Wheat berry pudding

November 13, 2009  •  Category:


My kids who are American kids par excellence, think that cereals come in a box and are eaten with some milk. They also know that there are hundreds of varieties of cereal boxes.  I have known people in America whose devotion to these boxed cereals is unparalleled and lifelong. I have never shared that feeling. I always felt that the packaged cereals were nauseatingly sweet and weird-tasting for the most part. Part of the cultural divide I guess.

The one cereal bowl that figures in  traditional Lebanese cuisine uses wheat (which can be substituted forbarley). The wheat is boiled in an anise-infused water (can substitute cinnamon),  then a sweetener is added along with some nuts. Pomegranate seeds too, if they are in season. This dish is  served on happy  occasions, such as to celebrate baby’s first tooth, when it is distributed to all friends, relatives and neighbors. It was also served for the New Year as wheat symbolizes prosperity and happiness, as well as for the Feast of Sainte Barbe or al-barbara that falls on December Fourth. For this feast, people wear a disguise and go door to door. They are welcomed with a dish of wheat berries in a sweet anise-scented broth covered with a multitude of nuts. This dish was customary in any celebration; in my grand-mother’s time, families would  send  the parish priest two large platters of this dish that he would bless, returning one to the family.

This dish can be served hot or cold. If you serve it cold, then it is best to sweeten it while the wheat is still boiling. If you decide to serve it warm then you can sweeten it right before serving it with sugar or honey or molasses. I found the wheat at the Hispanic market but it can be found in any health food store.

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INGREDIENTS: This quantity will yield 6 servings.

  • 1 cup of hulled wheat (you can use unhulled wheat, just cook longer, or barley)
  • 1/2  cup of sugar (or to taste, can substitute honey or molasses)
  • 1/4 cup each of almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • Spices: one tablespoon of anise seeds (can substitute ground anise), 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (optional) , 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger (optional) and 1 teaspoon of orange flower water (optional)


  1. Boil the wheat in water for one hour. You can put a tablespoon of anise seeds in a small piece of cheesecloth and tie it with a string and let it boil with the wheat.
  2. Boil 3 cups of water and pour over the nuts. When cool, peel the nuts, drain.
  3. Add the spices to the wheat the last few minutes of cooking. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  4. Ladle the wheat in a small bowl, cover with the nuts and some pomegranate seeds or dragées.



28 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Arlette says:

    Who care for a cereal when you have the best healthy food, a bowl of Kameh topped with all the nuts and goodies. this is one of my best treat any time ..

    You know that the skin of the wheat berry has many nutritions and its a brain/memory booster.

  2. Joanne says:

    Oh for the days when cereal actually meant whole grain instead of sugar-filled boxed stuff. This looks delicious and I would prefer it to Lucky Charms or Frosted Flakes any day!

  3. HistoryOf GreekFood says:

    My kid, who is not an American, also thinks that cereals come in a box. Sneyniyeh is what call ashure, isn’ it?

    • Joumana says:

      Sneyniyeh can also be called Kameh(wheat) or Ayook. It takes on the name sneyniyeh when it is served in the occasion of baby’s first tooth (from the word sneyn meaning teeth)
      Ashoura is prepared during the celebration in the Muslim communities. It comes sweet in the Sunni community (as a symbol of celebration) and savory in the Shia community (as a symbol of mourning). It includes wheat, peas, fava and rice and is garnished with dates, pine nuts, almonds and walnuts.

  4. Laila says:

    Looks really delicious … i never really tried making it before .. but used to eat it a lot as a kid for breakfast .. i love the way you decorated it too … simple.. healthy .. and delicious .. what more could you ask for 🙂 …

    Laila .. http://lailablogs.com/

  5. Dana says:

    Hi Joumana,

    I want to attempt this when my son cuts his first tooth. I have noticed in the picture you have posted that you have used tiny,shiny pearls for decoration. Are these candy and where would I be able to find them? I vaguely remember my baby brother’s snayneye having some of those 😉


    • Joumana says:

      Hi Dana!
      These are edible (they eventually melt) and I bought them at a store in San Fransisco one year while I was visiting my bro. I have seen them online at the Sur La Table catalog (they are called French Dragées) or you can probably find them at Cake Carousel, a store for bakers on 75Expwy and Arapaho (East side of the service road). I am sure they would have them at Central Market too, or Joanne’s or Hobby Lobby in their cake decorating section.

