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This stovetop rice pudding is creamy, comforting and feels like a hug! Not only is this pudding easy to make, but it’s also fragrant and full of flavour!
This post first appeared as my submission on Savory Experiments, where I’m a contributor.
We all know and love the old-fashioned stovetop rice pudding that our grandmothers whipped up within minutes. Whenever you’re in need of sweet comfort food, rice pudding is hands down the easiest recipe.
What I love most about this easy stovetop rice pudding is that it can be served both warm and cold. On hot summer days, serve a bowl of cold rice pudding topped with seasonal fruit. During cold winter nights, cuddle up under a blanket with a bowl of warm rice pudding topped with jam or dried fruit.
This easy stovetop rice pudding recipe only requires a pot and a stovetop, with no baking required. Spiced with cosy flavours of cinnamon, honey and vanilla, this dessert is the ultimate comfort food.
What is rice pudding?
Rice pudding is a type of dessert made from rice, milk, and sugar. A wide range of flavours can be used, from cinnamon to citrus or vanilla. Some versions of rice pudding also include butter of a custard, which enrich the dessert and make it creamier.
Rice pudding is typically creamy and sticky, and it can be served both warm and cold. This dessert can be topped with either jam, dried fruit, or fresh seasonal fruit.
Depending on the recipe, rice pudding can be either boiled on the stove or baked in the oven. Both methods yield a similar creamy consistency, with the baked version having a crust on top.
This recipe is for stovetop rice pudding, where you only need a stove to prepare it. No baking is required.
The history of rice pudding
Although the origin of this easy rice pudding dessert is difficult to pinpoint, many people believe it originates from South or East Asia. Countries such as India and China have ancient rice cultures that spans back many centuries.
Back in medieval Europe, rice was very expensive, so only Kings and Queen could afford to import it from Asia. Rice pudding was a favourite among the British monarchy, with the earliest recorded recipe dating back to 1390! Back then, this creamy dessert was known as ‘rice pottage’.
A 17th century rice pudding recipe adds currants, cinnamon, and barberries to rice pudding. The mixture is then stuffed into sausage skins, then roasted before serving. However, worry not. Today’s recipe is definitely not stuffed into a sausage!
Rice pudding became widely used in the 20th century when rice finally became cheap to buy. Schools and hospitals started serving rice pudding as a daily treat because of how easy it is to make.
Nowadays, rice pudding is definitely a more complex dessert, with various flavours and toppings added to enhance it.
Different types of rice pudding
Due to its popularity and simplicity, rice pudding can be found in many different countries around the world. From America to Europe or Asia, this comfort food is present everywhere.
Here are some examples and variations of rice pudding from across the world:
- China: bo bao fan or Eight-treasure rice pudding. This rice pudding is made with glutinous rice, red bean paste and eight different types of nuts or fruits.
- India: dudhapak, made with basmati rice, nuts and saffron.
- Thailand: khanom sot sai, made from steamed rice flour and coconut cream and stuffed with coconut and palm sugar.
- United Kingdom: pudding rice - typically made with heavy or clotted cream. This pudding is flavoured with vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, or jam.
- Spain: arroz con leche – made with cinnamon, lemon zest and sometimes eggs.
- Romania: orez cu lapte – made with cinnamon and/or honey. Typically, this dessert is topped with fruit jam. My grandma would always top it with homemade strawberry or blackberry jam.
- United States: rice pudding – made with milk, sugar and topped with raisins or cinnamon.
- Puerto Rico: arroz con dulce – made with pearl rice, which is soaked in water overnight. A more complex version of rice pudding, this recipe uses coconut milk, butter, star anise, raisins, cloves, nutmeg, and lemon peel.
- Mexico: arroz con leche – made with raisins which have been soaking in sherry, rum, or tequila.
Middle East and North Africa
- Morocco: muhallabia – made with rice flour, almonds, and rosewater. One of my favourite desserts ever.
- Levant: meghli – flavoured with star anise, caraway, and cinnamon.
What is the best rice for rice pudding?
Rice is the most important ingredient in this easy rice pudding recipe, so it’s important to choose the right type. Regardless of the type of rice used, it is crucial to use uncooked rice for best results.
Arborio rice (risotto rice): the best option, as it yields an extremely creamy and sticky rice pudding. This type of rice also holds its shape really well when cooked, without becoming too mushy.
Medium grain rice: the second-best option. This type of rice cooks very well and similarly to arborio rice, it holds its shape very well. This rice also produces a creamy rice pudding, but without being too soft.
