Traditional French rice pudding is made from simple pantry staples—rice, sugar, milk, vanilla, and orange—that are slowly simmered together until creamy and soothing. It’s an easy, thrifty dessert from a time gone by, a classic nursery treat, explains cookbook author Jamie Schler. We think it may become your most beloved comfort food. Because it contains no egg, its considerably less custardy than most American versions of rice pudding, and we love it for that.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Serving bowl and small bowl of French rice pudding topped with whipped cream, along with spoons on a lace tablecloth.

Riz au Lait ~ French Rice Pudding

5 / 6 votes
Riz au lait is another way of saying French rice pudding. It’s just made without egg but with plenty of milk and sugar and it’s so gosh darn easy and impossible to stop eating. Quite possibly the thing we love most about the French.
David Leite
Servings6 to 8 servings
Calories256 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • 1 cup uncooked short-grain rice
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 small orange, preferably organic, very finely zested and juiced (at least 1/3 cup or 80 ml juice and 1 to 2 teaspoons zest)
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1/4 cups whole milk, half-and-half, or half milk and half light or heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Softly whipped cream, creme fraiche, or marmalade, for serving (optional)


  • Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear, about 1 minute.
  • Then place the rice in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Drain the rice. Wipe out the pan and return the rice to the pan along with 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, and the orange zest. Slice the vanilla bean along its center and scrape out the seeds, adding both the pod and the seeds to the pan, or add the vanilla extract. Pour the milk over the rice, stir, and place over medium heat. Bring it just to a boil and then immediately turn down the heat to as low as possible.
  • Cover the saucepan, leaving it slightly ajar, and let the pudding gently simmer, stirring often so the rice neither sticks to the bottom of the pan nor bubbles up and over 20 to 35 minutes, depending on the type of the rice you’re using. Keep watch as you don’t want the mixture to cook too long or dry but is thick and very creamy and the rice is tender and has absorbed almost all of the liquid.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and carefully remove and discard the vanilla bean. Add the butter and 3 tablespoons sugar and stir until the butter is melted and well blended into the rice, 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Carefully, gradually, and vigorously stir in the orange juice until well blended, about 1 minute. Taste and, if you want the pudding a little sweeter, add the last tablespoon of sugar.
  • Spoon the riz au lait into 6 dessert bowls and serve warm or cold, keeping in mind the flavors will be somewhat muted if served cold.


Extra Orange-Y Riz Au Lait

For an even more pronounced orange flavor, add a few drops orange essence or extract to the pudding along with the vanilla bean or extract or, for a warmer, more complex flavor, add a few drops orange blossom water.
Orange Appeal Cookbook

Adapted From

Orange Appeal

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 portionCalories: 256 kcalCarbohydrates: 43 gProtein: 7 gFat: 6 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 2 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 18 mgSodium: 106 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 16 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2017 Jamie Schler. Photo © 2017 Ilva Beretta. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This orange riz au lait is truly something special. Without a doubt, this will be my go-to rice pudding recipe from now on. It’s creamy and just sweet enough (I used all 5 tablespoons of sugar), but it’s the combination of the orange and vanilla bean that really makes the recipe. These two ingredients combine to create the loveliest flavor—subtle and delicate yet incredibly fragrant. Unfortunately, my family members aren’t rice pudding fans. (I know, I know. Crazy, right?!)

Since they won’t eat it for dessert, I’ve taken to making rice pudding for myself for breakfast, which is how I served this recipe. It makes for wonderful comfort food on a cold morning, like a fancied-up version of porridge. With winter approaching, I’m so glad to have this delicious recipe that comes together easily. I can say with certainty that I will make it many, many time in the coming months. Though I haven’t tried the recipe using vanilla extract, I would recommend using vanilla bean in this recipe if you can. I have a strong hunch that while the finished product would still be delicious, you wouldn’t achieve quite the same delicate balance of flavors using extract.

On our first really cold day of the season, this rice pudding with its creamy texture and rich orange and vanilla flavor was a wonderful breakfast treat. I would also serve it after a home-style dinner or to my kids for an afternoon snack. I love how the rice broke down but retained some texture. This recipe is an easy one for me to make any time as I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. After experimenting with my family serving it at different temperatures, we all decided that it was best served warm. It became congealed after refrigeration and lost its creaminess. When served cold, this dish also lost its wonderful orange aroma.

I think rice pudding is one of our household’s top favorite simple comfort desserts—so much so for my husband that he describes short-grain rice primarily as “pudding rice.” I actually have made this recipe twice now and will say the best version I made was with Arborio rice and half-and-half, although the one I made with Jade Pearl rice and whole milk was also delicious just a little too sweet for us, although it did NOT stop us from eating every serving.

I would recommend the Arborio if you have it or can easily find it. It rinses clear in 15 to 20 seconds and the timing is spot on, past the al dente point at just 25 minutes although I removed the lid and let it continue just a few minutes more since it was quite liquidy still. That really isn’t necessary because it is going to thicken and set more as it cools and the rice continues to absorb the milk or cream. This may vary with other rice so you will want to check.

Our personal tastes are to make things a little less sweet. The first time I made this, I used 4 tablespoons sugar total and a small blood orange that offered just 1/3 cup juice. The second time I had a slightly larger naval orange and it yielded closer to 1/2 cup juice, which made me more restrained with the sugar, using only 2 tablespoons sugar total and we felt it was plenty sweet for our taste. I added a drop of orange blossom water to give a little extra depth of scent and flavor but not overpower everything. This combination of orange and vanilla is probably tops in my book for dessert flavors as citrus rules over chocolate or cakes for me most of the time!

