Rice pudding is classic comfort food — easy and inexpensive to make, great for dessert and satisfying to snack on. It's even passable as breakfast.

Most often I wind up making rice pudding out of the last of a pot of rice we haven’t finished (and as often as not I forget I’m doing so, leaving the milk to boil over onto the stove) but that method isn’t ideal. ​

Whether you’re after something creamy, caramelized or exotic, here are a half dozen ways to properly satisfy that craving for rice pudding.

Creamy Stovetop Rice Pudding

This is the quintessential rice pudding most are after — creamy and spiked with vanilla, with raisins and cinnamon added if you’re into that sort of thing. This is as close to the store-bought Kozy Shack rice pudding as I’ve made at home. Although there are many, many similar versions of this stove-top formula around, I took my initial direction from Dave Lieberman.

  • ½ cup short grain (arborio) rice
  • 2 tsp. butter
  • 2 cups whole milk or half & half
  • ¼ cup sugar (white or brown)
  • 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp. good vanilla
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)

In a medium saucepan, bring the rice, butter and one cup water to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, until tender. Add the cream, sugar and vanilla (bean or extract) and cinnamon stick, if using, and simmer for about 30 minutes until the rice absorbs most of the cream and the mixture is thick and creamy. Serve immediately while warm, or cool it down. If it thickens up too much, stir in a little more cream to loosen it up.

Serves six.

Creamy rice pudding

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Baked Rice Pudding

I made this years ago because I was curious of the low ratio of rice to milk, but it’s divine chilled. I upped the quantity of rice, which still swims in the milk until it spends three hours in the oven getting acquainted. It will still seems loose — and it is — but it will firm up a bit as it cools. I love the caramelized milk skin you get on top. Stir in a few raisins at the end of you like. (Adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook, by Marion Cunningham)

  • 4 cups milk
  • ¼ cup sugar or honey, or to taste
  • a pinch of salt
  •  cup long-grained rice
  • ½ cup raisins (optional – I stirred these in later)

Preheat the oven to 300° F. Put all the ingredients into a buttered baking dish and stir. Bake for three hours, stirring three times during the first hour of baking so that the rice doesn’t settle. Stir in the raisins (if you like) and eat warm, or chill until nice and cold.

Serves four.

Baked rice pudding

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Coconut Rice Pudding with Caramelized Pineapple

This makes a tasty dessert after a spicy curry or Asian-inspired dinner; the rice pudding can be made ahead of time and served cold, which is a delicious contrast to the warm caramelized pineapple. This is equally delicious made with bananas or mango instead.

Rice Pudding:

  • ¼ cup short grain Arborio rice
  • 114 oz. (398 mL) can coconut milk
  • ¼ cup sugar (white or brown) or honey

Caramelized Pineapple:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1-2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • a squeeze of lime juice

In a medium saucepan, combine the rice, coconut milk, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the mixture thickens to the consistency of pudding. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a heavy skillet set over medium-high heat; cook the pineapple for four to five minutes, then sprinkle with brown sugar, honey and a squeeze of lime juice and cook until the juices cook down to a syrupy consistency. Serve warm over the rice pudding.

Serves four.​

Coconut rice pudding

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Maple Brown & Wild Rice Pudding

There’s no reason rice pudding must be made with white rice. Substitute 1½ cups of a brown/wild rice blend instead if you like, and use any kind of dried fruit — chopped dried apricots are tasty. This also makes a fab breakfast.

  • ¾ cup brown rice
  • ¾ cup wild rice
  • 3 cups whole milk (or half & half)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • ½ cup raisins or dried cranberries

In a pot of boiling water, cook the brown and wild rice for 45-50 minutes until very tender. Drain and return to the pot. Add milk and maple syrup, and cook on medium-low until almost all the milk has been absorbed. Taste and add more maple syrup, if it needs it. Remove from heat and stir in the cranberries.

Makes about six cups.

Brown and wild rice pudding

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Frozen Rice Pudding

If you wind up with overcooked, mushy rice pudding, chill it in the fridge, stir in a little extra cream and pour into your ice cream machine. It will churn into an almost-smooth concoction that tastes like a dense, creamy, rice pudding-flavoured ice cream. Heaven.

Frozen rice pudding

(Julie Van Rosendaal)

Individual Baked Rice Puddings

Make individual, single-serving rice puddings for a party or just to have in the fridge for snacking. Place a heaping tablespoon of short-grain (arborio) rice, two teaspoons of sugar and a half cup of milk or cream (half & half or heavy — it’s up to you) in each ramekin. Put them on a baking sheet (lined with a silicone mat to keep them from sliding around) and bake them at 325° F for an hour. They will puff up, then sink back down. The edges of the ramekins will wind up coated with caramelized milk. Serve warm or chilled.

Rice pudding - individual

(Julie Van Rosendaal)