Rice-with-milk concoctions are popular in cuisines from Thai to Moroccan to Greek, and came to Latin America with the Spanish conquistadors, where they are called arroz con leche. Surely this beloved dessert owes at least part of its wide popularity to the positive emotions we associate with such elements as warm milk, soft carbohydrates, and homey spices—all part of a good rice pudding.
The recipe below is perfect if you need to make a relatively economical dessert for a small family reunion or large dinner party, as it yields twenty-some servings, and it is naturally gluten-free. The cloves and coconut in this particular version make it extra special—and since the spices are added while the rice is cooking, they´ll make your house smell wonderful, too. Please note that the spices, as well as the optional brown sugar, give this rice pudding a light brown color, rather than the more common white.
- 3 cups uncooked long grain white rice (not instant or quick-cooking)
- 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon (plus more for garnish, if desired)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 tablespoons good quality vanilla extract
- 1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup coconut (shredded; plus more for garnish, if desired)
- 2/3 cup raisins
- 2 cups sugar (white, brown, or some of each)
Place the rice, cinnamon and cloves in a large pot. Add about a gallon of water. Boil gently for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and very soft. During this cooking time, add more boiling water, if necessary, so that the rice stays somewhat soupy.
Remove the kettle from stove. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, mixing well.
Taste to test for sweetness; add more sugar, if necessary. (Keep in mind that rice pudding tastes sweeter warm than it will cold, so allow for that if you plan to serve it cold.) Add a little more water or milk (whole or 2% work fine), as well, if necessary to keep the rice loose enough to be “pourable.”
Ladle or pour your rice pudding into individual dessert dishes or disposable cups. Garnish with more cinnamon and coconut, if you like. Eat while still warm (not hot), or refrigerate and eat cold.
This dessert keeps well, refrigerated, for a few days, though some liquid will probably separate out on the top after a day or two; just stir it back into the rice before eating.
Variations on Coconut Spice Rice Pudding
Make a “pumpkin spice” rice pudding by trading the spices in the recipe for 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon plus 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (which typically contains cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg).
Go a little more exotic and switch out the cloves for ground Chinese 5-spice powder (which includes cinnamon, Szechuan peppercorns, cloves, anise and fennel.)
Change up the appearance of your rice pudding by trading the regular dark-colored raisins for lighter-colored golden raisins (also known as sultanas) or reddish dried cranberries. Or go for broke and use a mix of regular raisins, sultanas and craisins in your dessert.
If you have people who are allergic to, or just don’t care for, coconut or raisins, either leave these ingredients out or divide the mixture after step one in order to make both versions, one “with” and one “without.”