Vegan Coconut Payasam or Kheer (Like Rice Pudding, Only Better!)


This recipe for vegan coconut payasam was shared with us by Chef Jason Wyrick of The Vegan Taste. Payasam (or kheer) is a traditional South Asian pudding 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’s often served with a meal, in Southern Bangladesh payasam 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 dairy-free and egg-free dessert that is optionally gluten-free and quite low in sugar.

And if this formula sounds a bit familiar, it’s because many say the English version of rice pudding is a direct descendant of Pasayam.

Vegan Coconut Payasam Recipe - Indian rice pudding

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

This vegan kheer is a cool dish that gets underlying sweetness from the coconut milk, milk beverage, raisins, and almonds. The touch of added sugar helps to round it out. Adding bay leaf gives depth to the dessert and the cardamom gives it an aromatic quality which really brings out all the other flavors in the dish.

Chef Jason offered more tips to ensure this vegan coconut payasam works perfectly for you.

  • Suggested Presentation: Serve this coconut payasam in small glasses. It’s the right size for a dessert and it showcases the color. Put a bay leaf in each glass for an exotic look and good color contrast.
  • Time Management: You can make this recipe several hours ahead of time. If you do, plan on adding more coconut milk before serving. The rice will absorb quite a bit of liquid over that time.
  • Complimentary Food and Drinks: This is a nice accompaniment to spicy cauliflower or tomato dishes, because it offers contrary coolness, starchiness, and sweetness.
  • 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, peanut-free, optionally nut-free, optionally soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

Vegan Coconut Payasam
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
I usually serve this dish chilled, but it can also be served warm. I've included a vermicelli option, since this is how payasam is often made in the U.S. at Indian buffets.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1½ cups canned coconut milk, plus additional as needed
  • 1½ cups soymilk or almond milk beverage
  • ½ cup long grain rice
  • 4 teaspoons slivered almonds
  • 4 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 tablespoon currants or raisins
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 bay leaves
  1. In a medium pot, bring the coconut and almond milk to a boil. Add the rice, almonds, sugar, currants or raisins, cardamom, and bay leaves. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes.
  2. Refrigerate the dessert for about 30 minutes. If it becomes too thick while chilling, whisk in coconut milk as needed.
Vermicelli Option: Toast ¼ cup broken vermicelli pasta in a dry pan over medium heat until it browns. Add it to the pot of boiling milk beverage with the rest of the ingredients.

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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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