  6. Dana says:

    Thank you! I want to pick your brain about one more thing if you dont mind.

    Our Thanksgiving this year will be hosted by a Spanish/French family. There will be Swedes, Polish, Lebanese, Iranians, and American friends in attendance. The hostess has asked us to put an ethnic twist on a Thanksgiving dish.

    I was thinking of sweet potatoe kibbe in lieu of sweet mashed potatoes but I cant come up with anything else 🙁


    Merci bcp

    • Joumana says:

      right off hand Dana, here’s what I might do : instead of the horrid green bean casserole with canned onions, I would make a loobiyeh b’zeit; or, instead of the heavy starchy bread stuffing I would make a glorious arabic rice with minced lamb and spices and crowned with pistachios and almonds and pine nuts. I would not make the potato kibbe. I have a pumpkin dessert recipe I am going to post next week that is from Marlene Mattar; it is a pumpkin flan covered with a cream, sort of like a pumpkin pie without the crust.

  7. pIERRE says:

    hello joumana
    I love this dish could be on my table at christmas time !
    and if you like mango come and see the way I prepare it !!see you

  8. HistoryOf GreekFood says:

    Thanks Joumana. Your definitions are indeed helpful! 🙂

  9. spice says:

    Nice touch with pomegrante…I miss eating fruit acc. to season…..we too make similar kind of wheat dish sweet version but with milk……I alsi like the idea of anise seeds.

  10. Dana says:

    speaking of cereal, I remember my college roommate used to eat some sort of cooked wheat berries mixed with sugar and orange blosson water and a bit of the cooking broth for breakfast ( I think it was called “elbi”)

    I have also tried at her place wheat pudding. It is prepared very similar to the traditional rice pudding but with wheat kernels instead.

  11. Mona says:

    Wow, an unusual and very interesting dessert, will definitely try!

  12. Irina says:

    I was a little shocked when I saw this, because — although it looks delicious — it also looks like the food Romanians take to church and share when commemorating the dead. It’s called “coliva,” and according to Wikipedia, it’s made throughout the Balkans, as well as in Lebanon. I think the Romanian version is made with walnuts, however, so it’s not as tasty as this one looks.

    • Joumana says:

      It is so interesting Irina! And to think it celebrates joyous events in Lebanon like a baby’s first tooth! It is also offered during al-barbara or the feast of Saint Barbe, which falls on December 4th, and for New Year.

  13. Cristina says:

    Wow !! What an elegant twist to cereals !! Lovely photos !!

  14. Jun says:

    Very beautiful. And the recipe is interesting too. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Medifast Coupons says:

    Complete perfection. The term “cereal” is usually reffered to box cereal, and shouldn’t be! This is certainly the way to eat cereal. Glad to see a recipe for somthing that shows it! Nice work.

  16. Umm Mymoonah says:

    This looks really awesome, a healthy glass of porridge. I’m sure gone a try it soon.

  17. Suz says:

    How soon after should pudding be refrigerated, if at all?

  18. Gezlan says:

    Hi thanks for sharing this recipe. Just a quick question, do you add all the spices together or do you choose one of the optional spices only? My in laws made this a few days ago but did not add any spices, instead they added nigella seeds which I must say did give it that extra taste. But I want to make it your way as I have tried many of your recipes and they are the original way. Thanks again xx

  19. Umm Osman says:

    Thank you so much! My son just had his first tooth yesterday and my husband told me about this Lebanese tradition (am polish myself) and I found the recipe here! So glad! Sending my love!

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