Ni particles were incorporated in a 5083 Al alloy matrix by friction stir processing (FSP) to fabricate metal particle reinforced composite. During the optimization of the process parameters for uniform particle distribution, it was found that ball-milled finer particles (10. μm) were dispersed more uniformly in the matrix compared to as-received coarse particles (70. μm). Hence, the particles were ball-milled before incorporating into 5083 Al matrix. The finer ball-milled particles were dispersed uniformly, however a thin intermetallic layer was formed at the particle-matrix interface. The layer was found to be Al-Ni intermetallic. When as-received fine particles of similar size (10. μm) were incorporated using the same FSP parameters no such layer was observed in the processed composite. Hence, ball milling of particles influenced the microstructure of the composite. The high-energy state of the ball-milled particles can be attributed to the formation of the interfacial layer. The strength of both the composite was higher compared to the unreinforced 5083 Al alloy. FSP also refined the grain size of the aluminum matrix from 25. μm to 3.5. μm and this also contributed to the strength enhancement of the composites. The strength and ductility of the ball-milled composite were lower as expected compared to the composite with as-received fine Ni particles due to the presence of the interfacial reaction layer. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.