Phirni (Firni, Indian Rice Pudding) is a traditional Indian dessert made using milk and rice. This Mughlai sweet is a treat to eat and is very easy to make. Here is how to make it (vegetarian, gluten-free).
Phirni (Firni, Indian Rice Pudding) is a rich and creamy traditional Indian dessert made by slow-cooking ground rice with whole milk and flavoring it with saffron and cardamom. Slivered nuts are added to it for a lovely crunch.
Phirni recipe was brought to Kashmir by the Mughals, but it is now popular all over India and even Pakistan.
Since this has been made from the times of kings, some people also call it shahi phirni.
Phirni was traditionally served in earthenware pots known as mitti ke kulhad or shakore. In ancient times, before the invention of refrigerators, it was customary to serve Phirni in clay pots for a reason. This was because it remained chilled for extended periods, giving it a unique and delightful taste.
This rich, creamy, and indulgent dessert is apt for special celebrations or festive occasions like Diwali, Raksha Bandhan, Karwa Chauth, and any special occasion.
My traditional phirni recipe serves 6, but you can easily double or triple it.
Here are some more Indian dessert recipes you may like
- Seviyan Kheer
- Atta Halwa
- Carrot Kheer
- Makhana Kheer
- Sabudana Kheer
- Badam Kheer
- Lauki Halwa
- Kesar Elaichi Shrikhand
- Lachha Rabdi
- Sheer Khurma
You will find all the ingredients to make this recipe in any Indian grocery store.
Rice – Use any flavorful white rice to make this dessert. I use basmati rice, but Gobindo Bhog, Indrayani, Ambemohar, etc., can be used too.
Jasmine rice also works excellently in this recipe.
You can replace white rice with brown rice or black rice for a healthier dessert.
Milk – Whole milk (full-fat milk) is best for making phirni. I do not recommend using skim or low-fat milk to make this dessert.
Ghee – A little ghee gives a nice earthy flavor to this dessert.
Saffron and Rose Water – Flavor the rice pudding with saffron and rosewater for a traditional taste.
Nuts – Garnish the rice phirni with slivered almonds and pistachios for a lovely crunch.
Sugar – Adjust the amount of sugar according to your taste and preference. I do not suggest using jaggery or any other sweetener to make this dessert, as it will take away from the authentic taste.
If saffron is unavailable, you can make firni recipe without it.
You can add a little cardamom powder or kewra water to flavor the phirni.
How To Make Phirni
Rinse 3 tablespoon white rice with water and soak it in 1 cup of water for an hour.
Drain the water. Add the soaked rice to the small jar of a blender or a small food processor with 1 tablespoon water, and blend to make a coarse paste.
Do not make a fine paste; otherwise, the texture of firni will not be great.
Scrape the sides of the jar a few times while blending.
Heat 1 teaspoon ghee in a non-stick heavy bottom medium-sized pan over medium heat.
When the ghee is hot, add 32 fl oz (1 liter) of whole milk to the pan and bring it to a boil.
Stir frequently while heating to avoid scorching the milk at the bottom of the pan.
Add the ground rice paste and 15-20 saffron strands to the milk and stir well.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for 40-50 minutes until the phirni has thickened, stirring at regular intervals to avoid the formation of lumps.
The consistency of cooked phirni should be like that of a thick custard.
Keep scraping the sides of the pan regularly and add the thickened milk back to the pan.
Keep in mind that the phirni will further thicken upon cooling.
Add ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon rose water to the pan and mix well. You can adjust the sugar according to your taste.
Cook for another minute until the sugar is dissolved.
Transfer the phirni into individual serving small earthen bowls. You can use glass or ceramic bowls too. You can also serve the phini in one large serving bowl instead of serving it individually.
Garnish with slivered almonds and pistachios. Dried rose petals can also be used for garnishing.
