Arroz con Leche Recipe (Spanish Rice Pudding) - Spanish Sabores

Arroz con Leche Recipe (Spanish Rice Pudding)

This creamy Spanish rice pudding recipe comes from my mother-in-law, Antonia. Her famous arroz con leche recipe is the perfect blend of cinnamon, sugar, and silky Spanish rice. You’ll try it once and be a fan for life!

Spanish rice pudding in a clay bowl. Spanish arroz con leche recipe.
Delicious and creamy Spanish rice pudding.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a lucky girl. My mother-in-law, Antonia, is a wonderful Spanish cook and has taught me so much of what I know about Spanish home cooking.

Her salmorejo recipe is one of my all-time favorite Spanish foods, and every time we’re together we try to cook something new.

The only downside to her cooking abilities has been the few times I’ve dared to “diet” in her presence.

It wasn’t even really a diet, just eating fewer carbs before my wedding! Every now and then I like to cut most carbs and sugar out of my diet (the month of December is not one of those times) as a way to cleanse my body.

Anyway, I’ve learned not to tell her this. At the mere mention of this locura she seems to make every possible thing I “can’t” eat and then shakes her head when I say “no, gracias.

The last time I was eating healthy she bought me two enormous bars of chocolate and made her famous arroz con leche.

Two servings of arroz con leche in clay bowls.

I nearly got angry with her because it feels like she’s not respecting or supporting my preferences… but then I realize that feeding people is just how she shows her love.

And I do love her rice pudding…

The Secrets to Antonia’s Arroz con Leche

After watching her make this many times, I think there are a few key things to keep in mind:

  • Always use whole milk
  • Use a cinnamon stick (not cinnamon powder) — except for a dash on the top when finished
  • Don’t skip the pinch of salt (sea salt is best)
  • Add the sugar slowly and taste — if it’s too sweet you can’t go back!
  • Make it slowly – don’t be in a rush. Add the milk little by little and stir, stir, stir! This will make it super creamy.

Watch how to make Spanish arroz con leche (1 minute video!)

Key Ingredients

You’ll need to buy Spanish bomba rice (or a similar round, short-grain rice), whole milk, sugar, cinnamon (ground and whole) and a pinch of salt along with some citrus peel gives great flavor.

Ingredient Notes & Substitutions

  • Milk: Whole milk is traditionally used, and I would definitely recommend using a full fat milk for the correct texture and flavor. If you must substitute, I like to use a full fat coconut milk. The flavor will be different but you’ll still get the creamy texture.
  • Sugar: This Spanish rice pudding is sweetened with plain white sugar. You can try other sweeteners without a problem.
  • Lemon Rind: Antonia’s arroz con leche always has a few large pieces of lemon rind in it. Orange rind also gives a lovely flavor.
  • Spices: This classic Spanish arroz con leche recipe uses only cinnamon, but sometimes I add other spices like star anise, clove, and cardamom.

Arroz con Leche: Step by Step

Making this rice pudding couldn’t be easier. It’s really only four steps!

Making arroz con leche steps 1-4 in a grid.

Step 1: Cover the rice with either water (or for a more creamy version, with milk) and bring to a simmer along with the cinnamon stick and lemon rind.

Step 2: When the liquid is almost fully absorbed, add more milk to cover the rice again. Keep simmering and stirring, adding more milk every time the rice gets dry.

Step 3: When you’ve added almost the full liter, start to taste the rice. You want it fully cooked, but some people like it a little more firm than others. It’s a matter of preference.

Step 4: When it’s to your liking, take it off the heat. Add a pinch of salt, a dash of cinnamon, and add the sugar little by little until it’s the perfect sweetness for you. Enjoy your pudding warm or chill it in the fridge in small serving dishes for a couple of hours and eat it cold.

Recipe Tips & FAQs

What does arroz con leche mean in Spanish?

It literally translates to rice with milk. It’s a common dessert that is enjoyed throughout all of Spain.

What rice is best for arroz con leche?

Bomba rice is the most common rice used for arroz con leche in Spain. It’s the same rice as paella rice — a short-grained rice that absorbs a lot of liquid. You can substitute Arborio rice.

Is arroz con leche from Spain?

Rice puddings are found throughout the world and many people think they may have originated in Asia. In Spain, the Moors brought rice and cinnamon to the Iberian Peninsula. Many Latin American countries also make versions of arroz con leche, often using sweet condensed milk instead of whole milk.

Is arroz con leche served hot or cold?

