bay and vanilla bean rice pudding

I first tasted this pudding almost one year ago to the date.  I’ve kept it to myself all this time because a rice pudding recipe never seems the type of thing anyone’s eagerly searching for.  But, considering this is something I crave all the time and make over and over and over, I thought it should be shared. 

John first stumbled on this recipe in an old post (circa 2007) on Luisa Weiss’ blog The Wednesday Chef. He was searching for something easy to put an end to my pudding  whining.  If memory serves, I believe yours truly scoffed at the rice pudding suggestion, imagining something vaguely healthful and not at all the creamy goodness I was after.  Growing up, rice pudding was something we made to use up leftover cooked rice – cinnamon specked with raisins, lots of milk, and maybe a cardamom pod if we were feeling exotic.  Virtuous enough to eat for breakfast type of thing.  This pudding is not in the same category. (Though don’t think that stops me from enjoying it with my morning coffee.)  It’s ultra-creamy – each grain of rice swollen with milk and draped in soft-luxurious vanilla-bay scented custard. 

A “dark horse” is Luisa Weiss’ apt description of the bay leaf here.  Bay leaf.  In a dessert.  Let that sink in for a minute.  When you’ve finished freaking out, relax: it’s absolutely delicious, adding just a hint of subtle exotic spice.  Without knowing the bay leaf’s in there, you’d be hard pressed to put a finger (or a tongue) on the flavor.  Since my first bite of this pudding, I’ve become a bit of a vanilla-bay fanatic and have been known to slip the two into ice cream bases, bread puddings, pots de crème, and the like.

Makes about 1 quart of pudding, which hypothetically serves 6-8.  That said, this rarely lasts more than 24 hours in our household of 2.

One Year Ago: Pistachio Cake

Bay and Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding

  • ¾ cup long grain rice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 to 5 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
  • Pinch of salt

Place the rice and bay leaf in a medium sauce pan and cover with water.  Bring just to a boil and then immediately turn off the heat and drain.  Return the rice and bay leaf to the pot and add 4 cups of milk, the sugar, and the vanilla bean.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour until the rice is fully cooked and most of the milk has been absorbed.  At this point, you can cool a bit and enjoy as is or add another cup or so of milk and continue cooking another 15-20 minutes until the milk is absorbed – this will give you a milkier and slightly richer pudding.  (We generally skip this step.)

Serve warm or at room temperature, but not piping hot – the pudding is best after setting -up and cooling slightly.  Notoriously impatient, this final step is the hardest for me.  Enjoy the pudding plain or with a small pour of heavy cream and a tiny sprinkling of ground cinnamon.

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