This 5-Ingredient Arroz Con Leche Recipe Is the Most Comforting Dairy-Free Dessert

Photo: Stocksy/ Ina Peters
Have you ever taken a bite out of something that instantly triggered a rush of memories, taking you back to your childhood days? Researchers have long studied the link between food and memories. Some have said it’s because of the strong stimulus that engages all five senses as you eat, while others chalk it up to conditioned taste aversion, in which humans avoid foods that previously made them ill, and conversely gravitate to foods that they did enjoy.

Either way, a bite of arroz con leche is enough to send me back to my grandmother’s kitchen, where cooking this classic dish was as routine as brushing one's teeth.

Arroz con leche, which is Spanish for rice with milk, is a rice pudding dish typically made with rice mixed with milk, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, and a sweetener. But depending on who you ask, families often have varying twists to this simple recipe (mine, for instance, loves to add a sprinkle of nutmeg—highly recommend). And while this dish is popular in South America, variations of rice pudding exist worldwide; in India, it’s kheer, and in Greece, it’s rizogalo, to name a few. But regardless of where you find it, this comforting dish is as soothing for the soul and as nostalgia-inducing as eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream straight out of the container.

This is why we couldn’t contain our excitement when we came across a vegan arroz con leche recipe. Traditionally, this dessert features milk. However, this version calls for dairy-free ingredients suitable for those with lactose intolerance or sensitivities to milk. Plus, it comes together with six simple household staple ingredients. Basically, it’s the perfect excuse to whip together a batch of this comforting dessert and feed your inner child what it craves.

Health benefits of this vegan arroz con leche recipe

This vegan arroz con leche recipe by The Almond Eater is the most delicious grown-up, glowed-up vegan version of the classic childhood dish. Unlike the dairy-based milk typically used to make arroz con leche, recipe developer Erin calls for non-dairy alternatives, like oat or almond milk.

The star ingredient in this recipe—rice—is packed with health benefits like B vitamins, magnesium, and iron, and it's how this dish gets its iconic creamy, ridiculously rich texture. (FYI: If white rice isn’t your usual go-to, you can always swap it out for brown rice, but it won’t be as soft and sticky as white rice.) And while most arroz con leche recipes call for a substantial amount of sugar, this recipe is naturally sweetened with just a hint of maple syrup. Finally, for that velvety and so-warming taste, this dish is made with a powerful anti-inflammatory spice, cinnamon, which infuses the pudding with both rich flavor and antioxidants.

To ensure that this dish comes out as perfect as you remember, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. For starters, you’ll want to ensure you’re frequently stirring the ingredients in the pot to help redistribute the heat and prevent burning or sticking to the pan. Additionally, you can adjust the milk quantity to your liking—if you enjoy a creamier and milkier pudding, simply add more milk until you achieve the desired consistency. Either way, this dish will instantly unlock fond core memories…or create new ones.

vegan arroz con leche
Photo: The Almond Eater

Vegan arroz con leche recipe

Yields 4 servings

1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
2 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks
3 cups dairy-free milk (or more, as needed)
1/3 cup maple syrup or more to taste
1/2 Tsp vanilla
1/4 Tsp cinnamon (optional)

1. Add rice, water, and cinnamon sticks to a large saucepan or dutch oven and bring to a boil. Boil rice for 8-10 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the water.

2. Then, remove the cinnamon sticks, add the milk, syrup, and vanilla, and stir, then bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste test and add more syrup and/or ground cinnamon if desired.

3. Serve warm, or place in the refrigerator for a few hours, then enjoy cold, and enjoy!

These glazed lemon donuts are what dreams are made of:

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