Rose Mehalabya (Milk Pudding)
Arabic style milk pudding infused with a touch of rose and orange blossom waters, adorned with rose syrup topping and garnished with caramelized pistachios. Talk about eye candy! Plus…recipe VIDEO included!
Today we’re not inventing the wheel here. We’re taking a Middle Eastern classic as old as time, and making it really well.
But we’re not stopping there. We’re kicking it up a couple notches by splashing it with gorgeous colors and varying textures, to please your eyes and spoil your tastebuds.
So let’s take good ol’ Mehalabeya, save it from the shadow of boredom and give it the spa treatment it deserves.
Mehalabya is a traditional Arabic milk pudding, with similar variations in Greece and Turkey. It is typically made with just milk, sugar and thickened with rice flour or cornstarch for a characteristically creamy and slightly jiggly texture. It is served cold and takes on different flavors like vanilla, mastic, cardamom, rose and orange blossom water, to name a few.
In Egypt, Mehalabeya might just be the most common dessert there is. It’s ease, simplicity and humble ingredients makes it a staple at every household. Big restaurant chains would serve it on the house after a big meal of seafood or kebab and kafta. But you’ll also find it sold at every hole in the wall food joint and coffee shops alike.
It even trespassed its popularity as a food, and has become an adjective used to describe a beautiful woman with a voluptuous figure lol!
What I love most about Mehalabeya is it’s lightness that won’t weigh you down; making it the perfect sweet after a heavy meal or a late night pick me up. What I don’t like about it though, is how “blah” and one dimensional it can be.
Mainstream mehalabeya in Egypt is usually served plain with a shy sprinkling of cost-conscious garnishes like shredded coconut, raisins and if you’re lucky, a couple shavings of walnuts. The pudding itself is often left unflavored, depending on the milk for taste, but is sometimes infused with a whiff of vanilla. The texture is more often than not, too lean and jiggly, bordering on jello jiggly, making the whole experience an unexciting one.
As great as it is for a budget-friendly dessert, today… as an upgrade, let’s do it better.
This mehalabeya has just the right ratios of everything. A little bit of heavy cream is added to the milk for a much needed boost of richness and body. A slightly increased amount of cornstarch is added for stability and a little less jiggle and a lot more creaminess. The sweetness is on point; not too mild, not too sweet, and the pudding is flavored wth aromatic rose and orange blossom water for subtle floral notes.
Mind you, the mehalabeya base is perfect on its own, so feel free to flavor it with whatever your heart desires. Omit the rose and orange blossom water if you’re not into them, and use vanilla or mastic instead. But I’d wear that stuff as perfume if I could, which is why I made them the star of today’s recipe.
For a spark of color, play in textures and boost of mild rose flavor, I decided to top the mehalabeya with a very thin layer of rose syrup topping. The flavor is very subtle and not overpowering at all, but adds a welcomed depth to the otherwise plain mehalabeya. The rose topping is made from rose syrup concentrate, known as sharbat ward in Arabic, which is used to make a traditional drink served at Egyptian weddings and happy occasions. Rose syrup drink is associated with joy and it’s vibrantly pink color has become a symbol of celebration, so I’m love with it’s addition here. I thin out the rose concentrate with water for a less potent taste and thicken it up with cornstarch so it could sit nicely atop the mehalabeya surface without seeping down the sides.
I then top all that with orange blossom water kissed caramelized pistachios from a lovely crunch and a nutty flavor. This thing is addictive and I could just eat it with a spoon.
For presentation, you can either serve it family-style in a bowl, or in individual cups as big or is small you like…I clearly went with tiny.
Here’s a quick of how easily it comes together.
After cooking the mehalabeya mixture over the stove, which is a 5-minute process, no kidding, you pour into the serving vessel of your choice, then refrigerate as you prepare the rose syrup topping.
Which is another 3-minute job! Pour a tiny bit of it over the surface of the slightly set mehalabeya. Then refrigerate once again until fully set.
