Arroz con Leche

Spiced Spanish rice pudding

some arroz con leche sits in an earthenware dish with some ground cinnamon sprinkled on top

Arroz con Leche is a classic Spanish rice pudding recipe made with a few simple pantry staples. It’s the perfect creamy dessert recipe for fall or winter, as the weather cools and we crave comforting warm dishes. 

This simple yet oh so satisfying dessert is straightforward to make and involves simmering down rice, whole milk, spices, and some sugar. We’ve taken this rice pudding recipe to the next level with some nutmeg, cloves, and black peppercorns and introduced some layered sweetness with Pedro Ximénez sherry

Dessert Recipe | Creamy Dessert Recipe | Milk Recipe | Rice Recipe | Fall Recipe | Winter Recipe | Made in 30 minutes   

Serving:

Dessert for 6

Ready in:

30 minutes

Skill level:

Easy

Serve with:

Fresh berries, cinnamon

arroz con leche ingredients

Ingredients you’ll need to make Arroz con Leche

serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of short grain rice (we used Bomba rice)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 black peppercorns 
  • Pinch or two of coarse sea salt
  • 5 cups of whole milk 
  • Granulated sugar to taste (approx 5 tablespoons)
  • 3-4 pieces of lemon rind (optional)
  • 2 fl.oz. / 60ml Pedro Ximénez sherry (optional)

Equipment needed

  • 2 large saucepans

 Watch step-by-step recipe video

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What is arroz con leche?

Arroz con Leche translates from Spanish to ‘rice with milk’ (rice pudding). It is a dessert that can be made with rice simmered down in water or milk. Traditionally, Arroz con Leche is sweetened with sugar, honey, or evaporated milk and flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, or even star anise. 

Where does Arroz con leche originate?

Surprisingly given its name, Arroz con Leche originates from Asia, and is more commonly referred to as ‘rice pudding’ internationally. The humble dessert was thought to have later been brought to Europe and Africa where it gained its Spanish namesake. 

Once introduced to Spain, it quickly became a classic Spanish dessert, although it was historically not always considered a dessert and more of a peasant meal. 

Nowadays, Arroz con Leche is quintessentially Spanish and you’ll find it in every corner of the Iberian peninsular. While nearly every Spanish household will have its own unique touch on this traditional Spanish recipe, the principal ingredients are the same and include rice, milk, and sugar.

Arroz con Leche can be made with as little as 2 ingredients (rice and milk), but it’s pretty bland when unsweetened. Adding some cinnamon and a few pieces of lemon rind help give it a richer flavor, as does adding some granulated sugar right at the end of the cooking process.

Rice pudding preparation

While this humble dessert recipe is shared worldwide, there are plenty of ways to prepare it. Some prefer it to be like a soup with the sweet rice free to float about. Other households will prepare it with the rice simmered down until it becomes thick and sticky. 

The sweetness comes from generous amounts of sugar added at the end of the cooking process, and in our recipe, we’ve added an extra layer of flavor with sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry

Condensed milk and evaporated milk can also be added to give the dessert a rich sweetness. Other flavoring includes cinnamon, cloves, star anise, vanilla essence, lemon peel, and even orange peel.

a small serving of arroz con leche is swerved beside a small dessert spoon

Ingredient notes:

We’ve added a few extra spices to introduce some layering of flavors. Of course, these ingredients are added sparingly, as it’s easy to overwhelm the delicate flavors of the simmered milk and rice. 

Pedro Ximénez sherry

The most notable is the inclusion of Pedro Ximénez sherry, an authentic Spanish sherry that is rich and sweet and full of dense flavors. Pedro Ximénez sherry originates from Jerez, Andalusia, Spain. 

This Jerez region is perhaps the most famous in the world for sherry and a visit to Jerez is a great opportunity for a tour and tasting of the various flavors of Spanish sherry produced there from the Pedro Ximénez variety of grape. 

Additional spices

Some traditional Spanish rice pudding recipes call for the addition of a lone stick of cinnamon that is simmered with the rice and milk and removed before serving. This technique adds a delicate flavor of cinnamon. But, there’s so much more that can be done! 

We opted for using ground cinnamon (as it’s what we had available in the pantry) and also added 5 small cloves, 4 slices of lemon rind, and 5 small whole dried peppercorns.

Wait, Peppercorns?

