Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mimi's Arroz con Leche {Rice Pudding}

My grandma, Mimi, was a pretty awesome lady.  I'm sure everyone says that about their grandparents, but I really mean it when I say that my grandma was a special person.  She had this way of livening up any situation that was just fantastic.  I have a lot of really good memories of my grandma when I was little.  She would always come from Colombia to stay with us in New York from late spring through mid-fall.  My grandma wasn't particularly fond of cold weather, so as soon as Halloween was over, she'd go back to Colombia (my grandma was a huge fan of Halloween.  She loved packing up all the little trick-or-treat bags with candy almost as much as she loved eating the candy inside them).  During these several months that my grandma would stay with my family, she would play all sorts of games with us, tell us all her stories about when she was growing up, pick us up from school and walk us home, and she would always spend time planting lots and lots of geraniums in my backyard.  It was great!  I don't have too many memories of my grandma cooking or spending time in the kitchen though.  My mom and everyone else in my family have assured me that she was a great cook, but I guess that by the time I came around she was ready to take a break from the kitchen.  Despite this, though, there are four dishes that I will forever associate with my grandma: her arroz con verduras (a rice with vegetables, think of something along the lines of an arroz con pollo), her rice casserole, her tuna casserole (yes, tuna casserole can be amazing), and most of all, her arroz con leche.

Out of these four things, I definitely think that her arroz con verduras and arroz con leche were the best, and the most loved by my family.  You just couldn't have a birthday celebration without a giant pot of arroz con verduras cooking away in the kitchen!   I've been eating arroz con leche my entire life; my mom used to make my grandma's recipe a lot more often, but then we started trying to be healthy (apparently, rice and milk and cream and sugar is not the most figure-friendly combination you see, but I choose to ignore this fact) so we don't get to enjoy it as much anymore.  Whenever we do make it though, it instantly sends a smile across everyone's faces, especially my dad's; he loves arroz con leche! 

Arroz con leche is very simple to prepare, as it only takes a couple of easy steps before you have a nice big pot of rice pudding waiting for you on your stove top.  Everyone has their own version of rice pudding/arroz con leche but this is hands down my favorite- not just because it's my grandma's recipe, but because I really think it's perfect.  It has just a hint of sweetness, is thick and creamy, and is such a nice change from more usual dessert items like cake, ice cream, and brownies (not that there's ever anything wrong with those, of course!).  Actually making the recipe for this post was a bit funny, as my mom was making it all from her own memory.  There's no real written recipe for it, and my mom usually just eyeballs all the measurements when she makes arroz con leche, so it was a bit strange having to make it and actually measure how much of each ingredient we were adding.  In the end though, we got the measurements exactly right, and the results were perfect!  At my house, we like our arroz con leche cold and straight from the fridge, with raisins and a little sprinkling of cinnamon.  Ahh, the perfect dessert!

Arroz con leche is one of those dishes that for some reason is just so nostalgic for me.  It makes me think of my grandma, and all the times that my mom would make it at home for us.  It's a dessert that I love, and is incredibly special to me.  Sadly, my grandma passed away nearly a year ago, and today would have been her 84th birthday. There isn't a more fitting post for today than the dessert that my family and I will always be able to remember her by.  Making this arroz con leche with my mom brought a smile to my face, and I hope that you enjoy the recipe as much as my family and I have.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Mimi!

Mimi's Arroz con Leche {Rice Pudding}
my grandma's recipe


8 cups water
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
pinch of salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup white rice, rinsed
3 cups milk
11 tablespoons sugar
1 cup heavy cream 
2 teaspoons vanilla (this is my mom's special touch)
cinnamon and raisins, for serving (optional)


In a large pot, add the 8 cups of water along with 1 cinnamon stick, the butter, and pinch of salt.  Add the rice that has been rinsed, and place the pot over medium-low heat.  Stir the rice occasionally, and cook until most of the water has evaporated, about 25 minutes.  The rice should be fluffy and still be wet, don't let the rice dry out!

As the rice cooks, heat the milk in a separate pot with the sugar and another cinnamon stick.  Heat the milk until hot, but do not let it boil.  When rice is just about ready, add the milk mixture to the rice, and stir constantly over medium-low heat for about 5-7 minutes.  The rice shouldn't be dry; it should still be creamy.  Remove the rice from the heat and let cool slightly.  When the rice is warm, add the heavy cream and vanilla, stirring to incorporate.  Cover, and place in the refrigerator to chill.  

When ready to serve, give the arroz con leche a stir, and add raisins and ground cinnamon if desired.  Enjoy!


  1. I love this post!! Thanks Nina!!

  2. My year old loves rice pudding. Looks delicious.

  3. I love arroz con leche! it's traditional for me since I'm from Spain!

  4. Great information. I've never spent that much time reading before but this is really awesome.
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  5. It looks so warm & comforting! I can't remember the last time I had rice pudding.

    Cleo Rogers (

    1. Thanks! I guess now is as good a time as any to make some! :)


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