Arroz con Leche se quiere casar / Con una viudita de la capital / Que sepa tejer, que sepa bordar / Que ponga la aguja en el mismo lugar.
– Children rhyme
Arroz con leche is one of the most popular and simple-to-make of Dominican desserts. To the naked eye it could look like same old rice pudding, but once you taste it you can’t fail to notice the touch of spices that make our Arroz con Leche different, in a good way.
Rice Pudding is truly a universal dish. It is made in many ways and with varying ingredients throughout the world. In Denmark, where I have tried it a couple of times, it’s called Risalamande, and it’s prepared with cream, instead of milk, and served as part of the traditional Christmas’ Eve dinner.
You can see a very large list of Rice Pudding versions here.
In many Dominican homes, there’s also a sugarless version of this dish that is served as a simple dinner. Bear in mind that this is an acquired taste, one that I never acquired myself.
My mother used to make the sugarless version often. I have to admit I hated it then, and I still do. If you want to try it, though, there are instructions in the notes for it. Proceed at your own risk.
Arroz con Leche Recipe (Spiced Rice Pudding): There are many versions, but the Dominican one, with its heavenly mix of spices, stands out above the crowd.
- 1 cup of long-grain rice
- 6 cloves
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 6 cups of water , divided
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3 cups of evaporated milk
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- Cherries for decoration (optional)
Soak the rice, cloves and cinnamon sticks in 2 cups of water and let sit for a couple of hours. This step is optional, and it's my own method for cooking the rice.
When the 2 hours have passed, pour the remaining 4 cups of water into a medium (1 gal [4 lt]) iron o cast aluminum pot. Add in the rice (including the water in which it was soaking, cinnamon and cloves). Add the salt.
Cook over medium temperature and stir regularly to avoid sticking. When the rice is tender (about 20 mins) add milk and sugar. When it breaks a boil again add the raisins. Cook over low heat until the mixture reaches a pudding-like consistency.
Remove from the heat. Remove the cloves and cinnamon sticks. Add the butter and mix well. Cover and let it cool down to room temperature.
Stir to incorporate the crust that forms during cooling.
Serve in small bowls and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Decorate with the cherries.
Each person seems to have a favorite consistency for this dish. This is what I prefer (rice is very soft and the pudding very creamy). Later on, when preparing this dish again you can adjust the liquids to obtain the texture you prefer. If you want to make the sugarless version, do not add sugar, and instead of the teaspoon of salt listed in the recipe, you should add 1 tablespoon salt.