Mama’s Punjabi Recipes: Phirni (Cream of Rice Pudding)


Phirni is often confused with kheer but actually it is quite different both in presentation and taste. It is a simple, easy and quick desert to make and most people find it delicious. There are several variations of the basic phirni recipe, like the badami phirni (with almonds), kesari (saffron), gulab (rose), piste (pistachio), aam (mango) and chocolate.

The original “phirni” dish is believed to have originated in the Middle East and traveled to India with the beginning of the Mughal dynasty. This dish is prepared universally in Hindu and Muslim homes to celebrate the festivals of Eid, Holi and Diwali.

And to make it even simpler, there is an easier way to start than the original method that uses soaking and grinding the raw rice with milk. This is the recipe that I have described which uses cream of rice powder, which is now widely available in packets, just like cream of wheat.

Just like its close cousin, kheer, phirni has become popular with many young people as a chic dessert especially when it is served in small earthen dishes, garnished with designs of saffron, almonds and pistachios. Recently, it has been showing up on many wedding parties as an easy to serve and eat desert.

½ gallon doodh (milk) – whole is best, but low-fat will do too
½ packet (6oz) cream of rice (rice)
¼ cup chinni (sugar) – use more as desired
¼ tsp ilachi powder (cardamom powder)

1.     Pour the cold milk in a saucepan or small pot, add in the cream of rice and mix well.

2.    Place over medium heat and stir continuously as the mixture starts to thicken up quickly. Make sure that the mixture does not stick to the sides or the bottom and also does not start to form little clumps.

3.   Once the mixture appears to be thick enough, but can still be stirred, add the sugar while continuing to stir, for about 10 minutes.

4.     Turn the heat off and let it cool down. Sprinkle with the ilachi powder.
5.     Phirni is usually eaten cold, so refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.

mamas recipe inside3

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.



One of the biggest reasons that many people do not want to cook at home is that they say the preparation of the vegetables takes too long. After a long day at work, it is often hard to get the energy to cook a desi meal at home, so here are a couple of shortcuts.

The hardest part of cooking vegetables, even those with a simple recipe, is the cleaning and cutting them up, which can take upto an hour by the time you cut up all the different ingredients. Try cleaning, washing and cutting the raw vegetables on a weekend or an off evening and then storing them in ziplock plastic bags in the crisper section of the refrigerator.

The other part that will cut down the cooking time is to prepare the masala or spice paste for several days at a time and storing it in the freezer in small containers. Then, when the time is ready to pour in the spices, simply take a tablespoon or two, depending on the quantity of food to be prepared, and put it into the dish.