Pumpkin Rice Pudding with a Millet Variation

The fall market in Ukraine is all about pumpkins–the delicate yellow squashes that resemble melons, orange rounds large enough to become Cinderella’s coach, elongated butternuts, green pebbly varieties with white flesh, and so much more. In the customary fashion of a Ukrainian market, the sellers offer small pieces of pumpkin to prove that theirs is the sweetest, the ripest and the most fragrant.

Sampling pumpkins at the market in Poltava, I realized that many varieties taste of violets. This floral-fruity note makes pumpkin an interesting ingredient in sweet and savory dishes. I like to roast pumpkin cubes tossed with garlic, chili and cumin as well as coated in honey and sprinkled with walnuts. I make minestrone with beans and bacon–or use pumpkin in delicate pureed soups with pears and cardamom. Its flavor is subtle, but it’s surprisingly assertive.

Yet, if I had to pick my favorite way to eat pumpkin, it would be harbuzova kasha, Ukrainian pumpkin pudding. It can be made with either rice or millet. While kasha technically means “porridge,” I can’t bring myself to use that stodgy word for a dish that’s comforting and yet elegant. It can be made as sweet as you like, but I like mine with very little sugar to allow the flavor of pumpkin to stand out.

In Ukraine, harbuzova kasha is usually eaten for breakfast, with a generous dab of butter and a drizzle of honey.

Try harbuzova kasha with rice and almond milk for a Lenten variation that tastes anything but austere. The pairing of rice, pumpkin and almonds is sumptuous.

Pumpkin Rice (or Millet) Pudding (Harbuzova Kasha)

Serves 6

1/3 cup round grain rice or millet
1 L (4 c) milk
1/2 lb (2 cups) pumpkin cut into medium cubes
salt, sugar to taste
butter to garnish

If using rice:

Wash rice until water runs clear and let it for soak for 15-30 min.

Cover rice with 1 cup of water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. Leave the lid ajar and cook until the water is almost absorbed. Add pumpkin cubes, 3 cups of milk and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the rice is soft and the pumpkin is falling apart. Add the rest of the milk towards the end of the cooking time. Add salt and sugar to taste.

Please note that different types of rice absorb different amounts of liquid, so you might need more or less milk to obtain the desired texture. Use my proportions as a guideline, but adjust it to your taste. Also, the pudding will thicken as it cools, so if you like it runny and soft, add more milk.

A dab of butter at the end is a fine thing.

If using millet:

Wash millet and cover it with 1 cup of water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring to a simmer. Leave the lid ajar and cook until the water is almost absorbed. Add 3 cups of milk and cook for 10 min on medium heat. Stir from time to time. Add pumpkin, the rest of the milk and for cook for 20 minutes more. Keep stirring to prevent milk from scorching. Adjust salt and add sugar to taste. If the pudding thickens too quickly, reduce the heat and add more milk.

Serve with a dab of butter. Enjoy!

Photography by Bois de Jasmin



  • Karen A: Oooh, this sounds scrumptious! This year I grew pumpkins and am looking for ways to use them. This may be the new winter breakfast! Thank you for sharing this. November 8, 2019 at 8:00am Reply

    • Victoria: My pleasure! It’s so easy to make. I forgot to mention that it tastes very good cold, but if you want to eat it cold as a dessert, add more sugar. November 8, 2019 at 8:21am Reply

    • Victoria: And by the way, if anyone has their favorite recipes with pumpkin, I’d love to know them. November 8, 2019 at 8:29am Reply

  • AndreaR: Roasted pumpkin with honey and walnuts sounds yummy.Must try!.
    My breakfast for cold mornings:
    hot steel cut oats mixed with pumpkin puree, sprinkled with cinnamon, topped with cranberry compote and served with a tiny bit of cream. November 8, 2019 at 9:53am Reply

    • Victoria: Pumpkin and walnuts make for a great combination, whether sweet or savory. And I like the idea of oats with pumpkin. November 13, 2019 at 3:56am Reply

  • Filomena: This sounds great! Last night I had pumpkin soup, which I enjoyed. November 8, 2019 at 10:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Another favorite pumpkin dish! November 13, 2019 at 3:56am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: You ask for favourite pumpkin recipes? Well mine is the South African / Capetonian pumpkin bredie. It is a savoury stew with lamb, (a few) potatoes and pumpkin, flavoured with cinnamon and nutmeg and something sour like sorrel. Captonian Bredies are a whole „genre“ like the Persian khoresh, so there is tomato bredie, bean bredie, pumpkin or squash bredie and the waterblommetjie bredie!
    Lovely with yellow rice and peach chutney, called blatjang in Afrikaans. November 8, 2019 at 11:31am Reply

    • OnWingsofSaffron: Addendum: I wrote my comment above in the train. So I just checked my bredie memory by revisiting the cookery book “Cass Abrahams Cooks Cape Malay–Food from Africa”. I am a great fan of Cass Abrahams; she has a second book called “A Life with Food”. I recommend both wholeheartedly as they are authentic and down to earth, and the results are delicious.
      Anyway, Cass Abrahams has a recipe for a Pumpkin and Pear Bredie, featuring among other ingredients: mutton, pumpkin, fresh ginger, allspice, cinnamon, brown sugar and dried pears. November 8, 2019 at 4:39pm Reply

      • Tourmaline: Hi OnWingsofSaffron,

        Reading about all these varieties of bredie (new to me) made me feel hungry, especially the last one!

