Bethany Kehdy

A Champion of Middle Eastern Food & Recipes

Beirut & Riz Bi Haleeb- Rice Pudding with Mastic & Orange Flower Blossom

Beirut & Riz Bi Haleeb- Rice Pudding with Mastic & Orange Flower Blossom

Riz Bi Haleeb

I always love a really good Lebanese rice pudding. It is so easy to make and a blend of some of my favorite flavors. This one in particular has one I don’t get to use so often; mastic gum. Mastic gum reminds me of the Lebanese milk & mastic ice cream we used to have all the time growing up. It was and still is one of my favorites. I love how the ice cream gains a very light stretchy pull, as a result of the mastic gum. You can imagine how entertaining that is when you’re a child. Or maybe I was just easily entertained?

Mastic is a gum or resin that is cultivated from the bark of the mastic tree: An evergreen tree growing in the Mediterranean. It’s been used for centuries as a natural gum, hence where the word mastication was derived.

Rice pudding is so simple and cheap to make because it uses all the ingredients found in your pantry. I believe many around the world now enjoy the delicate, sweet fragrance of orange flower blossom and may have it in stock, while, on the other hand mastic might still be one of those exotic ingredients to some.

It can be found in any Middle Eastern store and I really do think it’s worth the hassle to find some. Its got a very exquisite aroma and just exudes a lush, lemony, decadent flavor to this dessert.

Rice pudding was first made in Asia and brought to Europe from the Middle East. In the Roman times, it was used as a medicine and in many places it is still used to sustain the sick and malnourished.

Riz Bi haleeb 2

Beirut was once regarded as the pearl of the Middle East. Lebanon was known for its sun-drenched beaches, snow-capped mountains, cultured people, true art of hospitality, rich and wholesome cuisine, world-class museums and universities, and exciting nightlife. Then the civil war began in 1975 and Lebanon suffered this reality of war for fifteen years. People quickly forgot its natural beauty and vibrancy. It made the news but for all the wrong reasons. The name Beirut decayed as its use began to denote death, chaos, war, suffering, and destruction.

Since, Beirut has slowly made its way back onto the world map revealing its deep fervor and appreciation for life no matter what its history tells. The Lebanese take great delight in demonstrating this. Days are spent soaking up the warm rays of the Mediterranean sun; the afternoons lazing around a lavishly spread table of the finest and most gratifying fare; before dancing it all away into the wee hours of the morning, tirelessly exhibiting all the glamour notorious to Hollywood.  But, there is still much of its old charm left to explore as well. Like many Beirutis, all one must do is escape to the outskirts or picturesque mountainside for a change of pace and atmosphere.

Lebanon is for those that have an appetite for the unknown and a yearning to arouse their palates along the way. It is an entertainment, culinary and cultural haven. It’s one of the world’s best-kept secrets. But, don’t take my word for it…

Saifi Village 2- Beirut

Downtown Beirut, Saifi Village

Saifi Village 1-Beirut
Church & Mosque

Church & Mosque stand side by side in Downtown Beirut- Solidere

Clock Tower Downtown Beirut

Solidere Clock Tower

Downtown Beirut-Shop fronts
Dowtown Beirut Cafes

Cafes and shops in downtown Beirut.

