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Arroz con Leche, in English “Rice Pudding” or “Rice with Milk”, is one of the easiest and most traditional desserts of Spanish cuisine and that is why I have chosen it to introduce the Spanish recipes category.
In today’s recipe I will show you everything you need to know so that your Arroz con Leche comes out delicious first time round, but before starting let´s be clear about one thing.
The recipe for Mexican rice with milk (Mexican Arroz con Leche recipe) is practically the same as the Spanish one except for that the Mexican recipe uses condensed milk.
In many Spanish houses, as in Mexico, condensed milk is used to enhance this deserts flavour, but in the traditional Spanish recipe “Arroz con leche” is made without condensed milk.
If you want to use it, don´t worry, later we’ll see when we have to add the condensed milk and a few things that will help you get to know this dessert better.
Are you ready to give this recipe a try…..well, let’s get cooking!!!
HOW TO MAKE ARROZ CON LECHE
- 1 cup and a half of round rice (150 grams)
- 3/4 cup of sugar (150 grams)
- 4 cups of whole milk (1 litre)
- 1 cup of water (250 ml)
- 1 stick of cinnamon (cinnamon branch)
- 2 pieces of lemon peel (finger size)
- powdered cinnamon (ground cinnamon)
- Put water and rice in a pan. Stir. Set to medium heat.
- When the water is hot add the milk, cinnamon and lemon peel. Mix well.
- As the milk heats up keep stirring the bottom so that it doesn´t stick.
- When the milk is hot, lower the heat to medium-low and leave for about 50 minutes stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking.
- After this time check the texture of the Arroz con Leche and if it has too much liquid leave a little longer. The mixture has to end up a bit drier than you´d like because when you add the sugar and dissolve it´ll become creamier.
- When the rice has the right texture (a bit drier than you would like), remove the lemon peel and cinnamon. Add the sugar, mix well and leave for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and share the rice out into four medium-sized bowls. You can eat hot or let it cool completely in the fridge. Remember to add powdered cinnamon on top before serving.
- This Arroz con leche is for 4 people (one serving per person). If you want to do it for two people you can divide all the ingredients in half or just make the recipe as is and keep two portions for another day.
- To make rice with vegan milk (without lactose or cholesterol) replace the cow’s milk for the same amount of vegetable milk (perhaps almond milk is the softest and will work better).
Now, we’ll see a few things that will help you get to know this dessert better.
Although Arroz con Leche is one of the most typical desserts in Spain, its origin is Asian and it is made in countless places, so the variables at the time of making this recipe are endless: with clove, star anise, vanilla, lemon or orange peel, cinnamon …
However, in Spanish-speaking countries, almost all recipes use the same ingredients. Therefore, Arroz con Leche from Mexico, Peru, Cuba, the Dominican Republic or Colombia, for example, are practically the same as the Spanish rice pudding and all of them use the same basic ingredients.
HOW TO MAKE RICE PUDDING
You’ll see how easy and simple it is to prepare the authentic Spanish rice pudding. Let´s go for it!!
The first thing we have to do is cook the rice in a pan. Instead of boiling it directly in the milk, we´ll give it a boil with a little water and then we will pour in the milk and continue to cook over medium heat.
When using a little water at the beginning the rice becomes looser and tends to stick less to the bottom of the pan.
Then we have to aromatize the milk and in order to follow the traditional recipe, we´ll only use a cinnamon stick and a little lemon peel (we will see more details about these ingredients later on).
The first 5 minutes we must keep an eye on that the milk doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan, so we will have to continuously move the bottom with a wooden or silicone spoon.
After this time we´ll lower the heat. We must continue stirring, but since the heat is lower we won´t have to be so alert.
Let the rice cook for about 50 minutes.
Now you have to decide what texture you want your rice pudding to have.
I like it to be very creamy, but without it becoming too soupy and with about 50 minutes the perfect texture is reached. If you want a drier rice you just have to leave it a little longer on the hob so that the milk can reduce a bit more.
To gain the right texture you have to consider three things:
- Once you finish cooking the rice, the milk will continue to evaporate by the accumulated heat so it thickens a little more.
- The sugar dissolves when it is poured into the milk, so the mixture becomes more liquid.
- Once the rice pudding is cooled it thickens a little more.
So in order to get the perfect texture you have to cook your Arroz con Leche until it becomes a little thicker or drier than you would like it be. When you add the sugar it will become creamier, cook for another five minutes over medium heat and remove from the hob.
By the way, the sugar is always added last in the cooking process in order to prevent the heat from caramelizing the sugar and our Arroz con Leche from turning yellow 😉
CAN I PREPARE ARROZ CON LECHE WITH FEWER CALORIES?
Taking into account that it is a dessert based on rice (a hydrate with high calories) added to the fact that in order to make it in the traditional way you have to use fats (milk) and sugar (more hydrates), therefore it is clear that it is not exactly a low-calorie dessert. In addition, if you try the Arroz con Leche Asturiano (Asturias – Spain) which usually uses butter to make the rice pudding creamier and is topped with caramelized sugar, as Crema Catalana, then forget about it! 🙂
Anyway, if you want to enjoy this dessert with the greatest possible flavour and with the minimum calories we can make some changes to one of its three main ingredients: rice, milk and sugar.