        Out of interest, I looked up Cass Abrahams on our Australian Amazon – Amazon.com.au – which is fairly new. (Unfortunately, we can’t use the American or English ones any longer.) It didn’t have “A Life with Food”, but it did have “Cooks Cape Malay” in paperback – for anyone prepared to part with $145 in Australian dollars! That’s approximately $100 in USD. Oh, and it was listed as having been released on 1 January 1761! I had a look on the American Amazon, and the same paperback, with a release date in 2000, was selling for only $28.38 in USD. (I suspect that our Oz Amazon was in too much of a rush to become established and begin trading, as errors such as the release date of this book are not uncommon.)

        Not to worry, I can buy the book second-hand for just $4.75 from the wonderful Abe Books!

        With kind regards,
        Tourmaline November 9, 2019 at 11:54am Reply

        • Victoria: I do love Abebooks! November 13, 2019 at 6:51am Reply

          • Tourmaline: Isn’t it great? Since discovering it a couple of years ago, I now check there before buying almost any book, because it’s good not just for hard-to-find titles, but for inexpensive second-hand ones. More bang for my Oz buck! November 13, 2019 at 11:13am Reply

            • Victoria: Yes, and it’s also easy to use. November 15, 2019 at 12:55am Reply

      • Victoria: Off to look for it! November 13, 2019 at 6:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! You’ve set me searching for bredie online. November 13, 2019 at 3:56am Reply

      • OnWingsofSaffron: Great! I’m so glad if I can promote the South African cuisine. Cass Abrahams book focusses more or less completely on what is called Cape Malay cuisine: delicious. And if I had to choose between the two books I recommended I’d opt for “Cass Abrahams Cooks Cape Malay–Food from Africa”.
        As we’re talking cooking here, may I take the opportunity to recommend a second book from RSA: this time focussing on one “genre”—curry, but truly and exhilaratingly going through from north to south: Ishay Govender-Ypma’s book “Curry: Stories & Recipes across South Africa”.
        Let me be very clear: it is not the culinary extravagance of the recipes which make this book so wonderful. No, it’s the journey through the Rainbow Nation, and you can read mini-biographies of white, black, Coloured and Indian South African, migrants from Pakistan. People from well situated farms to very humble townships. All sing the praise of curry, within their means. Tears come to my eyes when I read this, as I love South Africa dearly, having lived there, my parents being buried there. November 13, 2019 at 2:30pm Reply

        • Victoria: I ended up buying Curry: Stories & Recipes across South Africa. Thank you for sharing, I’m not as familiar with that part of the world and its cuisine, and it will be a pleasure to learn more. November 15, 2019 at 12:58am Reply

          • OnWingsofSaffron: Great! It‘s a book more about people and their lives than a book about fantastic dishes; about food and less about recipes. November 15, 2019 at 1:31am Reply

            • Victoria: That’s what appealed to me the most about it. I like the books that give the cultural context. November 15, 2019 at 3:22am Reply

  • David R.: Love the idea! My 6 year old has been craving rice pudding this week, that’ll be a nice way to add some seasonal color to kitchen time! Glad to have an occasion to incorporate millet too; hope the little one will be as thrilled! Thanks for the post, great ambiance setting too 🙂
    I love that cookie and kate pumpkin bread recipe and was somewhat surprised how much people at work loved it too. Considering how I toned down the honey and messed with pretty much all the ratios to make a double batch 😛
    I did add a little salt to compensate and fresh ground spices though! 😀
    I’ll try it again for sure!
    https://cookieandkate.com/healthy-pumpkin-bread-recipe/ November 8, 2019 at 11:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, it sounds so good! November 13, 2019 at 6:48am Reply

  • Tourmaline: Hi Victoria,

    What a lovely post – it would have been great for Halloween!

    I love pumpkin, and I would eat it more often if I didn’t find it rather difficult to cut. (It’s really about time I bought a good quality, large, sharp knife, or set of knives. If only they didn’t frighten me so much! I’ve grown accustomed to working with less-than-sharp ones with which I rarely hurt myself.) How thoughtful it was of Mr Heinz to provide us with tinned pumpkin soup!

    I am intrigued to hear that you realized many pumpkin varieties taste of violet; perhaps that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. Am I correct in assuming that the samples you were given at the Poltava markets were raw? Does cooking substantially alter that flavour? I must try pumpkin again soon – both raw and cooked.

    Speaking of comfort food, my favourite would have to be good quality chocolate cake. Please bear with me while I tell you the sorry tale of my SMOKED CHOCOLATE CAKE.

