Arroz con Leche: A Creamy Rice Pudding Delight

Arroz con Leche, a beloved dessert in many Spanish-speaking countries, translates to “rice with milk.” This creamy, sweet rice pudding is a comforting dish that has been passed down through generations, each family adding its unique touch. With its simple ingredients and straightforward preparation, Arroz con Leche is a dessert that can be enjoyed by all. This article will explore the history, ingredients, and preparation of Arroz con Leche, along with variations, serving suggestions, frequently asked questions, and a conclusion that highlights why this dish remains a timeless favorite.

The History of Arroz con Leche

Arroz con Leche has roots in both Spain and Latin America, where it has become a staple dessert. The dish likely originated from Moorish influences in Spain, where rice and milk were combined to create a sweet, creamy dessert. Over time, Arroz con Leche spread to the New World, where it was embraced and adapted by various cultures, each adding local flavors and ingredients to the basic recipe. Today, Arroz con Leche is enjoyed in many countries, including Mexico, Cuba, Peru, and the Philippines, each version reflecting regional tastes and traditions.

Nutritional Benefits of Arroz con Leche

Arroz con Leche, while a dessert, offers some nutritional benefits. Rice is a good source of carbohydrates, providing energy, while milk adds protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. Depending on the recipe, Arroz con Leche can also include additional healthful ingredients like cinnamon, which has anti-inflammatory properties, and raisins, which offer fiber and vitamins.


To make a classic Arroz con Leche, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of medium or long-grain white rice
  • 4 cups of milk (whole milk is preferred for a creamier texture)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (adjust to taste)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • Zest of one lemon or orange (optional, for added flavor)
  • 1/2 cup of raisins (optional)
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish


  1. Rinse the Rice:
  • Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. This helps remove excess starch and prevents the rice from becoming too sticky.
  1. Cook the Rice:
  • In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, water, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  1. Add the Milk and Sugar:
  • Add the milk, sugar, and lemon or orange zest (if using) to the cooked rice. Stir to combine and bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  1. Simmer Until Thickened:
  • Continue to cook the rice and milk mixture, stirring often, until it thickens to a creamy consistency, about 20-30 minutes. If using raisins, add them during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  1. Finish with Vanilla:
  • Once the Arroz con Leche has reached the desired consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Remove the cinnamon stick and discard it.
  1. Serve Warm or Cold:
  • Arroz con Leche can be served warm or cold, depending on your preference. Spoon it into individual serving dishes and sprinkle with ground cinnamon before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Arroz con Leche: A Creamy Rice Pudding Delight

Arroz con Leche can be enjoyed in a variety of ways:

  • Traditional: Serve warm or cold with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon on top.
  • Tropical Twist: Top with fresh or dried fruits like mango, pineapple, or coconut flakes.
  • Nutty Addition: Sprinkle with toasted nuts like almonds or pecans for added texture.
  • Decadent: Drizzle with caramel sauce or sweetened condensed milk for an extra indulgent treat.
  • Breakfast Option: Serve cold with a dollop of yogurt and a handful of granola for a delicious breakfast alternative.


While the traditional recipe is delightful, there are many ways to customize Arroz con Leche to suit your taste:

  • Dairy-Free: Substitute the milk with almond milk, coconut milk, or another plant-based milk for a dairy-free version.
  • Spiced: Add a pinch of nutmeg, cloves, or cardamom for a spiced variation.
  • Chocolate: Stir in a few tablespoons of cocoa powder or melted chocolate for a chocolaty twist.
  • Coffee: Replace part of the milk with brewed coffee for a coffee-flavored Arroz con Leche.
  • Healthier: Use brown rice instead of white rice for added fiber and nutrients. Adjust cooking time as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Can I make Arroz con Leche ahead of time?
  • Yes, Arroz con Leche can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave, adding a splash of milk if needed to restore the creamy texture.
  1. Can I use leftover cooked rice?
  • Yes, you can use leftover cooked rice to make Arroz con Leche. Simply skip the initial cooking step and proceed with adding milk, sugar, and other ingredients. Adjust the cooking time as needed.
  1. Is Arroz con Leche gluten-free?
  • Yes, Arroz con Leche is naturally gluten-free as long as all ingredients used are gluten-free. Always check labels to ensure there are no hidden sources of gluten.
  1. Can I freeze Arroz con Leche?
  • While it’s possible to freeze Arroz con Leche, the texture may change upon thawing, becoming less creamy. For best results, it’s recommended to enjoy it fresh or refrigerated.
  1. What type of rice is best for Arroz con Leche?
  • Medium or long-grain white rice is traditionally used for Arroz con Leche. However, you can experiment with other types of rice, such as Arborio or jasmine, for different textures and flavors.
  1. How can I prevent my Arroz con Leche from becoming too thick?
  • If your Arroz con Leche becomes too thick, you can thin it out by adding a bit more milk. Stir well to incorporate the milk and adjust the consistency to your liking.
  1. Can I make Arroz con Leche in a slow cooker?
  • Yes, you can make Arroz con Leche in a slow cooker. Combine all ingredients except vanilla extract and cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Add the vanilla extract at the end.
  1. What can I use instead of raisins?
  • If you don’t like raisins, you can substitute them with other dried fruits like cranberries, cherries, or chopped apricots. Alternatively, you can omit them altogether.


Arroz con Leche is a comforting and versatile dessert that has stood the test of time. Its creamy texture, sweet flavor, and the warmth of cinnamon make it a beloved dish in many cultures. Whether you enjoy it warm or cold, plain or with a variety of toppings, Arroz con Leche is a treat that can be customized to suit any palate. Its simple ingredients and straightforward preparation make it an accessible dessert for home cooks of all levels.

The dish’s ability to be made ahead, stored, and reheated adds to its convenience, making it perfect for gatherings, family meals, or a cozy night in. With numerous variations and the possibility of adapting the recipe to accommodate dietary preferences, Arroz con Leche remains a timeless favorite that continues to bring joy to those who make and enjoy it.

So, the next time you’re in the mood for a sweet, comforting dessert, give Arroz con Leche a try. Its rich history, delightful taste, and adaptability make it a dish worth savoring. Enjoy the process of making it, experiment with different flavors, and most importantly, share it with loved ones to create new memories around this classic treat.

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