Creamy Portuguese Rice Pudding (Arroz Doce)

Arroz doce
Robert George Young/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 75 mins
Servings: 4 servings

When most people think of rice pudding, they think of that dessert that is found in the glass refrigerated cabinets in diners―a cold, white pudding in a stemmed glass with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top. But the Portuguese version is different and, in fact, if you translate it into English it actually means "sweet rice."

What makes it different is that Arroz Doce is made from a short-grain rice (such as arborio rice) that is cooked slowly, is creamier than the diner version, and is flavored with lemon peel.

Arroz Doce is truly a favorite Portuguese dessert and is almost like an ice cream cone to children who grew up with it. It is generally served chilled, but some people prefer theirs at room temperature or slightly warm. That's certainly not traditional, so don't expect to find it that way if you visit a Portuguese family!


  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Peel of 1 lemon (cut into long strips, avoid as much of the white pith as possible)
  • 1 cup rice (short-grain, arborio is a good choice)
  • 2 cups milk (hot, you can substitute some of this with cream, if you like, for a richer consistency and flavor)
  • Garnish: ground cinnamon
  • Garnish: paper-thin slices of lemon

Steps to Make It

  1. Place the water, salt, and lemon peel into a medium pan and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and allow the water to simmer with a lid on for about 15 minutes.

  2. Remove the lemon peel from the water with a slotted spoon and discard.

  3. Add the rice to the water and bring it back up to a boil. Then reduce it to a simmer and allow the rice to absorb all of the water (about 10 minutes).

  4. Now slowly add the hot milk, a bit at a time, to the rice mixture. After each addition (of about 1/2 cup), allow the liquid to absorb before adding the next batch of milk. Stir frequently and keep the heat low, so that the rice does not burn at the bottom of the pan. This should take about 25 to 30 minutes.

  5. Pour the rice into a serving dish. Sprinkle the top with the cinnamon and the lemon slice if you like.

  6. Chill the rice and then serve.


  • Arroz Doce recipes vary a bit and produce creamier or more solid versions, depending on the family and part of Portugal the recipe comes from. The recipe above is on the creamier side.
  • The method of slowly adding the milk comes from Jean Anderson's book, The Foods of Portugal. It actually works a little better than dumping all of the milk in at once and is very similar to making risotto.
  • The Portuguese usually sprinkle cinnamon on top of the dessert after it is poured into a serving dish. Very often, it is done in the shape of a heart or a lattice pattern, but you can also just sprinkle it on.

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