5 Tips for Turning Leftover Rice into Rice Pudding

updated May 1, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Faith Durand)

What’s better than a big, comforting bowl of homemade rice pudding? Having that bowl in your lap in just about 20 minutes. And that’s absolutely possible if you start with leftover rice. Making a cheater’s rice pudding really can be a quick afterthought when you decide a little dessert would be nice after all.

In fact, the next time you order Chinese or Indian takeout, I encourage you to ask for extra rice so you have some on hand when you have the hankering for something sweet and satisfying. As long as you have some milk and sugar (or another sweetener), you can make rice pudding.

1. Use plain cooked rice.

The beauty of turning leftover rice into rice pudding is just how flexible it can be. You can use any kind of rice, be it long-grain or short-grain, white or brown. The same goes for milk. Whole milk is classic and will give you the most custardy results, but you can use low-fat milk if you prefer (skip skim, as it’s just too water). Non-dairy milks are great picks, too; coconut milk imparts its rich flavor into the rice pudding, and almond milk gives it a nice nuttiness.

But there’s one thing you do want, and that’s for your rice to be relatively plain. In other words, avoid rice with aggressive flavors, like sautéed onions or chiles.

5 Simple Ways to Make Rice

2. Use equal parts cooked rice and milk.

Making rice pudding from leftover rice really doesn’t require a recipe, as long as you follow the basic one-to-one ratio. Add equal parts cooked rice and milk to a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice has absorbed the milk and you have a pudding-like consistency.

3. Taste and sweeten as you go.

The milk will give the rice some sweetness, so sweeten additionally with a gentle hand. Stir in a spoonful or two of sugar, honey, or maple syrup at the beginning and taste halfway through. If you’d like it a little sweeter, add a little more.

4. Don’t forget a pinch of salt.

Not only does salt help to balance flavors, but it also brings out the sweetness, which is why it’s called for in cakes, cookies, and more. Stir in a pinch when you add your sweetener for an even tastier end result.

5. Have fun with flavors.

The sky is the limit when it comes to flavoring your rice pudding. Warm ground spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are classic and lovely, but so are ground cloves, ginger, and cardamon, as well as spice blends like pumpkin pie spice or Chinese five spice. Try some grated orange, lemon, lime, or grapefruit zest if you want a brighter taste, or dried fruit like raisins or chopped figs if you’d like a little more texture and natural sweetness.

You can also make it chocolate rice pudding by stirring in a spoonful of cocoa powder or chopped-up dark chocolate (or both). A little vanilla or almond extract is great. If you’re craving an adult version, stir in just a splash of a sweet liquor like amaretto, Bailey’s, Frangelico, or Grand Marnier.