Rice pudding

November 20, 2011 § 11 Comments

And now for my second new Thanksgiving dessert I present rice pudding! It’s admittedly not a classic dessert for Thanksgiving, but it is so rich, so luscious, and one of my favorites, so we’re going to have it and that’s that.  We’re also having the previously mentioned Preakness pie muffins, as well as a few kinds of pie, though I’m not making them in advance enough that I can share them here. That’d be too much pie for one week, and even I have my sugary limits.

But back to the rice pudding: I was prompted to make it mainly because I had some soy milk around and didn’t really know what to do with it. I remembered some arborio rice from the bulk store was bagged up ready for risottos that never happened, and it hit me that vegan rice pudding might be something to make. Confident that someone probably had come up with a vegan rice pudding, I headed to my bookshelf, thinking perhaps I’d seen a recipe one of my many cookbooks on desserts, vegan cooking, or (most likely) online. Unfortunately, my memory was playing tricks on me; I found no trace of vegan rice pudding anywhere. Time for some experimenting, because once I had that idea in my head, there was no way I was just going to make something else.

Fortunately, it turns out that soy milk does, in fact, make a lusciously creamy rice pudding when combined with arborio rice, thanks to the natural starchiness of arborio rice. You could also substitute carnaroli rice, if that’s available; it too is a starchy short-grained rice used for risottos so I think it should work great. It sounds nitpicky, but I must insist on the use of a starchy rice, not long-grain rice, because there’s enough starch in it that the pudding becomes unctuous, but the individual grains don’t become overwhelmed and therefore gluey in texture. Trust me on this one; go for the risotto rices.

Of course, if you’re not serving vegans or people who are lactose-intolerant or otherwise don’t consume dairy products, feel free to substitute whole milk, or if you prefer, perhaps 2% milk. I wouldn’t go much lower in fat than that, however; while the rice does most of the work, some richness is needed to give both flavor and body to the pudding.

My taste testers really liked this rice pudding; in fact at first my mom was a bit annoyed, thinking that I had finished off all the dairy milk in the fridge, not realizing that I’d instead finished up the soy milk. My dad, being British, reminisced about how much he likes rice pudding, and thus my decision to serve this for Thanksgiving, despite Thanksgiving being really a very North American holiday.

If you’re not completely convinced yet, rice pudding has a few additional features going for it besides nostalgia and crowd-pleasing taste: it is easy to cook in advance and in bulk, it’s relatively cheap to make, it’s comforting, and it appeals to most everyone, unless they don’t like pudding at all, in which case bah humbug, they can just subsist on pie.

You can serve this delicately vanilla-scented pudding warm or chilled — for warm pudding fans, it’s easily reheated by stirring it over a medium-low stove, thinning with a bit of additional (soy) milk as necessary. I’ll probably just serve it chilled, maybe with some sort of fruit compote, or perhaps just sticking with the classic garnish of fresh grated nutmeg. With five desserts hopefully no one will leave the table hungry…

I hope you and yours have a lovely Thanksgiving!

(Vegan) Rice pudding

Makes six to eight servings, but it is easily increased assuming you have a larger pot, and of course the more desserts you serve alongside, the smaller the pudding serving can be


  • 1/2 cup arborio rice, rinsed and drained
  • Two cups soy milk (for vegans) or whole or 2% milk, if you prefer (not for vegans)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • One teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • A pinch of nutmeg and/or fruit compote for serving (optional)

1. Rinse and drain rice. In a large pot, combine rice, soy milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt.

2. Cook rice and soy milk mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally (about every five to ten minutes), for about two hours or until rice is tender but still retains a bit of bite; the pudding should be sticky and feel a bit heavy when stirred. A skin may form at the top of the pudding; simply stir it through, making sure to get the rice at the bottom unstuck as well. Do not let the rice pudding come to a boil; it makes a huge mess if it manages to boil over.

3. Serve right away with nutmeg grated over top and/or fruit compote, or chill and serve later on, again topping as desired.

Note: to reheat rice pudding, place in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, thinning with a bit more (soy) milk as necessary. Depending on how much you reheat will increase the time, of course.


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