Phirni or Firni is a scrumptious traditional North Indian Sweet made for festivals and special occasions. To make this creamy and delicious pudding like dessert, milk is simmered and thickened with ground rice paste. The thickened milk is intensely flavored with green cardamom and garnished with nuts. Thick, creamy and with a grainy texture, firni is best served chilled. This is a low fat (no ghee, butter or oil) and low sugar recipe and perfect for the health-conscious gym goers who love their cheat treats.
Phirni lends itself to flavors from chocolate to fruit purees making it a adaptable dish for party or potluck menus.
Phirni also spelled as firni is a popular rice and milk-based dessert from North India. Traditionally served in shikoras or small mud clay bowls (much like kulad chai), this sweet dish has variants across different regions in India.
The Kashmiri version (kong phirin) has saffron and semolina or rava in it, while Punjabi one is made with rice paste. Phirni in the north east is made with black rice giving it an inimitable flavor.
While there isn’t enough culinary evidence, phirni is believed to be adapted by the Mughals from the Persian fereni which is strikingly similar in terms of ingredients and cooking techniques.
Phirini is not the same as the European rice pudding, South Indian payasam or North Indian Rice kheer as this is made with ground rice.
When you serve phirni in matkas or earthen bowls, this absorbs some of the moisture from the dish and give it a thicker consistency, and infuse it with an earthy aroma.
Basmati or fragrant rice is believed to add a wonderful flavor of its own to this dessert. However it can be made with any kind of rice including the starchy grains.
To get the perfect texture, slow cook it on low flame and refrigerate it covered overnight. So, let us makes us some delectable firni.
How to make Phirni (Stepwise photos)
Prep the rice and milk
Add ¼ cup of rice to a colander and rinse it well under running water.
Drain the water completely by shaking off the excess water. Spread the rice in the same colander to air dry. You can also spread the rice on a muslin cloth or kitchen towel to dry until the milk is hot & ready.
In the meantime, add 3½ cups of full fat milk to a large saucepan or soup pot and heat on medium heat. Keep stirring often to prevent the cream layer from forming on top.
While milk heats, add the dried rice to a grinder jar and grind it to a slightly coarse powder (not fine). If your rice is still moist, that is all right.
This is how we want our ground rice to be.
Pour ½ cup of divided milk to the ground rice and mix well. This will prevent lumps.
Pour this rice paste into the hot milk and mix well. Remove all of the rice with a spoon and add it.
Keep stirring and cook on a medium heat, until the ground rice is fully cooked and tender. Phirni will turn slightly thick at this stage.
Crush a pinch of saffron (or use kewra water) in your palm with your finger and add it to the milk.
Add 6 to 8 tablespoons of sugar (reduce amount further for a low sugar phirni).
Continue to cook while stirring frequently.
When the phirni has thickened a bit, but is of pouring consistency, add ½ teaspoon of cardamom powder. Mix well. Remove phirni from flame and keep stirring every few minutes until it cools down. This step also prevents a layer forming on top of the phirni.
It will thicken further thick upon cooling.
Dip the back of the wooden spoon into the phirni and check the thickness of the pudding. It should coat the back of the spoon.
Once the pudding is cool, transfer to serving cups or clay bowls. Garnish with 10 each of finely chopped almonds and pistachios. Chill the phirni covered for at least an hour and serve or at room temperature (as desired).
If you do not want to refrigerate the clay bowls, soak them in cold water for 30 mins. Later remove and let dry for a few mins and pour the phirni. Cover and Rest for 15 to 30 mins before serving.
Phirni Recipe (Firni)
For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card
Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )
- ¼ cup rice (any rice)
- 4 cups full fat milk (divided, 3½ + ½)
- 6 to 8 tablespoons sugar (reduce for low sweet)
- 1 pinch saffron (optional, substitute with kewra water)
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 10 almonds (fine chopped)
- 10 pistachios (fine chopped)
- Add rice to a colander and rinse it under running water. Drain the water completely by shaking off the excess water.
- Spread the rice in the same colander and air dry them. You can also spread the rice on a cloth and leave until the milk is ready.
- Meanwhile pour 3½ milk to a large pot and begin to heat stirring often so a layer of cream does not form on top.
- Once the milk becomes hot, add the dried rice to a grinder and make a slightly coarse powder. We do not want fine flour here. If your rice is still moist it's just fine.
- Pour ½ cup milk to the ground rice and mix well. This prevents any lumps of rice in the milk.
How to Make Phirni
- Pour this to the hot milk and mix well. Keep stirring and cook on a medium heat until the rice is fully cooked. Phirni also turns slightly thick at this stage.
- Crush the saffron in your palm with your finger and add it. Also add the sugar and continue to cook stirring often.
- Once the phirni has become thick, yet of pouring consistency, add cardamom powder and mix well. Dip the back of the spoon in the phirni and check the consistency. It should coat the back of the spoon.
- Phirni turns thick upon cooling. Take down the stove and keep stirring every few minutes until it cools down. This step prevents a layer forming on top of the phirni.
- Once it cools down, transfer to serving cups or clay bowls. Serve phirni chilled or at room temperature.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
Watch Phirni Video
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
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I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me
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