At which point can be topped with the caramelized pistachios…
A food-safe dried rose leaf if you like…
And dig in with a spoon!
Will you look at all these layers.
Any food with vibrant colors has my heart…and I hope will win yours too.
Rose Mehalabya (Milk Pudding)
Arabic style milk pudding infused with a touch of rose and orange blossom waters, adorned with rose syrup topping and garnished with caramelized pistachios. Talk about eye candy! Plus...recipe VIDEO included!
For the Mehalabya (Milk Pudding):
- 3 1/4 cups whole milk
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup (56g) cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons orange blossom water, more or less according to taste
- 1 teaspoon rose water, more or less according to taste
For the Rose Syrup Topping:
- 2 tablespoons rose syrup concentrate (sharbat ward)
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- 2 teaspoons (5g) cornstarch
For the Pistachio Topping:
- 2 teaspoons (10g) unsalted butter
- 100g (about 1 cup) unsalted pistachios, finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
To make the Mehalabya (Milk Pudding):
- In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together the milk, heavy whippingcream, sugar and cornstarch until well combined and the cornstarch has dissolved completely without any visible lumps.
- Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a full boil, whisking constantly. Continue to boil for a few more seconds until the mixture thickens and large bubbles form around the surface.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the orange blossom and rose waters.
- Pour into cups and refrigerate uncovered until the surface has begun to set; about 20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the Rose Syrup Topping.
To make the Rose Syrup Topping:
- In a very small saucepan, off the heat, whisk together the rose syrup concentrate, water and cornstarch until well combined.
- Set the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a full boil, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and large bubbles form around the surface.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and spoon a thin layer of the rose topping over the surface of each mehalabya cup, tilting the cup to cover evenly.
- Refrigerate until set and cold; about 2 hours or up to overnight.
To make the Pistachio Topping:
- In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, melt the butter then add in the pistachios. Sauté the pistachios in the butter, stirring frequently, until just beginning to toast. Add in the sugar and stir until melted and lightly caramelized around the pistachios. Off the heat, then add in the orange blossom water. Transfer to another bowl, and allow to cool completely.
- Spoon the pistachio topping evenly over the cooled mehalabeya cups. Serve right away or keep refrigerated until its time to serve. Enjoy the Rose Mehalabeya cold and at cool room temperature.
- This mehalabeya is a great all purpose base that you can infuse with the flavoring of your liking. Omit the rose and orange blossom waters if you like and add vanilla, for example, instead. You can also leave out the rose syrup topping and add your favorite nut mix instead of pistachios.
- Feel free to serve the mehalabeya, family-style in one big bowl or dish instead of individual servings.
- This recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled or even cut in half or quartered.
Measurements Note: All recipes of this site have been developed using weight measurements. Although US volume measurements have been included for your convenience, it is highly encouraged that you weigh your ingredients using a kitchen scale to get the best possible results. Due to the sensitive nature of baking, kitchen scales are proven to yield more accurate and consistent results than measuring cups. Enjoy!
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WOW. Yes, those are exactly my favorite colors, flavors, and textures to eat. Thanks for sharing!!
Colorful food is my favorite too! Hope you get a chance to try this recipe soon ?
I really want to try your recipe for rose mehalabeya! But I have one question: How can I substitute the sharbat ward? I live in Germany and I don’t think I can get it here. Would it be possible to replace it with syrup, rose water and pink food colouring? Or would that be different in taste?
Thank you so much in advance for replying 🙂
Hi Laila! When I was developing this recipe, I wanted so badly to have a bright pink topping, so I tried so many different options including your colored syrup suggestion. I must admit that I didn’t love this one; it was too sweet & seeped down the sides of the cup because it’s not thick enough. I did however, get satisfactory results with thinned down rose jam. It had the color (not as bright though), it had the taste & thickness. It not as good as the Rose syrup concentrate but it has the same feel to it.
Thank you for your advice, I’m going to try it with rose jam and see how that goes. I think I can get rose jam at a turkish shop in my town. Best wishes xx
So beautiful !