Cover the bowls with plastic wrap so the phirni doesn’t absorb the smell from the fridge, and refrigerate it for 4-5 hours before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
To make it vegan, cook rice in one cup of water and saffron strands on low heat until softened. Then add 3 cups of coconut milk or almond milk and sugar and cook for 5-6 minutes on low heat. Add sugar and cook for another minute. Do not add ghee to this recipe. Garnish and serve.
Cook the phirni as per the instructions given on the recipe card. Once it is reduced to half and the rice is cooked correctly, add ½ cup of sweetened condensed milk. Taste the phirni and add sugar if required. If not, skip adding the sugar. Chill and serve!
This dessert is made with milk and rice, similar to rice kheer (another Indian rice pudding). The difference between kheer and phirni is that kheer is made using whole rice grains, while rice is ground coarsely to make phirni. Phirni is also thicker and creamier in consistency than kheer. Kheer can be served hot or cold, but phirni is always served chilled.
Phirni doesn’t set if it is made using low-fat milk or if it is not cooked well. Always use whole milk to make this dessert and cook it until the consistency is like a thick custard or porridge.
Yes, you can grind the dry rice to make a coarse powder instead of soaking the rice and making a paste. Then use the powder to make the dessert. Make sure not to make a fine powder; otherwise, firni will turn out gooey.
Phirni can be flavored using various ingredients, and you can make many variations of this dessert.
Add cardamom powder or kewra essence for a nice flavor.
Add pureed seasonal fruits and make variations like Mango Phirni, Apple, Strawberry, or Orange Phirni.
Rose syrup (rooh af za) and gulkand can also be added to make a rose-flavored phirni.
Add almond paste to this north Indian dessert and make badam phirni or add saffron and roasted makhana and make Kesar Makhana Phirni.
Add some Khoya (reduced milk solids) to make Shahi Kesar Khoya Phirni.
You can substitute rice with sooji (semolina) and make a delicious Sooji Firni. It is an excellent option to avoid rice in your meals.
Phirni is always served chilled, so plan it a few hours before serving it.
Phirni was traditionally served in individual clay bowls (earthen pots) called shakore which absorbed the extra moisture making it creamier and richer. It also gives a pleasant earthy aroma to it. But you can serve this creamy pudding in your regular serving bowls.
Firni will last in the refrigerator for about 2 days when stored in an airtight container.
It is not recommended to freeze it, as it will curdle when you thaw it.
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Phirni Recipe (Firni, Indian Rice Pudding)
- 3 tablespoons raw white rice
- 34 fluid ounces whole milk (full-fat milk) (1 liter)
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 15-20 strands saffron (optional)
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- ½ teaspoon rose water
- almond and pistachio slivers for garnishing
- Rinse rice with water and soak it in 1 cup of water for an hour.
- Drain the water and add the rice to the small jar of a blender along with 1 tablespoon water and blend to make a coarse paste. Scrape the sides of the jar a few times while blending.
- Heat ghee in a non-stick heavy bottom medium-sized pan over medium heat.
- When the ghee is hot, add milk to the pan and bring it to a boil. Stir frequently while heating to avoid scorching the milk at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the ground rice and saffron strands to the milk and stir well.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook for 40-50 minutes until the phirni has thickened, stirring at regular intervals while cooking to avoid the formation of lumps.
- The consistency of phirni should be like that of a thick custard.
- Keep scraping the sides of the pan regularly and add the thickened milk back to the pan.
- Keep in mind that the phirni will further thicken upon cooling.
- Add sugar and rose water to the pan and mix well. You can adjust the sugar according to your taste. Cook for another minute until the sugar is dissolved.
- Transfer the phirni into individual serving earthen bowls. You can use glass or ceramic bowls too. You can also serve the phini in one large serving bowl instead of serving it individually.
- Garnish with slivered almonds and pistachios. Dried rose petals can also be used for garnishing. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap so that the phirni doesn’t absorb the smell from the fridge, and refrigerate it for 4-5 hours before serving.