Payesh is a South Asian dessert recipe which is prepared by boiling milk, rice/wheat/lentils, and sugar and is flavored using various dry fruits and nuts. It is mostly served during the special occasions along with meal or as a standalone savory. Payesh is known as “ksheeram” or “ksheer” in Sanskrit, “kheer” in Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu, “Payasam” in Tamil and Malayalam, “Payesh” in Bengali. Nowadays payesh is also prepared using vegetables and vermicelli. During special occasions chilled payesh is decorated with edible gold or silver leaf. The Sanskrit word ksheer refers to milk.


Payesh Recipe- History

It is difficult to trace back the history of payesh. But it is believed that payesh was first prepared in Jaganath Puri temple of Orissa some 2000 years back. Some food historians believe that payesh probably originated in Persia. And Persians treated this as the food of their angels. According to Persian folklore payesh was first prepared in heaven by angels to serve Prophet Muhammad when he ascended to the 7th floor of heaven to meet his almighty. Today payesh has become an integral part of many Hindu and Muslim festivals. The payesh was introduced in Europe by Indians.


Payesh Recipe – Commonly Suggested Ingredients

Normally milk is used as the basic ingredient in many of the payesh recipes. Milk is not used in the preparation of payesh recipes which are sweetened using jaggery. In such recipes coconut milk is used as the base. Various ingredients such as fruits (banana), vegetables such as carrot, beet root, and pumpkin, and grains such as lentils and rice or wheat are cooked along with milk. Mostly sugar and jaggery is used to sweeten the milk. In some places condensed milk is added to sweeten the milk. Mostly dry fruits like pistachios, almonds, raisins and cardamoms are used to flavorise the payesh.


Payesh Recipes – Popular Varieties

• Moongdal(gram dal/lentil) Payesh: This payesh is prepared by combining moong dal with jaggery and is flavorised with fried cashew nuts, raisins, and cardamom powder.

• Banana Payesh: This payesh is prepared by prepared using banana, milk, and jaggery. The payesh is flavorised with cashews, raisins and cardamom powder.

• Pal Payasam or milk payesh: This payesh is prepared by using red rice, milk, sugar, and cardamom powder.

• Semiya Payesh: Vermicilli is cooked with sugar and milk to make this payesh. The payesh is flavorised with cardamom, cashew nuts and raisins.

• Wheat Payesh: This payesh is not prepared using milk. Instead wheat is cooked in jaggery sauce. Cumin powder and ginger powder is used for flavoring the payesh along with fried cashew nuts.

• Jackfruit Payesh: This payesh is prepared using the jackfruit pulp and is sweetened using jaggery.


Payesh Recipe- Serving and Eating Suggestions

Payesh can be consumed hot or cold as per ones taste preferences. Normally the payesh recipes involving milk are consumed cold. The payesh is normally served towards the end of the traditional dinner.


Payesh Recipes- Regional Variations

• North India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nepal: As per the North Indian traditions the autumn season is considered to be auspicious for eating payesh. Payesh is prepared using milk and rice and is flavorized with fruits and colorized using saffron.

• East Indian Version: It is widely believed that payesh originated in Orissa. The rice and milk is sweetened with sugar or jaggery. In Bengali tradition payesh is served during the weaning ceremony of the infant and all other traditional ceremonies too.

• South Indian version: In South India Payesh is served during all special occasions and is considered to be the auspicious dish which is even offered to gods. Mostly jaggery based payesh is offered to god across the temples of South India. In South India payesh is prepared using various fruits too. And in Kerala payesh is prepared using jaggery and coconut milk.