Coconut Payasam: It’s Like Rice Pudding, Only Better


If you simply jump to the Vegan Culinary Experience whenever I announce the latest issue of their free magazine, then you are actually missing out on some fantastic secret recipes. Every so often, Chef Jason Wyrick, the creator of the VCE, emails teaser recipes to loyal subscribers. These recipes are hints of the issue to come … and yes, the email subscriptions are also free.

Below is one of the most recent secret recipes emailed out. Yes, I am giving you a teaser of the teaser recipes. But to keep up with all of the great free recipes and free e-magazine issues from Chef Jason, just sign up on the Vegan Culinary Experience. You won’t be disappointed.

Now back to that recipe. Payasam is a traditional South Asian sweet dish that is made by boiling rice or broken wheat with milk, ghee (butter oil), and sugar, and flavoring it with cardamom, raisins, saffron, pistachios or almonds. Though it is often served with a meal, in Southern Bangladesh it is made with glutinous rice and coconut milk for a creamier, dessert-type dish. Chef Jason used this as his inspiration to create a delicious vegan dessert (sans dairy and eggs) that is optionally gluten-free and quite low in sugar …

And if this formula sounds a bit familiar, it is because it is believed that the English version of rice pudding is a direct descendent of Pasayam.

Vegan Coconut Payasam Recipe - Indian rice puddingMore Recipe Details from Chef Jason:

Kitchen Equipment
Measuring Cups
Measuring Spoons
Small Pot

Try serving this in a small glass. It’s the right size for a dessert and it showcases the color of the dessert. Leave a bay leaf in the glasses, too, as it looks exotic and provides a good color contrast.

Time Management
Even though this dessert takes a long time to make, there is very little labor involved with it. This is something from which you can easily walk away and do other things, make other recipes, etc. You can also make this several hours ahead of time. If you do, plan on adding more coconut milk as the rice will absorb quite a bit of the liquid over that time.

Complimentary Food and Drinks
This is a nice accompaniment to a spicy dish as the coolness, starchiness, and sweetness of the dish will counteract the spicy course. Try serving this will a spicy cauliflower and tomato dish.

Where to Shop
All of these ingredients can be found at the local grocery market in the spice and baking aisles. The coconut milk can be found with other Asian products. You can also find these ingredients at most Indian markets.

How It Works
This is a sweet, cool dish, so several different ingredients add sweetness to the dish. Those are the coconut milk and soy milk, the raisins, and the almonds. The sugar helps round it out. Adding in the bay leaf gives a depth to the dessert and the cardamom gives it an aromatic quality which really brings out all the other flavors in the dish.

Chef’s Notes
This is the dessert that is served with most Indian buffets in the United States. Often, it is served with the broken vermicelli added into it. This dessert can also be served warm.

Interesting Facts
This dish is also called kheer in parts of India and in the Middle East, it is called sheer. Payasam is often served at special occasions. Legend says that the temple at Ambalapphuza serves pasayam because the king of the region lost a chess game to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu, disguised as a sage, challenged the king to a game of chess who had to put one grain of rice on the chess board if he lost and double the rice for every square. Naturally, the king lost and the constant doubling of rice depleted his rice stores and put him in debt to Lord Vishnu. In order to pay his debt, Lord Vishnu told the king that the temple must serve free pasayam from then on.

Vegan Coconut Payasam Recipe - Indian rice pudding

Special Diet Notes: Coconut Payasam

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, optionally gluten-free, optionally peanut-free, optionally nut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

Vegan Coconut Payasam
Serves: 4 servings
  • ½ cup of long grain rice
  • 1-1/2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1-1/2 cups of almond milk
  • Option: Almond milk instead of coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp. of currants or raisins
  • ½ tsp. ground cardamom
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tsp. of slivered almonds
  • 4 tsp. of turbinado sugar
  • Option: ¼ cup of broken vermicelli
  1. Bring the coconut and almond milk to a boil. Add all of the ingredients and stir. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook this for about 18‐20 minutes.
  2. Chill the dessert for about 30 minutes. Add more coconut milk as necessary once it is fully chilled.
  3. Option: Break the vermicelli, then toast it over a medium heat in a dry pan until it browns. Add it to the pot with the rest of the ingredients.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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