Rice pudding will always hold a special place in my heart. I loved to prepare it as a child. I’d always ask my mum to make extra basmati rice for dinner just so I could make dessert with the leftovers. The creamy, custard-like texture, the aroma of the spices and vanilla, and the chew of the grains all conjure true nostalgia. It’s also reflective of the change in seasons and cooler weather.
I hadn’t made rice pudding in ages, when a hankering recently came on. Back in my childhood, I always made it the easy way. Combine cooked rice, eggs, milk, sweetener, and seasonings. Pour into baking dish. Cook until puffy. There’s certainly no shame in taking this route. However, now that I have a more refined palette and advanced culinary skills as an adult, I decided to make the most recent version of my rice pudding on the stovetop. It cooks faster than an oven-baked custard and takes more hands-on stirring time. The taste is still there, yet the texture is more polished, creamy, and delightful. I liken it to a sweet risotto. (And like risotto, it’s hard to stop eating.)
Seeing as I only use whole grains anymore, when I eat grains at all, I swapped the fragrant Indian basmati I used as a child for short-grain brown rice. I adore the toothsome texture (again, like risotto). Using brown basmati rice would provide a little more of the perfume of Indian basmati. Honestly, you could potentially make this with any rice, or any other cooked grain for that matter, and I endorse unrestricted experimentation with anything in your pantry! The key is to add the dairy a little at a time, stirring between each addition (again like risotto). This helps achieve the extra-creamy results but still leaves some bite in the rice grains. Each type of rice or grain has its own level of bite, so cook according to your personal textural preference.
You can elevate your rice pudding by adding some chopped apple, pear, or dried fruit during the cooking process. This would take the deliciousness factor up a notch and give it another nod to autumn. If you add chopped nuts during cooking they will soften somewhat, or you may add them right at the end for more crunch. Serve this hot, straight from the pot, or chill and serve cold. It’s one dessert or snack (or even breakfast!) that’s sure to please.
Creamy Spiced Brown Rice Pudding
—Makes 4 hearty servings (about 6 cups)
2 cups cooked short grain brown rice
¼–½ cup (to taste) maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, or other sweetener of your choice
1 pinch salt
2 cups whole milk
1–2 cups half and half
3 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon butter
Optional ingredients: raisins or other died fruit, chopped apple or pear, nuts
- Prepare rice according to type, until fully cooked. Measure out 2 cups cooked rice for pudding
- Place cooked rice, sweetener, salt, milk, and about half the cream into a large sauce pot. (If using any optional ingredients, you may add them now.)
- Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 5–10 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken.
- Meanwhile, lightly beat eggs in a small bowl. Add a little of the hot custard mixture to the eggs to temper them, then return eggs to pot and combine. Heat gently, adding additional cream, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring over low heat, until mixture thickens to your liking. (The whole process will take about 15 minutes of cooking and stirring. The amount of additional cream you use depends on the grain and your personal taste. Keep in mind that it will thicken further upon chilling.)
- Once mixture has thickened, add vanilla, spices, and butter. Serve hot or cold.
Image from Briana Goodall.