Thank you Lou!
Awesome colours! You’re so creative msA 🙂 I am so glad I stumbled upon yout blog
Hi Labani! Thanks for stopping by. I’m so happy you found your way here. Hope you enjoy everything you see and taste 🙂
My Favorite Blog of all times.
Bravo and thank you.
I have been here in the States for 27 years, MOM passed away and I never knew how to do her Kahk or many of her amazing recopies and then I found your Blog.
Every thing is delicious and very traditionally correct. Thank you Again.
Shahinaz I’m so touched by your heartfelt comment. You have no idea how happy it makes me to know that my blog symbolizes more than just a recipe source for you. I hope that the recipes you make from my blog, reminds you of the ones your angelic mom used to make and bring back all the good memories.
This is a wonderful dish! I just love all of the flavors. I have to ask though, where did you get those great looking serving glasses from?
Thank you so much Ed! The little cups are actually disposable plastic ones, but I wash & reuse them after every use. I got them from Party City. They have a really large variety of shapes…hope you find them!
Party City? That’s amazing! I’m going to look for some today. Thanks for letting me know.
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Mehalabiya was always a ‘blah’ dessert for me but this recipe takes it up to a whole new level! Silky, smooth, light & full of flavor! The rose & pistachio toppings are amazing! I absolutely LOOOOOOVED it. Thank you once again for a winner recipe.
Same here! Mehalabya had always been something I never craved, until I discovered that adding other flavorings and textures can elevate it to other levels. I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this one. Bon Appetit ?
Hi ….m so glad I found this blog ..m from India & love to try different types of cuisine….just one question can I make this rose mehalabya a day in advance n serve the next evening??
Thank you in advance ?
Hi Monica! Welcome abroad. I’m so happy you found your way here.
You can most certainly make the mehalabya a day in advance, even more if you like. I’ve once tasted it 3 days later and it still tasted just as good.
I made it twice. It’s a perfect recipe. What I like about it is that it’s not too sweet and not too creamy. It’s a light desert. The surprise was the caramelized pistachios. They taste amazing and the rose water gives them a lovely sent. I didn’t make it with the rose syrup. I highly recommend it ?
So lovely to hear that Wesam! I’m really happy you enjoyed this dessert as much as we do. Thank you so much for your wonderful feedback and recommendation.
Would it be possible to use coconut milk instead of milk?
Hello Saiqa! Sure! But I wouldn’t recommend the canned type (super rich and heavy), instead…I suggest going for the lighter ones sold in cartons.
Hello Tasbih 🙂
This looks amazing! I want to make it but top it with Amareldeen (cooked apricot leather). Do you have a recipe for that? Your instructions are always on point do I thought I would ask you first before I look elsewhere ?
Amareldeen would taste amazing here! I really wish I could help you in regards to that, but I’ve only tried making amareldeen pudding once and it wasn’t good enough to share.
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Hi recipe looks amazing, but my rose syrup foamed…is that normal?
Thank you Muriel! No dear it shouldn’t foam. Did the syrup by any chance have soda in it, like carbonated water? In any case, skimming off the foam or staining it through fine-mesh sieve would help.
This pudding was delicious and very eady to make. Last time i added orange water and vanilla. Now i have rose water so will be making it again this time with both orange a d rose water. I haven’t ben able to find any rose syrup yet bot the pistachio topping was very good .
Such an inviting dessert with lovely colours. Feel like grabbing one straight from here only. Loved the idea 9f caramelized pistachios. Definitely going to try it. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank you so much Samira for your lovely words. I wish I could transport you one through the screen too lol ?
Assalamualaikum sister. Thank you so much for sharing all your recipes. Alhamdulillah those I’ve tried are always so yummy and turn out amazing..especially this one. I have never tried this dessert before and my first time was when I made it following your recipe…it was sooo good! My Syrian husband was shocked that I made it…he said it reminded him of back home. I am so grateful to you for sharing all your knowledge and going through trouble to test all your recipes. May Allah reward you with khayr.