My arborio version filled 6 half-pint mason jars plus 3 quarter-pint mason jars and we ate one immediately in the interest of testing and tasting, of course! By storing the pudding in mason jars, I could gently rewarm them if desired (though usually i am happy to eat them cold as well). I like to garnish the servings with a tiny bit of marmalade or crème frậiche.

This recipe was actually easy to follow and fairly straightforward. The flavor was good but really didn’t have a lot of orange compared to what I expected. If I were to make this again, I might add some orange marmalade. I used risotto rice and this was creamy. The texture held well after refrigeration. I think this was a little involved by asking to pre-cook the rice but, on the other hand, the process ensures that the rice is truly cooked.

This recipe makes an excellent rice pudding. The orange flavor clearly sets it apart from other rice puddings. The pudding was very creamy when it was first made and served warm. After it cooled in the refrigerator, it was considerably more dense and thick. Serves 6 or more if you make smaller portions.

We liked this fruity rice pudding very much. It’s just as comforting as the more traditional rice pudding but with a refreshing twist (yes, it DOES taste like a Creamsicle!). And it couldn’t have been more straightforward to make.

To save a few minutes, I zested the orange, measured the milk and butter while the rice initially cooked for 5 minutes, and juiced the orange while the rice cooked in milk. My short grain rice was Japanese mochi rice, which is also sold as sweet rice or sticky rice, and it only took 20 minutes to cook in whole milk. The grains had broken down and I could feel the nice “weight” against my wooden spoon when I stirred the pudding and I knew it was ready.

We enjoyed it at room temperature, and the pudding was still perfectly creamy—it had not gotten thick and gluey at all. I used whole milk.

Be still my heart…this decadent French version of a classic rice pudding is simply incroyable. I grew up in a household where my grandmother’s recipe for rice pudding was on each-and-every Christmas Eve menu; that version was thickened with eggs and cornstarch, while this version omits both and relies simply on the starch from the short grain rice (brilliant!).

I found this recipe perfectly sweet and perfectly rich, whether as an unforgettable holiday dessert or just a comforting dessert idea anytime of year. Delicious warm from the stovetop, but also perfect straight from the fridge chilled (as I did this morning for breakfast). I opted to use half-and-half for a bit of extra creaminess, and in addition to the orange zest and 1/3 cup of fresh orange juice, I also followed the recipe note and added just a couple drops of orange flower water. (I also wonder what a touch of rose water instead would be like?)…

I used Arborio rice, organic granulated cane sugar, and a pinch of Morton Kosher Salt, and a vanilla bean. A navel orange is what I had on hand which I used 1 Tablespoon of chopped zest, and like the recipe suggests I used 1/3 cup of its juice. I cooked the rice pudding in Step 2 for 25 minutes, stirring often (which is important because like making risotto, you must keep a close eye on short-grin rice because it will stick and burn! Especially when there is cream involved like in this recipe…) with a wooden spoon. I cooked it over medium-low heat, just so that it wouldn’t scorch or stick. It was perfectly thick and creamy, not al dente, after 25 minutes of cooking over medium-low heat. I found it very interesting that you add the sugar a bit in the beginning of cooking, and then the rest at the end along with the butter and orange juice. Like I mentioned, this recipe isn’t overly sweet which I like and really, you can control the amount of sugar easily; if you wanted a sweeter pudding, go for it! But with the orange juice addition, that adds a natural sweetness that is just lovely. I vigorously stirred the orange juice in at the end and it took about a minute and half to incorporate fully. This would serve 6 people easily, but 4 if like me, you go back for seconds…

I really can’t heap enough praise on this simple, nearly elegant dish,made from the most ordinary of ingredients. Every time I prepare it, not only do we get a fine dessert, but we get the added pleasure of having our entire home smell of creamsicles!

I have discovered, as an old-fashioned fella living in the modern world, my echo dot is the perfect partner in timing the rice. I tell the dot to set a timer for five minutes, at this point I give the concoction a nice stir and, continue to set a voice timer and, give a stir at five minute intervals. The rice usually takes about thirty five minutes on my stove. Make certain to remove the saucepan from the heat while the rice is still creamy. Stir in the butter and sugar for just a minute or so and, then stir in the orange juice. Finally, spoon the Ruiz Au Lait into small bowls or small ramekins. The recipe produces six 1/2 cup servings, leaving a healthy taste for the cook and his dearest friends.

I have served this with a dollop of whipped cream but, it is rich and lush on its own so,I have taken to making sure that there is an extra orange to zest over the ramekins,which finishes the Ruiz Au Lait BEAUTIFULLY!

This rice pudding takes an hour, give or take, but you can be prepping and cooking the rest of your dinner, all the while simmering the pudding in the background. There are just two of us so, on the first day we have a fabulous dessert and, for the next two mornings, we both get to take our breakfast to the next level! I find this entire affair SPECTACULAR, for just the price of a cup of rice, a glass of milk, and a medium table orange!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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  1. I have a question about vanilla for this recipe. I plan to get some vanilla paste today to get around the cost of the vanilla beans. If I add vanilla bean paste to the rice pudding, do you think 2 tsp. would do it, or should I stick with one tsp? I do also have the liquid Madagascar vanilla extract, but thought I’d the use the whole bean as indicated, until I saw the price locally. I have seen other recipes calling for paste, and likely it’s a more pronounced flavor (a guess). I don’t taste things so well any more, but don’t want to put so much vanilla in the pudding, so as to ruin it for everyone else either. So, what amt. of paste would be = to what you have listed for this recipe? Thank you!

    1. Beth, you should substitute an equal amount of vanilla bean paste for the vanilla extract. So I would use the 1 teaspoon called for in the recipe. Please let us know how it turns out.