Portuguese Rice Pudding from thePortugueseAmericanMom.com

Mom’s Portuguese Rice Pudding (Arroz Doce)

rp hydrangia plate

Arroz Doce! Mmmmm… This is a great way to start off my blog for a couple of reasons. #1 – This is Easter week and coming from a Portuguese family, no Easter (or any holiday really) is complete without rich and creamy, Portuguese Rice Pudding. Growing up, I can’t recall a gathering without it.  #2 – This is a super easy recipe, but for some reason, it took me years to master it.  My mother can attest to the many times I called her reviewing her recipe and trying to figure out how I possibly could have missed a step.  So, what I would like to do is take you through the process to help you avoid the pain I endured from failed attempt after failed attempt and lead you to a perfect rice pudding in one shot for your Easter table!

Now please, please, please don’t confuse Portuguese Rice Pudding with traditional American style rice pudding you may find on your grocer’s shelves which is little more than vanilla pudding with cooked rice mixed in for kicks.  No, no, no… My mother’s rice pudding is anything but!

A couple of tips I have learned over the years before we get started.  First, you will need a heavy bottom stainless steel pot with a lid.  I’ll be honest, most of my cooking is done in non-stick cookware, but it just doesn’t work so well for this recipe because sometimes the rice will stick to the bottom (regardless of what type of cookware you use) and if it does, we need it to stay there; otherwise, you will end up with a bunch of brown bits floating through your final product, not so pretty or tasty.  Next, the type of rice you use for this dish is pretty critical.  You will need to find regular medium grain rice.  Please don’t try this with a brown rice or a boil in the bag rice or any type of minute rice and absolutely nothing parboiled.  Just plain cheap medium grain white rice is fine.  If you want to get fancy, you can get the slightly pricier River Rice, which is my Mom’s preferred brand, but its not necessary if you just follow these guidelines.  Also, I want to note that this recipe is very easily doubled or even tripled if you have a big enough pot, but I would not go further than that.

OK… Let’s get started…


Start off with 3 cups of milk and one cup of water in that heavy bottom pot I mentioned.


Whole milk is preferred, but 1% or 2% works just fine too… however, I would stay away from skim… note: I have done this with lactose free milk and it works out just great!


Add a small pinch of salt, don’t go crazy here.


Add in one lemon rind, just like this and turn the burner on to medium/high until the liquid comes to the start of a boil… so, you’ll want to watch that pot because the start of a boil can turn into a boil over in seconds with that much milk in the pot. (if you don’t care for lemon, you can absolutely leave this ingredient out, it will still be delicious… this method leaves the dish with a subtle undertone of lemon – nothing strong)


Next, add in the rice and stir. Then cover the pot and turn the burner down to med/low – low. (so just above the lowest setting on your knob) Be sure to stir periodically.

cooked rice_edited-1

After about 20 minutes or so, this is what you should see in your pot. If not, give it a bit more time, but keep your eye on it, because it can happen quickly.


Sugar is essential to this recipe… Please don’t reduce this ingredient as you will not have the results you are looking for. Stir this in when your rice is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed as shown above. The sugar will then cause your rice to have more liquid as the sugar melts in. (((Here is where I always messed up… for some reason I skipped this step, DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! This is what gives the pudding it’s proper consistency))) Cover the pan and cook another 5-10 minutes on med/low heat… Stir frequently! (every 2-3 minutes)


Once the liquid has once again mostly absorbed into your rice, very very quickly stir in the yolk of one large egg… you want to mix in rapidly so you don’t end up with chunks of cooked egg… this is meant to thicken your pudding and add some richness. And you are done! (If you have an egg allergy, this step can be left out, it will be a little different, but still pretty yummy)

remove lemon

Now you will have something that looks like this… pour into a shallow dish and gently shake back and forth to disperse the pudding… at this point, fish out the lemon rind as it has done it’s job.


While your pudding is still hot, grab some cinnamon and a cookie cutter or anything with a small rim, it’s traditional in my family to use a shot glass as seen here, for decorating.

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Gently touch the rim of your glass on pudding to moisten. Then dip into the cinnamon. Then back to the pudding to start your design. Repeat in any pattern you like. If I’m not doing this for a party or to serve as dessert for a dinner party or something, I will totally just sprinkle the cinnamon on top. But, since we are talking about Easter, this is what I do. A fun bunny design cut out of paper and laid on top would be great too… be creative.


And here it is! Yum!


Portuguese Rice Pudding recipe:

(serves 6)

1 cup rice, medium grain, white

1 cup water

3 cups milk, whole (1 or 2% also works)

1 cup white sugar

1 lg. egg yolk

1 lemon rind

1 scant pinch of salt

cinnamon for dusting


Bring water and milk to a boil with the lemon rind and salt on medium high.  Add in rice and stir, turn burner down to just above the lowest setting, cover the pot.  Stir occasionally.  About 20 minutes later most of the liquid should be evaporated… also, test the rice to see that it is fully tender… this is when you add in the sugar and stir.  The mixture will become liquefied again, continue cooking on low for another 5-10 minutes, stirring more frequently.  Once most of the liquid has once again absorbed into the rice, add in the egg yolk, stirring vigorously.  Pour into a shallow dish and sprinkle with cinnamon or form a design with cinnamon. Enjoy!

note: this is a naturally gluten free recipe… just ensure that each ingredient brand you use specifically is gluten free (as it should naturally be) and you are good to go!


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