Portuguese Rice Pudding ~ Arroz Doce

This Portuguese rice pudding, made by cooking rice with whole milk infused with citrus and cinnamon and making it like custard with the addition of egg yolks, is creamy and comforting. Finished with pistachios, the pudding is wonderful for dessert or breakfast, served hot or straight from the fridge.

This traditional Portuguese rice pudding, arroz doce, is cooked risotto-style with a lilt of citrus and the warmness of cinnamon. Yet aside from a little stirring, it’s easy as can be. The inclusion of egg yolks ensures the pudding is as thick and creamy as any rice pudding you’ve ever had. And if the mere thought of a not-too-sweet pudding with the subtle lilt of lemon and orange doesn’t send you running to your pantry to check if you have sufficient rice to make this recipe right away, well, we can’t help you.Angie Zoobkoff

Portuguese Rice Pudding | Arroz Doce

A white serving platter filled with Portuguese rice pudding and topped with toasted pistachios and cinnamon
This Portuguese rice pudding, made by cooking rice with whole milk infused with citrus and cinnamon and making it like custard with the addition of egg yolks, is creamy and comforting. Finished with pistachios, the pudding is wonderful for dessert or breakfast, served hot or straight from the fridge.
Nuno Mendes

Prep 30 mins
Cook 30 mins
Total 1 hr
4 to 6 servings
No ratings yet
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  • 1 1/4 cups water plus more if needed
  • Sea salt
  • 3/4 cups short-grain white rice preferably Portuguese Carolino, Italian arborio, Spanish bomba, or Japanese sushi rice
  • Flaky sea salt
  • A couple of strips each of lemon and orange zest plus more grated zest for garnish (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken in half
  • 3 1/2 cups whole milk plus more as needed
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons light cream or more whole milk (optional)
  • 1 1/2 ounces pistachios shelled
  • Ground cinnamon for garnish


  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water and a pinch of salt to a boil. Stir in the rice, reduce the heat to low, and gently simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. The rice won’t yet be tender. That’s okay. If the rice starts starts to stick, add a little more water.
  • While the rice is cooking, in a separate saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk, sugar, strips of citrus zest, and cinnamon stick for 10 minutes. (If you’d like, you can tie the zest and cinnamon stick in a square of cheesecloth or tuck them in a teaball for ease of removal later.) Remove the pan from the heat. If you’d like the citrus and spice flavors to be prominent, let them remain in the mixture as it sits, covered and off the heat, for several minutes to infuse the milk. Otherwise immediately strain the milk and discard the solids.
  • Gradually ladle some of the strained warm milk mixture into the pan of rice, stirring well after each addition as you would when making risotto. Continue to cook the rice mixture over low heat, gradually adding a ladleful of milk and stirring until it’s absorbed before adding more milk, until thick and creamy, 20 to 35 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks and cream, if using. Pour a ladle full of the hot rice mixture into the yolks and stir until combined. Then slowly stir the yolk-rice mixture into the pudding. Continue to cook the rice pudding, stirring frequently so the rice doesn’t scorch, until it thickens, which will happen in just a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat. The rice pudding will thicken even more as it cools and will especially thicken if you refrigerate it overnight. If a thinner consistency is desired, add a little more milk.
  • Serve the rice pudding warm or you can let it cool, cover, and refrigerate it overnight, keeping in mind it will thicken even more in the fridge. Serve it topped with pistachios and, if desired, a sprinkle each of ground cinnamon and grazed zest.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

My kids and I loved this creamy, thick, Portuguese rice pudding. This recipe is pure indulgent comfort food.

Stirring about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest throughout the pudding before serving added such a pretty speckled orange color throughout and a delicious flavor to boot! And extra cinnamon sprinkled on at the end puts it over the top!

While the pudding was great hot straight from the pot, we preferred to eat it cold.

This is so rich it could serve up to 6. Or perhaps just 4 hungry souls. I think it would be just as good with the sugar reduced from 6 tablespoons down to 4 or 5.

This is a fine rice pudding with the citrus notes coming through very nicely. And it’s quick to put together with ingredients you probably already have.

