When it comes down to it, I have a soft spot for classic vanilla rice pudding. It could be because it is the type of dish that my grandmother would make and serve all the time, or it could simply be because I love custard desserts. Vanilla may be my go-to, but I’m still always experimenting with new flavors for rice pudding to give a small twist to a very simple dessert and give it a little extra complexity. The very tasty result of some of this experimentation is Maple Coconut Rice Pudding.
Coconut and maple may not seem like an intuitive combination, but the rich sweetness of maple syrup works very well with coconut. Even though the coconut I used in this recipe was not toasted, the combination of maple and coconut evoked the flavor of toasted coconut in the finished dish. That depth of flavor was very satisfying and kept me going back for spoonful after spoonful. If you want even more coconut flavor, consider substituting out heavy cream for coconut milk. I like the richness of the cream because it really gives the dish a “comfort food” feel, but coconut milk generally works very, very well in dishes like this one.
As is the case with many rice pudding recipes, this one starts with cooked white rice. You can either cook some up and add the pudding ingredients directly to the pot once the rice is ready or simply use some leftover white rice. It will not make a difference in the finished pudding whether the rice is hot or cold when it goes into the pot. Milk, heavy cream, sugar and maple syrup are added to the rice, along with vanilla extract and shredded coconut. I used both maple syrup (I recommend a dark amber/grade B syrup for best results) and sugar because the sugar added sweetness and let both the maple syrup and coconut come through. If you want a little extra maple flavor, drizzle a bit on just before serving.
Maple Coconut Rice Pudding
2 1/2 cups milk (whole or low fat)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup (pref dark amber/grade B)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup cooked white rice (leftover rice is fine)
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring just to a simmer over medium-low heat, then cook, stirring regularly, until rice is extremely tender and much of the liquid has been absorbed, about 30-40 minutes.
Serve warm, or if your prefer your rice pudding cold, refrigerate until chilled. Drizzle with additional maple syrup or sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.