does not happen in my house!), enjoy it warm immediately after making it and then have some the next day cold for a snack. It’s heavenly either way!

WHICH RICE SHOULD I USE TO MAKE kheer?

In India when we’re talking about classic kheer, we’re generally referring to the traditional way of making kheer with long-grain basmati rice. You can also use short-grain rice or medium-grain rice such as arborio. Arborio is a great alternative to basmati because it’s high in amylopectin starch, which provides creaminess to any dish you use it in (think risotto).

I’ve seen kheer made with other creative alternatives like cracked wheat and tapioca pearls. A few grain-free options that you could also try are shredded carrots, finely chopped sunflower seeds and almonds, and even vermicelli.

WHAT INGREDIENTS DO I NEED TO MAKE KHEER?

  • Basmati Rice: White basmati rice is traditionally used, but if you want to use brown basmati rice just cook the rice in water about 30 minutes ahead of time, then follow the recipe directions above starting with Step 2.
  • Coconut Oil or Vegan Butter: Kheer is usually made with ghee, so coconut oil is going to be the best vegan swap here.
  • Coconut sugar: I use coconut sugar for pretty much everything! From desserts to balancing savory dishes, this is the healthiest vegan sugar you can use.
  • Green Cardamom Pods: Use both the seeds inside the pod and the pod itself in the kheer. Slightly crush it with the flat part of your knife.
  • Nuts (Pistachios, Cashews, Almonds): Crushed nuts add texture to the kheer.
  • Saffron: All you need is a few strands of saffron and some warm milk to dissolve the crushed strands.
  • Vegan Milk: I use almond and coconut milk in equal portions, but you could also just use 4 cups of almond milk thickened with ¼ cup of cashews in a blender. (The key to kheer is to cook it on low heat and stir often because otherwise your milk will burn fast; don’t worry about the high milk to rice ratio (4:1/2), though; it’ll thicken during the cooking process AND even after when it’s cooling.)

If you love this kheer recipe, you should try my other vegan Indian desserts! A staple at any occasion in India, Besan Ladoos are ball-shaped sweets made from chickpea flour, nuts, coconut, spices, and coconut sugar. Another one of my favorites is Burfi, a dessert similar to fudge but slightly earthier and traditionally made with some combination of milk, sugar, ghee, and flavorings. My vegan version is made from semolina, coconut flour, and chopped nuts — you won’t even be able to tell the difference!

Well my fellow rice pudding / kheer lovers, this recipe is for you! I can’t wait for you to try it. Please feel free to leave a comment below and tell me how you served this dish!