Arroz con leche is Mexican rice pudding whose name literally means “rice with milk”. I’ve seen many versions of arroz con leche that use different kinds of rice, different kinds of sugar and different kinds of milk. Some use sweetened condensed milk, while others use regular milk. Some swear by brown rice, while others stick to white rice. To me, this means that there is no one right way to make arroz con leche. Like other kinds of rice pudding, the recipe is subject to variation and as long as you have milk, rice and a sweetener going into your pot, you’re probably on the right track!
There are two flavors that I consider to be staples of arroz con leche, however, and those are cinnamon and vanilla. My recipe starts out with cooked rice, which is added to a pot with milk, a little cream, some sugar, a piece of cinnamon stick and vanilla. I use a whole piece of cinnamon stick rather than ground cinnamon so that the pudding gets infused with just a hint of cinnamon flavor and doesn’t take on the brownish color that it would if I stirred in ground cinnamon. I typically use a half a vanilla bean in a batch of pudding, but vanilla extract works equally well and I included instructions for that option in the recipe below.
You get the wonderful aroma of vanilla and a hint of cinnamon in every bite of pudding. The rice pudding itself is only lightly sweetened. It is delicious on its own, but to make it a little sweeter I mixed up a piloncillo syrup to drizzle on top of it. Piloncillo is an unrefined Mexican sugar with a brown sugar-like flavor that is just delicoius with rice pudding (it’s delicious with a lot of things, actually), and adds some extra sweetness to the pudding when you’re ready to serve it.
I prefer to eat my rice pudding when it is still warm, but if you prefer your rice pudding chilled, you can go ahead and refrigerate the pudding after cooking it and eat it 2-3 hours later. The syrup can also be stored in the refrigerator and served chilled. I garnished my pudding with a few roasted pistachios to add some color and texture, but they are completely optional if you don’t have any around the kitchen.
Arroz con Leche
1 1/2 cups cooked long grain rice, cooled
2 cups milk (whole or low fat)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean or 2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins
2-3 tbsp roasted pistachios, for garnish (optional)
In a medium saucepan, combine rice, milk, heavy cream, sugar, salt and your cinnamon stick. If you are using a vanilla bean, split it and scrape the seeds into the saucepan, as well. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the mixture has thickened and the rice is very tender, about 30 minutes.
When the pudding is close to being done and needs about 5 minutes of cooking time, stir in the raisins. If using vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans, stir it in along with the raisins.
When the pudding is cooked, divide it evenly into 4 large dessert bowls. Serve warm, topped with a drizzle of piloncillo syrup (and sprinkle with pistachios for crunch, if desired).
2 oz chopped piloncillo or brown sugar
2 oz water
In a small saucepan, combine piloncillo (or brown sugar) and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for 2-3 minutes after the sugar has dissolved to reduce and thicken the syrup slightly. Allow to cool slightly before using.
Recipe can be doubled or tripled for a larger batch.