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Kheer from Pakistan
Alternative names Payasam, payasa, ksheeram, fereni
Place of origin Odisha
Region or state India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka[1]
Main ingredients Rice, milk, cardamom, saffron, pistachios or almonds
Variations Gil e firdaus, barley kheer, Kaddu ki kheer, paal (milk), payasam
Food energy
(per serving)
249 kcal[2] kcal
Cookbook: Kheer 

Kheer is a South Asian rice pudding made by boiling rice, broken wheat, tapioca, or vermicelli with milk and sugar; it is flavoured with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashew nuts, pistachios or almonds. It is typically served during a meal or as a dessert. It is also known in some regions as payasam, payasa, gil-e-firdaus and fereni.


  • Names 1
  • Regional variations 2
    • East Indian version 2.1
    • In South India 2.2
    • Regional versions 2.3
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The Sanskrit name is क्षीर kṣīra. In Hindi, खीर khīr; Punjabi, کھیر/ਖੀਰ; Khiri (ଖିରି) in Odia; Sindhi: کھیر; Urdu کھیر/kheer in Nepali: खिर, also known as payasam (Tamil: பாயாசம், Telugu: పాయసం Malayalam: പായസം), payasa (Kannada: ಪಾಯಸ) or payesh (Bengali: পায়েস) or payox (Assamese: পায়স). The word payasam is derived from payasa, meaning milk and fereni (فرنی) in Persian.

Regional variations

Ingredients for kheer
Fereni with date syrup, traditional style in Isfahan
Sagukhiri, a khiri made in Odisha.
Kheer made from semolina (suji)

Kheer is prepared in festivals, temples, and all special occasions. The term kheer (used in North India) may derive from the Sanskrit word Ksheeram[3] (which means milk). Other terms like Payasam (the South Indian term, and is known as payasa in Kannada) or payesh (used in the Bengal region) are derived from the Sanskrit word Payasa or Payasam which also means "milk". It is prepared using milk, rice, ghee, sugar/jaggery, Khoya. Some also add a little bit of heavy cream for a richer taste. It is often garnished using almonds, cashews, raisins and pistachios. There is one more popular version of North Indian kheer, prepared during festivals and havan in Varanasi by using only milk, rice, ghee, sugar, cardamom, dried fruit and kesar (saffron milk). It is an essential dish in many Hindu feasts and celebrations. While the dish is most often made with rice, it can also be made with other ingredients such as vermicelli (semiya in South India, seviyan, seviyaan, sayviah, or other spellings).

Rice was known to the Romans, and possibly introduced to Europe as a food crop as early as the 8th or 10th Century A.D.,[4] and so the recipe for the popular English rice pudding is believed by some to be descended from kheer.[3] Similar rice recipes (originally called potages) go back to some of the earliest written recipes in English history.[5]

East Indian version

The Odia version of rice kheer likely originated in the city of Puri, in Odisha about 2,000 years ago.[6] It is cooked to this day within the temple precincts there. Every single day, hundreds of temple cooks work around 752 hearths in what is supposed to be the world's largest kitchen to cook over 100 different dishes, including kheer, enough to feed at least 10,000 people.

Although white sugar is most commonly used, adding gur (jaggery) as the sweetener is an interesting variation prepared in Odisha.

In Bengal, it is called payas or payesh. A traditional Bengali meal ends with payas followed by other sweets. Payas is also regarded as an auspicious food and generally associated with annaprashana (weaning ritual of an infant) and birthday celebrations in a Bengali household. It is called kheer in Bengali if milk is used in a significantly greater amount than rice. The people of Bangladesh prepare payesh with ketaki, glutinous rice, vermicelli, semolina and coconut milk and the result is a stickier and creamier dessert.

In Assam, it is called payoxh and in addition to other dried fruits, cherries are added to give it a light delicate pink colour. Sometimes rice may be replaced with sago. It is one of the most significant desserts served in Assamese families and quite often a part of religious ceremonies.

In Bihar, it is called "Chawal ki Kheer".[7] A very popular dessert cooked in every auspicious occasion, it is made with rice, full cream milk, sugar, cardamom powder, lots of dry fruits and saffron. Another version of this Kheer is made with jaggery, called Rasiya. Jaggery is used instead of sugar in the process. The jaggery version looks brown in color and has a mild, sweet taste.

In South India

The South Indian version, payasam (Tamil: பாயசம், Malayalam: പായസം, pronounced , Telugu: పాయసం) or payasa (a Kannada term; Kannada: ಪಾಯಸ) is an integral part of traditional South Indian meals. South Indian payasam also makes extensive use of jaggery (Tamil: வெல்லம் vellam, Telugu: బెల్లం bellam, Kannada: ಬೆಲ್ಲ bella, Malayalam: ശർക്കര sharkkara) and coconut milk in place of sugar and milk. Vermicelli (semiya) is commonly used. The most common types of payasam in South India include Pal (milk) payasam, Javvarisi (sago/tapioca pearls) payasam, Semiya (vermicelli) payasam, Paruppu (dhal) payasam, Nei (ghee) payasam (also known as Aravana payasam), Carrot payasam, Wheat payasam, Wheat rava (wheat semolina) payasam, and Arisi Thengai (coconut & rice) payasam, which is a traditional Iyengar style recipe.

In a South Indian meal, payasam or payasa is served first at any formal or auspicious occasions. Payasam is also served after rasam rice, while rice with buttermilk forms the last item of the meal.[8] Payasam also forms an integral part of the Kerala feast (sadya), where it is served and relished from the flat banana leaf instead of cups. In Malayalee or Kerala cuisine, there are several different kinds of payasam that can be prepared from a wide variety of fruits and starch bases, an example being chakkapradhaman made of jackfruit pulp, adapradhaman made of flat ground rice.

The Hyderabadi version is called gil e firdaus, and is quite popular. It is a thick kheer made of milk and bottle gourd. Gil e firdaus, literally translated, means the clay of paradise.

Payasam is served as an offering to the Gods in South Indian Hindu temples during rituals and ceremonies. In Kerala Ambalapuzha pal payasam (milk Kheer) is a famous payasam.

Regional versions

Indian rice pudding or firni which has been set in a shallow earthen dish. Strands of saffron and chopped almonds and pistachios have been used for garnishing.

In South Asia, kheer is prepared and eaten on almost every festival. It is also offered to Hindu deities as a bhog or prasadam.

The dish is also consumed during Muslim weddings and prepared for the feasts of Mulsim festivals such as Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. A similar dessert, known as firni, is eaten among the Muslim communities of India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Today, restaurants offer firni in a wide range of flavours.

See also


  1. ^ "Bengali Payesh – Rice Kheer Recipe". KFoods. Retrieved June 28, 2014. 
  2. ^ Nutritional Information Comparison for Rice Kheer. Retrieved from June 28, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Eastern Aromas". As Promised! Kheer. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Hieatt, Constance; Sharon Butler (1985). Curye on Inglysch.  
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Desserts are served mid-way through the meal. The payasam is a thick fluid dish of sweet brown molasses, coconut milk and spices, garnished with cashew nuts and raisins. There could be a succession of payasams, such as the Palada Pradhaman and Parippu Pradhaman.
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