Simple Rice Pudding Recipe

As you might remember from my Best of 2008 list*, I have recently revived my old homemade yogurt routine, after several years of hiatus.

There was no tangible reason for this hiatus apart from my self-confessed flemme — a French word that is pronounced exactly like phlegm (sorry, but it is) and is a sentiment of laziness that washes over you when you can’t be bothered to do something — but there is a very real reason for ending it: when I realized the number of yogurt tubs I was tossing every week, I thought it more eco-friendly to use milk (in a recyclable carton) and glass jars instead.

This is the simple, classic recipe that purists love because it doesn’t muffle the flavors of the rice or milk.

The thing is, each batch of yogurt left me with a half-cup of milk** I didn’t know what to do with, because we don’t really do milk in my household. And that’s when I made this breakthrough discovery — cue in the cymbals, please — milk can be frozen! Who knew? And if someone knew, why didn’t he tell me?

The one caveat is that thawed milk seems to lose some of its structural integrity and looks a bit like it’s curdled, which might be a turnoff if you intend to drink it or add it to your cereal. But what one can do with thawed milk, regardless of this separation issue, is cook or bake with it.

And so, ever since the breakthrough discovery, I’ve been setting aside those half-cups of leftover milk in a dedicated container in the freezer***, and when there is enough, I use it to make béchamel or riz au lait [ree oh leh], the French rice pudding.

I will rush to add that I myself do not care for rice pudding, like, at all, but I will spare you the details of what the texture reminds me of, because I don’t want to ruin it for everybody else. The point is, Maxence loves it, and this version, drawn from Sonia Ezgulian’s too-lovely-for-words Petits Ricochets de cuisine (already mentioned here), is Maxence-approved.

As the name suggests, this is the simple, classic recipe that purists love because it doesn’t muffle the flavors of the rice or milk, but if you wish to doll it up, try:
– substituting coconut milk or almond milk for the cow’s milk,
– using other types of rice (adjust the cooking time accordingly) or alternate sweeteners (unrefined cane sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, honey),
– serving it with caramel sauce or stewed black cherries,
– topping it with sliced mangoes, bananas, or the pulp of a passion fruit,
– blending in some raspberries and serving it with speculoos cookies,
– stirring in some nuts and/or dried fruits (sliced almonds, pistachios, chopped pecans, cranberries, cherries, diced figs or prunes),
– replacing (or adding to) the vanilla with citrus peel, cinnamon, and/or cardamom,
– blending the mixture (not too finely), and churning it in your ice cream machine.


* Seriously, I don’t really expect you to remember.

** My yogurt machine requires 875 ml (~3 1/2 cups) of milk (from a 1-liter / 1-quart carton) plus 125 ml (~1/2 cup) yogurt to produce eight 125-ml (~1/2-cup) yogurts.

*** Remember that, like any liquid that’s mostly water, milk expands as it freezes, so leave a little room at the top of the container/bottle so it won’t overflow. Plan to use the frozen milk within a month or so, and thaw in the refrigerator.

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Simple Rice Pudding Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves 6.

Simple Rice Pudding Recipe


  • 1 liter (1 quart) milk (I use part-skim)
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 1 fresh vanilla bean (or just half if it's very plump)
  • 150 grams (3/4 cup) short-grain white rice


  1. Combine the milk and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot (I use my chick-yellow coquelle).
  2. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and use the dull side of the blade to scrape the seeds.
  3. Add the seeds and the pod to the milk, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly and scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the milk doesn't scorch, or you'll be very sorry.
  4. When the milk just begins to simmer, stir in the rice. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for 30 minutes, covered, stirring from time to time. The mixture will still seem a little soupy at this point, but it will continue to thicken as it rests and cools.
  5. Let cool completely in the pot.
  6. Transfer to a container and refrigerate, leaving the vanilla pod in (see note). Serve at room temperature or chilled.


When you're done eating the riz au lait, rinse and dry the vanilla bean, and place it in your sugar jar, or use it to feed your homemade vanilla extract.
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  • Mario

    I’m curious: would it be appropriate to pronounce it [ree zoh leh] – why wouldn’t you join the z with the oh?