Yep, you read right! Pepper has been used in desserts in some cultures for many years, and for good reason! The subtle flavor of pepper in a dessert adds some spice and warmth, and this works particularly well with Arroz con Leche. Just start off slow, and don’t add too much. Using cracked black pepper also works great and should be added when you season the dessert with salt. 

We added our peppercorns in with the other spices and ingredients from the start. Combine the cloves, lemon rind, and peppercorns into some cheesecloth so they don’t get lost in the rice and are easy to remove once the milk has simmered. 

Other spices for adding flavor

  • Nutmeg
  • Garam Masala
  • White pepper
  • Star Anise
  • Orange rind
a few sticks of cinnamon sit on top of a pile of ground cinnamon

How to make Arroz con Leche

Making Arroz con Leche is a labor of love and it requires almost constant attention to make the perfect dessert. It takes around 45-minutes to an hour depending on the desired consistency of your rice. 

It’s the ideal dessert recipe to make on a lazy weekend or an evening when you have plenty of time. If you’re looking for a quick and easy dessert recipe to make whilst preparing for a dinner party, then perhaps Arroz con Leche isn’t for this time around! 

Arroz con Leche  – Step-By-Step

  • Add 1 ½ cups of milk and 1 cup of rice to a large saucepan and heat on medium. Note: The rice will slowly swell as it cooks and will expand to around 4 times its original size (make sure you use a pan big enough).
  • Stir through and once it starts to boil, back off the heat to medium-low and add the cinnamon, cloves, and lemon rind. Continue to stir slowly until most of the milk has been absorbed. 
  • In a separate saucepan, heat the remaining milk on low. It should be hot but not boiling. 
  • Add around a cup of milk at a time and continue to stir the rice as the milk slowly absorbs. Continue until all of the milk has been added (this should take around 30 minutes). 
  • Continue to stir and add the Pedro Ximénez sherry (if you’re using it), taste the rice to check it is cooked through. Continue cooking until you have the desired consistency of the rice (some like it runnier which takes less time). Season with a few pinches of salt (to taste). 
  • Once happy with the rice, remove from the heat and slowly add the sugar (one tablespoon at a time) and stir through. 
  • Serve while hot and dust with some ground cinnamon.
steps showing how to make arroz con leche

Cooking notes and tips

  • Use full-fat (whole) milk for best results. 
  • Ensure the heat is low. Anything higher than medium and the milk and rice will start to burn. 
  • Constantly stir the rice while you make it. If you stop, it may start to burn on the bottom. 
  • If you want a less creamy consistency, substitute the first cup of milk with some water. 
  • Pedro Ximénez sherry is a great sweetener and should be added near the end of the cooking process. The alcohol content from the sherry will be cooked away. 
  • A cinnamon stick works very well to flavor the rice, although we find using a teaspoon of ground cinnamon also works fine. 
  • Use lemon rind with very little white pith on it. The white of the lemon tends to be very bitter. 
  • Cloves are not essential, but add a subtle layer of flavor. Another great option is adding a teaspoon of ground ginger. 
  • Some star anise added right at the end also adds some very subtle flavor.

Rice pudding variations

Thai Rice pudding

Perhaps the most famous Asian rice puddings are the delicious Thai Rice pudding. Thai rice pudding is made using coconut milk with sweet Thai rice and adds vanilla extract, nutmeg, star anise, and sometimes even kefir lime leaves. Coconut shavings and even crushed peanuts are common garnishes. 

Mexican Rice Pudding

This no-fuss dessert is typically made with long-grain white rice, sugar, milk, and cinnamon sticks. In Mexico, Arroz con Leche is served all year round either hot or cold. Some variations include adding raisins or dried fruit, or even rum for a spiced version! 

Spanish Rice pudding

The classic Spanish rice pudding recipe is made using Bomba rice (paella rice from the Valencia region), whole milk, cinnamon (stick), white or brown sugar, and lemon peel. 

Asturian Rice Pudding Recipe 

In Asturias, the arroz con leche has a burnt crust similar to the Spanish Crema Calatana or the French Crème brûlée. The top of the dessert is piled with sugar that’s then burnt with an open flame until it melts and caramelizes adding a delicious sweet layer to crack through.

