Rice pudding is one of those cozy desserts that you always come back to, like a perfectly worn pair of blue jeans and a favorite comfy tee. It provides all the nostalgic feels of Grandma's kitchen on a blustery winter day. We're thrilled to share our classic take on this memorable dish, plus some cool variations to change it up. We're about to make your dessert dreams come true!

What Exactly Is Rice Pudding?

close up of traditional rice pudding

Rice pudding is a popular dessert worldwide. It generally consists of some kind of rice mixed with milk or water; raisins and cinnamon are also a common addition. This dish is usually thickened by a variety of means, including eggs (think custard) or rice or cornstarch. Rice pudding can even be formulated as a dinner choice, but we prefer the sweetened version. There are truly unlimited ways to prepare it, so settle in for our exploration of this universal fare. Bon app├ętit!

The Recipe

flat lay of rice pudding ingredients

What You'll Need

  • measuring cups
  • small saucepan, with lid
  • medium saucepan
  • wooden spoon
  • mixing bowls
  • whisk

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk, 2%
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup white rice, uncooked
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water

Instructions

rice pudding on white marble background

Now that you've assembled all of the necessary kitchen items and delicious ingredients, it's time to tackle the recipe itself.

Step #1: Ravishing Rice

Begin by boiling the water in the small saucepan. Stir your rice slowly into the boiling water, then reduce heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer for about 18-20 minutes.

Step #2: Prep Step

While the rice is cooking, beat the egg with a whisk in a small mixing bowl. Measure out the rest of the ingredients as well, and set aside.

close up of white rice being stirred

Teerasak Ladnongkhun/Shutterstock

Step #3: Combination Station

Set stovetop burner to medium heat. Then, in the medium saucepan, add the cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups of the milk, salt, and sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes until the mixture has thickened.

Step #4: Stir Crazy

Finally, stir in remaining 1/2 cup of milk, raisins, vanilla paste, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the beaten egg. Cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in butter until it melts into the dish. Optionally sprinkle with more ground cinnamon, and enjoy immediately.

Variations

blueberries on top of rice pudding

As previously stated, there are so many ways to make unbelievable rice pudding. We've compiled a few of our favorites twists just for you!

Sweeteners

To make your rice pudding a bit healthier, a calorie conscious substitute is Splenda. Simply use 1/3 of the amount of sugar in the original recipe, since Splenda is three times sweeter than sugar. Additionally, for another sweetener option, you could substitute 1/4 teaspoon of Stevia for sugar. Coconut sugar would be a more natural, less refined sweetening agent as well, and provide more of a brown sugar note.

Milk

For those with dietary restrictions or food sensitivities, simply choose a dairy-free alternate for the milk and remove the butter. Pro tip: pick a sweetened vanilla flavor of dairy-free milk and you can skip adding vanilla paste.

Garnishes

For the pretty toppers that adorn rice pudding, we recommend adding bright blueberries for a hit of freshness in your first bite. For a more festive presentation, serve with cinnamon sticks. We also love toasted almonds as garnish, as they add some crunch on top of creamy rice pudding. For an extra sweet version, drizzle maple syrup or honey on top of your finished pudding.

close up of rice pudding topped with fruit

Dried Fruits

While raisins are the classic choice of ingredient for this dessert, we like to change it up with other alternatives. Consider dried currants, cranberries, or golden raisins instead. We also love dried stone fruits, especially dried apricots, in this dish. For a tropical take, add dried mango (and coconut milk and coconut sugar). All the yum!

Textures

To switch up the texture of rice pudding, there are a couple of key options. The first is for the ultimate, creamiest version. We suggest using heavy cream instead of milk and utilizing arborio rice instead of normal white rice; arborio rice is the main ingredient of risotto, so it totally enhances rice pudding for a velvety, luscious finish. The second choice is a crunchy baked dessert. This involves substituting long-grain rice for the usual rice, then baking it in the oven so it crisps up. Extra bonus? That rice is very budget-friendly.

As you can see, we simply can't get enough of rice pudding. Try our classic version first, then we give you full license to experiment with all of the inventive alternatives we explored. Rice pudding, elevated.

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