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Muhalabiya with figs

Muhalabiya is a milk pudding very similar to Italian panna cotta

November 7, 2020 at 9:00 am

Figs are such an amazing fruit and I miss visiting my grandparents’ house and picking the juicy and sweet as honey figs from their trees. Their trees produced so many figs that we ended up making fig jam, which would last us all year and remind us of just how delicious the figs were! This year I couldn’t visit my grandparents, so I decided to bring the figs to me! I combined one of my favourite fruits with one of my favourite desserts and made a fig layer for my muhalabiya!

Muhalabiya is a milk pudding very similar to Italian panna cotta. It is such a cool and refreshing dessert and is usually eaten topped with nuts. But since I bought some figs that weren’t as amazingly sweet as my grandparents’ I decided to give them a little help and the result was amazing!

This combined dessert is made in two stages. First, you make the milk, or muhalabiya layer. This is pretty straightforward; you just need to make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir constantly so you don’t scald it. I added some vanilla to mine instead of the traditional rose or orange blossom water. Once you’ve poured the mixture into individual cups or bowls, set aside to cool for about 30 minutes so that it sets enough to hold the fig layer, otherwise it will sink to the bottom. Next, we make the fig layer. This is super simple, and I decided to add some cinnamon and vanilla to the figs because I thought it would make a great fall recipe too! All you need to do is cook the figs and add some corn starch at the end to thicken the mixture, and voila! You’ve turned a traditional summer dessert into an Autumn one effortlessly. I will definitely be trying this with seasonal fruit, I am sure it will be amazing! Muhalabiya is usually served cold, but in cooler months, feel free to serve it at room temperature!


Serves 5

Muhalabiya layer

4 cups milk

½ cup sugar (or to taste)

½ cup double cream

½ – ¾ cup corn starch dissolved in cold water (depending on the brand)

2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla essence

Fig layer

6-7 medium ripe figs

1/4 cup sugar, or to taste

1 cinnamon stick

½ tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste/ 1 vanilla bean (halved)/ 2 tsp good quality vanilla essence

¼ cup water

1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in cold water

Walnuts to garnish


  1. To make the milk layer, mix together all the ingredients and then warm slowly on medium heat, stirring regularly, until the mixture thickens and is bubbling. If it doesn’t thicken, you can add more starch by dissolving it in water or milk first.
  2. Pour the milk layer into the serving glasses/bowls and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
  3. While the milk mixture cools, make the fig layer. Cut the figs into quarters and put in a pan, then add the sugar, a cinnamon stick, lemon juice, vanilla and water. Cook on a medium heat, stirring as needed and breaking up the figs with the back of a wooden spoon. Once the figs are soft and flavoured, add the corn starch and water mixture, stir immediately and leave to thicken for a minute or two. Spoon over the milk layer. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate and serve. Garnish with walnuts and a wedge of fig. Enjoy!