Paal Payasam| Rice Kheer Recipe

Paal Payasam is Tamil for Chawal Ki Kheer, a dessert made using milk and rice. ‘Paal’ means ‘milk’ in Tamil, while ‘payasam‘ means ‘kheer‘.

This dessert is served on auspicious occasions like weddings and poojas, as well as on festivals like Pongal and Janmashtami. The process of making Paal Payasam is slightly tedious, but the end result – creamy, rich and delicious – is so much worth all the effort!

Delectable Paal Payasam or Rice Kheer

Let me show you how we prepare Paal Payasam in our family, in today’s blog post. Do try out this Rice Kheer recipe this Janmashtami and share your feedback – I would love to hear how you and your family liked it!

Other Payasam recipes on the blog

I have quite a few other recipes for Payasam on the blog. You might also want to take a look at them.

The making of Paal Payasam

The traditional way of making Paal Payasam is by adding milk to rice, letting the rice cook in the milk in a heavy pan, reducing it till it is nice and thick and creamy. It is a slightly tedious process, as I was saying earlier, taking up over 30 minutes at the least. There are shortcuts to this, but there is a definite charm to Paal Payasam that is slow-cooked, in the long-winded old-fashioned way.

Some people soak the rice before adding it to the milk, for it to cook faster. We don’t do this – we wash and dry the rice first, then saute it in some ghee before cooking it with the milk. We also keep the grains of rice whole, while some pulse them into grits to make the payasam.

Some pressure-cook the rice before it goes into the milk, to be cooked further in a pan. I have also seen friends make Paal Payasam from beginning to end in a pressure cooker. I have stuck to the traditional way of making this, as passed on from my grandmother to my mother and from her to me, somehow hesitant to take shortcuts as far as this beautiful dessert is concerned.

We keep our Paal Payasam really simple, with minimal embellishments, as you will see in the recipe below.

Ingredients used in Paal Payasam

Paal Payasam is a five-ingredient recipe. It needs simply five basic ingredients – milk, sugar, ghee, rice, and cardamom powder for flavouring.

It is best to use full-fat milk, in order to get a lusciously creamy payasam. Regular granulated sugar is added in, to lend a lovely cream-white colour to the dessert.

You can use any variety of rice you prefer. In Kerala, this kheer is made using matta red rice. The fragrant Basmati or Gobindobhog rice also go very well in this recipe. We prefer using an everyday rice variety like Sona Masoori or Kollam.

There is very little ghee that goes into this payasam, only for sauteeing the rice. We keep our Paal Payasam really simple, with no dried fruit or nuts added to it. If you so prefer, you may fry some cashewnuts and raisins in a little ghee and add it to the payasam too.

We typically use only powdered green cardamom to flavour this kheer. Of course, you may add in a few strands of saffron and/or other flavouring agents if you so prefer.

How to make Paal Payasam, the traditional way

Here is how we make it.

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

1. 2 tablespoons of rice

2. 1/2 tablespoon ghee

3. 1 litre of full-cream milk

4. 1/4 cup sugar

5. 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder


Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

1. Wash the rice thoroughly. Drain out all the water from it.

2. Spread the washed and drained rice out on a clean kitchen cloth. Rub it gently with the cloth to remove as much of the moisture as is possible.

3. Now, heat the ghee in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the washed and drained rice and reduce the flame down to medium.

4. Saute the rice for 1-2 minutes, or till they puff up slightly as shown in the picture above.

Top left: Step 5, Top centre and right: Step 6, Bottom left, centre and right: Steps 7, 8 and 9

5. At this stage, add the milk to the pan. Continue to keep the flame at medium. Mix well.

6. Let the milk come to a boil, then reduce the flame to low-medium. Allow the milk to cook on low-medium flame till the grains of rice are cooked and break easily as shown in the picture above. This might take 30-45 minutes. You will need to keep stirring intermittently to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan, and scraping the cream that forms on the sides of the pan back into the milk. Do keep checking the grains of rice intermittently too, so you know when they get cooked. By this time, the milk would have reduced to about half of its original volume and thickened quite a bit.

7. When the grains of rice have cooked and easily break between your fingers, add the sugar to the pan. Mix well. Continue to keep the flame at low-medium. Add a little more milk if the mixture has gotten too thick – you might have to adjust the sugar in this case too.

8. Let the sugar get completely dissolved in the milk. Simmer on low-medium flame for 2-3 minutes, then switch off the gas.

9. Mix in the cardamom powder. Your Paal Payasam is ready. Serve it hot, warm, at room temperature or chilled, as per personal preferences.

Tips & Tricks

1. I have used Nandini full-cream milk here.

2. Adjust the quantity of sugar as per personal taste preferences. The above quantities work perfectly for us.

3. Remember to add the sugar only after the rice has been cooked. The rice will not cook well if the sugar has been added beforehand.

4. I have used Sona Masoori rice here.

5. A few saffron strands can be added to the Paal Payasam too. We usually don’t.

6. You can fry a few cashewnuts and raisins in some ghee and add them to the Paal Payasam, once it is ready. We usually don’t do this.

7. For best results, the Paal Payasam should be cooked on low-medium flame only. Remember to stir intermittently to prevent sticking. You don’t have to keep standing near the gas constantly – just monitoring the milk mixture as it cooks and stirring it at intervals is good enough.

8. The Paal Payasam thickens up further upon cooling. If it becomes too thick, you can dilute it a little using a bit of boiled and cooled milk, before serving.

9. Use a heavy-bottomed pan to cook the Paal Payasam.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me in your comments!


3 thoughts on “Paal Payasam| Rice Kheer Recipe

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