Meghli, also known as karawiyah, is a traditional Lebanese spiced pudding dessert that is both vegan and gluten-free served during the holiday season and for celebratory events, such as the birth of a baby. This recipe is so easy to make, all you really need is rice flour, a sweetener, and a number of herbs and spices. These include caraway seed, anise seed, cinnamon, dandelion root and holy basil, which make up the bulk of the ingredients and impart their warming and healthful benefits.
Memories with Meghli
In the Levantine cultures, whenever meghli is involved, you know that it is associated with a time for festivities. In Lebanon, this traditional dessert is made to celebrate a newborn and is usually made during Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The reason for this is because the herbs used in the meghli, such as caraway and anise, are galactagogues that have properties that support the lactation of mothers. Even more, these herbs are nutritive and promote better digestion, making this healthy dessert able to help an upset stomach — perfect for those heavy holiday meals!
Meghli brings excitement to a household from the moment its spiced aroma wafts all over the home. Since my earliest memories of this dessert, I remember always marveling at the decorative toppings that my mother would change up every time she made it and being impatient to let the spiced pudding cool down before I could eat it.
This dessert has a slightly grainy pudding texture and rich flavor that changes with every bite when combined with the different nuts and coconut flakes. Sharing this celebratory dessert with family, friends, and community makes for a joyful, memorable time.
How to Make Meghli, a Delicious Lebanese Spiced Rice Pudding
This traditional Lebanese spiced rice pudding dessert is perfect for the holiday season and celebratory events, like the birth of a baby. The herbs in this easy-to-make dessert support digestion, boost immunity, and uplift mood. Enjoy!
Ingredients you’ll need…
- 1 cup white rice flour
- 5 ½ cups of water
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 tbsp dried holy basil leaf
- 1 tbsp dried dandelion root
- 1 tbsp caraway seed powder
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp anise seed powder
- ½ cup toppings total (pinenuts, walnuts, pistachio, coconut flakes, rose petals) (optional)
- Soak the nuts in water for at least 30 minutes and then proceed to peel off the skins.
- Add the dandelion root to 5 ½ cups of water in a pot, bringing the water to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes on low heat. Turn off the heat, then add the holy basil and allow to steep, covered, for another 15 minutes. Strain the tea and put it aside to cool to room temperature. This should yield 5 cups of tea but if it makes less, add enough water to make 5 cups.
- In a separate bowl, measure out the rice flour, caraway, cinnamon, and anise spices, then mix together until well combined.
- First, add the flour mixture to a pot and gradually add the maple syrup and whisk together. Then slowly add 5 cups of the tea while whisking to combine.
- Place the pot on medium high heat and keep whisking until the mixture comes to a boil, with large bubbles forming. Then, bring the heat down to low and keep whisking until it thickens for another 10 minutes.
- Take the mixture off the heat and pour into either ramekins, cups, or bowls. Be sure to leave space at the top for the toppings.
- Decorate the top with a mixture of nuts, coconut flakes, and edible flower petals, either chopped or whole. You can use any unseasoned nuts you have at home.
- Refrigerate the meghli for at least 1 hour to allow for it to thicken and be served cold. The meghli can be eaten for up to 4 days with refrigeration.
Yield: 6 servings
The Benefits of Holy Basil
Holy basil is a seasonal favorite as it has an adaptogenic quality that can help us ground ourselves through the stressors this time of year can bring. It is also a herb to call on for celebration as it is uplifting and allows us to open up to others. While more frequent gatherings during the holiday season can be a source of joy, it can also be a time where the nerves may need extra support and holy basil does this as a nervine to bring inner calm. As the holy basil is also a galactagogue, it adds to the effect of caraway in stimulating milk production in nursing mothers.
The Benefits of Dandelion Root
One of my favorites for the colder months, dandelion root is a bitter tonic that has an affinity for the liver and aids bile secretion and improves digestion. It gently brings movement to the digestive system organs, clearing stagnation and sluggish digestion that may be present. It is nourishing for the body as it is high in potassium and calcium and more specifically, it contains high inulin content that feeds the gut’s beneficial bacteria. It has an earthy, mildly bitter taste that is reminiscent of coffee and blends well with the other herbs incorporated into meghli.
The Benefits of Caraway, Anise, and Cinnamon
In meghli, caraway is the most important spice that gives its unique flavoring that is nutty, earthy, and has a hint of licorice. Both caraway and anise have actions as a galactagogue that aid in the production of breast milk in lactating mothers. They also are carminatives, supporting with indigestion and bloating in the digestive tract. Cinnamon is a warming aromatic herb that has an effect in improving digestion and circulation in the body.
Here are some frequently asked questions about how to make meghli…
Can I Use Other Ingredients as Substitutes in This Dessert?
Traditionally, this dessert is made with equal amounts of white sugar but I substitute it with maple syrup. Instead of the white rice flour, you can also opt for brown rice flour to add more nourishment to the dessert. While caraway and cinnamon are staples for meghli, you can opt to not include the anise. Other options for the herbs used could be burdock root in the place of the dandelion root as well as hyssop leaf instead of the holy basil.
Can the Meghli be Served Warm Instead of Cold?
When thinking about how to make meghli, you might wonder whether you can serve meglhi warm. In Lebanon, this dessert is typically eaten cold after refrigeration but in other Levantine countries such as Syria, it could also be served warm.