To prepare this rice in the traditional style you have to use round white rice, the one we use to make basic white rice.
You could obviously use other types of rice but the result won´t be the same.
Long grain rice absorbs little liquid and barely releases any starch, this is what makes the milk thicken and turn creamy. If you use it you´ll surely end up with a nice dessert but it won´t be the best Arroz con Leche that you have ever eaten.
I do not recommend using any type of long grain rice, nor Basmati, Jasmine,…
Brown rice is neither a good option and also, it doesn’t have fewer calories. Although it may seem strange both rice (brown and white) have virtually the same calories. Another difference between them is that white rice has a much higher glycemic index, which is not good for your waistline. So if you care a lot about what you eat maybe you should use it although the texture and taste won´t be the best.
You can use all kinds of milk to adapt the recipe to your liking although the traditional thing is to always use cow’s milk, of course whole milk and with all its fat.
Also if it can be fresh milk (the one from the refrigerated zone) then much better because you can always gain a little bit more of flavour.
Can you use skimmed milk or low-fat milk? Yes, you can, although the rice pudding will lose its appeal because a totally skimmed milk will not provide enough creaminess.
If you want to reduce the calories of your homemade Arroz con leche, it could be more interesting to cut back on the sugar part, for example using some kind of sweetener, as we will see in the next section.
On the other hand, some people do not look at the calories and simply want to make the best Arroz con Leche ever, no matter how much fat the recipe carries. In these cases, we can use a mixture of milk and cream to make it even creamier.
In addition to cow’s milk you can also use sheep’s milk or goat’s milk. I have never tried using them to make this dessert but I have read that it turns out really tasty.
Another option for anyone who wants a vegan arroz con leche is to use vegetable milk instead. So we can easily prepare this dessert with coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk or almond milk. All of them free of cholesterol and animal fats.
With any of these vegetable milks you can prepare a rice pudding without lactose and very tasty, although logically it will be quite different from the flavour of a traditional homemade recipe.
In case you want to prepare a vegan arroz con leche, you must keep in mind that many vegetable milks come with added sugar or sweeteners and are very sweet so you will have to adjust the amount of sugar in the recipe or choose a more natural drink without added sugars.
This is the crux of the matter and it is precisely with this ingredient where most changes can be made to reduce calories without having to sacrifice the flavour too much.
To make rice pudding we use white sugar but you can substitute it with a sweetener without calories. As the sugar is always added at the end of the recipe if you replace it with any other sweetener you just have to try adding a little when the rice is cooked, then taste it, and if you see that you need more sweetness add a little more and that’s it.
I don´t like sweeteners too much, but if you want a rice pudding with fewer calories, you don´t have many options to choose from.
By the way, for those who have a sweet tooth or are immune to caloric abuse, they can consider preparing the rice pudding with condensed milk like in the Mexican recipe. In this case we would have to add a little less milk to the recipe and add the condensed milk at the end as if it were sugar.
Of course, if you prepare this dessert with condensed milk, you should not use sugar in the recipe unless you want it even sweeter.
I already mentioned at the beginning that I like this recipe in the traditional way, that is, with cinnamon and lemon peel.
To flavour the milk we use a cinnamon stick about the size of a finger.
Keep in mind that the most common thing is to add cinnamon powder when serving, so one stick of cinnamon should be enough.
If what you have at home is a long cinnamon stick you will have to cut it because you don’t need to add so much cinnamon to flavour the milk. If you do this, be very careful when cutting, because if you splinter the cinnamon, then you´ll end up with lots of small pieces in the milk and you´ll have to spend a lot of time removing them.
Can ground cinnamon be used instead of a cinnamon stick? Yes you can, but in this case the most convenient thing is to flavour the milk in a separate pot and then strain well through a muslin cloth so that you don´t end up with the remains of cinnamon floating in the milk. You can do the same when you have small pieces from the cinnamon sticks.
From this fruit, we will only use its peel that will give a delicious citrus touch to our dessert. It isn´t necessary to add all the whole lemon peel, with a couple of fingers sized pieces we´ll have more than enough. By the way, lemon juice is too acid and we´ll never use it to prepare rice pudding.
I don´t know if you know but the lemons and oranges that you can find in supermarkets and markets have normally been covered in a wax so that they shine and look tastier. That is why it´s convenient to look for lemons that don´t have the waxed outer skin. You can easily recognize them by their matt skins (they hardly shine) but it doesn’t hurt to ask at the fruit counter in case of any doubts.
If you can´t find any unwaxed lemons, it´ll be best to wash them under hot water and rub them well with a brush to remove most of the wax.
Another very important thing to know about the lemon peel is that the white part that is under the skin is very bitter. For this reason, we must cut the skin as thin as possible and remove any white remains.
And that’s all, I hope you liked the recipe and give this Spanish dessert a try.
Kind regards from the kitchen!!