Arroz Con Leche Recipe – Spanish Rice Pudding

This easy arroz con leche recipe is the perfect dessert for a Spanish tapas night. With only a few ingredients, this creamy Spanish rice pudding is sure to please. Serve it cold, warm, or room temperature sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon.

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What Is Arroz Con Leche 

Arroz con leche is rice pudding at its most basic. There are Spanish versions and Mexican versions and even Portuguese versions. Although arroz con leche translates to rice with milk, it’s really a cinnamon rice pudding.

I started making this recipe when we lived in Spain. It is often served as a dessert at traditional restaurants, particular as part of the menu del dia. The menu del dia is a three course meal served mostly for lunch at a reduced rate. The most common desserts served as part of the menu were rice pudding, flan, and crema Catalan, particular where we lived in Catalonia.

Arroz Con Leche Recipe - Spanish Rice Pudding
Arroz Con Leche Recipe – Spanish Rice Pudding

It is thought that traditional arroz con leche dates to the Moorish occupation of Spain. The Moors probably introduced cinnamon to Spain from Africa. Like many Spanish desserts, this dish is made of humble ingredients, with the cinnamon stick probably standing out as the most exotic one.

Please see our roundup of the Best Spanish Dessert Recipes for more ideas. Or, check out our recipe for Mini Basque Cheesecake.

How To Make Spanish Rice Pudding

Arroz Con Leche Recipe - Spanish Rice Pudding

Arroz con leche in English translates to rice and milk, and there really aren’t many more ingredients than that. When living in Spain and hunting for a recipe for arroz con leche, I ended up finding several written in Spanish, which I translated.

I found several Spanish pudding recipes that included some unnecessary ingredients, like margarine or butter. I just don’t think that’s necessary and adds too much fat. Instead, I tried a few different ways of making arroz con leche before coming up with the perfect combination of creamy and sweet. 

See some of our other traditional dessert recipes:

Traditional Portuguese Desserts

Easy To Make Japanese Desserts

Traditional Irish Desserts

What Kind Of Rice For Spanish Rice Pudding Recipes

Best arroz con leche recipe
Using bomba rice, a short-grain rice
Best arroz con leche recipe
Rinsing the bomba rice in cold water before cooking

In the end, any white rice you have at home would work for this arroz con leche recipe. You might need to use a bit more water or milk or adjust the cooking time if using long-grain rice, though. 

When it comes to how to cook arroz con leche the traditional Spanish way, I prefer to use the rice available in Spain. We always used bomba rice because it was locally grown in Catalonia, where we lived. It’s a short, almost stubby, rice that provides a nice texture for a rice pudding. It is often marketed in the US as paella rice. Other types of rice can be used, like risotto rice or arborio rice. 

You can buy bomba rice on Amazon here. You can buy arborio rice on Amazon here.

Ingredients For Arroz Con Leche

Once you’ve chosen your rice, the rest of the ingredients are pretty simple. The rice is cooked in a combination of water and whole milk. You can use low-fat milk, but you might need to add a bit more during the cooking process. The whole milk in this recipe is preferred because it makes the rice super creamy.

The rice pudding is cooked with a big slice of lemon rind and a cinnamon stick. Both are removed before serving. The lemon rind should be wide, but not include any pulp and minimal white. You can also add a bit of lemon zest if you’d like. It is better to use a cinnamon stick rather than ground cinnamon, which will turn the rice brown when it is being cooked.

The only other seasoning is a touch of salt and sugar. The salt helps to bring all of the flavors together and won’t result in a salty taste. The sugar is also added to taste. I recommend a 1/4 cup, but you should add it a bit at a time, stir, and taste until it’s the right sweetness for you.

How To Make Arroz Con Leche

Cooking Spanish pudding recipes
Adding the milk, cinnamon stick, and lemon peel
how to make spanish rice pudding on the stovetop
Cooking the rice pudding in milk, waiting for it to thicken

This easy arroz con leche recipe is made in one pot on the stove top. The hardest thing about it is that it needs to be monitored and stirred frequently. I’ve heard from Spanish grandmothers that you should stir it “constantly” to make it creamy. Frequently is probably sufficient. 

Rinse the rice in cool water and allow it to drain. There is no need to soak the rice.

Place the rice and a cup of water in a small to medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the rice starts to absorb the water. This essentially pre-cooks the rice a bit before adding the milk to soften the rice more.

Cooking arroz con leche
Thickening the rice pudding. This was just before it was ready.

Add one cup of milk, the lemon rind, the cinnamon stick, and salt. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid the rice drying out and burning. Continue to add milk ½ cup at a time until it reaches the right consistency and the rice is cooked through.

The rice should be soft and creamy but not mushy. You will need to taste the rice to ensure it is ready. If it has any crunch to it, it needs more time.

Add the sugar, a bit at a time, stir to blend, and then taste. It should be sweet but not sugary, and really to your taste.

Sprinkle with ground cinnamon before serving. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Yield: 6 Servings

Arroz Con Leche Recipe

Arroz Con Leche Recipe - Spanish Rice Pudding

This easy arroz con leche recipe is the perfect dessert for a Spanish tapas night. With only a few ingredients, this creamy Spanish rice pudding is sure to please. Serve it cold, warm, or room temperature sprinkled with a bit of cinnamon.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of short-grain rice, like bomba or risotto rice, rinsed in cold water
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups whole milk (add a little at a time)
  • 1 wide slice of lemon rind
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice in cool water and allow to drain.
  2. Place the rice and one cup of water in a small to a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the rice starts to absorb the water.
  4. Add one cup of milk, lemon rind, cinnamon stick, and salt.
  5. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid the rice drying out and burning.
  6. Continue to add milk ½ cup at a time until it reaches the right consistency and the rice is cooked through. The rice should be soft and creamy but not mushy.
  7. Add the sugar, a bit at a time, stir to blend, and then taste. It should be sweet but not sugary, and really to your taste.
  8. Sprinkle with cinnamon before serving. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 182Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 12mgSodium: 98mgCarbohydrates: 31gFiber: 0gSugar: 15gProtein: 5g

This nutritional data is provided by a third-party source and should not be relied on if you are on a strict diet.

Did you make this recipe?

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How To Serve A Spanish Rice Pudding Recipe

Spanish style rice pudding

This creamy rice pudding can be served any way you like. It can be served cold, warm, or room temperature. I avoid serving it overly hot, however. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top and garnish with a cinnamon stick or strip of lemon peel. 

For some variations, you can turn this into a Spanish rice pudding with raisins, but adding a handful in the last few minutes of cooking. Or, add grated coconut, or a bit of coconut milk to make it a coconut rice pudding. Although this is probably a little less traditional Spanish, I tend to do this when I have a bit of coconut milk left over from another recipe. 

I usually serve Spanish-style rice pudding family-style, in a traditional cazuela, the round terracotta cooking and serving dish that is common in Spain. You can buy cazuelas on Amazon here.

Or, you can serve these Spanish rice puddings individually in small glass jars or small dishes. I like serving them in glass because it shows how creamy the pudding is! 

FAQs – Making Arroz Con Leche At Home

What is rice pudding in Spanish?

Arroz con leche. Arroz translates to rice in English. Leche translates to milk. The literal translation is rice with milk, but we all know this as Spanish rice pudding. 

What is the difference between Spanish style rice pudding and Mexican style?

This recipe for Spanish rice pudding is the one I learned when living in Spain. From my research, it seems that most Mexican recipes use condensed milk rather than whole milk and sugar.

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