    • Guest

      Came across this on your Facebook page. I love rice pudding but had no idea it was so easy to make. I’m going into the kitchen to try this recipe right now!

  • Mario – No, the “z” in riz is not joined here (or ever, to my knowledge). I wish I could explain why, but I think it’s just one of those instances with the French language where it’s just, “parce que c’est comme ça.”

  • Christina

    Hello Clotilde,

    Would it be an aberration to use vanilla extract?

    Thank you for the wonderful site. It is fantastic.

  • Hello Clotilde,

    I, too , discovered a while ago that fresh milk can be frozen. (sorry I never told you! ;)) I just found it amazing that they freeze a carton of milk and thaw it to drink, like, straight from the bottle or into their teal/coffee. I did think that the thawed milk would get some weird consistency, but I was served a cup of tea with it and drank it ok, so it was perhaps nothing to worry about. But maybe it was just me

    I am probably one of very few Japanese who actually care for rice pudding – it is SO un-Japanese and I even get called an ‘alien’ for being pro-rice pudding, jokingly though.

    That said, I probably don’t like my rice pudding too plain; I would have mine chilled, with some stewed apple or rhubarb – I guess I need some kick and tang to it.

  • The cardamom and citrus peel sounds like the way to go! So fragrant…

  • If I buy milk for a recipe, then I need to freeze the rest of it (in cup measurements), because I rarely use it. It does look funky when it thaws out, but the ice cream it makes tastes just fine. I have no had any luck freezing cream though.

  • Well, this is clearly one time when Maxence has got it right and you, my dear Clotilde, are…how can I put this nicely?…yet to be shown the light.

    Not like rice pudding? Yummy, smooth, comforting rice pudding? Just close your eyes if it’s a visual thing. Now isn’t that wonderful?

    And if he hasn’t yet had the incomparable version at l’Ami Jean, take him there immediately! Or wait for me.

  • Francesca

    Whilst this sounds very lovely, I can’t even contemplate Rice Pudding without it having a skin (from the oven).

    Absolutely the best bit!

  • This sounds like a perfectly simple and lovely recipe. I like your suggestion to use the coconut milk.

  • sudu

    Love your recipes and I have tried them deligently. Riz au lait (everything sounds so delicious in Frech!)(Kheer in India) is a special dessert. To me tastes best when made with evaporated milk -but that wont solve your 1/2c milk prblem! I add cardommom and lightly fried cashews and raisins. Some words:
    1.never ever add the sugar in before the rice otherwise the rice will not soften(you can tell I have learnt it the hard way!).
    2.When done mash the rice with the end of a spatula gives it more starch and gets congealed when cooled. In fact broken, low quality rice is best used up this way.
    Digg in!!

  • mmmm…. Yum. I recently made a sticky rice pudding. It was much thicker given the glutinous rice. Definitely less delicate, but has a great bite.

    love rice pudding. love rice.

  • Alix

    That was my very first question, too — why is the “z” not pronounced? It just ain’t. Okay.

    I *adore* rice pudding, yet I must confess I’m dying to know what it reminds you of, Clotilde!

  • Up in northern Russia, milk is frozen in slabs and sold at market! People take it home and thaw it to drink it!

  • Nothing divides people like milk puddings! Do you feel the same way about tapioca?

  • Lovely! I suppose you could make tapioca with it, too. I adore starchy puddings like that.

  • MattW

    I like rice pudding hot, preferably baked in the oven, and maybe with sultanas and nutmeg in it.

    Cardamon and citrus sounds amazing though. I’ve got to try that. Maybe with a little cinnamon too.

