Baisakhi 2023: 10 Phirni Dessert Varieties You Must Indulge In
Image Credit: Image used for representative purpose only. Image courtesy: Freepik

The festival of Baisakhi is just around the corner, and so are celebratory preparations. For those who are unaware of the significance of this festival, Baisakhi, also known as Vaisakhi, is a spring harvest festival celebrated annually on 14 April. In Punjab, the day also commemorates the birth of the Sikh Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh on this very day. Because of this double significance, Baisakhi is considered to be one of the most important festivals of the Punjab and greater North Indian region—as well as all the places where the Punjabi and Sikh diaspora lives today in the world.  

So, celebrating Baisakhi with great aplomb is a must. One of the key parts of celebrating Baisakhi is the preparation of Phirni, which is primarily a rice-and-milk-based pudding flavoured with sugar, mild spices and other ingredients that make it special. While the ingredients used to make Phirni are the same as Kheer, the former is made with coarsely ground rice grains and the latter is made with whole rice grains. This apart, there are many varieties of Phirni that exist across the Indian subcontinent, predominantly differentiated by the flavourings added to them.

Video courtesy: YouTube/Sanjeev Kapoor Khazana

If you are keen on celebrating Baisakhi with all the festive trimmings this year, then take a look at all the Phirni varieties you can mark the occasion with. 

Kesari Phirni

For Sikhs as well as Hindus across the nation, the colour of saffron or kesar is especially auspicious—which makes Kesari Phirni a must-have during Baisakhi. Flavoured with saffron, the spice that adds a distinctive orange-ish colour to the pudding, this Kesari Phirni is made with ground rice and full fat milk. The ingredients, though simple, are remarkably rich, even more so when slivered dry fruits are added to it. Of all the Phirni varieties, this one is almost compulsory in a Baisakhi feast. 

Gulab Phirni

This rosy Phirni is just as good to taste, smell and look at as Kesari Phirni, especially thanks to the beautiful rose petals that are always added on top. Gulab means rose, which means that this Phirni variety is made with ground rice, milk, sugar, rose syrup and plenty of rose petals. While red rose petals add a distinct pink-ish hue to the Phirni, many people also add pink food colour to give the dessert its unique colour. 

Kashmiri Phirni

Also known as Kong Phirin, this Kashmiri Phirni is popular for two reasons. Unlike other Phirni varieties, this one is not made with rice. Instead, semolina, which already has very small grains, is used to make Kong Phirin. This is also the easiest Phirni variety to make as semolina takes very little time to cook and thicken. This apart, the look of this Kashmiri Phirni is similar to that of Kesari Phirni, thanks to the addition of saffron strands. 

Mango Phirni

This summer-favourite Phirni is a celebration of mangoes, the king of Indian fruits. While the basic ingredients like ground rice, milk, sugar, cardamom and dry fruits remains the same, this Phirni is made special with the last-minute addition of mango pulp. This addition of mango pulp is done at the last minute, after the Phirni is cooked and cooling down to prevent the fruit’s sour compounds from splitting the milk-based pudding. Many people also decorate Mango Phirni with mango chunks and dry fruits. 

Sitafal Phirni

Tastes like sugar, smells like vanilla—this unique flavour profile of custard apples, known in India as Sitafal, makes the Phirni made of this fruit outstanding. Unlike other Phirni varieties, this Sitafal Phirni requires very little additional flavouring from ingredients like saffron or cardamom. Instead, the natural vanilla-like flavour of Sitafal Phirni is enough to make a delicious mark on your palate. Quite like in other fruit Phirni recipes, the pulp of custard apples is added to the Phirni only after it has completely cooled down. 

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Kewra Phirni 

Extracted from the fragrant screwpine plant, Kewda or Kewra is an ingredient used to flavour many dishes in the Indian subcontinent, from Biryanis to Kheer. So, why shouldn’t there be an aromatic Phirni flavoured with it? Kewra Phirni is made with ground rice, milk, sugar and Kewra water—which is the only aromatic ingredient used in this version of the classic Phirni. The use of pistachios to garnish this Phirni makes for a beautiful contrast too. 

Khubani Phirni

You might have heard of Khubani Ka Meetha, but have you ever tried Khubani Ki Phirni? Apricots, even when dried, have a subtle and sweet flavour that makes for a great addition to the classic Phirni recipe. To make this version of Phirni, you need to soak the dried apricots overnight and grind them to a paste before adding them to a Phirni made with ground rice, milk, cardamom and sugar. A few chopped pieces of apricot can also be used as a garnish for this Phirni variety. 

Coconut Phirni

This white-coloured Phirni is loaded with the flavours of coconuts. Unlike other Phirni varieties where the basic combination of milk, ground rice and sugar remain the same, the milk used in Coconut Phirni recipes is flavoured with coconut milk to intensify the flavour of the fruit. Many people also replace the rice with coarsely ground coconuts, which has a beautiful grainy texture as it is. A few shavings of coconut and dry fruit slivers as garnish, and a tropical-flavoured Phirni is ready for your platter. 

Orange Phirni

A Phirni flavoured with the citrusy and refreshing flavours of oranges? Yes please, and not just for Baisakhi! This Orange Phirni is so light and delicious that you can actually enjoy it throughout summer season. Because the fruit added here is likely to be more sour than sweet, you will need to increase the amount of sugar in the recipe. Also, remember that the orange pulp that makes this Phirni a standout must be added only after the Phirni has cooled down completely.  

Pineapple Phirni

Another new-age Phirni innovation that tastes great, Pineapple Phirni is made by adding both pineapple pulp and pineapple syrup to the basic Phirni recipe. The pineapple syrup can be added around the end of the cooking period of a classic Phirni made of ground rice, milk, sugar and cardamom. The pineapple pulp, however, must be added only once the Phirni is completely cooled down after cooking. A few chunks of fresh pineapple can also be used to garnish the Pineapple Phirni.