Mahalabia dessert (muhallebi) is an egg free Middle Eastern milk pudding that is wonderfully creamy and smooth. It only requires three basic ingredients (milk, sugar and cornstarch) and the flavoring of your choice. Decorate with chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds or whatever you like!
Mahalabia is spelled in so many different ways such as muhalabia, muhallabieh, mouhalabieh. They all refer to the same dessert. I’ll simply use “mahalabia” throughout the post.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy and quick: This recipe is so easy that I was wondering whether to include step-by-step pictures! The time needed to make this recipe is really just the cooking time. You can add a few minutes to throw all the ingredients in a pot and decorate the pudding. But that’s pretty much it!
- Minimal ingredients: You only need three basic ingredients that you probably already have and the flavoring.
- Customizable: You can easily increase the quantities if you’d like to serve a crowd. I’ve written the amounts to serve three people but feel free to adjust. You can also play around with the flavoring and the topping.
- Flavorful: The mahalabia tastes wonderful whether you serve it warm or cold.
- Milk: Since milk is the main ingredient in this recipe, I’d recommend using whole milk, for optimal texture and flavor. If you’d like to add even more richness to the mahalabia, you can replace part of the milk with heavy cream. The pudding with heavy cream will be slightly thicker than one made solely with milk.
- Sugar: You can really add as much or as little sugar as you’d like. I like to add about 12 g for every 100 g of milk (12% the amount of milk). The original recipe which I found in my aunt’s recipe notebook is even sweeter and calls for 16 g/100 g of milk. And if you prefer less sweetness, then you might prefer using 8 g/100 of milk.
- Cornstarch: To thicken the milk pudding. You can add a little more if you prefer a thicker pudding. Some recipes call for rice flour as the thickener. But the rice flour gives a gritty feel to the pudding while a pudding made with cornstarch is very smooth. If you prefer to use rice flour, you’ll need to add more to thicken the pudding.
- Flavoring: You can use whatever flavoring you prefer or have on hand. I love to use a combination of gum mastic and orange blossom water. But you can use rose water, vanilla extract or cardamom to name but a few alternatives.
How To Serve Mahalabia
You can serve the mahalabia in individual bowls or wine glasses for a slightly fancier presentation. You could also increase the quantities and serve it in a large dish.
The mahalabia is most commonly decorated with chopped pistachios. But here are a few more suggestions which you might enjoy:
- chopped walnuts
- sliced almonds
- pine nuts
- pomegranate seeds
- shredded coconut
- chocolate shavings
Now let me show you how easy this recipe really is!
Grind the gum mastic droplets
- Optional: If you wish to use gum mastic, grind the mastic droplets with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar using a mortar and a pestle. Set aside.
A little bit of sugar is added to the gum mastic to prevent it from sticking to the mortar and pestle while grinding.
Cook the mahalabia
- In a medium-sized pot, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and milk. Make sure there are no lumps of cornstarch left before placing on the heat. Tip: Use a heavy-bottomed pot, if possible, to prevent a brown layer from forming in the bottom of the pot.
- Place on medium-high heat (heat 6 out of 9 for example) and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. This will take about 7 minutes.
- When the pudding starts to boil, lower the heat to medium-low (heat 4 out of 9). Keep heating for about 2 more minutes. Don’t forget to stir to prevent lumps from forming and so that it doesn’t stick. It’s ready when: The pudding should have thickened and should coat a spoon. If not, keep heating the pudding for longer (on medium-low).
Adding the sugar: I find it simpler to add the sugar from the beginning, along with the cornstarch and milk. But if you find that the sugar tends to burn, add it to the pudding once it starts to boil, just after lowering the heat.
Flavor and serve
- Remove from the heat and add the ground mastic and orange blossom water (or whatever flavoring you are using). Stir to combine. Taste the mahalabia and add more flavoring, if needed.
- Pour into serving cups. Tip: Transfer to a measuring cup first, if desired, to make it easier to pour into the cups.
- Let it cool down slightly at room temperature (about 30 minutes) then cover with plastic wrap. Chill until cold (about 2 hours). You can skip the chilling step and serve immediately if you enjoy the mahalabia warm. Decorate with chopped pistachios (or whatever you like) before serving.
And that’s it! Super easy, isn’t it?! Hope you enjoy it!