But soon enough I started experimenting with vegan alternatives to baked goods like cookies and cakes and got better and better at them with time. However, Indian sweets, to which most of us from India are unreasonably addicted, were another matter altogether.
While the role of non-vegan ingredients in baked goods is complementary or even purely functional– they serve as binders or help with the rising, etc– milk plays a central role in Indian sweets. In fact, most Indian sweets, with the exception of jalebi to my knowledge and some lentil-based kheers (a fluid Indian pudding), are dairy-based. At the very least, they call on you to add a dollop of ghee here and there which gives them their unique flavor.
Some sweets are easier to veganize than others: Sheera, for instance, which I blogged about not so long ago. Kaju Katli is another favorite Indian sweet that’s not at all hard to make without any dairy ingredients.
But today, I want to share my recipe for vegan kheer. The ingredient proportions I follow for my kheer are actually meant for rice pudding, but I like my kheer thick and rice pudding really just is kheer, minus a few spices and flavorings.
I used almond milk, my preferred dairy substitute for Indian sweets because of its thick, rich consistency and wonderful nutty flavor. Soy milk is not as good an option because it does have a rather unique and strong flavor that enhances some baked goods and pancakes, but would not be as pleasant in the kheer.
I also added some cardamom which is my favorite spice and which lends a beyond-sublime flavor to sweets.
The kheer turned out quite amazing. It looks a little browner than regular rice kheer, but that’s because I use turbinado sugar which is brown and also because I added a bit of vanilla extract which I love in anything and which is particularly dashing in kheer.
3/4 cup basmati rice
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups almond milk
1/2- 3/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup almonds and cashew nuts chopped (you can use one of the other)
2 tbsp golden raisins
3/4 tsp cardamom powder (seeds from about 10 pods, crushed)
1 tbsp canola oil
Heat the rice and the water until they come to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed by the rice.
Add to this the almond milk, vanilla, and 1/2 to 3/4 cups of sugar, depending on how sweet you want it to be.
Let the kheer simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. Let it remain a little fluid because it will thicken as it stands.
Heat the oil in a small skillet.
Add the nuts and stir until lightly browned. Add the raisins and cardamom powder and stir for about a minute.
Pour over the kheer.
Tip: This kheer tastes great warm, but I love it most chilled.