Makhana kheer is similar to traditional rice kheer, but is made with makhana, or fox nuts, in place of the rice. Fox nuts provide a starchiness, similar to rice, that helps to thicken the milk, which is also reduced. Makhana kheer is an acceptable fasting food, so this kheer is often made during religious holidays when people tend to fast. It is also a popular Navratri recipe in many parts of India.
Fox nuts – seeds of prickly waterlily, a plant native to India and parts of Asia. The seeds have been consumed in India for thousands of years.
Milk – reduce, just like making rice kheer.
Saffron – no need to bloom the saffron separately because it is boiled with the milk, giving it enough time to bloom.
Charoli – a nutty seed, similar to almonds but smaller. Used in a lot of Gujarati sweets, especially dudh pak.
Stir constantly to avoid burning the milk and the makhana. Not only do you need to stir, but you also need to scrape anything that starts to stick to the pan before it starts to burn.
Grinding the Makhana
There is a hot debate amongst Indians about whether you should grind your makhana or leave it whole. It comes down to a personal preference that people can become quite passionate about. Many people take the middle ground and grind some makhana, leaving other makhana whole.
I ground about half of my makhana for this recipe. I like the makhana to thicken the kheer and give it a rabdi quality. The whole makhana gives it a nice variation in texture which is pleasant to bite into. To my tastes, the whole makahna is only pleasant when served immediately, while the kheer is still warm.
When it has been kept in the refrigerator overnight or longer, the whole makhana turn chewy. They develop a texture that I do not enjoy. For makhana that will be eaten after some time, I recommend blending all of the makhana.
- To save time and effort in reducing the milk, you can combine evaporated and condensed milk to get the same flavor and effect without doing all the work. It will change the texture slightly, and you will also want to leave out the sugar because of the condensed milk. Replace 1/2 cup of milk with a can of evaporated milk.
- Choice of nuts: charoli is easily substituted by almond, just crush it or slice it. Other nuts you may choose are pistachios or almonds.
- Golden raisins add a nice tartness to the kheer. If you can’t find them, black raisins will do but will change the flavor. Be sure to fry them beforehand, as with the golden raisins.
- Add 2 tablespoons of almond flour to thicken the kheer and add some nuttiness.
- 2 Tbsp ghee
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 ½ cups makhana
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp cashews
- 1 Tbsp golden raisins
- ¼ tsp cardamom
- Pinch of saffron
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp charoli
- Toast cashews in 1 teaspoon of ghee. Take the cashews out and toast the raisins in the same ghee, until the raisins bubble and start to turn golden. It happens quickly, be careful not to burn the raisins.
- Add the remaining ghee to the pan. Toast the makhana over medium-low heat until lightly golden. They will become brittle and easy to crush.
- Grind half of the makhana in a blender or mortar and pestle.
- Transfer the makhana back to the pan. Add milk and saffron. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to simmer the milk. Reduce the milk to half, about 10 minutes.
- Add sugar, nuts, and raisins. Cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add cardamom and nutmeg. Garnish with charoli or nuts of choice.