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Middle Eastern Rice Pudding (Riz Bil Haleeb) Recipe – Gluten Free

Eat riz bil haleeb plain, or go all out and garnish with: nuts, a fruit compote, or bruleed.

Riz bil haleeb, or rice pudding, is a classic Middle Eastern dessert that’s similar in taste to the creamy flower water infused milk pudding, muhalabiye, but instead of cornstarch, and cooked rice, the finely milled rice flour acts as an unctuously delicious thickener. Traditionally, granulated sugar is used to sweeten the creamy rice pudding, but in this recipe, I used organic maple syrup, and the slightly caramel sweetness it gives the pudding, is over-the-top amazing!

My mom’s riz bil haleeb is one of the best I’ve ever tasted, and eating it just reminds me how everything she prepares is done almost effortlessly and with nifs (heart). I’ve adapted my recipe from hers (of course) but when I decided to make some, I suddenly felt conflicted on what I had a hankering for. Did I want my rice pudding to be: plain, topped with blanched nuts, blistered (brulee), or with a dried fruit compote on the side? Undecided, I choose to do all three delicious renditions, because that’s the generous choice my mom used to give us when we were kids!

In all cases, you have to cook the pudding, and while it’s still hot, put some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the hot pudding to prevent a skin from forming (I actually like the skin that forms on top) and then allow it to set in the fridge for several hours. Once the pudding is set, it’s ready to eat, but if you’re undecisive like me, you could also brulee it slightly under the broiler for a couple of minutes, or serve/decorate it with some; blanched nuts or a simple compote of dried fruit. Riz bil haleeb is anything but a basic dessert. It’s a perfect make-ahead dessert that is refreshingly tasty, and being a one-pot recipe, it’s also easy to make. Enjoy!

Rice Pudding

Prep Level: Easy

Serves 6


  • 3 ½ cups half and half (or milk, full fat)

  • ½ cup rice flour

  • 5-6 tablespoons good quality maple syrup, organic if possible

  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

  • 3 tablespoons flower water

  • Pinch of mastic crushed with a teaspoon of sugar (optional)

How To:

In a medium sized heavy bottom pot, and over low-medium heat, pour the half and half, the rice flour, the maple syrup, and egg yolk. Stir everything with a wire whisk and continue whisking till the pudding begins to thicken and bubble slightly (almost 15 minutes). Remove from the heat and add the flower water (and optional mastic) to the pudding and stir to incorporate. Pour the hot pudding in oven-proof ramekins if you want to brulee the surface later or in dessert dishes. Put some plastic wrap directly on the surface of the puddings if you don’t want a cream skin to develop. Keep the pudding outside for an hour or so before refrigerating. Refrigerate till set for at least 4 hours. Serve plain, decorated with some blanched nuts or a fruit compote.

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