Pal Payasam is a rich creamy porridge-like dessert made with milk and rice. It is also popularly known as Kheer in Northern India. Dessert recipes in general have a long list of ingredients and involve a lot of preparation. On the contrary this king of desserts from Kerala, God’s own country, needs only 3 ingredients and nothing more. The recipe we are going to make here is an authentic Guruvayoor temple style paal payasam. Traditionally, it is cooked in a large shallow, circular vessel (known as uruli) and requires a lot of attention. However, with modern kitchen gadgets this recipe has become super simple without losing its authenticity. Let’s dive in…
What is Pal Payasam
Pal payasam (Pal = milk in Tamil, payasa = dessert made of rice and milk in Sanskrit) is a traditional Indian dessert, where rice grains are cooked in milk for several hours, thus reducing the milk to a condensed texture and then sweetened with sugar. This rich and creamy dessert is usually the first solid food introduced to infants. You can find some variant of this in any meal platter across India and the Middle East.
What you will need to make Pal Payasam
Note: 1 cup = 235 ml
- ⅛ cup / 2 Tbsp. payasam rice / sona masoori / basmati rice
- ½ cup water (optional, but recommended)
- 6 cups whole milk
- 300 ml condensed milk or 4 Tbsp. sugar
- 6 quart Instant Pot / 5 liter pressure cooker / heavy bottom pan
- Flat ladle
A note on key ingredients
Rice – Traditionally pal payasam is made with the Rosematta rice that’s grown locally in Kerala. Since the rice is naturally a shade of pink, it contributes to the color of the payasam. Also note that the rice grain is small and usually the hand pound variety is used for making payasam for a porridge-like consistency. You can also achieve great results with any Indian rice varieties such as Basmati, Sona Masoori or Ponni as long as you pulse the raw rice in a blender before you begin
Milk – The naturally occurring fats in whole milk will yield the right consistency for this dish. I would not recommend attempting this using low fat / skim milk
Sweetener – Adding condensed milk reduces cooking time and since it already has sugar, you can avoid adding more. If you don’t have condensed milk and would like to add sugar instead, I would recommend using unrefined sugar – it’s the traditional way of making the recipe due to the color and flavor it imparts (as compared to refined sugar)
How to prepare Pal Payasam – An Overview
As I mentioned before, this recipe involves only three ingredients and three steps. Cook the rice, sweeten it and reduce to desired consistency
Tips before you begin
📝 Clean, clean, clean! I cannot emphasize this more. The pot in which you plan to make pal payasam has to be absolutely clean or else the milk will curdle, which is not what we want here. This is especially important when using Instant Pot or pressure cookers since those are used for making many other savory dishes daily
📝 If you’re making pal payasam using an open pot method, keep an eye since milk tends to stick to the pan and you can burn the bottom. Using a clean wooden spatula to stir constantly will help prevent this problem. Luckily, using an Instant Pot reduces this babysitting time to half and the heating system does not burn the bottom as compared to stove top cooking
📝 Adding a little water to the pan while boiling milk prevents it from sticking to the pan. This is a simple tip I learnt from my mom and I apply it to every recipe that calls for boiling milk
How to make Pal Payasam – Instructions with step-by-step images
Cook the rice
Step 1 – Wash and soak 2 Tbsp. rosematta rice for 30 minutes and drain. In a clean Instant Pot add ½ cup water, soaked rice and 6 cups whole milk. Set the Instant pot on porridge mode (its default setting) for 20 minutes
Step 2 – When the Instant pot shows LO:10, release pressure *slowly* by moving the valve in the direction of venting but not all the way (as shown in the image). Only then will this avoid making a mess (which usually happens as milk spits out). Check rice for doneness – it should be soft and you should be able to mash it without applying pressure when pressed between two fingers. Add 300 ml condensed milk or 4 Tbsp. unrefined sugar. You can add couple of more tablespoons of sugar if you like it sweeter. I’d suggest you do that after a taste check at the end
Step 3 – Mix well until the condensed milk incorporates well with the milk and let it boil for an additional 20 minutes with an occasional stir (once about every 5-6 minutes) when the milk starts to boil over. Leave the ladle inside the pot to prevent the milk from boiling over. It is hard to show the consistency of the pal payasam through pictures, but boiling for 20 minutes will get you there. Turn off the heat and transfer it to a serving bowl
Step 4 – Final (mandatory) step…enjoy your sublime Pal Payasam 😋
Memories & Legend of Pal Payasam
Paal paayasam is one of my favorite dishes from my mom’s kitchen. This age old classic was passed on to her by my father-in-law. Yes, you read it right. Isn’t it typical for us to talk about how family recipes are passed on from grandmas to moms to daughters? “TP mama’s paal payasam is the best!”, mom fondly recalls as she passes the recipe on to her daughters. Although the recipe is quite simple, new home chefs will have tales to share on how something went wrong with this recipe each time. The challenge is to get consistent results. Firstly, eye-balling a fistful of rice like my mom would, never yielded the same results each time I made it, so precise measurement was key to me. Next, the quality of milk differed from place to place and I realized that using whole fat milk anywhere will never fail to impress. Finally, to get the taste and color just like Guruvayoor Temple prasadam, “Paala nanna kurukkanam” (i.e. allow milk to slowly cook and thicken) – my mom’s words echo inside me. But in this age, I realized that condensed milk is my friend here.