You can enjoy arroz con leche hot or cold, however in Spain it is most often served chilled for dessert.

More Delicious Spanish Desserts

If you love this traditional arroz con leche recipe, you must try these other classic Spanish desserts!

  • Flan: One of the most popular Spanish desserts, this creamy traditional flan recipe is a family favorite!
  • Crema Catalana: Similar to a creme brulee, crema Catalana is a delicious custard with burnt sugar on top.
  • Basque Cheesecake: The famous La Viña cheesecake recipe the whole world has been talking about!
  • Torrijas: This typical Easter dessert is a delicious cross between French toast and bread pudding.
  • Leche Frita: “Fried milk” is one of my favorite Spanish desserts. It’s a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth!

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Spanish rice pudding in a clay bowl.. Spanish arroz con leche recipe.

Spanish Arroz con Leche Recipe

This creamy Spanish arroz con leche recipe is my mother-in-law's favorite. It's Spanish rice pudding done right!
5 from 8 votes
Print (images optional) Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Spanish
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 329.48kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of short grain rice Arroz Bomba is what I use in Spain but Arborio also works well.
  • 1-2 wide slices of lemon rind
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 4 ¼ cups of whole milk (1 liter) you can substitute non-dairy milks if desired
  • Sugar to taste

Instructions

  • Rinse the rice under cold water and then put it in a saucepan over a medium heat, just barely covered with water (you could also cover it with milk for even creamier arroz con leche).
    Making arroz con leche in a big pot with lemon rind and cinnamon.
  • Add the cinnamon stick and lemon rind. Stir continually until all of the water is absorbed.
    Cooking arroz con leche in a large pot
  • Add milk about ½ cup at a time, stirring each time until all is absorbed. Continue adding up to the whole liter of milk, stirring continuously.
    Arroz con leche cooking in a large metal pot.
  • When is seems creamy enough, taste to make sure the texture of the rice is correct. Some prefer it al dente and others like it very cooked (almost mushy).
    Arroz con leche in a wooden spoon
  • When it is to your liking, turn off the heat and add a pinch of salt and dash of cinnamon. Then, add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until it is sweet enough for you. Enjoy warm or let cool.
    Finished arroz con leche in a wooden spoon
  • Sprinkle a bit more cinnamon on top to decorate!
    Homemade arroz con leche in a clay dish

Notes

  • Always use whole milk for the best flavor and texture. If you must substitute, use full-fat coconut milk for a different (but equally delicious) version.
  • Use a cinnamon stick (not cinnamon powder) — except for a dash on the top when finished.
  • Don’t skip the pinch of salt (sea salt is best).
  • Add the sugar slowly and taste — if it’s too sweet you can’t go back!
  • Make it slowly – don’t be in a rush. Add the milk little by little and stir, stir, stir! This will make it super creamy.

Nutrition

Calories: 329.48kcal | Carbohydrates: 51.38g | Protein: 11.25g | Fat: 8.45g | Saturated Fat: 4.75g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 119.74mg | Potassium: 383.19mg | Fiber: 1.49g | Sugar: 13.82g | Vitamin A: 405IU | Vitamin C: 1.94mg | Calcium: 309.23mg | Iron: 0.52mg
Did you make this recipe?Tag @spanishsabores on IG and hashtag it #spanishsabores!

Update Notice: This recipe was originally published on December 16, 2011. It was republished with new photos and text on February 18, 2021.

Voila! Spanish arroz con leche a la Antonia! I promise that if you prepare this you will taste the love. Try it– and tell me how it turns out!

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Comments

  1. My landlady gave me a bowl of the traditional rice pudding recipe of Normandy, where we live. It’s called ‘Tergoule’, and monsieur complains about the electricity bill because it takes between 4 and 5hours at 170degree in the oven! She makes it with full fat raw milk – straight from the cow – from the farm next door. The rice come out finer than semolina.

    I came back from Valencia with 15 x 1kg bags of bomba! I gave one to my landlady and she produced your recipe. I much prefer yours! Of course, monsieur et madame prefer th Norman version. They would …

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe is superb! It introduced me to a very lovely Spanish dessert. It took me a few times to figure out how I like arroz con leche to be, deciding that I prefer it moist and creamy. My Chinese friends are asking me to share them how to make it.

