Mahalabia, also known as muhallebi, is a silky, creamy Middle Eastern dessert comparable to milk pudding. Made with a base of 4 pantry staple ingredients, it’s ready in minutes and is served in small cups for individual portions that are truly crave-worthy.
One of our most requested Ramadan foods, we often prepare mahalabia during the holy month alongside savory options such as chicken shawarma and Moroccan harira soup for a satisfying treat after a long day of fasting.
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What Is Mahalabia?
Mahalabia, or muhallebi, is a popular dessert in many Middle Eastern countries including Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon. Like most recipes, it can be found in many different variations but always consists of a simple, pudding-like base. Just 4 ingredients are used to create a sweet flavor and a silky, indulgent consistency.
Typically served in individual cups with beautiful garnishes like chopped nuts and edible flowers. Popular during Ramadan, it is commonly served during iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast for the day. However, it’s so tasty, we make it throughout the entire year!
What Does Mahalabia/Muhallebi Taste Like?
At its core, mahalabia (muhallebi) is simple and sweet. It easily takes on the flavor of whatever it is paired with. For this recipe, we include vanilla for a delicate yet bold flavor that is fairly neutral yet utterly delicious.
That said, mahalabia can also be found with notes of citrus such as cardamom or orange. Meanwhile, others like to add warm spices like cinnamon and cardamom for a slight kick.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Desserts don’t get much simpler than this mahalabia recipe! With just 5 ingredients total, you’ll have a drool-worthy dessert that will have all your guests coming back for more. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Whole Milk – This forms the base of the mahalabia, creating the smooth texture and rich taste we’re looking to achieve. Do not swap it out for reduced-fat milk! It won’t yield the same flavor or consistency.
- Heavy Whipping Cream – Used to enhance the richness of the pudding, making it extra creamy.
- Granulated Sugar – Helps sweeten the milk, creating a dessert-like pudding.
- Cornstarch – This is crucial to help thicken the mixture. Otherwise, you’ll have milk soup!
- Vanilla – If you really want to go all out, use vanilla bean extract and vanilla bean paste! However, if you prefer a milder flavor or simply want to include less ingredients one or the other will do.
Can Muhallebi Be Made Dairy-Free?
Technically, this recipe will work with any type of milk. However, we highly recommend using whole, dairy milk if you can. Nothing else will yield the same taste or texture.
How to Make Mahalabia
Incredibly simple to make, this classic dessert comes together in a single pot in a matter of minutes.
- Form a Slurry. In a measuring cup, combine part of the milk and cornstarch. Whisk until the ingredients are well combined and a sort of thickened slurry is formed.
- Combine. In a pot over medium-high heat, add the milk, heavy cream, cornstarch slurry, and sugar, whisking to combine.
- Boil. Increase the heat to medium-high, bringing the mixture to a boil.
- Flavor. Once the pudding thickens, remove it from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.
- Chill. Divide the mixture into individual bowls, and place it in the fridge to chill before digging in!
As mentioned, there are many ways to flavor mahalabia (muhallebi). For instance, some of our favorite variations include:
- Orange Blossom Water
- Rose Water
- Almond Extract
- Coconut Extract
How to Serve
The traditional way to serve mahalabia is chilled. This means that it’s great to prepare ahead of time for a no-fuss option at dinner parties and gatherings! In fact, it’s almost mandatory for occasions like Eid and Ramadan. Most commonly, you’ll find it portioned individual portions. However, it can also be served in a large serving bowl.
Part of the appeal of the dessert is its beautiful appearance created with a variety of toppings. Everyone has their own preferences, but common options include:
- Chopped nuts like pistachios and walnuts
- A dash of cinnamon
- Coconut flakes
- Dries or fresh fruit like raisins or berries
- Rose petals
In our opinion, there’s never a bad time to serve mahalabia. However, traditionally it will be brought out at the end of a party along with coffee or tea.
Can I Make This Recipe Ahead of Time?
Yes! We recommend making muhallebi at least 1-2 hours in advance so that it has plenty of time to chill. However, it can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1-2 days.
We do not recommend freezing this dessert as the dairy will not thaw well.
More Middle Eastern Dessert Recipes
Whether you grew up enjoying Middle Eastern recipes or are excited to explore the cuisine, you won’t want to miss out on more of our favorite recipes!
Mahalabia Recipe (Middle Eastern Milk Pudding)
- 3 1/2 cups whole milk divided
- 5 Tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean paste
- In a measuring cup, whisk ½ cup milk and the cornstarch until smooth.
- In a pot over medium heat, add the remaining milk, heavy cream, cornstarch slurry, and sugar, mixing to combine.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, bringing the mixture to a boil and whisking continually.
- Once the pudding thickens, remove it from the heat, and stir in the vanilla.
- Transfer the mahalabia to individual bowls, and store in the fridge for 1-2 hours to set.
- Store in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.