Arroz con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)
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This recipe for arroz con leche is a traditional Mexican dessert made with white rice, milk, sugar, and spices. This sweet, creamy pudding features warming spices like cinnamon and allspice with hints of vanilla and lime. It is easy to make and delicious hot or cold.
Today’s arroz con leche recipe is a delightfully simple, incredibly delicious dessert. Long grain rice is slow simmered with milk, sugar, and spices to create a sweet, spicy pudding with a rich, creamy texture. It is easy to make, easy to customize, and perfect warm or chilled.
Commonly called Mexican rice pudding, the origins of this dessert are a bit more complicated. Most people agree it was introduced to present-day Mexico by Spanish colonists. In turn, the Spanish likely got the recipe when they were invaded by Muslims centuries earlier. That is quite the journey for such a humble dessert!
Over time, of course, each culture and region puts its own unique spin and flavor eventually giving us the mouthwatering arroz con leche we have here today.
Table of Contents
All or Mixed Milk
The traditional version uses a total of 4 cups of milk only. I like to use 1 can evaporated milk added to a can of coconut milk (equals 2 cups) plus 2 cups of milk for a creamier consistency and flavor. This equals the 4 cups milk total needed. This is completely optional.
- Rice – White, long-grain rice is the traditional choice for rice pudding. You can choose regular long-grain, or try using a different long-grain variety like basmati or jasmine.
- Cinnamon Sticks – Gives the pudding a spicy sweet, comforting warmth.
- Allspice – This all-star spice is earthy, spicy, aromatic, and warm with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
- Whole Milk – Adds a creamy texture and mild sweetness. Remember, for a richer consistency, replace 2 cups of whole milk with a can of coconut milk plus a can of evaporated milk.
- Sugar – Adds sweetness and harmony of flavors.
- Vanilla – Warm, aromatic earthiness perfectly complements the natural sweetness of other ingredients.
- Kosher Salt – A touch of salt enhances the overall flavor profile like nothing else can.
- Lime – Lime zest enlivens the dessert with a pop of bright citrus flavor.
- Prepare the Rice. Thoroughly rinse and drain the rice. Transfer to a saucepan along with the water, cinnamon sticks, and allspice. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add Other Ingredients. Remove the lid and carefully stir in the sugar, whole milk, vanilla, and salt. Use a vegetable peeler to remove two strips of zest from the lime. Add that to the saucepan, return the cover, and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Stir & Adjust. Remove the lid again and give the pudding a nice stir. If you want it to be thicker, let it keep simmering on low for a while longer. If you prefer it to be thinner, stir in a bit more milk.
- Serve. Transfer to a small bowl and sprinkle the top with cinnamon and/or lime zest.
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If your Mexican rice pudding is coming out hard, there are a couple of ways to troubleshoot the issue. If the problem is that the rice grains themselves are hard and crunchy, they did not have adequate time to cook — or it could be that you did not add enough liquid.
Go ahead and add about a ½ cup of water (or milk). Stir thoroughly and let the pot simmer for as long as is needed.
When making this arroz con leche recipe in the future, it might be worth your while to soak your rice grains for about 30 minutes before straining, rinsing, and cooking. This will remove the starch while gently softening the grains.
The best part about this arroz con leche recipe is that it is highly customizable. Feel free to add any warming, aromatic spices like nutmeg, cardamom, or even a pumpkin spice blend if you are feeling festive.
Want a bit more texture? Toss in any of your favorite nuts, seeds, or dried fruits. Toasted walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, or pepitas are all great options. When it comes to dried fruit, some of my favorite options include raisins, dried cranberries, chopped dates, or apricots.
A touch of lemon, orange, or lime zest is another lovely addition. Be bold, get creative, and have fun!
Yes! This dessert will keep for 5-6 days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. Though, for guests, I would suggest making this arroz con leche recipe no more than a day or two in advance.
You can also package your leftover pudding in freezer-safe containers and freeze for up to 3 months. If you go this route, thaw any frozen portions in the fridge overnight before diving in to enjoy again.
To reheat, put the Mexican rice pudding in a saucepan over low heat. Gently reheat, adding a bit of milk if needed, and stirring every couple of minutes.
Arroz con Leche (Mexican Rice Pudding)
- Rinse rice and drain. Transfer to saucepan and add water, cinnamon and allspice. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low and cook covered, for 10 minutes.
- Remove lid and stir in the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 2 strips of zest from the lime, add to saucepan. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and stir. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes on low heat (this will thicken upon standing so don't be too surprised if it looks soupy at this point). Cook longer uncovered if thicker consistency is desired, or add a little more milk for thinner consistency.
- Serve in small bowls with either a sprinkle of lime zest or cinnamon on top.
- The traditional version uses a total of 4 cups milk only. I like to use evaporated milk added to a can of coconut milk (equals 2 cups) plus 2 cups of milk for a creamier consistency and flavor. This equals the 4 cups milk total needed.
- Adapted from Diane Kennedy’s recipe in Oaxaca al Gusto.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.