  • you might like chocolate rice pudding better.

    using your measurements, since i never measured when i make mine…


    1 liter water
    1/2 cup sugar
    5 tablets/oz spanish chocolate cooking tablets, unsweetened (it’s usually one-1 oz tablet per cup, plus an extra for luck) – substitute dutch cocoa powder, if u can’t find it.
    3/4 cup glutinuous or sweet rice grains (substitute arborio or an equally starchy rice)

    cook everything together in a pot until rice grains are tender and break/pop open. consistency should similar to a thick porridge. Add more water if needed.

    serve hot with evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk. Use cream for extra richness.

    some like eating this with fried salted dried fish. sea salt flakes would probably be good sprinkled on top.

    i hope you try it.

  • My version is an Indian-style rice pudding (made with basmati rice and the addition of cardamom seeds, a bay leave, a cinnamon stick while heating the milk). Such a delicate fragrance, so flavoursome.

    Of course, it’s also possible to turn it into a white chocolate rice pudding, just by adding finely choppped white chocolate towards the end of cooking. A professional chef passed on this variation, so I take no responsibility for bastardising the traditional rice pudding!

  • I learned the art of “milkrice” (Milchreis) in Germany. Of course, I never ever bought the ready-made versions…..
    My favorite is with toasted almonds and the slightly sour cherries Schattenmorellen (Spreewald brand).

    In Germany I also came to highly appreciate Grießbrei (eh, semolina milk pudding?), maybe I like it even more than Milchreis….
    None of such things here, in Italy, as far as I know (but have to do some research). Well, I guess rice pudding with some Arborio will be fine, too!

  • However, I did not always have good experiences with rice pudding in Germany…Often served as school lunch, it can be a nasty kind of milk soup with rice boiled to death…I wrote about it
    here. It also shows the classic German way of serving it: with apple sauce and cinnamon. Potentially yum! Sometimes a bum(mer)!

    My lunch will be the rice pudding with lemon peel and ginger, served on a pear-speculaas-type-of cake made yesterday. Off I go!

  • What a coincidence! My host-mom just made rice pudding, (with less sugar,) for breakfast! I hope you don’t mind if I link your recipe to my site for others :). Take care!

  • Oh – I LOVE rice pudding and everything like it (not withstanding the texture of course). Can’t wait to try this recipe!

  • J.

    I absolutely adore your recipes. Homemade yogurt is absolutely divine and American supermarket brands don’t even compare.

    I haven’t had rice pudding in ages. My grandmother used to make it for me when I visited her for a week over the summer. Don’t you just love old memories like that?

  • Steve

    Only because it comes up in the canning/freezing department of my kitchen. Not all liquids expand when they are frozen. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, nearly everything shrinks when frozen. It’s actually water that, due to some chemistry stuff, expands when frozen and since milk is mostly water…
    This could caused glass jar problems for anyone freezing a non-water based liquid. Just a warning realized as my rice pudding cools!

  • Christina – You could use pure vanilla extract here — a teaspoon should do. (But if one day you lay your hands on fresh vanilla beans, this is one recipe that will make it shine.)

    Emily – You got me, I’m not a fan of tapioca either, for the same textural reasons. :)

    Steve – Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated the footnote accordingly.

  • I’ve been looking for a good rice pudding recipe and haven’t found one yet. I’m wondering if cooked leftover rice could be recycled into becoming Riz au Lait or does this need to be fresh uncooked rice for texture?

  • P

    I am glad to have learned a new word- flemme just about sums up my week!

    On a more food-related note, I saw this today and thought of you.

    I will have to give it a try when we’re overcome with late summer garden zucchinis!

  • A-girl

    I also don’t really do milk (lactose!), but knew you could freeze it because my grandmother did (farm wife and depression era survivor). She used it on cereal after thawing … I only use it for baking. You can freeze other dairy products (i.e. sour cream, cream) and use in baked items after thawing.

    I’ve been wanting to get a yogurt maker – which brands would you/readers recommend (I’m in the US)? When I’ve looked at reviews online, there seem to be real discrepancies and would trust C&Z readers. Thanks!

  • Oooh I’ve been wanting to make rice pudding for a while now and this may be just the encouragement I needed. And now I see your raspberry rice pudding recipe too. YUM!

  • I will have to try this recipe. After a long hiatus, I’ve been making rice pudding again, with the addition of organic egg yolks. Very good, but also very rich.