My mother-in-law is gluten free so this is a perfect dessert for her. She said it was creamy and delicious. My husband loves rice pudding for breakfast. He sprinkles on granola, toasted coconut, and diced banana, and he loved the light citrus flavor of this pudding.

I let the citrus zest steep in the milk for 15 minutes. I strained the zest before adding the milk to the rice. I left the cinnamon stick, though, to continue to add flavor to the pudding. The pudding should be watched carefully and stirred frequently to prevent scorching.

I used 6 tablespoons sugar. Next time, I’ll cut the sugar to 4 tablespoons.

If, like me, you considered rice pudding to be generic and bland, prepare yourself to forever change your mind. This arroz doce is way too delicious to be called rice pudding. It’s heavenly. It’s memorable. And it has an amazing flavor profile which is way more than the sum of its simple parts. I used a drawstring mesh bag (the kind sold for making nut milks) to contain the strips of citrus zest and cinnamon stick while submerged in the milk. I continued steeping the aromatics in the milk even after combining the milk with the rice. The zest flavored the pudding in a complex and mellow way and not a sharp citrus flavor. Almost more orange blossom than bright citrus? Phenomenal.

Before serving, I sprinkled the top with ground cinnamon and chopped salted pistachios. I would not skip the pistachios—the salted nuts perfectly complemented the sweet pudding, spicy cinnamon, and subtle citrus. And what a sensuous juxtaposition of textures–creamy dreamy custard, crunchy nuts, and chewy rice. Swoon!

It was amazing both hot and cold! After letting it cool a bit (still warm), I was worried it was just slightly too runny (albeit incredibly delicious). It did not really firm up significantly after almost reaching room temperature. However, after refrigerating overnight (and man, was this pudding great for breakfast!) it firmed up perfectly. Perhaps if meant to serve warm, it could be cooked a bit longer?

This was delicious warm yet still wonderful the next day right out of the fridge. It was significantly firmer after refrigerating but wonderful both ways.

This recipe SHOULD easily serve 6 but, ever the dutiful tester, I found myself eating spoonful after spoonful (pure research, of course) while writing this evaluation. And alas, it disappeared all too soon.

I chose to make this Portuguese rice pudding recipe because it reminded me of my mom. She made dessert every night for our family of 7 and, needless to say, rice pudding would be served a couple times a month.

This recipe also interested me because of the infusion of lemon and orange zest in the milk. Along with the cinnamon, the final outcome was warm and comforting yet bright and simply delicious.

I warmed the milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, and citrus peels on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. The aroma was inviting and I couldn’t wait until the dish was done. I added it slowly to the rice and left the additions in for more flavor. After 20 minutes of cooking, it was thick and very creamy. I added the yolks with the light cream and cooked it a few minutes minutes longer. I took out the citrus peels and cinnamon stick and had a little taste. DELICIOUS! I covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit and it thickened up a little more. Then I really enjoyed it with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of pistachios.

I found it interesting that the recipe didn’t call for vanilla extract, but to my surprise, it doesn’t miss it one bit. Try this. Grandma would be proud!

Cravings for rice pudding are serious and need to be remedied quickly. Even though it took me a good hour from start to bowl in my lap, it’s worth it. This Portuguese rice pudding is so rich and creamy and the notes of orange and cinnamon are spot on. The crunch of pistachios is a fantastic addition, but if the mood hits and you don’t have any, don’t sweat it.

If you embrace delicateness when it comes to rice pudding, you’ll adore this Portuguese rice pudding recipe. The subtle citrus flavor is lovely and we particularly like the pudding’s understated sweetness. The egg yolks add just enough richness to make the pudding custardy. (And I also like that the pudding takes on the color of vanilla ice cream!)

After adding the milk, I left the aromatics in the pot with the rice and removed them just before the egg yolks were stirred in, then cooked the pudding for another 5 minutes.

I used Japanese mochi rice, which is true short-grain rice.

I served mine with just chopped pistachios on top.

I made the rice pudding for my dad to cheer him up after some time in the hospital. We both loved this pudding and enjoyed it with the pistachios.

I ended up adding some vanilla extract to the pudding because I wasn’t getting enough citrus flavor from the amount of zest that I used.

Originally published February 03, 2019

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