Om Ali (Egypt’s Iconic Bread Pudding): ام علي

Om Ali is an Iconic Egyptian dessert

Om Ali is the iconic Egyptian dessert that scores high among local Egyptians as well as tourists.  This 100% Egyptian bread pudding is eggless, semi-homemade and incredibly easy to replicate in your own kitchen.

Om Ali is probably the best dessert to serve on Valentine’s Day! Not only because you can make it in a snap, or because its warm aromas will make your kitchen smell like heaven, but because it has a powerful backstory of love!

The Story Behind Om Ali/Umm Ali 

It is widely believed in Egypt that this Egyptian dessert “Om Ali”,  was created in the 13th century by an Egyptian woman with the nickname of Om Ali which means “the mother of Ali”.

Legend has it that Om Ali, the creator of this dish, lost her mind when she learned that her husband Ezz El Din Aybak married “Shajjar Al Dur”, the widowed Sultana/queen of Egypt and the last ruler in the Ayubi dynasty.

Unfazed by the juggernaut of “Shajjar Al Dur”, Om Ali bribed the guards of the Sultana’s fortress, sneaked in and attacked the Queen during her Hammam (royal pampering shower), where the latter was relaxed, totally oblivious to an eminent threat.

To celebrate her triumph and the end of her rival, Om Ali headed to her home and concocted a dessert using what she had available in her pantry: bread, nuts, milk, and sugar.  Of course the dessert carries her name to this date.

If that story is not entirely fiction, I revel on the idea that a bitter revenge could lead to such a sweet and decadent Egyptian dessert!

Is that Back Story of Om Ali True?

When I published this story on Instagram, many followers asked me whether this backstory of Om Ali was true or not.

On my last trip to Egypt, I actually consulted with Mennat-Allah Al Dorry, the well versed Egyptian food archeologist, who explained to me that this back story of Om Ali is not backed by any historic evidence.

To clarify, it happened for real that Om Ali, the first wife of Ezz Al Dean Aybak, murdered Shajjar Al Dur the Sutlana of Egypt, but there is no evidence that Om Ali developed this iconic dessert to celebrate her victory. There was no mention of the Om Ali dessert in the historic cookbooks that surfaced in the years that followed Shajjar Al Dor’ s murder.

According to Al Dorry, the reason this backstory became so common among Egyptians, is that Anis Mansour, the late and widely read Egyptian Author wrote about it in his weekly column and somehow Egyptians took his narrative for granted.

How-To Make Om Ali  

Om Ali is a no-fuss, no mess dessert. It is a semi-homemade dessert that takes little time and effort to make it. Additionally, It uses easy-to-find ingredients: milk, white sugar, and puff pastry which are basically available in grocery stores across the globe.

For a step-by-step video, click here.

Bake puff pastry or use croissant.

Making this dessert starts with baking a good quality of puff pastry in a preheated oven. You can eliminate this step by buying good quality croissants from your local bakery.

Puff pastry made with pure butter
Puff pastry made with pure butter

Whether you use puff pastry or freshly baked croissant, make sure that both are made with real butter and not margarine. Real butter makes or breaks this dish.

Infuse your milk-whipping cream mixture 

Full fat milk is necessary in this dessert and can’t be replaced with half-skimmed or skimmed if you want to have an authentic Om Ali experience.

Cream adds substance to this mixture. If you live in the US, I  recommend using organic milk and cream in this recipe, as they deliver cleaner after taste notes. 

Seeking a better balance of flavors, don’t over sweeten the milk with white sugar. I put the bare minimum which is practically half of what is used in the traditional recipe of Om Ali. Less is more when it comes to sugar in desserts.

Spices & flavorings 

Infuse the milk-cream mixture with a bouquet of warm whole spices such as cardamom pods, whole cloves, mastic resins and cinnamon sticks.

The infusing step elevates the flavor of the entire dessert and creates layers of subtle flavors instead of adding directly to Om Ali the ground spices that could be overpowering.

Infusing the milk is an easy process! Add the milk to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, add the spices (preferably in an infusing bag, if you have one) bring the milk to a boiling point.

Infuser bag
Infuser bag

Dry Toast some nuts of your choice. In my rendition I used 1 cup of assorted nuts of hazelnut, almond, pistachios, walnuts, and desiccated coconut.  Heat a cast iron skillet, or any skillet, over medium heat and add the nuts, stir them around with a wooden spoon, until they are toasted and become fragrant.


Toasting the nuts serves two purposes: first, it refreshes the nuts and forces out any lingering traces of humidity. Second, it amps up the flavor of the nuts.

