Arroz con Leche, or rice pudding, is truly a dessert of the world. It is popular in many cultures and each adds to this dish a particular flavor or ingredient. In Peru, it is believed that this dish was first made in the Convent of Santa Clara, which was founded in 1606, after the Spaniards introduced rice to Peruvian cuisine.
Though there are many variations, the method is universal — slow cook the rice with milk and sugar to form a thick, creamy, warm, and sweet dessert. Some recipes call for cooking the rice with a lemon peel or zest for more flavor, while others add eggs or sweet and condensed milk for a creamier consistency.
The recipe here is a combination of flavors and spices typically used in Peruvian desserts with the more traditional technique for making rice pudding in Spain. And starting with the recommendations in The Joy of Cooking, I added an orange peel, cinnamon, and cloves, before cooking the rice with the milk and sugar.
Every time I make this dessert, slowly stirring, I imagine that during the Spanish Viceroyalty in Lima, this was how this dessert was first prepared, 400 years ago. And though it may take a little bit of patience to stir for 1/2 an hour, the care and attention you put into this dessert will be present in every sweet bite.
- 3/4 cup long grain white rice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- pinch of salt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cloves
- thin peel of 1/2 an orange
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ground cinnamon for sprinkling on top
In addition to the ingredients above you’ll need a saucepan with a thick bottom, a wooden spoon for stirring, a bowl for washing the rice, and a bowl for the pudding after it’s cooked.
- Wash the rice in a bowl with running water until the water runs clear.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of water, the cinnamon stick, cloves, and pinch of salt to a saucepan, and bring to a boil, uncovered.
- Add the rice, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook covered until water is absorbed or about 10 minutes.
- Add the whole milk, sugar, and orange peel, return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until creamy in consistency or about 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat, transfer pudding to a bowl, use a fork to remove the orange peel, cinnamon stick, and cloves, then stir in the vanilla extract.
- Serve warm in a small bowl, cup, or ramekin, and sprinkle powdered cinnamon on top
This recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups of rice pudding. Or about 28 oz. which can be divided 12 servings of 2 oz. each, the rest is your reward for making this dessert.
In step 3, the rice is cooked in water using the traditional ratio of 1 part rice to 2 parts water, so it should not be mushy after the water is absorbed, nor should it stick to the pan. In step 4, the rice pudding should be creamy but not too thick or overcooked. If you can see the bottom of the pan when stirring with the spoon, then it’s done.