Flavors of India: Pineapple Payasam (sweet pineapple pudding)

For more on the flavors of India series, check out: Dhal Aloo Kofta, Aloo Palak, Gluten-free naan and Malai Kofta.

Everyone thought I was crazy for going to India.

They warned me about theft, feared for my safety, and were genuinely concerned when I told them I hated Indian food.

How could someone that hates Indian food go to India, let alone go to an ashram that would surely be serving nothing but?

I know, I’m a crazy one.

My plan to conquer India was simple – open myself up to embrace the culture, religion, daily practices and food, no matter how awful it looked or scary it was to be unsure of the ingredients.

This plan what what allowed me to have such an amazing trip. Not only did I learn more about the world and a culture I’d never experienced, I actually started to enjoy it, including the meals.

At the ashram, the plates would come fully stocked with the days’ meal. I donated my bread to a neighbor and mashed everything together with my right hand (best EVER!) before going to town on the pile of food before me.

I began to look forward to the Indian meals on my flights,

the briyani’s in restaurants,

and the mound of food that was our cooking class.

Needless to say, I was converted.

I enjoyed many a delicious meal along the journey, but will always have a soft spot for payasam. It’s sweet, hearty, and seemed to always be one of the cheaper things on the menu which is always an added bonus!

Payasam is an integral part of traditional South Indian meals. In many cases, it’s served on a flat banana leaf instead of in a dish or bowl and eaten with the hands as with all other meals in South India (which is SO fun!). What I loved also, is that in South India, payasam is generally made with jaggery and coconut milk in place of sugar and milk making it less processed and tastier in my opinion!

My favorite way to enjoy it was alongside rice and other curries,

but I’d gladly eat a whole bowl on it’s own with no complaints whatsoever.

Lucky for me, now I can recreate it any time I fancy, with rice or otherwise and so can you!

Healthy Pineapple Payasam (Sweet Pineapple Pudding)

Vegan (option), Gluten free, Dairy free, Refined sugar free, Yeast free, Corn free

Payasam; also known as kheer in Northern India, specifically in the Punjabi community, is a rice pudding, traditional in South Asia. It’s made by boiling rice, noodles, or broken wheat with milk and sugar, and flavored with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashews, pistachios or almonds. Out of all the payasam I enjoyed, coconut, cashew and cinnamon were the most popular. It is typically served during a meal alongside your curries or rice, or consumed alone as a dessert.

Yield: 1.5 cup

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon ghee *see note
  • 2 tablespoon cashews, roughly chopped or halved
  • 2 tablespoon raisins
  • 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced and divided
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lite coconut milk or other non-dairy milk of choice
  • 5 cardamom pods
  • 3 tablespoon demerara, palm or date sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon pineapple extract, optional
  • 1/2 cup rice vermicelli noodles, broken into 1/2 –inch pieces

Directions

  1. In a medium sized saucepan combine ghee, cashews, raisins and half the pineapple. Bring to a boil on medium heat, stirring constantly until cashews are browned, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except noodles and remaining pineapple. Bring mixture back to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. At the 5 minute mark, stir in vermicelli noodles and allow to cook. The mixture should begin to thicken in the last 2 minutes. If it’s too thick for your liking, add a bit more water until your desired consistency is reached.
  4. Place remaining diced pineapple at the bottom of a serving bowl and drop payasam mixture over top. Serve with diced fruits or seeds sprinkled over top. Alternatively, separate the pasayam into 4 small dishes, one for each serving.

note: to make vegan, sub the ghee for extra virgin coconut oil. It will change the flavor of the dish, but still taste great!

note2: ghee is made from dairy, but all lactose and casein is removed in the clarification process. Use your own personal judgement when opting for a dairy-free diet. If you’ve chosen to omit, use vegan suggestion above.

View nutrition facts

If you’re like me and wondering what payasam would taste like made with coconut milk, fresh coconut meat and vanilla bean, check out the coconut payasam recipe I shared today on Tasty Yummies! It’ll knock your socks off.

How I ever hated Indian food is seriously beyond me. This stuff ROCKS!

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Comments | Leave Your Comment

  1. Wow, I have eaten a LOT of Indian food, but haven’t heard of payasam before! I’d never think to use rice vermicelli in a sweet dish. This sounds so good! The plates remind me of those plates we used to eat off of as kids when I didn’t want one type of food touching another. So so excited to see what else you’ve got coming up!!!

    • Thank you, Felicia! I was SO full by the end of that feast, I’m surprised I could even smile!

  2. I cannot even imagine how crazy good this must be…the flavors must just be OUT of this world. This is so me right here, sweet, creamy fruity, raisins, coconut…YUM!

  3. Everyone thought you were crazy and “warned you about the people”? In what way? Maybe you need to start getting advice from a more open-minded and well-traveled group.

    Did you consider that your readers of Indian descent (or those who have married into an Indian family, like myself) might find your introduction to this post ambiguous at best and bubble-headedly ethnocentric at worst? You seem to have shed all of your fears about eating their scary food, but what conclusions did you come to about the people?

    • Hi there, I can totally see how my message could have been taken the wrong way. My apologies. The warnings I received were about theft and the fact that I shouldn’t be traveling by myself. In fact many of the people that were warning me about everything were those from India. They told me to always keep an eye out for everyone, and stand my ground. I should have explained myself a bit better in the post and for that, I apologize. In many of my posts previous to this and in comments and stories I’ve shared about my India experience, I’ve said my favorite part WAS the people. Had it not been for the connections I made, the individuals that touched my heart so deeply, I don’t think I would have come back so changed by the experience. I’m sorry my message was misinterpreted and that I didn’t take the time to think about how it could have come across.

    • Cy, I think your comment is really mean. I AM Indian and am not offended by that quote. India can be a scary place and you need to watch out for yourself.

  4. I absolutely love Indian food, and I’ve never even had the truly authentic kind that you experienced. I’m sure I would have been in heaven. And I love that they eat with their hands, how fun!

  5. Interesting recipe! Do you think it would work with just rice grains, especially the sticky ones Koreans/Japanese eat? I haven’t really had authentic Indian food before (except Amy’s frozen ones) and this sounds awesome!

    • Oh I’m sure it would work with rice, you may just have to add more liquid. In North India they add rice to their payasams and call them kherr. I’m sure you could look up at kherr recipe to see how they do it! Enjoy :)

    • I’m totally the same way, not a big fan of all the heat! So when I’m making anything with garam masala I just add it in last minute so the heat of the cooking doesn’t make it as intense!

  6. Oh my! I’ve always been curious about Indian cuisine and these look absolutely delicious. Looking forward to making the Payasam. Thank you for the recipe.

  7. Wow, this sounds amazing. I LOVE Indian fare, the spices, the condiments, the way of eating, such a joy :) Love reading about your experiences!

  8. So glad you got to experience South India… And so glad you enjoyed it. I’m from South India. If you really like Indian food now, you could visit Tarla Dalal’s website. She is (sort of) the Julia Child of Indian vegetarian cuisine.
    Hope you visit India again sometime.
    -A

    • Wow, Adi! Thank you for sharing Tarla Dalal’s website with me. I could get lost on it forever, and ever! Planning to go back to India next year. Is that where you live now?

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