A small dish of arroz con leche spanish rice pudding

Arroz con Leche (30 minute Spanish Rice pudding)

Byron
Arroz con Leche is a classic Spanish rice pudding recipe made with a few simple pantry staples. It’s the perfect creamy dessert recipe for fall or winter, as the weather cools and we crave comforting warm dishes.
This simple dessert is straightforward to make and simply involves simmering down rice, whole milk, spices, and some sugar. We’ve taken this rice pudding recipe to the next level with some nutmeg, cloves, and black peppercorns and introduced some layered sweetness with Pedro Ximénez sherry.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 0 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dessert, Snack, treat
Cuisine Authentic Spanish recipe, dessert, latin american, Spain
Servings 6 servings
Calories 260 kcal

Equipment

  • 2 large saucepans

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of short grain rice we used Bomba rice
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 5 cloves
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • Pinch or two of coarse sea salt
  • 5 cups of whole milk
  • Granulated sugar to taste approx 5 tablespoons
  • 3-4 pieces of lemon rind optional
  • 2 fl.oz. / 60ml Pedro Ximénez sherry optional

Instructions
 

  • Add 1 ½ cups of milk and 1 cup of rice to a large saucepan and heat on medium. Note: The rice will slowly swell as it cooks and will expand to around 4 times its original size (make sure you use a pan big enough).
    1 cup of short grain rice, 5 cups of whole milk
    rice and milk in a saucepan
  • Stir through and once it starts to boil, back off the heat to medium-low and add the cinnamon, cloves, and lemon rind. Continue to stir slowly until most of the milk has been absorbed.
    In a separate saucepan, heat the remaining milk on low. It should be hot but not boiling.
    1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 5 cloves, 5 black peppercorns, 3-4 pieces of lemon rind
    spices milk rice and lemon rind in a saucepan
  • Add around a cup of milk at a time and continue to stir the rice as the milk slowly absorbs. Continue until all of the milk has been added (this should take around 30 minutes).
    Continue to stir and add the Pedro Ximénez sherry (if you’re using it), taste the rice to check it is cooked through. Continue cooking until you have the desired consistency of the rice (some like it runnier which takes less time). Season with a few pinches of salt (to taste).
    Pinch or two of coarse sea salt, 2 fl.oz. / 60ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
    a pot of riice and milk on a stovetop
  • Once happy with the rice, remove from the heat and slowly add the sugar (one tablespoon at a time) and stir through.
    Granulated sugar to taste
    rice pudding in a saucepan
  • Serve while hot and dust with some ground cinnamon.
    A small dish of arroz con leche spanish ricec pudding

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 100gCalories: 260kcalCarbohydrates: 41.5gProtein: 8.3gFat: 6.9gSaturated Fat: 3.8gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 122mgPotassium: 305mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 20.8gCalcium: 236mgIron: 1mg
Keyword 30 minute recipe, Arroz con leche, dessert, easy recipe, pudding, rice, rice pudding

Cooking Tips and FAQs 

What does Arroz con Leche mean?

Arroz con Leche literally translates from Spanish to ‘rice with milk’. As the name suggests, it’s made with two principal ingredients: rice, and milk.

Where does Arroz con Leche originate?

Asia. The Moors brought rice and cinnamon to the Iberian peninsular and the dish caught on from there. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the recipe was brought to Latin America by Spanish explorers. 

Is Arroz con Leche served hot or cold?

You’ll find Arroz con Leche served either hot or cold all over the world. During the warmer summer months in Spain, it’s common to find rice pudding served cold. 

Best rice for Arroz con Leche?

Use short-gain rice like Bomba rice (Valencian rice used to make paella). If you can’t find Bomba rice, use Italian Arborio rice. 

What milk should I use to make Arroz con Leche?

Use full-fat (whole) milk to get the richest and most creamy texture. As an alternative, use full-fat coconut milk. 

Can plant-based milk be used to make Arroz con Leche?

Yes, Arroz con Leche can be made using plant-based milk. Just substitute it for the same quantity of milk listed in the recipe and keep an eye on the heat while cooking. 

Why is my rice hard in Arroz con Leche?

Cooking temperature and time are the two most important factors when cooking Arroz con Leche. Use a low to medium-low heat, any hotter and the milk will burn on the bottom of the pan. Allow at least 30 minutes for the rice to simmer, stirring constantly. 

What herbs or spices can be added to Arroz con Leche?

  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Star anise
  • Cloves
  • Keffir lime leaves
  • Lemon rind
  • Black pepper

What toppings go with Arroz con Leche?

  • Add a layer of burnt brown sugar to the top of your Arroz con Leche to make an Asturian dessert
  • A few fresh berries also work well 
  • Salted caramel
  • A fruit jus (blackberries, pomegranate, or raspberries work great)
a small bowl or arroz con leche sits beside a dessert spoon

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