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Costa Rican arroz con leche combines white rice, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla for the perfect sweet dessert served warm or cold!
About Costa Rican arroz con leche
Arroz con leche (rice with milk) is a favorite food across Latin America. Young children are introduced to the food before they can even walk through the popular Spanish folk song “Arroz con leche, me quiero casar…” The food is a Latin cultural and culinary phenomenon.
This dish isn’t just a Latin American or Costa Rican favorite though. Known as rice pudding in English, this dessert is popular in Asia, Europe, and even Canada and the United States. It’s a gluten-free food.
Arroz con leche originated in Spain during the Middle Ages and is thought to have been inspired by Arabic culinary tradition. While the Spanish style of arroz con leche usually requires cinnamon and vanilla, the recipe exists all over in different variations.
In Costa Rica, arroz con leche is most often a dessert that is eaten at celebrations. This is for several reasons- it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make, but also it’s really easy to make a LOT of it at once. Like so many Costa Rican recipes, each family has their own twist on the recipe- some people add raisins, pineapple, vanilla, nutmeg, you name it.
It’s usually eaten with a nice hot cup of coffee or agua dulce, and always with your favorite company. Here is our family’s arroz con leche recipe from the town of San Ramon, Costa Rica. I hope you love it.
Related post: Costa Rican Tres Leches Recipe
Arroz con Leche Costa Rican Recipe
(Printable recipe below)
margarine or butter (optional)
granulated white sugar
sweetened condensed milk
pinch of salt lime zest
In a large saucepan, combine the rice, margarine, 3.5 cups water, rice, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Boil over high heat until the water dries up, stirring occasionally to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the rice dries up add the hot water, sugar, and evaporated milk, stirring constantly.
Add half the can of sweetened condensed milk, the lime zest and pinch of salt. Boil and stir until the desired consistency is reached.
Serve warm and sprinkled with ground cinnamon or nutmeg powder.
Related post: Miel de coco- Costa Rican Dessert Recipe
You can use coconut milk in place of the evaporated milk.
You can use butter in place of margarine, or omit all together.
You can really use any kind of citrus zest- orange, lemon, grapefruit, etc.
You can use any type of rice, but we have found in the United States that the rice that most resembles the home-grown Costa Rican rice is Thai Jasmine rice.
The last time I visited Costa Rica I made arroz con leche with our matriarch and then I took it to some friends so they could enjoy it. And they turned their nose up at my dessert!
Turns out there are two ways to make arroz con leche- seco y aguado. Our family prefers seco- where you allow the rice to almost fully absorb all of the liquid, and the arroz con leche gets almost crispy in texture.
Aguado is when the arroz con leche has a bit more liquid in it. If you want to get the aguado texture, just cook the rice pudding for less time- let it heat through but don’t allow all of the liquid to absorb before removing it from the heat.
Another variation is the raisins- our family is totally anti-raisin, but so many recipes include them. Some traditional recipes also include chunks of pineapple, and even use a cup of pineapple juice in place of water.
Many people add a good tablespoon of vanilla extract to the recipe too. I love it like that- but it’s not our family recipe so I omitted it.
Related post: Empanadas de Chiverre – Costa Rica
Arroz con leche is served warm in small bowls. If you make it ahead of a party, it’s customary to chill it in the refrigerator for up to a week and serve cold.
- 3 cups white rice
- 3.5 cups water
- 2 tablespoons margarine or butter (optional)
- 2 cups hot water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 can of evaporated milk
- pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- In a large saucepan, combine the rice, margarine, 3.5 cups water, rice, cinnamon stick, and cloves.
- Boil over high heat until the water dries up, stirring occasionally to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the rice dries up add the hot water, sugar, and evaporated milk, stirring constantly.
- Add half the can of sweetened condensed milk, the lime zest, and pinch of salt.
- Boil and stir until the desired consistency is reached.
- Serve warm and sprinkled with ground cinnamon or nutmeg powder.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 317Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 18mgSodium: 93mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 1gSugar: 37gProtein: 5g
Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.
Welcome! I’m Christa, a former high school teacher married to a handsome Costa Rican and mother of two bilingual daughters. I love all things Spanish and bi-cultural, (especially travel and food!) and you’ll find my observations on life here. Thanks for stopping by