Classic Arroz con Leche is a creamy Mexican rice pudding that warms the tummy on a cool day or can be served chilled on a hot day. How cool is that? The creaminess of the milk and the consistency of the rice make the perfect comfort food.
There are different kinds of sweet rice variations in every culture. You can take leftover rice to make this amazingly fast and easy comfort food. A little bit of milk, added cinnamon, a few raisins, and some sugar to the pot of rice and you’ll be enjoying a nice Rice Pudding for breakfast (or dessert) for the week!
Mexican Rice Pudding – After experimenting with different styles of rice pudding, I decided that I really love the Mexican version – Arroz con Leche.
A bonus with this cultural version – replacing the sugar and some of the milk with evaporated and condensed milk allows you to cook the rice first, reducing the risk of burning the milk. Who likes burnt milk? I didn’t think so. 😉
Who Invented Arroz con Leche?
Although almost every culture on the face of this earth enjoys its own version of this awesome pudding, it is believed to have originated with the Moors. Then after they conquered Spain, they contributed their recipe, and then Spain made its own version and used it to conquer the rest of the world. Well, maybe not, but that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!
Honestly, though, it is such an economical and delicious treat that any country that enjoys rice as a staple also has its own recipe for rice pudding.
What Is Arroz con Leche?
Rice pudding with style! It can either be a dessert or breakfast. It is simple, satisfying, and a great way to use leftover rice. The basic ingredients always include, of course, rice. Added to that are milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Other spices that take it over the top are cloves and cardamom (both are strong spices, so take it easy with them), vanilla extract, and orange or lemon peel.
- Rice – A staple grain that comes in an incredible array of colors and sizes, from white and creamy to black and red. I’m not picky; I love rice just about any way you can make it. For Arroz con Leche, I prefer long-grain but just about any type of rice will do.
- Cinnamon, star anise, and nutmeg – Wonderfully aromatic and warming spices that make any dessert better. Sticks are better than ground cinnamon, but if you only have ground cinnamon, go for it. The star anise and nutmeg give it a holiday feel.
- Raisins – The natural sweetness of raisins goes so well with the cinnamon and spices.
Three Kinds of Milk
- Evaporated Milk – I absolutely love the texture and intense flavor that the evaporated milk (how to make your own)
- Condensed Milk – So sweet and creamy – add a little more on this
- Coconut Milk – I adore the tropical feel the coconut milk contributes. (where can they find this?)
- Cardamom – An amazing seed that comes from the ginger family. You can use it whole or ground. It is a spice used in many Asian and Middle Eastern dishes. It’s especially good in Turkish coffee. It has a strong flavor, so start out slowly. You can find it in almost any grocery store, but Indian and Middle Eastern stores typically have fresher spices at a better price.
- Cloves – Another strongly flavored spice that actually is flower buds from a type of myrtle. Best used in small quantities.
- Vanilla Extract – A welcome addition to almost any dessert, it even makes coffee taste creamier. If you haven’t made your own, you don’t know what you’re missing. Find out how HERE!
- Orange or Lemon Peel – Give your dish a refreshing zing with bits of orange or lemon zest!
How to Make Arroz con Leche
Make the Rice
- Prep: In a large saucepan, add water, rice, star anise, and cinnamon stick. (Photo 1)
- Heat: Place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until the rice is tender but firm. It should take about 13-15 minutes.
Add 3 Types of Milk
- Drain: Drain the water from the rice using a sieve and discard the cinnamon stick.
- Return and Stir: Add the drained rice to the saucepan. Stir in the evaporated milk, condensed, and coconut milk. (Photos 2-5)
Soften the Rice Mixture
- Simmer – Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Reduce Heat and Stir Occasionally – Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 12-15 minutes, and rice is soft. Be careful not to let the rice burn. (Photos 6 & 7)
- Raisins and Bonus Ingredients – Add raisins and ground nutmeg spice, and stir to fully combine. (Photos 8 & 9)
- Transfer and Serve: Transfer the pudding to a serving bowl. Dust the top of the pudding with ground cinnamon, and serve warm or cold.
- Rice: If you don’t have long-grain rice, almost any type of rice will do. Replacing the rice with other grains creates a pudding with a unique nutty flavor. Farro, barley, and oats will become tender when cooked. You can replace it with brown rice if you want a healthier version. Just increase the cooking time by about half an hour before adding the milk.
- Milk: I feel for those who are sensitive to dairy. However, that is not a reason to have to miss out on this drool-worthy recipe. Just replace the evaporated and condensed milk with the same amount of coconut cream and add 1/3 cup of sugar.
Making Ahead and Storage
Perfect for a make-ahead. It should last for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge, though I’m pretty sure it will be gone long before that. If it gets too thick, just add a little milk when heating it up.
The Best Toppings
Arroz con Leche is an exquisite meal all by itself. However, if you want to kick it up a notch, feel free to add fresh fruit, toasted nuts, brown sugar, and/or a little honey.
More Easy Rice Meals
Watch How to Make It
Arroz con Leche
- 7 cups (1659 ml) water
- 1 cup (200 g) long-grain white rice
- 1 star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk,
- 1 can (14 oz) condensed milk,
- 2 cups (474 ml) coconut milk, (can replace with milk)
- ¾-1 cup (119 – 159 g) golden raisins
- ⅛ teaspoon (.29 g) ground nutmeg
- ground cinnamon spice, for topping
- In a large saucepan add water, rice, star anise, and cinnamon stick. Place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook until the rice is tender but firm. It should take about 13-15 minutes.
- Drain water from the rice using a sieve and discard the cinnamon stick. Return the drained rice to the saucepan.
- Stir in the evaporated milk, condensed, and coconut milk.
- Continue cooking over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, about 12-15 minutes, and rice is soft. Be careful not to let the rice burn.
- Add raisins and ground nutmeg spice, stir to fully combine. Transfer the pudding to a serving bowl. Dust the top of the pudding with ground cinnamon, and serve warm or cold.
Tips & Notes:
- What kind of rice is best? Arborio rice that is used for risotto is an excellent choice. However, not many people have specialty rice in the pantry. No problem, just use whatever rice you have available.
- How not to burn the milk. What a mess it makes when milk scorches to the bottom of the pan. One solution is a non-stick pan. However, swishing a couple of tablespoons of cold water around in the bottom of the pan and leaving it there keeps the milk from sticking. Another option is to lightly oil the bottom of the pan, not enough to change the flavor, just enough to keep the milk from sticking. Happy cleanup.
- Use a slow cooker – Since a slow cooker usually uses less liquid, increase the amount of rice by 1/4 cup, generously grease the inside with butter, and put all of the ingredients in. Cook on low for 3-4 hours.
- Toast the cinnamon and star anise before putting in the rest of the ingredients to add a special touch. It only takes a few minutes to fill the kitchen with the incredible aroma of the cinnamon then you can proceed with the rest of the recipe.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only. Please keep in mind that it is a rough estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary greatly based on the products used.