One thing I have never tried before is Palestian knafeh and I was pleasantly surprised that you have a recipe here! Unfortunately there is no way I can get a hold of any of the ingredients or utensils you use (I live in Asia) so for now I can only imagine what it tastes like. If it’s any like your other recipes I know it would be as authentic as the actual thing and tastes great 🙂
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Hey, how many servings does this make?
Hello Suhanee! It really depends on the size of the cups you serve them in, but about 8 (1/2 cup servings) or about 20-22 shot glasses.
Hello from New Zealand! I would love to make this. I haven’t got heavy cream though, and we’re in lockdown here so it will be a while until my next supermarket visit. Could I leave it out, just use more milk or add butter perhaps? Thank you!
Hi Iulia! Yes you can substitute the heavy cream with more milk. It will be less rich but just as delicious. Adding butter might actually be a good idea, but I honestly haven’t tried it to be sure. Enjoy ?
I just wanted to thank you for all your hard work. The quality of your work really shines through. You have given me the nuanced knowledge to make all these wonderful oriental desserts from my childhood, and it’s all in english?. Wishing you a wonderful day during these difficult time.
Thank you so much Enchad for your kind words and wonderful comment. I’m really happy you’re enjoying the recipes I post here.
Thank you so much! I am Egyptian too and I do love Mehalabya but it never occured to my mind to add Sharbat. The colors are marvilous. I am interested to give it a try. Thanks, dear! ??
Thank you Iman! The flavors go really well together. I hope you love it when you do get a chance to make it.
I made this and did love it. It is delicious and easy. I am Egyptian so I know Mahalabiya but adding sharbat was new for me. Thank you so much! I am interested to try other recipies of yours. ??
So wonderful to hear that you loved this twist on Mehalabeya Iman! I hope you like everything you try just as much ?
What is the heavy whipping cream? Is it different from the available whipping cream?
No dear it’s the same as whipping cream. It’s just that it’s also named heavy whipping cream in other countries, so I like to mention both names. Sorry for the confusion.
hi. i was trying to make this and it tasted so good الحمد لله
however i had tiny lumps. any suggestions on how to avoid this?
Glad to hear that Sumaya! Just make sure to keep whisking the mixture continuously as you’re cooking it. You can also strain it in a sieve to remove any lumps that may have formed.
While typing my comment the mehalabiyah is in the fridge right now. I was able to taste of the pudding, the rose syrup and the caramelized pistachios. OMG, every component is irresistible seductive delicious and I can’t wait to dig in.
Your recipe is the most beautiful, delicious, richest and creamiest mehalabiyah I’ve ever eaten.
Although I have two tiny remarks to share: the amount of the pudding makes easily 6 to 8 servings as the pudding is very rich while the amount of the rose syrup is not enough to cover everything. I would suggest to double ( or one and half) the amount to get a more a nice top layer.
Eid Mubarak and كل عام و انت بالف خير
I hope you had a wonderful eid Bianca! Thank you so much for the beautiful comment. I’m so glad you enjoyed the mehalabya. Definitely feel free to make more of the rose topping. I personally prefer a very thin layer so as not to distract from the gentle flavors of the mehalabeya itself; but I’m so glad you liked this part so much that you’re willing to double it ?
Hello… how many servings would this recipe make ?
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Fab dessert recipe – thank you! Couldn’t do the rose topping as didn’t have the syrup you mentioned, but the roasted pistachios were sublime with the pudding!
Wow, this looks stunning!! I would love to try this for my nephews christening next month. Any ideas what I can use to change the pink to blue?
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Can this be made without the heavy whipping cream?
Definitely want to try this recipe, any alternative for cornstarch? If yes, could you please tell me the proportions too?
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I have tried your recipe of rose mehalabya today but the only problem I faced was with the rose syrup and cornstarch part. mine turned out to be a bit chewy and it was very difficult to handle to pour over the custard part. Please advise where I may have gone wrong!