Rice pudding is kind of like the mac and cheese of the dessert world.  Everybody loves it, everybody has a favorite recipe for it, and it can be changed up in a million ways, but why would you want to?   Normally I’d say that I like my rice pudding creamy and straight up, with loads of vanilla bean specks and that’s it.  But this recipe for a fresh coconut variation is a good example of why you should never get too cozy with the status quo.

When you make rice pudding with rich coconut milk, fresh coconut meat, and a splash of dark rum along with that vanilla bean, and then sneak it warm from the pan, it defies description.  I feel like this is a just reward for all my efforts battling the Whole Coconut the other day.

For this recipe I use arborio rice, which is the short grain Italian rice used for risotto.  It’s got such great chewy texture and so much natural starch that I think it makes the creamiest pudding.  It’s a perfect choice because I always have a half box left in the cupboard after one risotto. or another.

This is also a great time to use upthose leftover vanilla beans.  After I scrape out the seeds for a recipe, I always put the used pod back in the jar for later use.  Those things keep on giving, let me tell you.  Just dust them off and put them away for another day, there are so many gazillions of vanilla seeds in each pod, and you want to get your money’s worth!  I keep one jar for the used and one for the fresh.

The toasted coconut on top add a nice sweetness and crunch.  It gives it some visual appeal, too, if you’re serving this to guests.

I like this recipe because it can all be done on the stove.  That just makes it seems like quick and easy project when I don’t have to mess with the oven.  It can be eaten hot or cold, so it’s a dessert for all seasons, and if you’re a rice pudding lover I don’t have to tell you that it makes the best midnight snack and an even better breakfast.

My recipe calls for fresh grated coconut meat, and that is best for this pudding, but you could use packaged coconut, just make sure to get unsweetened.  If you use sweetened, you will need to cut down on the amount of sugar.

Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding  ~~~adapted from Serious Eats

serves 6
1 cup arborio rice
a couple of recycled vanilla beans
13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut meat 
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp coconut extract 
1 Tbsp dark rum (or 1 tsp rum extract)
1/2 cup heavy cream (or more coconut milk for a vegan version)
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted *

  • Cook the rice in 4 cups water for 15 minutes.
  • Drain and return the rice to the pan and add the coconut milk, vanilla bean pods, sugar, coconut meat, rum, vanilla paste and coconut extract.
  • Bring up to a simmer and cook on low for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring constantly, until thick and the rice is tender.
  • Stir in the heavy cream, remove the vanilla pods, and ladle the pudding into serving dishes.
  • Top with toasted coconut and enjoy hot, or refrigerate until chilled.

* To toast the coconut, spread it out in a small saute pan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until it turns a golden brown.  It can burn in an instant, so watch it very carefully.

 How do you do rice pudding?


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16 Responses to Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding (vegan or not)

  1. you know, one of the first foods i cooked for Stella (the wee one) out of the Williams Sonoma baby/toddler cookbook was a coconut rice pudding. I thought “oh, ok, this is easy, it smells good….WAIT. THIS IS DELICIOUS.” and i used to make way extra to eat with her. because it’s wonderful, and i can’t believe babies get to eat that good. this one is obviously more sophisticated than the one i made, and certainly even more delicious, which means the wee one may get a new version of the treat soon.

  2. grace says:

    i think rice pudding is weird, but i love coconut so much that it has driven me to bookmark this recipe. :)

  3. bellini says:

    You have convinced me that this is the best rice pudding ever.

  4. Elaine says:

    This sounds wonderful and I can hardly wait to try it …luckily for me I have all the ingredients in the pantry!

  5. Magnolia Verandah says:

    Love rice pudding, or semelina, or tapioca as a dessert and if there is any left over don’t mind it for breakfast too! Oooh a splash of rum ……now that takes it out of the kiddie realm and topped with toasted coconut that’s a nice alternative.

  6. The Café Sucré Farine says:

    i haven’t had rice pudding since I was a kid but you brought back sweet memories and a urge to re-visit it!

  7. Gretchen says:

    Okay, this will be the weekend treat…and I will get some really good chocolate block to stick into the center to melt right before inhaling it like nobody’s business!

  8. Averie @ Averie Cooks says:

    I love making coconut milk rice pudding.I usually add raisins and a ridic amt of cinnamon. Yours is creamy perfection, Sue!

  9. I also haven’t had rice pudding since my mother last made it years ago. The arborio rice and coconut have my interest piqued in trying some though!

  10. I haven’t had rice pudding for years, but now I’m really craving it! Yours looks and sounds so delicious!

  11. Mary Younkin says:

    oh my heck. You just did it again. My mouth is watering and I’m suddenly craving rice pudding like it’s a three layer chocolate cake. This sounds amazing! And most definitely worthy of a battle with the coconut.

  12. Tricia Buice says:

    Look at all those lovely vanilla beans! Love the coconut on top and the creaminess of the pudding – absolutely a winner! I knew something was up when you cracked a coconut! Great job Sue.

  13. I’ve never been a fan of rice pudding, but this one sounds terrific. I think I’ll have to give it another try.

  14. Kate says:

    As a rice pudding lover I have to say that this looks absolutely amazing! I must try this coconut version…coconut is my other love! :-)

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