Updated: Feb 16, 2021
Rice pudding is something I grew up eating frequently- my mom makes a deeply satisfying baked rice pudding in a low temp oven, cooking it for a couple hours until the milk reduces and caramelizes into lovely, sticky pockets- but this Tres Leches version is my current favorite. It's perfect for using any remaining milk I have leftover from my weekly batch of almond milk as well as the surplus of raw milk the cows are currently producing. I adapted the recipe from Amanda of Mama Eats Plants. Her instagram is such a beautiful source of inspiration to me.
This pudding is lightly sweetened, and uniquely flavored with cinnamon, star anise, orange, and vanilla, plus the flavor of coconut and almond from the plant milks. It feels lusciously tropical, which is all I want during March, the cruelest month of all in western NY. It's perfect as is, but I've also been enjoying it topped with fresh strawberries my mom grows in Florida and ships to NY every week. Caramelized pineapple and orange compote are also superb toppings. I topped my latest batch with a homemade dark caramel sauce, so dark a tinge of burnt sugar comes through which tempered the sweetness of the caramel.
Be sure to use white arborio rice, which is a short grain rice- it will plump up and become creamier than long grain rice. I have used brown long grain rice, and while it lends a unique flavor, the end result is not quite as creamy as when I use arborio. The almond milk and dairy milk can be added based on what you have on hand, ideally I use 2 cups almond/4 cups raw cow's milk, but you can certainly make it with just almond milk or just dairy milk- the coconut milk is key here, so I don't recommend making it without coconut milk. I like 1/3 cup sugar, but add more to taste if that suits you.
This pudding can be baked for a more hands off approach- it takes about 2 hours in the oven at 350 degrees F. I use a 13x9 glass pan, adding all the ingredients to the pan (unless you're using vanilla extract, in which case, hold off on adding the extract until the pudding is done cooking.) Cook on the middle rack of the oven, checking around the first 30 minutes of baking to stir everything. The milks in the pudding will puff and billow like little clouds as the pudding bakes, this is normal.
Continue baking the pudding, stirring every 20 minutes or so, until the edges are deeply caramelized and the rice has absorbed a lot of the liquid.
When to stop baking is up to you- the longer you bake it, the firmer the pudding will be when it cools, and the deeper the caramel flavor will be. If you prefer a looser pudding, remove from the oven when the rice is very tender, but the texture of the pudding is still loose, remembering it will firm as it cools.
-1/2 cup white arborio rice
-1/3 cup raw cane sugar
-1 (15 oz.) can full fat, unsweetened organic coconut milk
-2 cups almond milk
-4 cups dairy milk, full fat
-1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 cinnamon stick
-2-3 whole star anise cloves, optional
-peel of 1 orange, organic since you'll be cooking the peel, optional
-Medium heavy bottomed pot
Combine all ingredients in heavy bottomed pot, reserving about 1 cup dairy milk to add later on if needed while the pudding cooks. Add the scraped vanilla bean seeds, as well as the vanilla pod to the pot, to ensure every bit of goodness gets extracted from the pod. Cook over low heat, uncovered, stirring frequently for about 30 minutes.
At this point, the rice will have absorbed a good amount of liquid, and you'll notice a more pudding-like texture start to form. Continue cooking over low heat for another 5-10 minutes. Taste the rice to see how soft it is, you want it to be very soft and creamy, not at all al dente. If the rice is still slightly firm, add about 1/4 cup milk from the cup you reserved. Continue cooking over low, and add more milk as needed until the pudding is a texture you like. Remember, the pudding will continue to thicken a bit once you chill it. I usually cook this pudding for 50-60 minutes total. If you're using vanilla extract instead of a vanilla bean, add the extract after the pudding is done cooking.
Serve pudding warm or chilled, topped with fresh or stewed fruit if you like.