There is an interesting tale behind the pal paayasam offered at Sri Krishna temple in Alappuzha, Kerala. Per legend, Lord Krishna had to teach a king a lesson. He appeared as a sage before him and challenged him to a game of chess. The king, who took pride in his mastery of the game, accepted to part with anything if he lost…and lose he did. The sage simply said all he wanted was a few grains to be placed on the chess board in a particular order. Now for the fun part. The king had to place 1 grain on the first square, 2 on the second, 4 on the third and so on with each square having twice as much as the previous square. It took over a million rice grains for the 21st square and by the time they reached the 64th square of the chess board the royal granary ran out of rice as it required a trillion tons of rice to fill that square alone, according to one estimate. When the king realized his mistake and pleaded for forgiveness, Lord Krishna revealed his identity and gave the king the option of honoring his word by instead offering paal payasam to devotees daily for free. Since then, the practice of offering paal payasam at every Krishna temple in Kerala has been a tradition that continues to this day. It is also believed that Lord Krishna is present at the time of these offerings. This simple yet powerful story (of compound interest) resonates strongly with me – it’s a cautionary tale on how one can get trapped with debt in its various forms (monetary or negativity) and that it’s always wiser to be content and offer gratitude to each waking moment. You will then look back at life and realize that your joy has grown exponentially.
Pal PayasamCourse: DessertCuisine: South IndianDifficulty: Easy
Pal or Paal payasam is a rich creamy porridge like dessert made with milk and rice. It is also popularly known as Kheer in Northern India
What You Will Need
Note: 1 cup = 235 ml
⅛ cup / 2 Tbsp. Rosematta payasam rice / Sona masoori / Basmati rice / Ponni
½ cup water (optional, but recommended)
6 cups whole milk
300 ml condensed milk or 4 Tbsp. unrefined sugar
6 quart Instant Pot / 5 liter pressure cooker / heavy bottom pan
- Wash and soak 2 Tbsp. rosematta rice for 30 minutes and drain. In a clean Instant Pot add ½ cup water, soaked rice and 6 cups whole milk. Set the Instant pot on porridge mode (its default setting) for 20 minutes
- When the Instant pot shows LO:10, release pressure *slowly* by moving the valve in the direction of venting but not all the way (as shown in the image). Only then will this avoid making a mess (which usually happens as milk spits out). Check rice for doneness – it should be soft and you should be able to mash it without applying pressure when pressed between two fingers. Add 300 ml condensed milk or 4 Tbsp. unrefined sugar. You can add couple of more tablespoons of sugar if you like it sweeter. I’d suggest you do that after a taste check at the end
- Mix well until the condensed milk incorporates well with the milk and let it boil for an additional 20 minutes with an occasional stir (once about every 5-6 minutes) when the milk starts to boil over. Leave the ladle inside the pot to prevent the milk from boiling over. It is hard to show the consistency of the pal payasam through pictures, but boiling for 20 minutes will get you there. Turn off the heat and transfer it to a serving bowl
- Final (mandatory) step…enjoy your sublime Pal Payasam 😋
- There are several variations of this basic pal payasam recipe that can be made by replacing rice with semiya (vermicelli), paal adai, sabudana (tapioca pearl), broken wheat, quinoa, millet, barley, aval (flattened rice) or rolled oats. Get creative and incorporate different grains in your diet and enjoy!
6 servings per container
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Saturated Fat 25g 125%
- Cholesterol 10mg 4%
- Sodium 5mg 1%
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Carbohydrate
- Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
- Protein 18g 36%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Absolutely! Simply cook the grains in water, add your choice of sweetener, turn off heat and add thick coconut milk or soy milk. Since we will not reduce the liquid by boiling, use half the measure of milk given in the recipe
You can make it a day in advance. Since this is made with milk it has to be stored in the refrigerator once it has completely cooled. You can reheat it to serve warm, or simply enjoy it chilled
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