This comforting dessert pudding didn't always wear a coconut crown. It originally sailed across the ocean from Spain, where rich rice puddings warmed bellies and graced royal feasts. A dessert for knights and princesses. But when it landed in Mexico, something amazing happened. The Aztecs, with their love for sugarcane, whispered a sweetness into the recipe. They also added zesty limes and oranges, making the pudding with the vibrant colors and flavors of their land. This simple twist transformed Arroz con "Leche" into a Mexican artifact, passed down through generations. I think my Abuelita would love this version of vegan arroz con leche.
The best part about this pudding? It's naturally gluten-free, works well with natural sugars, and easily made vegan with dairy-free milk. No matter if you have allergies, prefer plant-based treats, or just want something lighter, Arroz con "Leche" welcomes you with open arms (and a spoonful of deliciousness).
The Science Behind the Smile
But how does this pudding get so velvety smooth? The secret lies in a tiny, unassuming grain called arborio rice. Unlike its regular white rice cousins, arborio has a special power – a secret stash of starch! As it simmers, this starch unlocks its magic, transforming the broth into a luxurious sauce.
Long before my Abuelita stood at the stove making Arroz con Leche, the Aztecs were already utilizing a kind of sweet magic: vanilla beans. These dark, twisted treasures weren't just dessert decorations; they were a vital part of life, used for everything from flavoring drinks to soothing upset tummies. I imagine an Aztec warrior, fierce and brave, sipping on a frothy chocolate drink spiced with vanilla, or a wise healer whispering secrets of the vanilla bean to cure a child's cough. The Aztecs knew what we only recently discovered. That vanilla is pure magic, locked inside a pod.
For a deeper, richer flavor and a sprinkle of visual magic, grab your vanilla bean. Split it open and scrape out the tiny black specks. They'll simmer alongside the creamy rice. But if you're short on time, pre-measured vanilla extract brings the same smile, in a quicker, more modern way. And feel free to double up the vanilla love and add the bean and a little extract.
Turn up the heat with Cinnamon, with its fiery heart and gentle soul. And just like vanilla, it offers two ways to join the arroz con leche dairy-free pool.
For a subtle infusion, place two cinnamon sticks in the pot. Simmer them with the base ingredients for 5 minutes, then send them off on their own adventure, leaving behind a delicate aroma that'll warm your creamy pot of rice pudding.
But if you're feeling adventurous, add the cinnamon sticks alongside the rice and let them simmer for the entire 20 minutes. This unlocks deeper, spicier notes. Just remember to remove the sticks before taking a bite.
Your turn to create
This recipe is just the beginning of your own culinary adventure, a blank canvas ready for your own interpretation. Top your creation with crunchy nuts, juicy fruit, or a drizzle of maple syrup. Let your taste buds be your guide, transforming this Arroz con "Leche" into a reflection of your unique personality and preferences.
So, gather your loved ones, whip up a batch of this creamy dessert, and let the laughter and warmth fill the air. Arroz con "Leche" is more than just a dessert; it's a story shared through generations, and a sweet escape to a land where everyone is welcome to join the yum! Remember, every bowl deserves a happy hug, so go forth and create your own delicious legacy, one spoonful at a time!
Use fresh, high-quality ingredients, cook the rice thoroughly, and keep leftovers safe and sound in the refrigerator for the perfect dessert of this creamy vegan rice pudding.
- Filtered Water: The base for our pot of flavors.
- Unsweetened Almond Milk: Adds a subtle nutty richness and keeps things dairy-free.
- Unsweetened Coconut Cream: Add this velvety dairy-free cream for a beautiful texture and tropical aroma.
- Arborio Rice: This short-grain wonder releases just the right amount of starch as it cooks, creating that irresistibly smooth texture. Think risotto but dessert. Any type of rice cannot be substituted. With brown rice or white rice the cooking method would be different.
- Coconut Sugar: A natural sweetener with a hint of caramel, it perfectly complements the coconut cream's tropical notes. You can also substitute sugar with white sugar or brown sugar.
- Ground Cinnamon: Warmth in a sprinkle, cinnamon adds a touch of cozy sweet heat to every spoonful. Increase or decrease cinnamon flavor for your personal taste.
- Golden Raisins: Sun-kissed gems of sweetness, they pair perfectly with the creamy rice and add a delightful chewy texture.
- Vanilla Bean or Extract: The essential touch to desserts, vanilla elevates the flavor profile.
- Fine Sea Salt: A pinch of salt to balance the sweetness and enhance the depth of flavor.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Simmer & Sizzle: In a medium saucepan, bring the 2 cups water, almond milk, and coconut cream to a gentle simmer on medium heat. Let the milk simmer for 5 minutes.
- Rice Rhapsody: Add the arborio rice, coconut sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and vanilla (bean or extract, your choice!). Stir, then let the mixture simmer on low heat, with an consistent stir, for about 20 minutes. Watch the rice transform, plumping up and soaking in the creamy goodness.
- Rest & Rise: Once the rice is tender (cooking time will vary) and the pudding has thickened to your liking, remove it from the heat. Let it rest for at least 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld and the texture to become even creamier.
- Spoon & Savor: Serve your creamy rice pudding warm, at room temperature, or chilled, adorned with a dollop of extra coconut cream, a sprinkle of chopped nuts, or fresh fruit slices.
- No Raisins? No Problem! Swap them for chopped dates, apricots, or dried cranberries.
- Vanilla Blues? Don't fret! Use a teaspoon of almond extract for a nutty twist.
- Can't Find Coconut Cream? No worries! Substitute a full-fat can of coconut milk and thicken the pudding with a cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water).
- Need Nut-Free: you can easily substitute the almond milk with oat milk or soy milk. Or feel free to use coconut milk for a deeper coconut essence.
- Mango Tango: Fold in chopped fresh mango for a burst of tropical sunshine.
- Chocolate Craze: Stir in some dark chocolate chips for a decadent chocolate rice pudding.
- Spiced Up: Add a pinch of nutmeg, a star anise, or cardamom for a touch of exotic warmth.
- Orange Essence: add orange peel during simmer or stir in orange zest for a citrus note.
- Medium saucepan
- Serving bowls (optional)
- Store leftover pudding in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave.
For an extra creamy texture, use a whisk instead of a spoon to stir the pudding while it simmers. This releases more starch from the rice, creating a luxurious mouthfeel.
While regular rice will work, arborio's high starch content helps create the creamy texture we love in rice pudding.
It's definitely a treat, but using unsweetened coconut milk and natural sweeteners like coconut sugar makes it a bit healthier than traditional rice pudding. Depending on your nourishment needs.
Absolutely! This pudding tastes even better the next day, so feel free to prepare it in advance for a quick and delicious dessert.
Dairy-Free Mexican Rice Recipe Pudding
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 quart unsweetened almond milk
- 1 13.5-ounce can unsweetened coconut cream
- 1 cup arborio rice
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ cup golden raisins
- 1 vanilla bean split and scraped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- In a medium saucepan, combine the water, almond milk, and coconut cream. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the arborio rice, coconut sugar, cinnamon, raisins, vanilla bean or extract, and salt. Stir to combine, then return to a simmer and cook, stirring consistently, for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the pudding has thickened.
- Remove from heat and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. The pudding will thicken as it cools.
- Serve warm or chilled, topped with additional coconut cream, chopped nuts, or fresh fruit, if desired.
Other Good Stuff
Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:
- Always use fresh, high-quality ingredients.
- Be sure to simmer the pudding for the recommended time to ensure the rice is cooked through.
- Store leftovers properly in the refrigerator to prevent spoilage.