    Recently, I prepared the batter for a chocolate cake, only to find that my oven had stopped working (over 40 years old, blown fuse or something). I had the idea of cooking the batter in a wide, deep pan on the stove top. I knew that the bottom might burn a little, but I thought I could cut that section off.

    In an attempt to minimize burning, I used a fairly low temperature. However, after over half an hour, the top section was still molten, so I increased the temperature. After a while, smoke began rising from some of the bubbles, but I continued, because the top layer was beginning to cook.

    When the top layer had only a very small amount of uncooked batter, I turned off the heat, because I thought that a little uncooked batter under the icing would not be too bad, and I didn’t want to burn the base or sides any further.

    After waiting a while for the cake to cool, I prepared to turn it out, wondering whether it would stick to the greased pan. No; it fell straight out. And indeed, the base was very burnt – to a depth of about 4mm. I then flipped the cake upright so that the top could dry out a little.

    Later that evening, I cut a small piece from the cake, using force to get through the burnt area, and tasted it. Even the top part of the cake reminded me of something I like: smoked salmon! I immediately began laughing. The whole cake had been infused with that smoked aroma. It made me realize that about 70% of the flavour in smoked salmon is the smoke, about 20% the salt, and only about 10% the fish. I found that rather interesting.

    I topped the cake with chocolate icing, and that made it easier to eat. I just had to try to forget about salmon and think about smoke as used in perfumery. Then it was interesting and not too bad, although I didn’t subject anyone else to a slice! Perhaps it could be a very down-market relative of Serge Lutens Borneo 1834, or some other smoky chocolate scent. I ate each piece from the top down, discarding the burnt base.

    Rest assured that I shall never again be silly enough to bake a cake on the stove top. If the oven were to require an electrician again, I’d simply store the batter in the fridge, or beg the use of a friend’s oven – and then share the cake with them.

    Thanks again for this post; your experience of violet-tasting pumpkin was quite a revelation.

    With kind regards,
    Tourmaline November 8, 2019 at 11:48am Reply

    • OnWingsofSaffron: What a funny story: chocolat fumé! I’m sure the Aztecs would have approved 🙂 November 8, 2019 at 4:30pm Reply

      • Tourmaline: I’d like to think so! November 9, 2019 at 11:56am Reply

    • Victoria: I admire you for persevering with your chocolate cake despite the circumstances–and for eating it! Brava! 🙂
      Well, a smoky chocolate cake doesn’t sound so bad, but I suppose that a smoked salmon note would be too much. November 13, 2019 at 6:50am Reply

      • Tourmaline: Thanks, Victoria. It was the delicious chocolate butter-cream icing that made all the difference; without that I’d probably have discarded the cake. Mind you, a better option might have been to discard the cake and eat the icing by itself! November 13, 2019 at 11:24am Reply

        • Victoria: I was waiting a French baking competition, Le Meilleur Patissier, and in one of the episodes they had to make a cake on the barbecue range. I was thinking of your cake story. November 15, 2019 at 12:56am Reply

          • Tourmaline: I have just searched online and found the series and episode to which you are referring. (Le Campfire Cake, Le Meilleur Pâtissier Saison 8, Emission 2, au Camping!) Later this evening, I shall watch it, and possibly get tips on what I should have done… I’m intrigued!

            By the way, the night before last, our local news station had a report on the Venice flooding – how they were using pumps to try to remove water from St Mark’s Basilica and so on. Just awful. I hope things are improving. November 15, 2019 at 5:00am Reply

            • Victoria: I was there on that day, and I couldn’t believe how fast water arrived and how much flooding there were. It was one of the worst floods in the last 50 years.

              The whole show is a delight. I love the way the French focus on the technique, so it’s not just about watching the contestants struggling. One learns a lot about pastry in the process. November 15, 2019 at 5:07am Reply

  • Aurora: I love pumpkin soup but a sweet variation sounds great as well, thank you for this idea, Victoria. The local supermarket was selling pumpkins for halloween but they seemed too big for actual use. I will look at the Turkish store. November 10, 2019 at 4:22am Reply

    • Victoria: They should sell smaller varieties or else already cut pieces. November 13, 2019 at 6:53am Reply

  • Karen A: My current favorite recipe is from Istanbul and Beyond by Robyn Eckhardt, Meatballs with Pumpkin and Spice Butter. So so tasty! I have made it with ground lamb, turkey and chicken for the meatballs and each is good.

    This cookbook is the absolute best Turkish cookbook I’ve used. Every single recipe has been really good and several are now part of the weekly rotation. November 13, 2019 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: I have this cookbook, but I’m yet to cook out of it. I’m going to look up the recipe. Thank you for inspiring me. November 15, 2019 at 1:00am Reply

      • Karen A: It has become my go-to cookbook! It’s the first one I’ve found with a huge variety of regional recipes, not just variations of what you find in the west/around Istanbul.

        Gorgeous photos and good writing, too! November 15, 2019 at 5:35am Reply

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