  • I especially love your ideas and tips to “doll it up”, especially the idea about coconut milk. I am going to have to try that! It sounds positively sensuous.

  • Or, you could take that milk, add sugar and vanilla and turn it into a milk granita or spin it into a simple sherbet. Just a thought. I’m a rice pudding fan, so I like your idea:)

  • Sonia Arruga

    Mai I send you a Brazilian recipe? I’m sure you’l love it!

  • I have not seen a recipe with only four ingredients in a while. It’s rather timely as this will make a perfect winter rainy day snack. You recommend serving it at room temperature or chilled. Do you think the taste and consistency would be off if slightly warm? I can imagine this going great with a drizzle of honey or a spoonful of fruit preserve/jam. Thank you for a simple and yummy recipe :)

  • Excellent. I have a carton of milk in my freezer and I enjoy rice pudding.

  • Annie-Claude

    This is the Riz au Lait recipe I have from my mother… The best one! It always looks that there is not enough rice when starting to cook it, but it is the right quantity for getting the perfect creamy Riz au Lait. Only the short-grain white rice (riz rond) shall be used for the expected result. As a tip: you can also add a lemon zest during cooking, then to be removed.

  • Nadia

    Reezoleeh. It just rolls off the tongue like the name of a dance move. This is just the ultimate comfort food and I’d love to try Sudu and Lynn’s Indian variations.

  • First, I have to say that I absolutely adore your blog, Je t’adore. I love that you are a food person and a word person, so enjoy the food idioms!
    As for phlegm/flemme, I have to say that many here in the US might use the word…ennui. ;-) Tired and lazy and bored…
    I came back to your blog this evening to find the recipe for cauliflower gratin that I am making tonight…but roasting the cauliflower in the oven first.

  • Tara

    I’m pretty sure “flemme” derived from “phlegm” (which used to mean “sluggishness”, based on the old practice of assigning traits based on bodily fluids – sanguine, melancholic, etc.). From what I’m told, it’s still used in that way in the UK.

    A few internet sources claim these 2 words to be false cognates, but I am much more apt to believe an explanation such as this one:

  • yourpapounet

    Definitely taken from “flegme”, but not as a corruption, as indicated in your dictionary. Several excellent sources (among which the “Dictionnaire de l’Académie Français”, no less…) mention that the french word “flemme” was borrowed from the italian “flemma” (slowness, placidity, composure, coolness),which itself corresponds to one of the four humours of the human body.
    It all comes down to the same thing, anyway. I wonder what counter-arguments were used on those websites you mention…

  • Allie

    I think I have the same yogurt maker you do (mine is from France and has 8 small glass jars that look like yours in the photo) and I simply make yogurt with a full liter of milk and a store-bought plain yogurt (125 ml) mixed in. The jars end up quite full but I can get the full liter to fit with no pesky leftovers. Rice pudding sounds nice too, though.

  • Michael

    I’ve heard what I suspect are urban legends about people who order “reez” and wind up with sweetbreads (or testicles in the story) which is the word RIS as opposed to our lovely rice, RIZ.

  • Aurelia


    How do you make the caramel sauce? Comment faites vous la sauce au caramel?



  • Ena

    This rice pudding is very good. I haven’t had it for years now and last night was my first time making it. I love this kind of recipes with very few ingredients and very little work. You’re right, it seemed (very) soupy when it finished cooking but I went to sleep, left in on the (cold) balcony and by morning it thickened and now it has the perfect amount of liquid, it’s neither soupy nor too thick.

  • Nupur Gupta

    I usually add saffron and cardamom to the rice pudding. It gives it very distinct and a piquancy to it. In India, we add pure rose water too in the end at sue places. I really enjoy that.

  • Allison Stubbings

    I came across this in one of your Facebook posts. I love rice pudding but had no idea it was so easy to make. I’m going into the kitchen to whip this up right now!

    • Please do, and be sure to report back on how you liked it!

      • Allison Stubbings

        It was delicious! My husband and I
        spent the whole weekend dipping into the pot.

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