Conscience-stirring kheer

| 02 Apr 2024 | 12:57

I am composing this recipe on a return flight from India where I’ve been on pilgrimage for two weeks. I am a Buddhist and it is important for followers of the Buddha to visit sites connected to his life and teachings. Upon the suggestion of one of my teachers, Dungse Jampal Norbu, offering a recipe for kheer seemed appropriate.

Kheer is a simple yet delicate sweet rice pudding offered to the Buddha by a young woman, Sujata. While subjecting himself to severe ascetic practices, Siddhartha, as he was known before he became enlightened, was starving for many years. When Sujata offered him kheer, he drank and realized in that moment that neither indulging oneself, as he had done before renouncing his life as a prince, nor becoming too punishing and uncompromising with oneself, is the pathway to peace and liberation.

Soon after regaining his physical strength, Siddhartha became enlightened under the Bodhi tree in Bodyh Gaya. He then became known as the Buddha, or the awakened one. I hope you enjoy this ancient story, recipe, and Sujata’s life-affirming sweet milk treat.


¾ cups good quality basmati rice
6 cups whole milk or milk alternative
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tsp ground cardamom
2 tsp ghee or butter
½ cup almonds chopped
¼ cup golden raisins
Raw pistachios
Optional, a few strands saffron
Optional, a pinch of sea salt to taste


1. Soak rice in cool water for 30 minutes.

2. Drain and add with milk in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Right when bubbles appear on the sides of the pot, reduce to low heat, simmering 30-40 minutes. Continue to scrape down the sides as milk cooks to prevent scorching.

3. Add sugar and cardamom, stir to combine. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, about 30-40 minutes.

4. Heat ghee or butter in a medium skillet over medium heat, add almonds and roast until golden brown, being careful not to burn, lower heat and add the raisins, fry until just plump.

5. To serve, ladle kheer (which should be thick but pourable) into serving bowls, and top with fried almonds, raisins, raw pistachios and saffron.

Many thanks to Dungse Jampal Norbu for this recipe and for leading 18 pilgrims across India.