Almond & Rose Rice Pudding – Muhallabia

I am not quite sure anything else evokes memories of my childhood more than this fragrant and exotic rice milk pudding. It was hands down my favourite as a youngster and despite its sheer simplicity it tastes utterly delicious and delightful. Not only was it a treat or dessert but it was also prepared for me when I was feeling a little ill or had an upset tummy. The gentle combo of milk and rice with a little ground almonds, sugar and rosewater contained magical properties and I knew from the first mouthful it was going to make me feel better.

Me with my Grandmother “Bibi” Fadhila at 3 years old

There are many different recipes and versions of this quintessentially middle eastern dessert and many would argue their case in point for the differing ingredient ratios. You can decide if you like it more silky or if you prefer it more textured and thick; every family likes it their own way!

The lengthy stirring of this dessert is the only demanding thing – but it’s truly necessary if you want to get the best texture and well worth it.  I choose to see it as a meditation instead of a chore and I believe that stirring with intention and love makes this dessert even more special. Some versions add corn-starch which will thicken it faster and come together quicker – but in my humble opinion you lose the silky and dreamy texture of the original (and more superior) version.

Ingredients – Serves 4-6

Time: 45mins – 4 hours chilling time – or overnight

  • 1 litre Whole fat milk (you can use a creamy plant-based milk instead – will affect colour slightly)
  • 45g ground white basmati rice (grind in a spice grinder)
  • 2 tbsp ground blanched almonds (or almond flour – same thing)
  • 75g Golden Castor Sugar (can use a light brown sugar but will affect colour)
  • 2 tbsp orange blossom water OR rosewater – or 1 of each (the best quality you can find)
  • 5 bruised cardamom pods (just press the pods with the back of a spoon to split them)
  • To decorate: toasted flaked almonds, pomegranate seeds, pistachio flakes, dried rose petals.

  1. Place the cardamom pods and milk in a heavy based saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring to just below boiling point and then add sugar and stir for 1 minute until sugar dissolves.
  2. Take a ladleful out of the warmed milk and mix it with the ground rice and almonds to make a light paste.
  3. Add this paste to the rest of the milk and pods in the saucepan and reduce the heat to a low. Simmer very gently for 30-40 mins minutes until mixture thickens, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan.
  4. At the end of cooking time add your orange blossom or rose water or combination of both. You need to add these ingredients at the end so you don’t lose their flavours.
  5. Remove from the heat when it resembles a smooth, not-too-thick, porridge with a drop consistency. (It will thicken as it cools). Give it a really good stir and remove the cardamom pods.
  6. At this point – if you want a really silky texture then blend with a stick blender or push through a sieve – a little more effort but worth it. You may be left with some thick starchy rice in the sieve – you can discard that.
  7. Place the entire contents into a bowl and cover with a cling film seal – placing the cling film on the surface of the Muhallabia so that a “skin” doesn’t develop on top of it.
  8. Depending on the occasion I like to serve it in pretty glasses or bowls and top with toasted flaked almonds and pomegranate seeds. You can make this as rustic as you like or take the time to decorate.


I would definitely make double quantities of this dessert – you will regret it if you don’t as even though it’s easy to make it does take time and it will keep for up to a week in a an airtight storage container.

I used stewed rhubarb for decoration on one of the dishes as I love the contrast of tart rhubarb and sweet milky creaminess of the rice pudding.