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.
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
Riz au Lait | French Rice Pudding
- Quick Glance
- 10 M
- 45 M
- Serves 6 to 8
- 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 about 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)
- 1. Place the rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under running water until the water runs clear, about 1 minute. Then place in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and then drain.
- 2. 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 down the center and scrape out the seeds, adding both the pod and the seeds to the pan, or add the vanilla extract at this time. Pour the milk over the rice, stir, and place over medium heat. Bring it just up to a boil and then immediately turn down the heat to as low as possible.
- 3. 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. Be sure to keep an eye on it as you do not want the mixture to cook too long or dry. The pudding is done when the rice has absorbed almost all of the liquid and is very tender and almost melting in the mouth; riz au lait or French rice pudding should not be al dente. The pudding should be thick and very creamy and not at all dry.
- 4. Remove the saucepan 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 but vigorously stir in the orange juice gradually until well blended, about 1 minute. Taste and, if you want the pudding a little sweeter, add the last tablespoon of sugar.
- 5. 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.
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.