How to Recipe: Arroz Con Leche (Rice Pudding)

Posted: Apr 22 2014

Growing up I grew up eating many different varieties of arroz con leche. I come from a Mexican/Cuban/Spanish background, so from my Mexican side of the family I grew up with the arroz con leche made with long-grain rice cooked first in water and infused with cinnamon sticks, milk, and sugar. This dish was a consistency like a loose but silky-porridge.  It is very warm and comforting with a surprising pink tinge from the cinnamon tea the rice is cooked in.  From my Cuban-Spanish side I grew up with my grandmother’sarroz con leche.  She would make a thick rice pudding with short-grain rice, infused with cinnamon, lime peel, butter, and 3 milks (condensed, evaporated, and whole milk) with plump raisins in the mix. Very delicious and extremely rich and sweet. Delicious! And oh so sinful! Both were delicious in their own style. 

My version of arroz con leche

Now over the years as I’ve developed my own cooking style, I have played around with a few arroz con leche recipes and experimented on my own. Some resulted too watered down, some extremely rich etc.  So my version ofarroz con leche that I’ve settled with and is my favorite thus far, is rich but not overly rich and cloyingly.  It’s sweet but not too sweet, and it is very flavorful infused with vanilla, cinnamon, grated orange and lemon zest, and it derives its richness from butter…yes butter.  Now, I’d like to note that the reason I use the zest is because sometimes people do not like to bump into a large piece of citrus peel in their puddingand also because if you accidentally get some of the white pith along with the peel it can lead to a bitter tone in the rice pudding.  So using zest lets us add as much citrus peel without the worry of it turning the dishbitter.

How this version came to be 

This version came to be one morning where I realized I had a lot of leftover already cooked plain short-grain rice. I decided to make a big pot of arroz con leche using the leftover rice!

Citrus peel gives rice pudding and sweets a wonderful floral flavor and is used in many Spanish and Cuban rice puddings and custards and Mexican pastries. The cinnamon lends a comforting warm sweetness along with the sugar.  Since I knew the rice was already cooked with water which doesn’t really have any “body”, and I had no heavy cream, half and half, evaporated or condensed milk I therefore used and added butter to taste until it was rich enough to my liking.  The use of butter also let me control how rich I wanted it adding great flavor in the process as well. The results, well it wasamazing!  I received plenty of compliments, and will continue making this version of it. I love it! 



-1 cup short-grain rice (such as Calrose, Valencia Rice, or Arborio if you cannot get it long-grain will work fine)

-2 cups water

-zest of ½ a medium orange

-zest of ½  a large lemon or lime (your choice, I use whatever I have on hand, you can use both too)

-1 teaspoonful cinnamon powder or 1 large or 2 really small cinnamon sticks

-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-3 cups milk

-2tablespoons butter

-3/4 cup sugar (more or less to taste)



(1) Wash short-grain rice, add to the pot with water, orange and lemon zest, cinnamon powder or small cinnamon sticks, vanilla extract, and butter. Bring to a rolling boil, stir, cover and simmer on low about 20- 25 minutes until rice absorbs liquid.

(2) Meanwhile in a separate pot heat milk on low heat, that way the milk is already hot when you add it to the cooked rice. After the rice is tender, add the hot milk, and sugar to taste.

(3) Bring to a rolling boil stirring constantly, then lower heat to medium low, allow to simmer uncovered until rice thickens. If you would like you can add extra butter or sugar to taste.

(4) Pour into a nice dish or leave in pot, and dust with cinnamon powder.



If you want to use already cooked leftover rice as I did the first time I ever cooked this, simply throw 2 cups of already cooked plain white rice in a pot along with all the ingredients on the list, stir well, bring to a boil stirring often, then lower heat and allow to simmer on low for 20- 30 minutes or until the rice absorbs some of the milk and is as thick as you like. Stirring occasionally

By Nathan Gutierrez

Nathan is an avid cook of Spanish, Mexican, and Cuban food as well as a writer for



Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing