I have been making this rice pudding forever. I love rice pudding. I know some people tend to think of it as quite humble food, but when done right, it’s about as far from humble food as you can get. This rice pudding is classic, it’s creamy and it’s definitely done right – with Arborio rice, whole milk, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and heavy cream. It’s a treat!
Looking for the creamiest rice pudding recipe? This is my absolute favourite rice pudding recipe, that is, in my opinion, the creamiest rice pudding you can make!
Over the years, I have made this pudding with all kinds of rice and with different combinations of milk and cream, depending on what’s on hand. The recipe below is the perfect combination of ingredients, in my opinion, but do refer to the Cook’s Notes below the recipe for more information on substitutions and how they work. And since I’ve made this pudding so many times and discovered every possible place this recipe can go wrong, I’ve included lots of detail in the actual recipe instructions, as well as outlined them in the Cook’s Notes.
- 4 cups whole (3.5%) milk
- 1/2 cup Arborio rice
- 2/3 cup heavy (35%), whipping cream
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla or vanilla bean paste
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- Optional (but highly recommended!): 1/2 cup raisins
- Rinse a large saucepan with cold water. Don't dry. Set on stove-top over medium heat. Add milk. Heat milk to boiling, over medium heat, stirring regularly. WATCH CLOSELY as it nears the boil! When milk hits the boil, it will boil up and possibly over. That's not a good thing.
- When milk boils, stir in rice and keep stirring until mixture returns to the boil. Reduce heat to a shade higher than low, or whatever level on your stove allows the mixture to gently simmer (bubble breaking the surface but not too vigorously). Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring down the mixture every 10 minutes (Important that you stir it down regularly and ensure that there is no rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. You will notice that the mixture has probably formed a skin on top. Don't remove it. Just stir it back in.)
- Meanwhile, in a 2-cup measuring cup or similar sized bowl, use a fork to whisk together the cream, sugar, yolks, vanilla and salt. Set aside on counter while rice is cooking, leaving fork in bowl. Set out a ladle to use, as well. I like to do this after the rice starts cooking, so that the mixture comes to room temperature by the time it's needed.
- Once milk/rice has simmered for 30 minutes, continue simmering, but stir down every 5 minutes. With each stir, start testing the done-ness of the rice by tasting a piece. You want the rice to be tender (so no hard center). Arborio rice is generally done in the 35-45 minutes of total simmering time. Long-grain rice could take up to 60 minutes. A lot will depend on how vigorously your mixture is boiling, so there is no hard and fast rule. Taste testing is the best indicator.
- Once rice is cooked, slide saucepan off the heat. Re-whisk your egg mixture with your fork. Using the ladle, spoon out a ladle-full of hot rice/milk mixture, taking as much liquid as possible, but not to worry if you bring some of the rice with it. With the ladle in your left hand (assuming your right-handed, if not, reverse) and using your right hand to start whisking the egg mixture with the fork, start adding the hot mixture to the eggs A DROP AT A TIME, at first, while continuously whisking with the fork. Increase to a slow stream, while whisking continuously, until the entire ladle-full has been added. Get another ladle-full of hot liquid and slowly add it to the egg mixture as well, whisking continuously. Keep adding hot liquid until you've got at least 1 1/2 cups-1 3/4 cups of now warmed liquid in your 2 cup measure. Once you have reached that point, pour the warmed egg liquid into your rice/milk mixture.
- Return saucepan to heat, over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring almost continuously, just until a dime-sized bubble breaks the surface of the pudding. Pudding should be noticeably thickened and saucy, but still more sauce than rice (pudding will set more in the fridge as it cools). If liquid seems almost like milk consistency (rather than heavy cream consistency), it's too thin. Cook, stirring, a little longer. Note though that you don't want to vigorously boil the mixture after the egg mixture has been added, as you may end up with scrambled eggs.
- If using raisins, add to the bottom of a medium-large bowl. When pudding is cooked, pour hot mixture over raisins. Stir well to combine. Allow to stand on counter for about 5 minutes, to allow the steam to reduce, then cover bowl with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator. Allow to cool and set, at least 6 hours or preferably, over-night. Pudding will set as it cools. To serve, simply stir and spoon into bowls. Serve with a sprinkling of cinnamon, if desired. If pudding is or becomes too thick, simply add a tablespoon or so of heavy cream to mixture and stir in.
You can use long-grain rice in place of the Arborio rice. I love Arborio, a medium-grain rice, because it is plump, doesn’t get mushy and introduces just the right amount of starch to the pudding. Note that long-grain rice will take longer to cook. I wouldn’t recommend a short-grain or short-cooking type of rice for this pudding.
Yes, you can use 2% milk in place of the whole milk and/or you can use half & half cream instead of the heavy cream. While you can make these substitutions, it will come at a cost to the creaminess of the finished pudding, so if you do, just don’t come back and tell me it wasn’t the creamiest, ok :)
There is no need to plump your raisins ahead (soak in hot water to plump them up). The hot pudding mixture will take care of that for you.
There are a few places where this recipe can go wrong, so I thought I’d point them out, since I’ve done all of them at one point or another …
1) Not watching the pot as your milk comes to a boil at the start of cooking and having it boil up and all over your stove. Use a large pot and watch very closely as it nears the boil (starts steaming), to avoid that mess.
2) Simmering the milk/rice mixture too vigorously and/or not stirring it down regularly. Either can result in rice scorching on the bottom of the pan or the mixture drying out before the rice has a chance to cook. Keep mixture at a gentle, just-barely simmer and stir it down regularly. I like to set the timer on my stove in 10/5-minute increments, to remind me.
3) Adding too much hot liquid to your egg mixture too quickly. You need to bring the temperature of the egg mixture up very slowly (called “tempering”), so that the eggs don’t cook/curdle. Add a drop at a time (really!) at first and whisk continuously while adding. You can increase to a slow stream as you go along, but keep whisking and don’t rush it.
4) Not cooking the pudding long enough after you add the egg mixture, resulting in a soupy finished pudding. It can be hard to tell the first time you make it, when your custard has cooked long enough. It helps to know what you’re aiming for. It won’t look like the finished pudding in the photos. It will get there once it’s refrigerated and set, but off the stove, it should look much more saucy. BUT, the sauce part should be creamy and noticeably thickened – not thin like milk. My method is when the pudding nears the boil (lots of steam rising from the mixture), I will stop stirring for a 10-15 seconds, to see if any bubbles rise in the middle. If not, I keep cooking, stirring for another minute or so, then I stop again, to see if any bubbles rise. Once I see a bubble rise, I keep cooking, stirring, for only about 30-60 seconds more, then remove and pour into serving bowl.
If despite it all, your pudding has been in the fridge for 6-8 hours and it didn’t set (it’s soupy), you can pour it back into the saucepan and cook it up to boiling again, to thicken it. Then refrigerate again. The rice may get a bit softer from cooking twice, but it will still be tasty.