rice pudding with coconut milk


I realize that rice pudding isn’t about to win the sexiest dessert award anytime soon. It’s dull in color, lumpy in texture, and offers no enticing shape. It’s a lump of gooey rice sitting in your bowl quietly awaiting its fate. If there was a pageant for dessert, rice pudding would lose the swimsuit and the evening gown sections of the competition. It doesn’t sparkle or wow with its looks.

unsweetened soy milk light coconut milk

But it would nail the questions category, and when asked what issue is important to its cause, the rice pudding would surely rise to the occasion. It is, without question, my favorite winter dessert, snack, comfort treat. I eat it warm after dinner, with the steam rising from the bowl; I sneak spoonfuls of it at night, cold, straight from the fridge; I could build a lunch around it with some sliced pears and bananas and a steaming cup of Ceylon tea. I could easily write odes to rice pudding, and I might as well have done so just now.

brown arborio rice

But my favorite winter treat was presenting something of a dilemma. Heavy on milk, it is a dessert that’s difficult for Andrew to digest – cow’s milk lactose issues and all. Surely, he could have taken a dairy pill and just eaten my original creation, but I wanted to figure out a way to enable him to enjoy this dessert without having to take anything for it. Dessert should be that thing, if possible, where you can just dive in, without having to stop and take a pill. Sometimes it’s just not possible to do without sacrificing the taste, but at other times there are options. Why not take them?

into the pot!

I decided to play around with making a vegan rice pudding – one that would use coconut milk instead of regular, whole cow’s milk. But I didn’t want to overwhelm on the coconut, and so I combined half unsweetened soy milk and half coconut milk hoping to get the right balance of flavors. And to up the ante just ever-so-slightly, I decided to use brown arborio rice in place of its whiter cousin. I mixed everything in the pot, dropped a few cardamom pods, half a vanilla bean scraped out, and added some golden raisins and pistachios into the mix. And forty-five minutes later, I had glorious, bubbling and fragrant rice pudding waiting for us to enjoy right in time for dessert.

The coconut milk’s sweetness gave nice body to the pudding, and because it blended with the soy milk, it didn’t overwhelm. We could still taste the cardamom and the vanilla. The raisins and pistachios softened nicely and though were still its own distinct entities, bonded with the starchy rice. It was delicious, comforting and unfussy – the best kind of cold-weather finish to dinner.

coconut milk rice pudding with piscachios

But the best part was that we can both could enjoy this dessert without having to remember dairy pills or sacrificing the taste. And though it’s not a looker and is hard to photograph, in my pageant of desserts, this one still holds the crown.

Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk

If you can’t find brown arborio rice, or simply are anti-brown rice with all the health announcements as of late, be sure to shorten your cooking time of rice to about 20-25 minutes. For reasons I’ve yet to research (darn time constraints) I have discovered that brown arborio rice takes longer to cook. Alternatively you can try to make it with all coconut milk or all soy milk. I just liked the balance of the two. Lastly, if you use sweetened soy milk, be sure to decrease the sugar to 1/8 cup or not use the sugar altogether.

2 cups unsweetened soymilk
2 cups coconut milk (or light coconut milk)
½ cup brown arborio rice
¼ cup demerara sugar
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
3 cardamom pods
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup pistachios
⅛ teaspoon salt


1. Combine all the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking or burning at the bottom. Brown arborio rice takes slightly longer to cook than its white cousin, and remains chewier and more toothsome.

2. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Or refrigerate and eat cold.

Serves 6 as dessert, or 4 as a snack.


  • alexis

    this looks so tasty! I love that you added cardamom pods. Now I’m tempted to add some masala chai spices too, like cloves, nutmeg and ginger.

  • Radish

    alexis – those would be great. I wanted a “softer” feel to my pudding so i restrained myself on the spices. but if you want a bolder pudding, then by all means.

  • Abbey

    I bet this smells amazing when cooking too! One question, does it still stick together like rice pudding made with an egg stirred in at the end of cooking? This seems to have more liquid than most recipes and a longer cooking time, but it seems like it would reduce down to being thick and creamy and holding everything together since the cooking time is so long.

  • Radish

    Abbey – I never heard of stirring an egg in (will research) but this does cook down and get creamy and thick.

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    I actually find this to be incredibly sexy… but maybe I’m strange. Rice pudding, along with cheesecake, is one of my favorite desserts. I need to try the dairy-free version… because I know it’ll taste great and it will be a little healthier too.

  • emiglia

    I love rice pudding but never thought of making it with coconut milk. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind for the next time I make it for the boy–it’s his favorite!

  • Cheri

    Have you ever been to Rice to Riches — a NYC restaurant that specializes in fabulous rice puddings?

  • Janet M-N

    Where I live, in Denmark, rice pudding certainly _is_ sexy… It’s the traditional Christmas dessert, a necessary and loved part of a meal. And yes, I too know the pleasure of sneaking it with a spoon straight from the fridge at 3 AM. Thanks for highlighting it!

  • Elizabeth

    I love this! You never fail to take a simple, classic dish and spice it up in unexpected ways. I’ll bet the vanilla beans, cardamom, and coconut give this rice pudding wonderful flavor. If I keep staring at this, I think I might lick the screen.

  • molly

    mmmm, i adore a good classic english rice pudding, but love the thai coconut sticky number nearly as much. this looks just lovely (beauty pageants be damned!)

  • Abe

    I made this out of curiosity. Simmered 2 hours and still not a pudding. More of a thin soup. Brown rice cooks at 2:1 water to rice ratio. This recipe is 8:1 liquid:rice, so I am thinking the author has an error here. None of the comments so far are from someone that has cooked it. House smells great. Added some citrus zest, but otherwise made it to the letter.

  • Radish

    Abe – I am sorry the recipe didn’t work for you – but we make it all the time at my house since my husband is allergic to dairy and we avoid it whenever possible. My family and friends have made it with great success. I’ll retest it in the next few weeks and see. Also, when you cook risotto, you don’t cook with a 2:1 ratio – because Arborio rice is rather different. Are you using Arborio rice?

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