Riz Bi Haleeb 2

Beirut & Riz Bi Haleeb- Rice Pudding with Mastic & Orange Flower Blossom
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
  • 700ml milk
  • 250ml water
  • 100g short grain white rice
  • 100g sugar
  • (15ml) 1 tablespoon of orange blossom water
  • 70g unsalted pistachios, half ground- half whole
  • ¼ teaspoon mastic powder
  1. Pour milk into a heavy bottomed pan.
  2. Add the sugar.
  3. And bring to a boil on a medium to low flame. Stir often.
  4. Once the milk and sugar mixture has come to a boil, add the rice and water. Regarding the rice-there are two arguments. The first is that rinsing rice removes the starch which is what makes it creamy, in the case of risotto or rice pudding. In rice-centric countries like the Middle East and Asia the rice is always washed. This is because of cleanliness as well as removing talcon powder and drying agents. When it comes to risotto (arborio rice), I never wash my rice. But, in all other cases I do. If I don’t, then I start hearing my grandmother’s voice and she was adamant on washing rice.
  5. Stir well. Let the mixture reach another boil and then lower the flame.
  6. Stir very often making sure rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. It will take about 45 minutes from the second boil for the rice to absorb all the liquid and become creamy.
  7. In the mean time, pound the mastic into powder.
  8. Once 30 minutes have passed, add the orange blossom water and the mastic powder
  9. Stir often and cook for a further 15 minutes.
  10. The rice pudding should be ready. Let sit for about 15 minutes to cool before spooning into a bowl or single serving size dishes.
  11. Place in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Serve chilled decorated with slivered almonds, toasted pine nuts or pistachios.


29 thoughts on “Beirut & Riz Bi Haleeb- Rice Pudding with Mastic & Orange Flower Blossom

  1. Your country sounds so beautiful. I don’t know alot about Lebanon. It sounds like a place my husband and I would travel to if times were not so tough.

  2. As ever i learn while i eat…Very productive!!!. I enjoy greatly your honest forthright writing. We all hope one day Lebanon can achieve it potential.

  3. I loved this when my Lebanese aunty used to make it when we were kids growing up! thanks for the memory ill be sure to try this on a free day 🙂


  5. thank you beth for your lovely recipe. i miss lebanon from your video. i wish i was there with you. thank you very much for giving us a nice memories .

  6. I love how your photography has really shone. Thanks for the tips on the rice pudding- I’ve yet to make one 🙂 And beautiful pics of the scenery too!

  7. What a beautiful part of the world! Thanks for sharing those wonderful pictures with us!

    That rice pudding looks so mouthwatering and refined!



  8. What a wonderful dessert. I absolutely love these flavors and the step-by-step photos are so clear it looks easy! And the photos are stunning – yours?

  9. Thanks Rosa!
    Jamie- Yes. I’ve been practicing alot. Still a long ways to go but I sure notice the difference from when I fist started. Yikes! 🙂

  10. As usual, the rice pudding is outstanding.

    Before I read your comments about Lebanon, I wanted to visit but after reading, I am determined to get there somehow, sometime….

  11. Fabulous pics of Beirut, how many times has it been rebuilt now?

    Rice pudding is a standard in Greek cuisine and we cherish the mastic from the island of Chios. The use in rice pudding is one I’ve tasted and I love it!

  12. Hi Peter,

    Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you like the pictures 🙂

    If believe Beirut has been rebuilt about 7 times.

    Agreed. mastic in rice pudding just takes it to a different world!

  13. Hi Beth,
    Today I was surprised to find your blog, I too remember Riz be Haleeb, from my childhood, my mum used to make it all the time, but she used to use a powdered rice.
    I now make this recipe but I use semolina, and my kids and husband love it , they say it tastes like the mastic ice cream I grew up with. I still have my grandmother’s time consuming recipe. lol

    Love your blog

  14. Thanks for this.
    Now I know the secret to the perfect rice pudding and will surprise my whole family with it. I’ve always wondered why I could never get that beautiful gelatinous texture…it was just mastika all along! 🙂

  15. Wow, what a lovely reminder of Beirut your photos are. I’m looking to make some riz b’haleeb but not a big fan of mastic and orange blossom water. I guess I can make a on-authentic version, non?

  16. Hi I noticed you don’t use mazaher or mawared… Is there a reason for that? Does it not go well with the mastic powder? Let me know what you think. Looking forward to trying this recipe soon.

  17. Thank you for all those yummy recipes. I have a question, what is the purpose of the mastic powder ? (never used it before )
    Thank you again.

  18. hi Bethany
    i live in Beirut but i never made the rice pudding myself! (i will today). I Found your blog and really glad that you still are passionate about Beirut, the culture. it seems the positive vibes we experience here never leave us!

    keep up and good luck!

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