This classic Spanish rice pudding is sweet, creamy, and aromatic. The texture of the rice melts in your mouth while the sweet notes of cinnamon, sugar, citrus, and vanilla linger on your tongue.
What Is Rice Pudding?
Rice pudding is a dish made from rice cooked with milk and a sweetener. Many countries have their own variations of rice pudding, but at its heart, the dessert consists of short grain rice, sugar, and milk, boiled and mixed until it forms a rich, creamy consistency.
Spanish rice pudding, or arroz con leche, adds a touch of citrus and a hint of cinnamon, which infuse the pudding with a unique aroma and taste. Like many traditional recipes, the process requires patience during the slow cooking of the rice in flavored milk. But the result is a dessert that’s worth every minute spent.
Ingredients You’ll Need for this Recipe
- Short grain rice
- White sugar
- Whole milk
- Cinnamon sticks
- Lemon peel
- Orange peel
- Vanilla extract
- Cinnamon powder
How to Make Spanish Rice Pudding
- Wash the lemon and orange. Peel them with a knife or citrus peeler. Make sure not to take the white part with the peel.
- Add the milk, lemon peel, orange peel, and cinnamon stick to a pot. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes to infuse the milk with the flavors.
- Add the rice and stir. Cook for 10 more minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Add the vanilla extract and sugar and mix well. Cook for 30 minutes over low heat while stirring.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove the cinnamon stick and citrus peels.
- Serve in small bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon powder and a piece of cinnamon stick. If you want to eat the rice pudding cold, allow the bowls to sit until room temperature then transfer them to the fridge to chill.
How to Serve Rice Pudding
You can serve rice pudding hot, cold, or room temperature. Serve it in small bowls or ramekins for individual servings or scoop it out of one large serving dish. A dusting of cinnamon or a cinnamon stick provides a decorative garnish that also adds to the flavor. For a festive look, consider adding a sprig of mint or a few berries on top.
Tips and Variations for this Dish
For the best Spanish rice pudding, follow these tips and try these variations:
- Always use short grain rice because it absorbs the milk better and delivers a creamier texture. Long grain rice has less starch, so it won’t be as creamy.
- Cook the citrus peel and cinnamon stick in the milk to infuse the pudding with the aromas and flavors, but don’t let these ingredients sit for too long or they can overpower the dish.
- Don’t reduce the amount of milk in the recipe. It looks like too much milk at first, but the rice will absorb it.
- Stir the rice constantly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and to release the rice starch for a creamy texture.
- For a vegan and dairy-free version, substitute the whole milk with coconut milk. The pudding will still have a creamy consistency, and the coconut milk will add a tropical twist.
- Add raisins or currants to the pudding while cooking to provide a bit of texture and a burst of sweetness. You may want to soak them in warm water for about 10 minutes before adding them to the rice.
- Infuse your rice pudding with cardamom for an exotic twist. Cardamom has a sweet, floral flavor that pairs well with the cinnamon and citrus.
- Replace white sugar with brown sugar to give a deeper, caramel-like taste to your pudding.
How to Store Leftovers
You can store leftover rice pudding in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Let the pudding cool before storing to avoid condensation, which can affect the texture. Then cover the individual serving dishes with plastic wrap or transfer the pudding to airtight containers.
How to Freeze Rice Pudding
For longer-term storage, you can freeze rice pudding in freezer-safe containers. Make sure to leave some room for the pudding to expand. Frozen rice pudding can last up to 3 months. To serve, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat on the stove, adding a splash of milk if needed to restore the creamy consistency.
Other Dessert Recipes
- The Best Lemon Pie
- Easy Peach Cobbler
- 3-Ingredient Chocolate Cake with Sprinkles
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Cake
- • 3.5 oz short grain rice
- • 2. 4 oz white sugar
- • 33 fl oz. whole milk
- • 1 cinnamon stick
- • 1 lemon peel
- • 1 orange peel
- • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- cinnamon powder (around 1 teaspoon)
- 1 cinnamon stick broke into smaller pieces.
- Start by washing the lemon and the orange. Peel them with a knife or citrus peeler, making sure to not take the white part.
- In the pot add the milk, the cinnamon stick, and orange and lemon peels. Let cook for 5 minutes on medium-low heat so the milk will infuse with the flavors.
- Add the rice and stir, let cook for 10 more minutes on medium heat constantly stirring it.
- Add the sugar and mix well, cook for 30 minutes on low while stirring.
- Once the rice is cooked, serve in small bowls, make sure to remove the cinnamon stick and citrus peels.
- Garnish with some cinnamon powder and a piece of cinnamon stick.
- Let sit until room temperature and then transfer to the fridge to chill.
It looks like a lot of milk, but believe me, the rice literally drinks it. Do not reduce the milk quantity!
Constantly stirring the rice will prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan, especially because of the sugar, and also release the rice starch, so it will become creamy.
It is key to use short grain rice because long-grain rises tend to have less starch, resulting in less creamy rice puddings.
It can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, however the longer it sits the more compact it will get since the rice will keep absorbing the milk.