Coconut Milk Payasam (Southern Indian Pudding) - Improv Challenge

Payasam is an Indian dessert, traditionally made with rice, beans or lentils. Although it is referred to as a pudding, it has more of a consistency akin to oatmeal with too much milk stirred in. Southern Indian Jews serve it on special occasions, such as at weddings or after shloshim (the ritual 30 days of mourning).

This month's Improve Challenge calls for a recipe using milk and honey.  What a great idea!  So Rosh Hashanah friendly!  I took my original recipe and swapped out the sugar, replacing it with honey to conform to the rules, but kept the coconut milk to keep it parve (non-dairy).

Yes, I know, whole coconut milk has approximately a bazillion grams of fat per tablespoon, even the light variety. But this is dessert.  You ate properly all day today, so you deserve a reward.  Lucky for you, coconut fat was healthy last week.  And even luckier, this week almost any fat is good. Seriously-er, just divvy out small portions and let the meal end on a happy note.

Coconut Milk Payasam
Adapted from The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker by Dena Price (hey, that's me!)
Yield: 6-8 dessert-sized servings

2 cups water
1 cup red lentils, well rinsed
3/4 cup honey
1 (13.5-15 oz.) can coconut milk (regular preferred, or light)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 teaspoons toasted coconut, for garnish
4 teaspoons pistachio nuts, finely chopped, for garnish

Fun Fact! Raw red lentil are kind of an orange color,
becoming split-pea green after cooking.

Heat water in a 2-quart saucepan over high heat until boiling. Stir in red lentils. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Uncover and stir in honey, coconut milk and ground cardamom. Cover and return to a simmer.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for an additional 15 minutes or until lentils break down a bit and the pudding becomes creamy.  Mixture will be thinner than regular pudding, but will thicken up slightly as it cools.

Serve warm or chilled, topped with toasted coconut and pistachio nuts.


  1. I have never had lentils for dessert, but this looks really good! Thank you for participating this month!

  2. This is really intriguing. I've never had Indian food and this might just be my first taste at it.

  3. It makes sense to use lentils in a pudding, but I'd never thought to do it. What a beautiful looking dessert!

  4. I, too, have never heard of lentils as dessert. Your soup looks incredibly delicious.

  5. What an unusual dessert. Definitely bookmarking this to try.

  6. I never would have thought of lentils for dessert! That definitely makes it even healthier, right? ;) I've got to try this!

  7. What a unique and interesting looks delicious! I love the background information, as well. Perfect timing!

  8. How do you like The Everything Kosher Slow Cooker Cookbook? It's been in my Amazon cart forever, but I tell myself I should stop buying cookbooks.


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