A traditional dessert for Christmas Eve, Portuguese Rice Pudding (locally known as ‘Arroz Doce‘) gives you that perfect balance of comfort and deliciousness. And it’s excellent both served hot or straight from the fridge. You have to try it to believe it!
(*This post contains some affiliate links)
They sometimes call this Portuguese Sweet Rice because it is (indeed) rice cooked in milk, with added sugar.
But it goes beyond that, there’s also a hint of vanilla and lemon in there — not too much that it overpowers the entire dish, but just enough to round it all up.
It’s so good that locals prepare it the whole year-round, not just during the holidays!
- Rice – the ‘starchy’ ones are the best for this rice pudding — arborio or carnaroli rice. These are the same variety that you use for making risotto.
These types of rice still maintain a firm center, even if their outsides are almost falling apart. So, you still get a good bite in the midst of all the creaminess.
- Vanilla – you can definitely replace one vanilla bean with a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
However, I tend to use a vanilla bean when I’m preparing Portuguese sweet rice for a special occasion.
Start by mixing three and a half cups of water with salt on a medium or large-sized saucepan.
Add rice and lemon rind; and cook rice as normal (photo 1).
Once the rice is cooked, pour three and a half cups of hot milk (photo 2).
Add the vanilla bean, mix and continue simmering (for about 30 minutes) or until the liquid has reduced and the rice turns soft and creamy (photo 3).
Add sugar. Mix, then cover with a lid and bring to a boil (photo 4).
Combine and beat the remaining milk with the egg yolks (photo 5).
Remove the rice pudding from the heat and remove the vanilla bean and lemon rind.
Slowly add the tempered yolks while constantly stirring (photo 6).
Cover with a lid, bring the pan back into the heat, and bring to a boil.
Transfer to serving plates and decorate with cinnamon powder on top.
- When you add the milk, make sure it’s hot, boiling, if possible. I normally just keep it simmering once it boils while waiting for the rice to cook.
- You can add a cinnamon stick to the pudding as well. You should add it together with the vanilla bean.
- Do not forget to temper the yolks with cold (or room temperature) milk before adding to the sweet rice. It ensures that you will not cook the yolks when you add them to the simmering pudding.
- While lattice top is the classic design for the cinnamon powder on top; you can design it in whatever way you want.
Looks absolutely delicious right? Give it a try, and let me know what you think in the comment section below!
If you want to try another traditional dish from Portugal, you should check out one of my most popular blog posts — Portuguese Tomato Rice (Arroz de Tomate)!
Portuguese Rice Pudding (Arroz Doce)
- Using a medium to a large-sized saucepan, combine 3 1/2 cups of water with salt and mix.
- Add the rice and lemon rind, cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
- Simmer until rice is cooked. This generally takes 20 minutes.
- Add the 3 & 1/2 cups of hot milk and the vanilla pod.
- Mix to combine, then cover and continue simmering until the liquid has reduced and the rice turns soft and creamy (about 20 to 30 minutes). Stir regularly the entire time.
- Add sugar and mix. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
- Temper egg yolks with the remaining milk (not hot!) and beat with a fork.
- Remove the sweet rice from the heat and take the rind and the vanilla bean out.
- Add the tempered yolks slowly while stirring constantly.
- Bring the saucepan back on the heat, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired.
- Remove from the heat and transfer to serving bowls.
- Decorate the top with cinnamon powder.
- Starchy rice like arborio and carnaroli are the best types to use for arroz doce.
- A teaspoon of vanilla extract can be substituted for a vanilla bean.
- Make sure the milk is hot when you add it to the cooked rice.
- If you want to add a cinnamon stick, you should add it together with the vanilla bean.
- Do not forget to temper the yolks with cold (or room temperature) milk before adding to the sweet rice.It ensures that you will not cook the yolks when you add them to the simmering pudding.
- Lattice top is the traditional design for the cinnamon powder on top, but feel free to decorate it in whatever design you prefer.