Arroz con leche
, or rice pudding, was a favorite of mine as a kid. Not many desserts have a children’s song named after them, so right away you know that it has to be good.

I recently got a craving to revive this classic, but I thought the texture could use a little tweak. I got the idea to replace the usual rice with Arborio, one of the varieties traditionally used to make risotto, which has a wonderful balance of creaminess and toothsome bite, without being soggy.

Read Related: Juanita’s Rice Pudding

While I was conceiving this dish, another childhood food memory crept into my mind. Coconut shakes in various are popular in many places throughout Caribbean and Latin America, but the first time I remember trying one was at roadside farm stand while visiting my grandma on Venezuela’s Margarita Island. Those creamy cocadas laced with cinnamon from that little thatched roof hut became the flavor inspiration for this pudding.

This would be a great dish on which to experiment by switching up the toppings. For another take, skip the cinnamon and top the pudding with pineapple chunks for a piña colada arroz con leche.


For the Topping:
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
½ cup slivered almonds

For the Coconut Risotto:
2 TBSP butter
1 cup Arborio rice
1 14 oz can light coconut milk, thinned out with 1½ cups of water
4 oz sweetened condensed milk
1/8 TSP ground cinnamon, or to taste
Pinch of salt
Whipped cream (optional)

For the Topping:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Spread the coconut and almonds out on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast the mixture until golden (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.
3. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow the mixture to cool. Reserve.

For the Coconut Risotto:
Melt butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat well with the melted butter. Continue to stir over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to brown the rice.
2. Pour enough of the coconut milk/water mixture over the rice to just cover. Maintain the heat at a simmer, stirring frequently, and allow the rice to absorb the liquid.
3. Once the majority of the liquid has been absorbed, add more liquid to the pan to cover rice once again.
4. Allow the liquid to become absorbed again, sitting frequently. Continue to repeat this process until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 20 minutes. If more liquid is required, add water.
5. Add in the condensed milk and continue to stir over heat until the liquid is absorbed, the rice is al dente, and the consistency is creamy, but not soupy.
6. Season the risotto with a pinch of salt and cinnamon to taste. Remove from heat and reserve until ready to serve.
7. Risotto can be served warm or cold depending on preference. Spoon into serving dishes and top with the coconut/almond mixture and whipped cream if using.