This Lush and Creamy Rice Pudding Is My Forever Favorite Comfort Food

published Apr 28, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Tart Cherry Sauce

This rice pudding made with coconut milk and almond milk is every bit as luscious as the whole milk and heavy cream versions.

Serves6

Prep20 minutes

Cook1 hour

Jump to Recipe
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rice pudding with cherries on a bowl on linen
Credit: Arlyn Osborne

I remember it clearly: the first time I felt different. I was in fourth grade, and we were given an assignment called “A Family Dish” where we cooked a dish based on our heritage. I was making scones. Or, at least, I thought I was.

My teacher (we’ll call her “Miss Davis”) summoned me over to her desk by the whiteboard. With a flickering smile, she told me the class was hoping I’d make something “Oriental.” I’d always been the only Asian American in my class, and she said it’d be “really fun” for everyone to learn about Asian culture, and that most of them probably hadn’t had Japanese food. There was just one problem: I’m not Japanese.   

On presentation day, it seemed my whole class was from Europe (although none of them had a breathing relative who actually lived there). When my turn finally came, Miss Davis chose to make a commercial announcement of it. I had split my board in half, dedicating one side to England and the other to the Philippines. After pointing to bleary pictures of my mother’s family and farm and frayed prints of my grandfather’s childhood home in Devon, I heated up the lumpia I made with mom the night before, and set out condiment cups filled with banana ketchup. It wasn’t exactly a huge hit.

As a culinary professional of mixed race during a time where representation is important, and food has become a clear outlet for showcasing culture, I find myself in a familiar plight not quite unlike that of A Family Dish. I feel the perpetual need to explain what I am and am not, like I’m in the “Check One, Check Other” scene from Ginny and Georgia. I’m proud of my heritage, but at the same time fear being boxed in and confused with where I belong.  

The evening after A Family Dish, determined to lift my spirits, my mom made rice pudding. Each bite, soft and sweet, seemed to whisper, It’s going to be okay. It was a dish that always appeared in times of need — a faithful remedy, a true comfort food.

Credit: Arlyn Osborne

There was never a lot of fusion cuisine at my family table, but rice pudding was the one dish that felt familiar to each of my parents, and it had become an integral part of my upbringing. We’d eat it chilled with hot cherry sauce, warm with jam and grated nutmeg, room-temperature with sliced mango. Sometimes it was baked, other times it was cooked on the stove. When I picture myself that night, standing at the kitchen counter by the mixing bowl, I can see now how symbolic it was. That mixing bowl was like myself, a collection of different ingredients, made into one pure and absolute dish. 

It’s been 20 years since I was thrust at the front of the class as a spectacle and learning exhibit. And since then, I’ve created my ideal version of rice pudding that has never failed me in a crisis. The blend of coconut milk and almond milk is lush and creamy, but still light. And the cherries bring a bright burst of energy that lifts the dish just like it will your day. Whatever your version of Miss Davis is, this rice pudding is here for you.

3 Tips for the Best Rice Pudding

  1. The type of rice is important: Arborio rice is preferred because its starchiness creates a creamier consistency. In a pinch, short-grain rice will work too.
  2. Skip the lemon if you’re using tart cherries: If the stars align and you do have tart cherries, skip the fresh lemon juice when making the sauce.
  3. Don’t forget to stir: Once the coconut and almond milk go in, frequent stirring is key to prevent lumpy rice pudding.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.

Coconut Milk Rice Pudding with Tart Cherry Sauce

This rice pudding made with coconut milk and almond milk is every bit as luscious as the whole milk and heavy cream versions.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the coconut milk rice pudding:

  • 1 1/2 cups

    water

  • 3/4 cup

    arborio or sushi rice

  • 1

    (about 13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk

  • 1 1/3 cups

    unsweetened almond milk

  • 1/3 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

For the cherry sauce:

  • 1/3 cup

    water

  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons

    cornstarch

  • 2 teaspoons

    granulated sugar

  • 12 ounces

    fresh or frozen sweet cherries, pitted (about 2 cups)

Instructions

Make the rice pudding:

  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water and 3/4 cup arborio or sushi rice to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the water is fully absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

  2. Uncover and add 1 can coconut milk, 1 1/3 cups almond milk, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens into a pudding consistency, 20 to 30 minutes.

  3. Transfer to a serving bowl. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool to room temperature and serve, or refrigerate until chilled.

Make the cherry sauce:

  1. Place 1/3 cup water, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and 2 teaspoons granulated sugar in a small saucepan and whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.

  2. Add 12 ounces cherries and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are tender and the sauce is thickened, about 10 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before spooning over the rice pudding.

Recipe Notes

Using sour cherries: Sour cherries can be used in place of sweet cherries, just omit the lemon juice from the sauce.

Make ahead: The cherry sauce can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat in the microwave or over low heat.

Storage: Refrigerate leftover cherry sauce and rice pudding in airtight containers for up to 5 days.