All this could be made the day before and then one hour before serving this dessert, assemble the puff pastry, milk and nuts in one baking dish, top it with whipped cream and bake it for 25 minutes- 30 minutes.

In Om Ali, easy on sugar 

My version of Om Ali has an intentionally reduced amount of sugar so that the other flavors shine. Om Ali is a delicate dessert, so a moderate amount of sugar will let the flavors of spices and nuts shine through.

Clotted Cream Vs. Whipped Cream 

For a golden Om Ali surface, you can opt for clotted cream or whipped cream to cover the surface.

In the US, I have a hard time finding clotted cream so the alternative is whipped cream.

Get some store brought whipping cream and whip them to a soft peak. Sweeten them with powder sugar and heighten the flavor with vanilla.

Spread the whipping cream on top of Om Ali, sprinkle a dash of cinnamon powder and bake in a preheated oven.

Make ahead Om Ali 

Om Ali is one easy dessert, yet you can still break up its work load on two days.

Infuse the milk a day ahead and keep it in the fridge. You can also toast the nuts, whip up the cream and bake the puff pastry and keep the latter in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble the dessert.

Right before assembling Om Ali, reheat the milk, pour it over the puff pastry and nuts.

How to Serve Om Ali

Om Ali could be served hot off the oven, or at room temperature, or cold. It all depends on your personal choice or the preferences of your guests.

Check Out More Egyptian Desserts

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Om Ali (Egyptian Bread Pudding)


  • 4 cups infused milk-cream mixture (recipe follows)
  • 4 puff pastry sheets or 5 good quality baked croissants
  • 1 cup mixed nuts of your choice, toasted  
  • 3 tablespoons raisins 
  • 1 cup whipped cream (recipe follows) 

The Infused Milk-Cream Mixture 

  • 3 1/2 cups full fat milk
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream 
  • ½ cup sugar 
  • 2 mastic resins, crushed with a spoonful of sugar  
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves 
  • 5 allspice whole berries 
  • 3 pods of bruised cardamom 
  • 1 teaspoon of rose water or orange blossom, optional 

The whipped Cream Topping 

  • ½ cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons superfine or icing sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 

To garnish

    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon   


  1. Infuse the milk-cream mixture: Add the milk and cream to a medium saucepan over low heat. Once warm, add the sugar and crushed mastic and stir until they are totally dissolved.  Once the milk starts to bubble on the edges of the pan, add the infuser bag that has the spices and let the milk gently simmer on very low heat for no more than 1 minute. Turn off the heat, and let the spices impart their flavors for 30 minutes at least or until the milk comes to room temperature.
  2. Bake the puff pastry: Lay down the cold sheets of puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven at 375°C for 20-25 minutes until the puff pastry sheets are puffed and golden. Remove the baking sheets from the oven, and let them cool off slightly. Break the baked puff pastry into pieces and set them aside, until you are ready to assemble the dessert (see notes). In case you are using baked croissant, just tear them with your fingers or with a knife into bite pieces.
  3. Whip up the cream: Pour the whipping cream into the container of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Run the mixer first on low speed, when the cream becomes frothy, add one tablespoon of icing sugar, increase the speed while adding gradually the rest of the sugar, stir in the vanilla extract and continue whipping until soft peaks form. You can add rose water, or orange blossom as additional flavorings to the whipped cream, if you will.
  4. Assemble the dish: Add the pieces of puff pastry to a deep clay or a ceramic dish that is 8-9 -inch diameter and 3 inches depth. Pour the milk-cream mixture, over the puff pastry and toss in the nuts and distribute them evenly in the baking dish.  Add the whipped cream topping, sprinkle some cinnamon powder on the top.
  5. Bake: Preheat the oven to 360° F or 180° C and bake Om Ali  for 20-25 minutes or until it starts to bubble. To brown the surface, turn on the broil for 3 minutes or use a torch to tan the cream topping.
  6. Serve: Garnish the Om Ali with some crushed nuts. Serve it hot, warm, or cold.


  • The puff pastry has to be stone cold before baking them in the oven so that they puff properly.
  • To crush the mastic, freeze them first and then mix them with a spoonful of sugar in a mortar. Pound with the pestle until you pulverize it.


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Former diplomat | Travel & Food Writer | Stauch advocate of Culinary Diplomacy. Find more here:

One thought on “Om Ali (Egypt’s Iconic Bread Pudding): ام علي

  1. Hello Nermine. I hope you and the family are doing well. This dessert sounds absolutely wonderful! I’d love to try it. The article and backstory are quite interesting, plus your photography is as always, so beautifully done. Thank you for sharing!

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