  3. I can’t wait to make this! It was my favorite dessert that our landlady served when I studied in Madrid in 1975.
    I have several friends who have to be dairy-free. Do you have a favorite alternative milk that would be rich enough to sub for whole milk? I am thinking of trying oat milk…

  4. 5 stars
    This was much faster and far much easier to make. I change recipe a little, starting with first cup with water and other 3 …with milk. I also added cloves and all spices and came out amazing! Thank you for the recipe!

  5. Hola!

    I’ve been looking for the perfect arrow con leche recipe for the fall/winter season and this one seems great with great reviews! I just had a question…I had a Dominican friend who used to make this however I used to see she would also put star anise in along with the cinnamon stick and lemon rind, what is your take on that? Do you think that should be done would the recipe still come out as good? I just used to notice it but I havent found a recipe where someone has used star anise yet.

  6. I wonder if it’s the type of rice? This is usually made with a short grain Spanish rice– that said I have made it with basmati and while not as creamy, it still worked! The starches need to break down, keep stirring! Good luck!

  7. Did try ur arroz con Leche it reminds me of my mom’s recipe and if I close my eyes I would say I’m am eating hers. Ole
    I’m. glad I found your blog to help me out on different recipes. My family and I have a Spanish dinner every Sunday just like when we did when growing up.
    Gracias. TRL

  8. I am so glad to have found this recipe, as it seems very close to how my abuela made her Arroz con Leche , that we enjoyed so often. She of course had no written recipe, but would know just by looking at the contents in the pot what needed to be done. Not one of the family members has come close to her level of quality in attempting to make Arroz con Leche on our own. I believe for the most part this is a result of over cooking the dish which results in a gooey, rather than creamy texture. I look forward to trying this recipe!

  9. wow! thanks for sharing this recipe!,. since i had no one too teach me on how to cook, i only knew a basic one that it taste like it needed something else , but now tasting your version i,, wow! I just made it and turn out great,Thank you!, and just for the info I cant do a diet since i choose to study for a career of baking and pastry, i have to try everything to be able to put desserts together 🙁 , but cant complaint 🙂 because I love sweets:).

  10. Thank you so much for your kind recipe, I first came on this site,not knowing how to make arroz con leche,to becoming a pro. My 6 year old loves your recipe! He says it comes from Mom’s heart and he loves it!!

    Thanks again

  11. oh my gosh! you know, one thing I like about your blog is that when you’re done reading one post, you are given choices of other posts that may interest you. and, wow! a recipe for one of my favorite Spanish desserts, whee!! I will have to bookmark and try this some time. I used to love when our señoras would make it. yum, yum, yum!!

  12. I might very well be the only foreigner married to a Spaniard who’s mother-in-law is a terrible cook. She hates cooking, and it shows. And just to make you all jealous, I can diet anytime I want around her. Especially since the very first thing she said to me was, “Oh, you’re much fatter than your pictures.” Jajaja! But I just love her and she loves me, too.

    Anyway, I’m going to try this recipe out and see if I can impress my Asturiano husband.

  13. I’ve had this same struggle with my MIL too. It wasn’t because I was trying to diet, it was because I simply could not fit any more food in my stomach (you know, one of those typical 5 course Spanish meals!) but she serves them every time we eat together. She wouldn’t just shake her head, but also loudly complain that I don’t eat anything (which is SO not true) and in front of everyone at the table. Frustrating eating with her, but I have just learned to eat what I can and politely decline whatever is going to stuff me full.

    1. I know what you mean– they expect us to keep eating and eating! Luckily I was used to this from my Italian grandmother and aunt, but it is still annoying! But when my Ale’s brother’s girlfriend is there too she eats even less– so I’m the good one those nights! I’ve also learned to eat what I want and stick firm to my NO GRACIAS!!!

  14. Mario makes a really awesome arroz con leche; I can’t betray him…but your looks good, too! Yum.

    I’m pretty sure Mario’s mom got a bit irked when I tried to diet, too.

  15. Well, the person in my life that doesn´t let me diet … is me. And I adore arroz con leche, something the asturianos make very well. However, I don´t have it often since I´m allergic to cinnamon. I´ve had it a couple of times in a great Asturian restaurant in Madrid – Casa Parrondo – (also my husband´s name but no relation) where they bring in their own special fresh milk to get it just right. Your recipe is spot on, and for the record, I like it a little mushy!

    1. I often don’t let myself diet either… (I think I ate at least 10 cookies yesterday alone) but the wedding was an exception! Being allergic to cinnamon is sad! But I’ll bet if you made it at home you could sub spices like cloves or cardamon for a yummy change. I like it mushy too– but not too overcooked.

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