The first time I made rice pudding, I fretted too much. I worried that my pudding was too thin, that it would stick to the bottom and burn, and that it wouldn’t taste any good after all of my hard work. (Note that I didn’t worry about my diet.)
I wish someone, besides my husband, would’ve told me to relax. Turns out it’s actually hard to ruin rice pudding—especially when you’re pouring in a can of sweetened, condensed milk. (Yes, an entire can! But at least it’s a small one.)
This recipe comes from one of Mexico City’s dazzling home cooks, a woman in her 90’s named Juanita. I met her through a friend; she still cooks large meals at home every day, even though her kitchen might be a quarter of the size of what we’re used to in the States.
Rice pudding is Juanita’s go-to dessert. It’s thick and sweet and creamy, and tastes much more complex than it is. The key is the grated lime zest, which adds just the right note of citrus to counteract all that sweetness.
Read Related: Coconut Arroz con Leche: Dessert Rice Pudding
Rice pudding cooking times can vary, depending on how thick you like it. If you’ve never made this dish before, cook until the texture has noticeably thickened, about 7 to 15 minutes or so, on high simmer. High simmer means medium to medium-low heat. The pudding should definitely bubble, but not so much that it’s boiling over.
Even if you don’t get the texture you want, it’s not a problem. The worst that can happen is you’ll make it one more time—which means finishing the first creamy, sweet batch.
If you’d like to substitute brown rice for better nutrition, go for it. Just be aware that brown rice takes almost twice as long to cook as white rice.
JUANITA’S RICE PUDDING
Serves: at least 8 as a dessert
1 cup white rice, washed
3 cinnamon sticks, 3″-4″ long
Zest of 1 lime (around ½ teaspoon)
1 liter whole milk
1 small can condensed milk, known in Mexico as lechera
1. In a medium saucepan, boil the rice with two cups of water, the cinnamon sticks and the lime zest.
2. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the rice has cooked.
3. Add the whole milk, stirring to make sure the milk doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Then add the condensed milk.
4. Cook on a high simmer for 10 minutes or so, cooking times can vary, stirring often so it doesn’t stick. When done, the rice should be soft, and the mixture will have thickened.
5. Top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and cool, or wait to add the cinnamon at serving time. Serve cold or at room temperature.