This delicious Middle Eastern Milk Pudding (Muhallebi) is my go-to dessert when my family are craving sweets and I don’t feel like cooking or baking! Just like Baklava, it’s an easy winner with all my guests and family members.
Walking through the streets of Cairo you will find small mom and pop dessert shops selling Muhallebi (Mahalabia) is how it’s pronounced in Egypt. This traditional middle eastern dessert is a simple milk pudding that is easy to make and comes together in less than 15 minutes.
What is Muhallebi?
Muhallebi (mahalabia) is a milk pudding that is creamy, sweet, and perfect for satisfying a sweet tooth. The dessert is made from milk, starches like corn starch or rice flour, sugar, and different flavorings like rose water, orange blossom water, vanilla extract or almond extract.
Muhallebi has evolved and adapted to regional tastes and traditions. For example, in Turkey it is served with ground cinnamon and walnuts, while in Iran it is served with saffron and rose petals. In Lebanon and other parts of the Levant region, Muhallebi is often flavored with orange blossom water and garnished with pistachios or almonds.
Muhallebi History and Origin
Muhallebi, also known as mahalabia, is a Middle Eastern dessert that has been enjoyed for centuries. The origin of this creamy milk pudding can be traced back to the ancient Arab world, where it was served as a luxurious dessert for royal feasts and special occasions.
The name Muhallebi is derived from an Arabic word meaning “satisfy the stomach”. It is a creamy and sweet pudding made with milk, sugar, and starch. The original recipe was simple and contained only a few ingredients, but variations have been created over time that incorporate different spices, nuts, fruits, and syrups.
Over time, the muhallebi recipe was introduced to other regions and cultures, including the Ottoman Empire and the Persians. During the medieval period, Arab traders introduced the dish to Europe, where it became popular in countries like Spain and Greece.
It is a dessert that holds cultural significance beyond its flavor. It is often served during special occasions such as weddings, religious holidays, and dinner parties. In some cultures, Muhallebi is believed to have medicinal properties, making it a popular dessert for those who are sick or recovering from an illness.
Today, it is still enjoyed as a traditional dessert in many Middle Eastern countries, with each region putting its own unique twist on the recipe. It has also become popular worldwide, with many chefs experimenting with different flavors and ingredients to create new variations of this beloved dessert.
Middle Eastern Milk Pudding Ingredients
A very basic ingredients need to make a creamy middle eastern dessert
- Milk – Is the main ingredient, I prefer using whole milk in this recipe for a creamier texture. But feel free to use skimmed milk or dairy free (Almond milk or coconut milk).
- Sugar – for sweetness, adjust how sweet you like your mahalabia to be.
- Cornstarch – It is the thickening agent that binds the ingredients together. But, you may add rice flour if you prefer.
- Heavy cream – (optional), it adds a luxurious texture to the muhallebi.
- Flavoring – Add any flavor you like such as orange blossom water, rose water, vanilla extract, saffron, cardamom powder or ground cinnamon. I used orange blossom water.
- Toppings – Before serving garnish with ground pistachios and edible rose petals. (Check FAQs for more topping ideas).
How to Make Muhallebi?
- In a pot, whisk the cold milk, cornstarch, sugar and heavy cream until there are no lumps. Place the milk mixture over medium heat and stir (don’t stop stirring).
- Bring it to boil then simmer at low heat for few minutes until the mixture is thick (like thick custard). Turn off the heat and add the orange blossom water and stir.
- Pour the muhallebi into a serving bowls and allow the mixture to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until sets.
- Garnish with pistachios and rose petals.
- If you added the nuts in the hot muhallebi; it will soft and mushy. So, always add the nuts before serving.
- If the milk mixture was not thick enough; dissolve 1 tbsp cornstarch with 1/2 cup cold milk, mix and stir into the milk mixture.
- It is important to keep stirring the milk mixture to prevent burning the milk on the bottom of the pot.
- Cover the mahalabia with a plastic wrap to avoid it from absorbing any odors from the fridge.
How to Serve Muhallebi?
This chilled dessert is perfect for dinner parties and gathering, therefore, the best way to serve it is in a small individual dessert cups or, serving glasses.
Also, mahalabia is good filling for pastries such as konafa or phyllo dough (Cream Baklava).
What Toppings Can I add?
- The traditional muhallebi is topped with nuts like pistachios, almonds, walnuts or a combination of nuts.
- Shredded coconut or raisins.
- Get creative by adding Fresh fruit or fruit puree such as apricot or mango.
- Also, if you like it to be sweeter; drizzle caramel sauce or simple sugar syrup.
- My favorite topping is strawberry or cherry jelly.
Can I Substitute the milk?
Yes, use any dairy free milk such as almond, coconut or oat milk instead.
Also, use half and half for richness taste or evaporated milk.
Store the mahalabia cups in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Check Out More Desserts Recipes
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