This Lebanese rice pudding or riz bi haleeb is a delicious, floral version of rice pudding. This traditional recipe was handed down to me by mom, and it truly is the best I have ever had! It's creamy, flavorful, rich, and light at the same time. Lebanese rice pudding is the perfect cold dessert on a hot summer day, and a comforting dessert on a cold winter day. It's so easy and naturally gluten-free and eggless!
In Arabic, riz bi haleeb translates to rice in milk. Pretty self-explanatory, right? Lebanese rice pudding starts with cooking rice in milk, then flavoring it with mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water. The result is truly dreamy.
My mom's recipe calls for heavy cream, which makes the rice pudding extra creamy and rich. She also does not use any cornstarch as most recipes do, but instead relies on the natural starches in the rice to thicken it perfectly. I don't make riz bi haleeb any other way now!
What I love about Lebanese rice pudding is how versatile it is. It's not too sweet and makes for a delicious breakfast or snack. But it's sweet enough to be a light dessert!
Rose water and orange blossom water are two of my favorite ingredients ever. If you enjoy them too, then you'll love my Lebanese avocado and strawberry cocktail. If you want something more indulgent with a Lebanese twist, then you must try my tahini brownies!
- Rice: A medium grain rice is best for its texture and starch content.
- Milk: Whole milk is best to make the pudding as creamy and flavorful as possible.
- Heavy cream: It makes the rice pudding extra creamy, rich, and delicious.
- Sugar: Just enough to sweeten the pudding, but can be adjusted to your taste.
- Mastic: You can buy it ground or whole then grind it yourself. Mastic is a sap or resin produced by mastic trees in the Mediterranean, mainly the island of Chios in Greece. Mastic has a delicious flavor which some think is pine-like while others think is herbal or floral.
- Rose water: One of my favorite flavors of all time - rose petals are distilled with steam to create a delicious, floral liquid.
- Orange blossom water: The same idea as rose water, but made with orange blossoms instead.
To start, rinse the rice just one time. The key to making Lebanese rice pudding without cornstarch is not to rinse the rice too much or you'll lose a lot of its thickening starch.
Add the rinsed rice, water, milk, and heavy cream to a large sauce pan and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until the mixture begins to boil, about 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir every couple of minutes to prevent sticking, until the rice has puffed up and can be mashed with a spoon or between your fingers, about 15 minutes.
Once the rice is cooked, add the sugar and continue stirring until the rice pudding has thickened, about 20 to 25 minutes.
You can test it by leaving a plate in the freezer while making it, then spoon some pudding on the cold plate and tilt it. If the pudding runs a little bit then stops in its tracks, it's done. If it keeps running even after it has cooled on the plate, it needs more time to thicken.
When the rice pudding has thickened, turn off the heat and add the ground mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water and stir to combine.
If using whole mastic, place them in a mortar with a pinch of salt and grind them with the pestle into a fine powder. You don't want any chunks of mastic in the pudding as they can be bitter and overpowering in one bite.
How To Serve Lebanese Rice Pudding (Riz Bi Haleeb)
While the rice pudding is still warm, transfer it into little bowls or ramekins for individual servings. Alternatively, you can transfer it to one serving bowl. Let them cool to room temperature, then cover them and place them in the refrigerator until fully set and chilled.
No one will judge you if you eat half of it while it's still warm. I may or may not be speaking from personal experience.
Once you are ready to serve the Lebanese rice pudding, top them with crushed pistachios for a delicious, nutty crunch. If you want to elevate it even further, dried rose petals are a dreamy garnish for riz bi haleeb.
Substitutions and Variations
This Lebanese rice pudding recipe is naturally gluten-free and eggless!
- Vegan and dairy-free: Substitute the milk and heavy cream for a plant-based milk you enjoy instead.
- Rice: I have tested this recipe successfully with Calrose, a medium grain rice, as well as jasmine, a long grain rice. You can use a short grain rice if you wish, but it will be mushier due to the higher starch content. When using a different rice, cooking times and final texture may vary.
- Sweetener: Feel free to use a natural sweetener such as maple syrup or honey, but note that such sweeteners will have an effect on the overall flavor of the rice pudding.
- Spices: This recipe yields an authentic Lebanese rice pudding. However, the core of the recipe makes a perfect rice pudding base in which you can add spices or flavorings such as cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract, or whatever you enjoy!
Tips on Making The Best Lebanese Rice Pudding (Riz Bi Haleeb)
- Don't rinse the rice more than once. We want to save its starches to make the pudding thick and creamy.
- Use whole milk. For the creamiest rice pudding, use whole milk instead of skim or low-fat.
- Skip recipes that call for cornstarch. Rice is already loaded with starch - there is absolutely no need to add another type of starch.
- Be patient. Not using cornstarch means it will take a little longer for the pudding to thicken. But it's so worth it! The rice will absorb the milk and cream slowly while thickening the mixture into a perfect consistency and a much more flavorful rice pudding.
- Stir frequently. You don't want the bottom to stick and burn. Stay nearby and give it a stir and scrape the bottom every couple of minutes.
- Don't skip the mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water. Unless it is impossible for you to access them, I would highly advise you against omitting them as they add such a delicious, delicate flavor to the rice pudding. It's not really Lebanese rice pudding without them. If you must omit something, I would say omit the mastic. But I say that with hesitation and a heavy heart.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have found that medium grain rice results in the best rice pudding. You can experiment with different types and see what you prefer. Short grain rice is starchier so it will yield a mushier pudding. Long grain rice is less starchy so it's a little less creamy and the rice is firmer.
Regardless of what you are making, you should always always wash your rice. In the case of rice pudding, rinse the rice just once to wash off any dust and debris. But don't rinse it more, as we need all the starch possible.
A runny rice pudding means you haven't cooked it long enough. Continue cooking and it will thicken, I promise. If the pudding is too thick, you cooked it too long. Remember, rice pudding thickens quite a bit as it cools. It should still be a pourable consistence when it's done. If it's too thick, place it over medium-low heat and add milk and stir until it thins out a bit.
Yes, you can use leftover rice to make rice pudding but it will not be the same consistency. Place the cooked rice in a pot and add enough milk and cream to cover it and cook, stirring often. Follow the rest of the recipe as is, adjusting the amounts according to how much cooked rice you're using.
Store the Lebanese rice pudding covered in the fridge for up to one week.
See My Latest Recipes For More Delicious Ideas
- Lebanese 7 Spice
- Chickpea Fatteh (Fattet Hummus)
- Balila (Lebanese Chickpeas)
- Hummus with Spiced Meat and Pine Nuts
- Authentic Homemade Hummus
If you’ve tried making this Lebanese Rice Pudding (Riz Bi Haleeb) or any other recipe on Forks & Foliage, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be so happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you took any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @forksandfoliage so I can see the deliciousness you made!
Lebanese Rice Pudding (Riz Bi Haleeb)
- Rinse the rice once, then transfer to a large sauce pan. Add the water, milk, and heavy cream to the rice and stir. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil, about 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue stirring every few minutes until the rice is cooked and can be mashed with a spoon or between your fingers, about 15 minutes.
- Add the sugar and stir. Continue cooking, stirring frequently to avoid sticking, until the mixture has thickened, about 20 to 25 more minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add the ground mastic, rose water, and orange blossom water. Stir until fully combined. (If using whole mastic, grind with a pinch of salt into a fine powder before using.)
- While the rice pudding is still warm, transfer to 4 to 6 individual bowls or ramekins and let them cool to room temperature, then cover them and transfer them to the refrigerator until fully set and chilled.
- Before serving, garnish them with crushed pistachios and dried rose petals if desired.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary.