Milk ice cream with pistachios ( Booza al-haleeb)

September 8, 2009  • 


Arab  ice-cream, such as the Lebanese booza is the best in the world. There, I said it. Ice-cream that captures the essence of the perfume you are after. Light and intense. No cream, no eggs, just pure flavor. Besides, I read somewhere that the Phoenicians used to carry ice to take to King Solomon. The Phoenicians must have started the ice-cream business.

I used the method indicated in Ma’dat Marlene by Marlene Matar مايده  مارلين

INGREDIENTS: Quantity will serve up to 8

1 quart of whole milk ( or 1 liter)

7 oz of sugar or 1 cup and 2 tablespoons

1/4  teaspoon ground mastic ground with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar

1 Tablespoon orange blossom water

1/2 Tablespoon rose water

2 Tablespoons sahlab powder or 4 tablespoons of Kuzu Root starch or 2 tablespoons of cornstarch

2 tablespoons of cornstarch

1/2 cup of pistachios


  1. Grind the pieces of mastic by crushing them in a mortar with a teaspoon of sugar.
  2. Take 1/4 cup of the milk and dissolve the starch in it.
  3. Take the remaining milk and add the sahlab mixture to it. Add the sugar to the milk and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the mastic when the mixture starts to thicken. Then take it off the heat.
  5. Strain the mixture and let it cool. Pour it into a bowl.
  6. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. Pour into the ice-cream maker canister and let it churn until it reaches the consistency of ice-cream.
  8. Transfer the ice-cream into a bowl.
  9. Start mixing the pistachios in. Then cover the bowl and freeze overnight or longer.
  10. Invert the mold onto a serving platter and garnish with more pistachios.
  11. Enjoy. Sahteyn!


Go easy on the mastic, as it can be overpowering.

To peel pistachios: soak them in water for a couple of hours or longer. They will peel right off.

You can skip adding pistachios, just make booza b-haleeb (milk)

Pistachios are known to be very nutritious, with a lot of potassium, Vitamin B6, all kinds of minerals and a lot of fiber.

Real sahlab or salep is impossible to find. I read somewhere that it is forbidden to export it (from Turkey) because it is now virtually endangered or extinct due to extensive harvesting. So the only product widely available is shalab drink powder, which is not the real thing. So, it is possible to substitute a thickening agent such as cornstarch or  kuzu root starch to thicken the custard a bit before freezing.

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27 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Ann says:

    Nice to see an ice cream recipe without eggs. Looks divine!

  2. Sophie says:

    I love pistachios & this ice cream looks fab!!


  3. Arlette says:

    hala hala Ayam Beirut and Boussa Bi Sahlab….
    You are teasing us badly ya Joumana….
    Rizkallah Allah Iyam Zaman… its been ages since I tasted this Bouza…
    thanks so much for sharing this

    • Joumana says:

      I got tired of waiting for the summer to taste this booza, hence the recipe. I am glad I tried it. I really miss it too.

  4. Carolina says:

    When I lived in Turkey, I used to have sahleb at a local pastry shop all winter long. This was back in the mid to late sixties. I haven’t had this since, and I’m sorry to hear that the real thing is no longer available. It was delicious and warming.

  5. Sarah says:

    Mmm, I’m crazy about pistachios so I will definitely try it! My father bought us a “sorbetière” 2 years ago and we never used it, such a shame! :s

  6. maher says:

    that is so rude how you could call it lebanis ice cream its syrian ice cream and we have the biggest producer shop in damascus it call begdash and they use to made it for almost 100 year so stop stealing others culture and call it lebanes

  7. enas says:

    i agree , its Syrian ice cream ,and it was originated in Damascus since the early days of ottoman empire. bakdash in a hamadiya shop is the best at making it

  8. amal says:

    yeah… its Syrian ice cream .

  9. Tony says:

    Basita ya Maher tawel balak. Everything we have in Lebanon is thanks to you, our Syrian brothers. Even icecream we can’t call it Lebanese? WLAK 7illou 3ANNA MA BIKAFINA 7IKAMKON? You wanna fight us over ice cream?

  10. Hong Rentschler says:

    New York, NY 10118?

  11. Mike Diab says:

    I am proudly Lebanese, proudly Arab, proudly a son of the Levant and a proud brother of the Turk and Syrian. Please let us enjoy our collective culture together as it is so integrated… why must we resort to argument even over ice cream? God bless all and thanks Joumana for always posting such lovely and informative recipes. PS. Summer in South Africa so this one is going to be a big hit for Christmas.. Happy holidays all!

  12. grazi says:

    1 quart of whole milk ( or 1 liter) ????

    1 quart = 454 ml

    can you tell me exactly how much you use?


  13. grazi says:


  14. Fateemah says:

    When do you add the rose water/ orange blossom water?

    • joumana says:

      you add it after adding everything else. Problem with it is the flavor evaporates if you add it while cooking the milk, so at step#5 is good. Mix it in and let the batter cool thoroughly.

  15. Reema says:

    I look forward to trying to make this recipe. Question – if one does not have sahleb, then does one use 4 Tbsp of cornstarch? In directions, it is written to dissolve the sahlab with 1/4 cup of milk. After sahlab and possible substitutions are listed, the next ingredient is 2 Tbsp cornstarch powder. (It seems that 4 Tbsp. And 1/4 cup of milk would result in a thick paste) Thanks for the clarification.

    • joumana says:

      you are totally right! 4 tbsp is way too much! I tablespoon of cornstarch per one cup of liquid is all I would use. Sorry for the discrepancy! Good luck, hope it turns out fine!

  16. pierina says:

    Bakdash that is famous throughout the Arab world for its stretchy and chewy ice cream which features Mastic.

  17. Tony Prior says:

    I am half Lebanese and know the taste of the many varieties of ice cream in Beirut. I tried to follow this recipe exactly with an proper ice-cream making machine, precise measurement and all the genuine and hard-to-find ingredients. I found that quantities are imprecise – e.g. I quart or 1 Litre of milk? The quantity of sahlab, 2 tablespoons, produced a gelatinous mass that even several strainings could not remove. There was no mention of when to add the flowers water, though orange and rose are listed in the ingredients. The necessary flavouring and sweetness of bouza al haleeb ice cream was totally overwhelmed by the starch content. This recipe, followed exactly, produces a disgusting, gelatinous, starchy-textured, bland ice cream. The texture and lack of flavour was so terrible that running to a bathroom and spitting it out was the only thing to do. I had to throw it all out after several friends agreed.
    I’m sorry to put up such a critical review – I have never had to do this before. I have made a lot of ice cream at home for many years – this recipe is by far the worst I have ever come across. It is a waste of time and money. There are much better recipes for Bouza al Haleeb online and I would advise any reader to seek out these instead.

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