Rice Pudding

It shocks me that I want to wax poetic about rice pudding. Isn’t it just a way to use up some leftover rice? It’s not a dessert you would expect someone to fawn over. And yet, here I am, gushing about rice pudding. Because this is delicious. It scores points because it is thrifty and slightly-healthy…but who cares? When you’re talking about dessert, the only thing that really matters is taste. Let me just say that I “ate up all the rice pudding and crawled into bed as happy as a lark.”

I do get a kick out of the fact that I created something yummy out of ingredients that I would usually throw away. It makes me think of Depression-era housewives who knew how to use every last bit of food they had. When I told my grandpa that I had made rice pudding he smiled and said, “With lots of nutmeg and raisins? That’s what makes it good.” It seemed like he had fond childhood memories of rice pudding, which makes sense since his mother was a housewife during the Great Depression.

Now, the old saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” applies to this recipe too. Even though the leftover rice is sort of “free,” the labor you need to put into making this is definitely not. This takes about an hour to create, and it’s not something you can walk away from. You need to keep an eye on it so the milk doesn’t scorch or bubble over, and that means lots of stirring. I decided to read while I stirred, inhaling the soothing aroma of warm milk and rice while I worked my way through Edible Finger Lakes magazine. It was a nice way to pass my free time while the kids were at preschool. Maybe other people would use that time to sleep or something, but for me there is something luxurious about reading and cooking without being interrupted. And if the end product is something delicious for dessert, even better.

Rice Pudding (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

  • 2 cups cooked rice (see Note below)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • toasted squash seeds (optional, see recipe below)
  1. Put rice, milk, and sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once it simmers, reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Turn off heat. Stir in vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and raisins. Pour into bowls and chill at least 2 hours. Garnish with toasted squash seeds before serving.
Serves: 4-6
Time: 1 hour cooking plus 2 hours chilling
Note: I really like using jasmine rice for this, even though the original recipe recommends against it. I think the floral quality of jasmine rice really adds something to the dish. Chinese takeout rice is usually jasmine, so this is a good way to use up leftovers.
Toasted Squash Seeds (adapted from Everyday Food magazine)
  • 1 cup squash seeds, rinsed and dried
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl stir together the squash seeds and olive oil. Spread out evenly on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. In a small bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Sprinkle over the squash seeds. Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Makes: 1 cup
Time: 25-30 minutes
Notes: You can substitute pumpkin seeds for the squash seeds if you like. Besides being a great topping for rice pudding, these are also a delicious snack on their own.
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