Talking of dessert, one should never miss Kheer, an Indian traditional Sweet Rice Pudding. This dessert is very simple to make, and it has been around forever. In India, kheer is one dessert that almost everyone grew up eating on a regular basis. Though this dessert is simple, it is served on almost every special occasion such as festivals or celebrations. According to every Indian I have met, kheer is the dessert that reminds them of home.
What is Kheer?
Kheer or payasam is a traditional rice pudding made for a lot of different occasions in Indian families. The word kheer or payasam is often used interchangeably as both are derived from the Sanskrit terms for milk. Basically, kheer is basmati rice cooked in milk and sugar to perfection. Although it is that simple, Kheer has long been a part of the ancient Indian diet, and its origin is dated back to around the fourteenth century. Back then, kheer was just as popular a dessert as it is nowadays. Unlike many other popular desserts around the world that started as a fancy dish to serve the royalty, kheer started as a simple sweet treat for everyone. Back then, millets were used instead of basmati rice. It was a very common practice at the time to use millets to prepare different confections. In addition to rice/millets, sugar, and milk, other spices, such as cardamom and cinnamon have also been used to create the aromatic flavor in kheer.
The reason kheer has been widely adopted as a sweet dish around the country was because of its appearance as well as its ingredients. Kheer’s popularity was partly associated with its color and components. According to a religious belief, rice was known for life-sustaining qualities. Its color is white, which represents the symbol of purity and divinity. A lot of the time, kheer is served in many different religious rituals around the country. Another reason Indian people loved kheer is that its ingredients can be found anywhere. No matter where you live, it does not have to be India, you will always be able to find ingredients to make kheer. Since its main ingredients are rice, milk, and sugar, you can easily find them in any country. For its flavor, if you cannot find cardamom, which is rare since cardamom is a popular ingredient, you can substitute it with cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron, pistachios, or even almonds. Nowadays, kheer has a lot of variations thanks to the creativity of chefs around the world. Instead of using white rice, we can also use carrots or tapioca pearls to make kheer.
Last but not least, another reason I find kheer to be very convenient is that it can be both vegetarian or vegan. In the traditional recipe, kheer is already a vegetarian dish. It only has rice, milk, sugar, and spices. However, nowadays as more and more people are following different diets, they can easily substitute the original ingredients with their ingredients of choice to make the perfect kheer to their taste. If you are vegan, full-fat milk or cream will not make your list, so you can just use nut milk, such as oat milk, almond milk, coconut milk, or even macadamia milk, instead. If you cannot eat sugar for whatever reason, dietary sweeteners such as truvia, equal, or sweet’n low will work just fine.
I still remember the first time I had kheer and immediately fell in love with it. My co-worker brought kheer to our company’s party, and everyone loved it. She used truvia instead of sugar so people who had diabetes were still able to enjoy her homemade kheer. According to her, she missed her family in India, and the work-family was her second family, so she decided to bring this sweet treat to share with everyone.
Have you had kheer before? If not, try it some days. You can either order it from any Indian restaurant, or you can make it at home.