Arroz con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)
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Warm and creamy, hearty and delicious, this Arroz con Leche recipe is a real winner for breakfast or dessert. Accentuated with the warm flavors of cinnamon and the addition of plump, chewy raisins there’s nothing quite so cozy and comforting as this Mexican rice pudding — it’s like a hug in a mug!
With Christmas fast approaching, I’m missing my mom and grandma more than usual these days, so I decided to whip up a big batch of this comforting arroz con leche Mexicano to transport me back to my childhood. I have so many fond memories of this warming pudding – I can close my eyes while it’s simmering on the burner and it smells like my abuelita’s house.
Memories are everything, and I’m so thankful I have this video of my mom and I in the kitchen where she shares how to make arroz con leche. I wish you could scratch and sniff this video! Since you can’t, go ahead and make the real thing instead; I promise you won’t regret it.
What is Arroz con Leche?
Mexican arroz con leche is a type of rice pudding. It literally translates to “rice with milk,” which is fitting for this recipe! Rice is cooked with milk, sugar, and spices to a porridge-like consistency that is enjoyed for both breakfast and dessert in Mexico.
Every Latin American country has its own version of arroz con leche, and it seems that every family has their own special recipe. Some versions call for egg, citrus, or chocolate, but my mom’s recipe is extra special because it uses only staple pantry ingredients.
Why This Recipe is Perfect
I may be biased, but as far as I’m concerned, this is the best arroz con leche recipe around. This recipe is in our first published cookbook, so you know we love it dearly! Unlike many rice pudding recipes that use pre-cooked rice, I love my mom’s recipe for doing just the opposite.
By cooking the rice in the sweet and lightly spiced milk mixture, the grains are completely permeated with the cozy flavor we all adore. It also makes for a better consistency — the grains of rice maintain their bite and the sauce becomes thick and creamy.
My mom uses long-grain rice, two kinds of milk, and whole spices like cinnamon and cloves to make her arroz con leche. She also adds plump raisins to the mix, offering sweet bursts of flavor throughout.
Even if you are operating on the tightest of budgets (I’ve been there!), this recipe is for you. Using fewer than 10 pantry ingredients that work hard for you, this creamy, dreamy dish is well within everyone’s reach. Next time you have a sweet craving, try making a batch!
Ingredients & Substitutions
As I mentioned earlier, this extraordinarily satisfying and easy arroz con leche recipe is made with exclusively shelf-stable pantry ingredients, so a batch is never far from reach. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Water – Easy enough, right?
- Cinnamon Sticks & Whole Cloves – For infusing the water with tasty warmth. Using whole spices means they’ll last indefinitely on your shelves.
- Salt – Even dessert needs seasoning!
- Long-Grain Rice – Plain long-grain white rice is an inexpensive and versatile pantry ingredient. Feel free to swap in ritzier versions like basmati, or use long-grained brown rice for a more nutritious dish.
- Evaporated Milk & Sweetened Condensed Milk – For all the creamy vibes using only cans.
- Raisins – For juicy bursts of fruity sweetness throughout. Feel free to swap in your favorite dried fruit here including cherries, apricots, or cranberries. Just be sure to chop any larger fruits into smaller bite-sized pieces for even distribution.
- Ground Cinnamon – For sprinkling with an extra layer of flavor when serving. You’re also welcome to use ground nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice.
What is the best rice for making arroz con leche?
I personally love using long-grain white rice for rice pudding. Many other recipes call for shorter-grained or sticky rice instead, but I love the texture that long-grain rice gives. Basmati rice also fits the bill!
That said, if you’re trying to up your fiber intake or lower the glycemic impact of your arroz con leche, use long-grain brown rice instead. Just note that you may need to simmer your rice a bit longer for the correct consistency, as brown rice usually takes longer to cook than white.
How to Make Mexican Rice Pudding
As promised, making my Mom’s Mexican arroz con leche recipe is super simple. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Make Cinnamon Tea. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and salt. Remove from the heat and cover. Steep for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and discard.
Step 2: Simmer Rice. Add rice to the cinnamon tea and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Finish Rice Pudding. Add the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and raisins, and continue to cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Stir gently but be careful not to stir too much so the rice doesn’t get mushy.
Step 4: Serve. Serve warm in bowls, or allow to chill overnight in the refrigerator. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon before serving for an extra punch of flavor. Enjoy!
While I love this simple arroz con leches recipe just the way my mom makes it, there is always room for you to customize just about any recipe to fit your needs and preferences. Here are a few options to consider:
- Arroz con Dulce – This tropical-flavored vegan arroz con leche is popular in Puerto Rico. To make it, swap in canned full-fat coconut milk for the evaporated milk and use canned vegan sweetened condensed milk, preferably made from coconut milk to double down on the tropical flavor.
- Vanilla or Almond Rice Pudding – Feel free to add a split vanilla bean or about a teaspoon of vanilla extract or paste. You can also opt to use almond extract for more of an amaretto vibe if you prefer.
The great thing about this Mexican rice pudding is that it’s perfect for eating any time of day, all year round. I love this arroz con leche for breakfast and for dessert (or for a quick snack). It’s great hot from the stove or cold from the fridge.
If you want to be a little fancier, add a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, rum-plumped raisins, and/or a sprinkling of citrus zest. That said, this yummy dish is delicious all on its own.
I don’t love raisins… what else can I use to flavor my rice pudding?
If raisins aren’t your favorite, I say leave them out! You have a few other options too:
- Soaking raisins in brandy, tequila, or rum is a great way to spike the flavor of the fruit with a little extra pizzazz. Just be sure that you keep the kids out of your stash!
- You can opt to add a different kind of dried fruit to the mix — cherries or cranberries are the first that come to mind.
- Chopped chocolate could also be added if that’s more inspiring to you. Chocolate for breakfast? You’re speaking my language!
- Finally, feel free to add some orange zest to the mix to take things in a brighter, tangier direction.
Frequently Asked Questions
You sure can! While I love eating arroz con leche hot from the stove, it is equally delicious served cold. It will keep in a lidded container in the refrigerator for up to a week, though if you make it that long, I’m pretty sure you have superhuman self-control.
Due to the creamy nature of this recipe and the texture of the rice, I don’t recommend that you freeze it. That said, you can freeze it for up to a month. Just expect the rice grains to be a little soggy and broken.
Absolutely! In terms of evaporated milk substitutes, I would recommend using canned full-fat coconut milk instead. Not only in the coconut flavor delicious in this application, it is also the easiest non-dairy substitute for evaporated milk. That said, you can also use soy, nut, flax or oat milk instead, although you will want to simmer those options over low heat to evaporate away some of the moisture before using.
More Rice Pudding and Porridge Recipes
Here are some more sweet and classic breakfast recipes you’ll love:
If you made this easy Arroz con Leche recipe, please be sure to rate and review it below! I’d love to know how it turned out for you.
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Arroz con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)
A thick and creamy rice pudding served for breakfast or dessert with warm flavors of cinnamon and plump raisins.
Over high heat, bring the water to a boil with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and salt.
Remove from the heat and cover. Steep for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and discard. Add rice and over medium heat boil for 20 minutes.
Add the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and raisins and continue to cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Stir gently but be careful not to stir too much so rice doesn’t get mushy.
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- If using long grain brown rice just note that you may need to simmer your rice a bit longer for the correct consistency, as brown rice usually takes longer to cook than white.
- This dish can be served for breakfast or dessert and tastes great hot or cold.
Calories: 216kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 13mg, Sodium: 135mg, Potassium: 313mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 108IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 149mg, Iron: 1mg
Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: November 2014. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.