Turkey's Popular Fırın Sütlaç Pudding Is Creamy, Caramelized Treat

While traveling to Turkey, you may be excited at the prospect of chowing down on Middle Eastern classics like skewered and seasoned kebabs or warm pita dipped in freshly whipped hummus. While you can get these staples and more in the crossroads country of Turkey, the nation has its own unique dishes that, while lesser-known, are equally worth devouring. 

For instance, pairing menemen with Turkish coffee for a quintessential Turkish breakfast may have you attempting to make these dishes at home months after trying them for the first time. For lunch, there's çoban salatası, a fresh summer salad worth chopping up and mixing together during those hotter months. And, don't worry, we didn't forget dessert.

While the baklava in Turkey is bound to blow your mind, there are a plethora of other Turkish desserts worth exploring, particularly their puddings. If you're looking for an easy four-ingredient dessert to whip up and serve after your Turkish soup course or tasty beef burek, then look no further than fırın sütlaç. This classic caramelized Turkish pudding will make you feel like a kid again digging into your favorite childhood dessert.

What is fırın sütlaç?

Turkey is known for its many dairy-rich desserts, particularly milk-based puddings, according to The Spruce Eats. As The Travel notes, fırın sütlaç is very similar to a typical Western-style rice pudding, but it comes with much less sugar. While still sweet, it is more subtle than other rice pudding variations. 

The site also mentions that it is traditionally baked in a clay pot, which allows the pudding to take on a more particular baked pudding flavor and develop a different texture than other varieties. The caramelized top, achieved by pouring on a beaten egg yolk, is also unique to this dish, as it creates a thin flaky section on the surface.

While it seems this traditional pudding originated all the way back during the Ottoman Empire, as per Property Turkey, its popularity has endured. According to The Spruce Eats, fırın sütlaç is made in nearly every Turkish home and is often ordered when going out to eat. Most often, it makes appearances at important family events and more laid-back social gatherings.

Ingredients in fırın sütlaç

Fırın sütlaç is made with only four main ingredients: milk, rice, sugar, and starch. 

As mentioned before, Turks love their milk-based desserts, and whole milk is ideal for this dish. As The Spruce Eats notes, some bakers even swear by using unpasteurized milk for this pudding. While we can't deny that raw milk tastes a whole lot richer, the CDC considers raw milk to be "one of the riskiest foods," and notes that it can include dangerous bacteria. So, we recommend sticking to fresh or store bought whole milk if you decide to try this recipe out at home.

Of course, the second ingredient included in this rice pudding dish is — drumroll — rice. White rice is best, and it does need to be rinsed before cooking with it. We know, it can be a bit of a hassle, but, unwashed rice brings excess starch into your recipe, negatively affecting the texture, according to Food Network.

Sugar is added to this pudding to bring much-needed sweetness to this dessert, along with vanilla extract for the perfect flavoring. Cornstarch is the final main ingredient to bring it all together. It is an ideal thickener that will help your fırın sütlaç reach its thick and creamy potential.

How fırın sütlaç is made and eaten

Puddings may be one of the simplest desserts to make, and this dish is no exception. Just a bit of boiling, whisking, and baking, and the dessert is ready to eat in no time.

The first step in making this dessert, as per The Spruce Eats, is boiling the rinsed rice in water until it is soft. Then milk, sugar, and vanilla are added to the boiling pot of water and rice. Once boiled together for a short amount of time, a milk and cornstarch slurry is added. When the mixture is thick enough and everything is whisked together, it's poured into small serving cups. 

A bit of egg yolk is also poured onto the center of the pudding's surface at this point, which allows it to achieve a caramelized top. The rice pudding is baked until the perfectly gooey top is brown and it has a creamy center. The cups do need to be refrigerated, though, after being removed from the oven.

According to Turkish Food Chef, once your pudding is chilled enough, it can be served with a variety of garnishes. Typically, nuts are the most popular topping, and you can add any kind you like, from chopped hazelnuts to almonds to peanuts. The Spruce Eats also recommends adding raisins or cinnamon for a sweeter dessert experience, but this simple pudding can be customized however you prefer.