Rice pudding is a dish that is typically served quite plain. If anything, it is usually flavored with a vanilla and topped with a little bit of cinnamon. It rarely gets dressed up. This is because rice pudding is known as comfort food, the kind of dish that you enjoy on a quiet night by yourself at home, rather than the kind of dish that you serve to guests. Like vanilla ice cream, however, a good rice pudding can be a blank canvas that you can put all kinds of flavors on. This Cherry Pie Rice Pudding is just one example of how to dress up a simple rice pudding and turn it int a company-worthy dessert that is still comfort food.
Cherry Pie Rice Pudding starts with a little bit of homemade cherry pie filling, made on the stovetop. The filling is divided into dessert cups and then vanilla rice pudding is layered on top of it. The cherries and vanilla blend well together, and it can be served warm or cold, depending on your preferences (and how patient you are before digging in!). It’s an easy dessert to make, but because of the dramatic color contrast, it is always impressive when it is served.
This rice pudding starts out with rice that has already been cooked or steamed. You can use plain, leftover rice from Chinese takeout (I always make rice pudding with leftover takeout rice!) or boil some yourself in water. Either way, let it cool down before using it. I typically use frozen or jarred cherries – I prefer sweet, black cherries when I have a choice – for the cherry portion of this dessert, as they have a great flavor. Frozen cherries do not need to be defrosted, and jarred cherries only need to be drained before using.
Pie wouldn’t be pie without a little bit of pie crust. I didn’t want to make a whole pie crust just to garnish my pudding, though. Instead, I garnished each dessert with a piece of graham cracker. The cracker lends a little bit of crunch and definitely evokes a graham cracker crust here. Plus, it gives each cup a very nice finished look.
Cherry Pie Rice Pudding
1 1/2 cups pitted cherries, frozen or jarred
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup cooked white rice, cooled
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
graham crackers, for garnish
In a medium saucepan, combine cherries, sugar and cornstarch. Stir well, then cook over medium heat until cherries are tender and the cherry juice has thickened, about 10 minutes. Frozen cherries may take a few minutes longer than jarred cherries. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine cooked rice, sugar and 2 cups of milk. Cook over medium-low heat until most of the milk as been absorbed by the rice, about 30 minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk and and the cornstarch until well combined. Add in to rice and milk mixture, along with the vanilla extract and a small pinch of salt. Continue to cook until pudding has thickened, about 2-4 minutes.
Add about 1/4 cup of cherry mixture into each of six dessert cups (amount may vary slightly depending on the size of your cups). Fill the rest of the cups up with rice pudding. Pudding can be served warm or chilled.
Garnish each with a piece of graham cracker before serving.