Long grain rice: can also be used, but the pudding will not be as creamy. You will have to keep a very close eye when cooking this type of rice as it can become too soft.
The ingredients needed for this creamy stovetop rice pudding recipe are very simple can be found in most pantries.
Rice - arborio rice is recommended. See the section above for substitutions.
Milk – I recommend using full fat milk if possible. This easy rice pudding recipe is super creamy, so we want all that good fat.
Sugar - granulated sugar is best for this recipe. Brown sugar can also be used for a more caramelised flavour.
Honey - adds a smooth flavour to the creamy pudding. Can be replaced with agave syrup or sugar.
Egg yolk – help make the creamiest rice pudding ever. It’s important to use pasteurised eggs, as the yolk will not be cooked entirely. Don’t worry, this pudding does not taste eggy at all.
Butter – crucial for this recipe, as it makes the pudding much richer. Use unsalted and cold butter chopped into cubes.
Orange zest – grate the zest on a very fine box grater for best results. Orange zest can also be replaced with lemon or lime.
Vanilla – can also be replaced with one vanilla bean pod or vanilla extract. If using a pod, scrape out the seeds and also add in the whole pod when cooking. Discard the vanilla pod after cooking. Alternatively, vanilla extract can be used, but it must be added at the end for maximum flavour.
How to make the best rice pudding
The best part about this easy stovetop rice pudding is that it requires no preparation time and only requires one pot.
- Combine the milk with sugar, honey and all the spices and flavours in a large pot. Cook the mixture over medium heat, until the milk becomes frothy (but not boiling).
- Rinse the rice to remove some of the starch, then add it to the foamy milk.
- Cook over low heat until the mixture becomes creamy, mixing from time to time.
- Once the pudding is smooth and creamy, turn off the heat and mix in the butter and egg yolk.
Note: ensure you use pasteurised eggs for this recipe.
How to store
This creamy rice pudding recipe is best served fresh, but it can also be made ahead. There are a few options for making this creamy rice pudding in advance:
- Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Once cooked, let the rice pudding cool down to room temperature, then place in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- Freeze for up to 3 months. Let the cooked easy rice pudding cool down completely before adding to zip-lock bags or airtight containers and freezing.
Pro tip: rice pudding can become too thick after a few days. Add a splash of milk and mix well to loosen it up, then reheat if needed.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, arborio rice is ideal for making rice pudding. You can also use medium grain or long grain rice.
All rice is gluten free, so this rice pudding is also entirely gluten free.
Absolutely! Rice pudding can be reheated either in the microwave, oven or on the stovetop. I recommend adding a small splash of milk to make it creamy again while reheating.
As far as desserts go, rice pudding can be considered a slightly healthier option. This recipe contains minimal fats and reduced sugar. For an even healthier or diet-friendly rice pudding, consider using low fat milk and less sugar.
Rice pudding can turn out too think if you use less milk than indicated in the recipe, or you cook the rice for too long. Add a little more milk to make your rice pudding thinner.
Rice pudding can become watery if you've added more milk than the recipe calls for or you haven't cooked the rice enough. You can strain out some of the milk or cook the rice pudding for longer.
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Stovetop Rice Pudding Recipe
- 1 cup arborio rice* (200 grams)
- 4 ⅛ cups milk, full fat (1 litre)
- ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
- 1 ⅓ tablespoons honey, runny (30 grams)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste*
- 1 pinch salt, fine
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon orange zest, finely grated
- ¼ cup butter, unsalted (50 grams)
- 1 egg yolk, large*
- Combine the milk, sugar, honey, salt, orange zest and vanilla in a large non-stick pot.Heat the mixture over medium heat.
- Whilst the milk is heating, rinse the rice under cold water to remove some of the starch.
- When the milk becomes frothy, add in the rinsed rice. Combine with a wooden spatula or spoon to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer gently for 30-35 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Turn off the heat, then mix in the cold butter, chopped into cubes. Use a wooden spoon to combine the mixture gently and melt the butter into the rice.
- Stir in the egg yolk, mixing well until the pudding becomes pale yellow in colour. At this point the pudding will be slightly sticky, but creamy.
- Pour the rice pudding into a tray, then cover it with plastic wrap. Let it cool down to room temperature, before chilling in the fridge for 30 minutes. Serve topped with fruit jam or fresh berries.
- Arborio rice can also be replaced with sushi rice. See post notes for more details on substitutions.
- Vanilla bean paste can also be replaced with 1 vanilla pod.
- This recipe requires the use of pasteurised eggs. For an eggless pudding, replace the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of heavy or clotted cream.