The perfect comfort food to perk up a dreary day, this recipe (number 12 in our Baking Together series) for a small batch of vanilla rice pudding is just right for two. Made entirely on the stovetop, rice pudding isn’t hard, but if you’ve never made a custard before, patience and attention will be your friends. You’ll need a heavy-duty (or at least good quality) medium-sized (preferably nonstick) saucepan. If your stovetop burners don’t hold a low simmer well, try the trick of using a cast-iron pan under the saucepan to spread heat more evenly. When you first bring the milk to a simmer, watch it carefully as milk loves to boil over; simply lift the pan off the burner for a few seconds to let the milk return to a simmer.

While I love to eat rice pudding warm (I’m impatient!), it is delicious chilled, too, and I’ve also offered you some garnishes and some flavor add-ins (see below the recipe) if you want to vary or add to the vanilla flavor.

Makes about 1 3/4 cups

  • 2 cups (16 ounces) milk, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) long grain white rice, such as basmati or jasmine
  • Pinch table salt
  • 1 egg yolk from a large egg
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Flavor additions* (optional)
  • Your choice of garnishes (optional): chopped toasted nuts, dried fruit, berries, finely chopped chocolate, fruit preserves or citrus segments 


1. Combine the milk, rice, and salt in a medium saucepan (nonstick is great). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. (Watch carefully so that the milk does not boil over; if it begins to, move the pot off the heat for a few seconds until you can reduce the heat.) Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, 14 minutes.

2. Remove the cover and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the mixture is reduced to 1 ¾ cups, about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on your stovetop. (The best way to be sure you’ve reduced the liquids enough is to pour the mixture into a two-cup glass Pyrex measure to check and then return it to the pan.) You’ll need to stir constantly towards the end so that the pudding doesn’t scorch. (The rice will be more visible as the mixture reduces.) Slide the pan from the heat.

2. Whisk the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar together in a medium bowl. Slowly add about half of the hot rice mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pan and whisk until blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon and you can draw a line through it with your finger, (170°F on an instant read thermometer), about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not let the pudding boil. It will have the consistency of loose porridge.

3. Slide the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Taste and add more sugar, a touch more vanilla, and an additional pinch of salt, if desired. (If adding cocoa or citrus zest, stir in at this point; see below.) Scrape the pudding into a small bowl or two individual bowls, cover the surface directly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve. (Alternatively you can serve the rice warm).

4. To serve, give the pudding a stir and add a splash or two of milk to loosen, if desired. Serve straight up or with your choice of garnishes.


Flavor Additions 


Cocoa: Stir a tablespoon or more of your favorite hot chocolate mix into each warm or chilled serving. 

Lemon or Orange: Stir a teaspoon or so of finely grated lemon or orange zest into the pudding at the end of cooking.

Peppermint Stick:
If serving the pudding warm, plunk a peppermint stick or candy cane into each serving of warm pudding and give it a stir.


Flavor Variation


Coffee: Add 1 teaspoon of instant espresso or coffee granules along with the egg and sugar mixture.