Easy Traditional British Rice Pudding

Traditional British rice pudding with a choice of roasted rhubarb or homemade jam toppings

The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

  • Total: 2 hrs 45 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 2 hrs 30 mins
  • Resting Time: 15 mins
  • Servings: 6 servings

Some puddings simply never go out of style, and a traditional British rice pudding is one of them. This straightforward recipe has been an English supper staple for centuries.

The homiest of comfort foods, rice pudding cooks low and slow, filling the house with an enticingly sweet aroma. It calls for common ingredients you can keep on hand to grab when the mood for a nostalgic dessert strikes. Short-grain rice, similar to what you would use for risotto, works best for a thick and creamy dish. Plan ahead when making rice pudding, as it cooks for 2 1/2 hours and needs 15 minutes or so to stand once you pull it out of the oven.

Top your homemade rice pudding with classic British toppings like roasted rhubarb, poached pears, or high-quality jam. Or stray from tradition and try caramel sauce, amaretto cherries, or stir in cinnamon and raisins.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon/25 grams butter (for greasing the dish)
  • 3 cups/850 milliliters whole milk
  • 1 cup/285 milliliters double cream (heavy cream)
  • 1 vanilla pod (split)
  • 4 ounces/110 grams short-grain white rice (about 2/3 cup)
  • 4 teaspoons/25 grams golden caster sugar (or superfine white sugar)
  • 2 strips of lemon zest
  • Ground nutmeg (for topping, preferably whole grated)
  • Serving suggestion: poached pears, roasted rhubarb, or homemade jam

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Preheat the oven to 300 F/150 C.

    Ingredients for making British rice pudding
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  2. Lightly butter a 1.25-liter ovenproof pudding dish or an 8 x 8-inch square baking dish.

    Lightly buttered baking dish for the pudding
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  3. Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod using the back of a knife. Add the seeds to the pan and stir to disperse them. Drop in the vanilla pod. Heat the milk and cream through very gently; do not let it boil.

    Combining the milk, cream, and vanilla bean in saucepan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  4. Move the pan off the heat and leave the milk to infuse for 5 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod.

    The pan is moved off of the heat, and the vanilla bean is removed from the pan
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  5. Spread the rice and sugar in the buttered dish. Pour the warmed milk over it and stir thoroughly. Add the lemon strips and stir again.

    The pudding is added to the baking dish
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  6. Grate a thick layer of nutmeg to generously cover the top.

    A thick layer of nutmeg is added to the top of the pudding
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  7. Place the dish on a baking sheet and carefully put it in the center of the preheated oven. Bake the pudding for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until it turns creamy and thick and forms a skin of nutmeg on top.

    Baked rice pudding
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  8. Let the pudding cool and set for about 15 minutes.

    The pudding is pudding cooling on a marble cutting board
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
  9. Serve the rice pudding on its own or with stewed fruit such as poached pears or roasted rhubarb. You could also add a dollop of homemade jam on top.

    Rice pudding in a baking dish and a single serving in a bowl topped with roasted rhubarb
    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

How to Store

Refrigerate leftover rice pudding in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Tips

  • Use full-fat milk and cream for the creamiest result.
  •  Do not throw away vanilla beans even after you scrape the seeds out; simply pop them into a jar of sugar with a tight-fitting lid. Every time you have a used pod, add it to the jar. The pods flavor the sugar with the sweet scent of vanilla, making it perfect for use in baking, ice cream, and desserts.

Recipe Variation

  • If you must replace the vanilla bean, use about 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.