August 9th has been designated in the US to pay tribute to the dish, several variants of which are served on every habitable continent in the world: rice pudding. Though there are many savory preparations of rice pudding served as dinner or a side dish, a lot of US-icans—myself included—are most familiar with rice pudding as a dessert. Creamy, sweet, and filling, rice pudding is an incredible comfort food—and who doesn’t need a little extra comfort these days?

The earliest written recipes—at least recipes in English—for rice pudding appear in cookbooks dating back to England’s Stuart and Tudor dynasties under the names “Ryse of Flesh,” “rice pottage,” and “white pot”—white pot was among the first sweetened rice puddings in the British court. Many believe that many modern rice pudding recipes are descendants of kheer and of recipes outlined in medieval Middle Eastern medical texts, as rice pudding was understood be good for digestion. These recipes likely made their way through Europe along with the Roman Empire and became increasingly popular and accessible as rice cultivation began in Italy and Spain.

I haven’t had kheer in so long and this recipe looks delicious! I think I’ll be making this soon!
Photo credit:

I was introduced to rice pudding by my husband, who was craving his aunt’s rice pudding. So, I started making rice pudding and I am so glad I did. The sweet, rich, creamy dessert has pulled double-duty as a full-on meal on more than a few occasions; I’m not much of a breakfast person—I love breakfast food but I can’t eat early in the day—but a bowl full of chilled rice pudding and a glass of orange juice is really tasty brunch! Despite never having it before adulthood, rice pudding tastes like a slice of home; it’s hyggeligt.

Speaking of hygge, this is Risalamande, a Danish rice pudding traditionally served around the winter holidays. I think this may be on my to-make list this winter! Photo credit:

In preparation my very serious* preparation and research for writing about National Rice Pudding Day, I made a batch of rice pudding, making the final tweaks to my own recipe. Historically, I have been a recipe gatekeeper—cooking was one of the only things I drew confidence from and I did not want someone else making my recipes. Now, I am happy to share almost all of my recipes and I am going to share with you the recipe for the batch I made last night because—Y’ALL!—it’s so good!

My homemade rice pudding in an adorably tiny 4 oz. canning jar.

Jess’ Rice Pudding

5 c. milk, divided
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar (plus an optional extra teaspoon or two)
1/2 c. rice
1/2 c. half and half (you could also roll with milk here)
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. bourbon (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. instant coffee granules
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, combine the 5 cups of milk, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 tsp. of the cinnamon. Bring the milk mixture to a boil, while stirring occasionally.

Once the mixture is boiling, add in the rice and turn the heat down to a simmer. Simmer rice and milk mixture for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally (and maybe listen to a podcast or have a glass of wine while on a Zoom call with friends), until rice is tender and milk mixture has thickened.

Remove the saucepan from heat, then stir in butter, vanilla extract, half and half, remaining cinnamon, instant coffee granules, and bourbon. Once all the ingredients are mixed in well, set the saucepan off to the side and let it thicken.

Serve warm or cold.

*Story time: After taking this photo, I went to move the jar of rice pudding and noticed the bottom had mango juice on it. Since I was about to eat the jar of rice pudding, I did what any other very serious person would have done and licked the juice off of the jar. So there I am, basically making out with the bottom a 4 oz. jar which is exactly the moment my roommate walked into the kitchen. I will never live that down. Never ever.

There are so many variations of rice pudding out there, some made with water (I even saw a few calling for rose water and I’m interested to try one of those!), some made with coconut milk, some that are more like custard, some are baked, some are reserved for festivals and holidays, and some are meant for some everyday joy. I plan on trying to make as many variations as possible, though, I think the recipe included above will always be my rice pudding happy place. I encourage you to make and scarf down your favorite rice pudding to celebrate the day or to find one of the seemingly infinite recipes from around the world to try—and maybe research a little about the culture that produced it while the dish is cooking.

However you decide to celebrate it, have a tasty National Rice Pudding Day!

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