This sweet, creamy, milky rice pudding is a popular Indian dessert that you can make in minutes, thanks to the instant pot!
What is Kheer?
Kheer is a creamy rice pudding that requires three essential ingredients: rice, milk, and sugar. We almost always have those three ingredients at my house, making this an easy dessert to throw together at the last minute. If you’re dairy-free or vegan, full-fat canned coconut milk works as a great substitute for whole milk in this recipe.
In addition to the three main ingredients, you can also add spices like cardamom and saffron to the kheer. You can also top it with crushed nuts and raisins. These extra ingredients add flavor, aroma, and texture to the kheer.
If you’ve never tried kheer before, it’s essentially a milky pudding-like dessert with a thinner consistency than American rice pudding. Even though most folks refer to kheer as an “Indian rice pudding,” I’d say it’s actually more like a dessert soup. I guess “dessert soup” isn’t really a thing, though.
The great thing about kheer is that you can serve it year-round. When the weather is cold, I prefer to serve warm kheer, and when it’s hot outside, I like to serve it chilled.
Origins of Kheer
If you’re interested in the history behind this dessert, in his book, The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson writes that kheer likely originated in Persia, “where a similar dessert is known as sheer birinj (rice pudding).” Sheer is a Persian word that translates to milk. The word kheer, derived from Sanskrit, means milk too (though interestingly enough, in Persian, the word kheer means something entirely different… a bodily part I won’t mention here, but perhaps my Persian readers will get a good chuckle).
But Indian food historian K.T. Achaya writes in his book, Indian Food: A Historical Companion, that payasa, a dessert made of “rice cooked in milk and sugar” is mentioned in Buddhist literature, which would likely predate the sheer.
To me, the idea of combining milk, sugar, and rice seems pretty obvious, especially when you’re working with few ingredients, so I can see how both of these origin stories might be true. Perhaps one version was already present and then later given another name? After all, the word kheer is typically used in north India (which was conquered by the Mughals), whereas in south India, this type of dessert is referred to as payasam.
Anyway, you can make many different kheer varieties, but the most popular type of kheer is made with rice. This type of kheer is also known as chawal ki kheer, which translates to “rice kheer.” I also have recipes for carrot kheer and a south Indian dal kheer, better known as moong dal payasam.
Why Make Kheer in an Instant Pot + My Secret to Keeping Milk from Burning:
Before getting my electric pressure cooker, I rarely made kheer, and that’s because it would take ages to make on the stovetop. You’d have to stir and stir and stir to keep the rice from sticking and the milk from boiling over. Not anymore.
This dessert is now effortless to make in an Instant Pot.
If you’ve made kheer before, then you know it can be tough to prevent milk from burning at the bottom of the pot. I have a secret to making kheer in the instant pot – a method that will keep the milk from scorching. Once you try my recipe, I’m sure you won’t go back to making kheer on the stovetop again.
So what’s my secret to keeping the milk from burning? It’s the first step in the recipe below – basically, you want to press the sauté button, add water and wait until it is steaming before adding milk. Heating the water before adding the milk will keep the milk from burning. So simple, right?
Remember to top the kheer with nuts and golden raisins! I like serving kheer in cute little glasses, but that’s optional. 😉
- Soak the basmati rice in cold water for 15-30 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Press the sauté button and add 1⁄2 cup water to the pot. Once the water begins to steam, pour the milk into the pot. (Make sure the water is steaming before adding the milk as this will prevent the milk from burning at the bottom of the pot.) Add the rice, stir.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 20 minutes at high pressure.
- Naturally release pressure.
- Press sauté. Add the sugar, cardamom and saffron to the pot. Stir until well combined. The kheer will thicken as it cools. If you prefer a thicker pudding, press sauté and stir until desired consistency.
- Serve this dessert hot, warm, cold or at room temperature. Top with nuts and raisins prior to serving.