Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding (vegan or not)

Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding ~ this quick and easy dessert is a twist on everybody’s favorite comfort food ~ this rice pudding recipe can easily be made vegan, too.

Photo of coconut rice pudding served in glasses on a tile tray.

Rice pudding is 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.

Photo of a pot of creamy coconut rice pudding next to a tile tray with an empty glass.

For this creamy coconut rice pudding I use arborio rice

It’s 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.

Photo of glasses of creamy coconut rice pudding on a tile tray.

This is a great time to use up those 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.

Overhead photo of glasses of creamy coconut rice pudding topped with toasted coconut, on a tile tray with napkins and spoons.

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.

Overhead photo of two glasses of creamy coconut rice pudding topped with toasted coconut on a tile tray.

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.

Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.


3.24 from 43 votes

Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding (vegan or not)

Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding ~ this quick and easy dessert is a twist on everybody's favorite comfort food ~ this rice pudding recipe can easily be made vegan, too.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Yield 6 servings
Author Sue Moran


  • 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.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    Stacy Barnes
    July 3, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    The recipe calls for 13.5 oz can of coconut milk butter but it does not specify unsweetened or regular. I look forward to trying this!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      July 3, 2021 at 5:22 pm

      I buy unsweetened coconut in the can, Stacy.

  • Reply
    April 10, 2020 at 6:15 pm

    5 stars
    This was very good, I made it vegan

    • Reply
      April 10, 2020 at 8:11 pm

      Thanks Holly <3

  • Reply
    October 16, 2019 at 7:50 am

    If I make a double batch, does it freeze well if I want to save half to take to my sister? It’s absolutely fantastic and I know she would love it too! ????

    • Reply
      October 16, 2019 at 8:00 am

      I know you can freeze rice pudding, but you have to take care to use a freezer safe container so it won’t get freezer burn.

  • Reply
    sandra m gregory
    December 11, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    hi is vanilla bean paste the seeds from the pod?

    • Reply
      December 11, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Yes, it’s a paste made from the seeds, but less expensive and easier than using actual seeds. You can buy it in most large grocery stores, or check Amazon. They do vary in quality, and the one I like is Neilsen-Massey. It’s not cheap, but a little goes a long way.

  • Reply
    shannon weber
    April 19, 2013 at 1:10 am

    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.

  • Reply
    April 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm

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

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm

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

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013 at 7:04 am

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

  • Reply
    Magnolia Verandah
    April 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      April 12, 2013 at 4:25 am

      You know, I think I’ve only had tapioca once in my life, I have to check into it, I really have no idea what tapioca is.

  • Reply
    The Café Sucré Farine
    April 11, 2013 at 9:25 pm

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

  • Reply
    April 12, 2013 at 12:03 am

    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!

  • Reply
    Averie @ Averie Cooks
    April 11, 2013 at 4:04 pm

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

  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    April 11, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013 at 7:38 pm

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

  • Reply
    Mary Younkin
    April 11, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Tricia Buice
    April 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Linda A. Thompson-Ditch
    April 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm

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

  • Reply
    April 11, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    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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