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Spanish Arroz con Leche Recipe from the Basque country

Learn how to make Arroz con Leche and impress your loved ones with this sweet Spanish dessert. Check out our easy-to-follow Arroz con Leche recipe.

Today my friend Ana is going to share a recipe for Arroz con Leche from her grandmother.

Ana is from the Basque Country, and she really likes Spanish gastronomy. She learned to cook from a young age by observing her grandmother and mother. Ana loves discovering different flavors and trying the dishes she cooks.

Arroz con Leche may be an old dessert, but it has proven to win the hearts of many – even the young ones of today.

It is prepared widely in Spain, most especially in the north. 

With only a few ingredients needed, this dish can easily be your go-to dessert.

What is Arroz con leche?

2 glasses with Spanish milk rice
©Rimma_Bondarenko via

Arroz con Leche in English is rice pudding. Its literal translation is “rice with milk.”

Basically, an Arroz con Leche recipe will have you cooking rice in different kinds of milk and then sweetening it with sugar and spices.

The traditional Spanish Arroz con Leche is a well-loved dessert. The Arroz con Leche ingredients that we know now are far simpler than how they used to be. Did you know that in the past, Spanish rice pudding called for egg yolks? Nowadays, it is distinctively called Arroz Emperatriz.

As the dish travels from one kitchen to another, several varieties have emerged. Here are some of the most notable ones that go way beyond being just a dessert of rice with milk:

  • In Costa Rica, for example, an Arroz con Leche dessert includes nutmeg and butter. 
  • Come to Mexico and you will find chocolate and cayenne pepper in the ingredients list!
  • In Portugal, sugar is added and then torched for the rice pudding to have a caramelized finish on top.
  • In Colombia, it is normal to find some grated coconut sprinkled on top of the Arroz con Leche.
  • Peru adds in cloves to the Spanish rice pudding recipe.

The classic Arroz con Leche is simple and easy to make and can be served hot or cold, depending on your preference. In restaurants in Spain, though, this dish is almost always served hot straight out of the kitchen.

How to make Arroz con Leche?

A classic recipe for Arroz con Leche calls for rice, milk, sugar, and lemon zest. Other recipes will ask you to add in spices. 

What separates Spanish Arroz con Leche from the other varieties is that it sticks to the basic ingredients of a rice pudding.

For example, in some recipes, you will find the addition of evaporated and condensed milk to the mixture. Spanish Arroz con Leche sticks to whole milk.

Gather your ingredients for Arroz con Leche and get ready to cook one of the easiest desserts you will ever make.

The cooking and setting part takes some time, but the wait is surely worth it.

2 glasses of Spanish arroz con leche
©Rimma_Bondarenko via

Ana’s Tricks to make Arroz con Leche

  • Add a pinch of salt to the milk.
  • Stir, stir, stir all the time with low heat.
  • Stir everything with a wooden spoon.
  • A soup spoon is about 10 grams of sugar.
  • Medium grain rice is best for preparing Spanish Arroz con Leche.

What are the best toppings for Arroz con Leche?

  • Cinnamon – gives a sweet and woody taste to your rice with milk
  • Coconut – adds in a mild nutty and tropical vibe to your dessert
  • Raisins – gives a soft and juicy texture to the mouth and a sudden burst of sweet flavor
  • Honey – depends on the type of honey you use, you can get a dark and robust flavor or a gentle and sweet accent

Where did Arroz con Leche originate from?

Arroz con Leche Receta del País Vasco
© Spanish Food Guide by Tim Kroeger

Many articles will tell you that Arroz con Leche came from Spain. It has a Spanish name to start.

However, some claim that the Muslims were the ones who influenced Spain into embracing this dessert. They brought the rice pudding to the country when they conquered the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula.

Spain, though, is undeniably the mastermind as to why Arroz con Leche is loved worldwide.

It influenced many countries during its voyages, giving birth to many Spanish Arroz con Leche counterparts across the globe.

Is Arroz con Leche unhealthy?

Arroz con Leche is not unhealthy at all, although this dish is not the healthiest dessert neither. It is a source of protein and calcium, and the fat in the recipe can easily be lessened with low-fat substitutes. 

Compared to other sweet desserts out there like ice cream, you are still better off with a classic Arroz con Leche. 

Why is my Arroz con Leche hard?

The solution is simple – add more milk. You will see from the step-by-step instructions below in which part of the recipe you must add in more milk to ensure that the consistency of your Spanish rice pudding is to your liking.

Spanish Arroz con Leche Recipe

1. Pour three liters of fresh milk in a saucepan over low heat. You can also substitute milk with water, although this will result in a less creamy texture.

2. Add a pinch of salt, sticks of cinnamon, and the peel of a lemon or orange to the milk.  As the liquid simmers, stir continuously at low heat using a wooden spoon. 

3. When the milk begins to boil, add in the rice and the sugar.

4. Stir everything well with a wooden spoon so that the sugar mixes well. 

5. Bring the pot to a simmer and stir the rice with milk often until cream forms. This can take about an hour up to an hour and 15 minutes. Take a teaspoonful of the rice and taste if the firmness of the Spanish rice pudding is already to your liking. Otherwise, at this point, you can still adjust the consistency by adding in more milk.

6. Take the pan off the heat. Transfer the cooked pudding to a bowl. Let it cool down for about three minutes, and then afterward cover it with ground cinnamon. Add in other garnish as you like. 

7. Enjoy your Spanish Arroz con Leche either warm or chilled.

Yield: 4

Arroz con Leche Recipe from the Basque Country

Arroz con Leche Receta del País Vasco

Learn how to make Arroz con Leche and impress your loved ones with this sweet Spanish dessert. Check out our easy-to-follow Arroz con Leche recipe.

Tiempo de preparación 10 minutes
Tiempo de cocción 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes


  • 3 liters of fresh milk
  • The rind of a lemon (or orange)
  • Salt
  • 250 gr of rice (a cup full of rice)
  • 80 gr of sugar


    1. Put three liters of fresh milk over low heat.
    2. Add a pinch of salt, 2 sticks of cinnamon and the peel of a lemon (or orange) to the milk.
    3. When the milk begins to boil add about 250 grams of rice and about 80 grams of sugar.
    4. Stir everything well with a wooden spoon so that the sugar mixes well.
    5. Let the heat simmer and stir often until the milk forms cream. An hour, an hour and 15 minutes!
    6. When this is done you put it in a bowl, leave it for three minutes, and then cover it with ground cinnamon.
    7. Enjoy your Arroz con Leche.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 81Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 27mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 2g

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary depending on several factors, so is not guaranteed to be accurate.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make Spanish Arroz con Leche?

To make Spanish Arroz con Leche, you will need the following ingredients: rice, milk, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, and a pinch of salt. Start by rinsing the rice under cold water and then cooking it in a saucepan with water until it becomes tender. Drain the water and add milk, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon sticks, and salt to the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, until the rice absorbs most of the milk and the consistency becomes creamy. Remove the lemon peel and cinnamon sticks, and let it cool before serving.

How long does it take to cook Spanish Arroz con Leche?

The cooking time for Spanish Arroz con Leche can vary, but on average, it takes about 40 to 45 minutes to prepare. This includes the time needed to cook the rice until tender, as well as the additional time to simmer the rice with milk, sugar, and other ingredients until it reaches a creamy consistency. Remember to stir the mixture frequently while cooking to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.

Can I use a different type of rice for Arroz con Leche?

While traditional Spanish Arroz con Leche is made with short-grain rice, such as Arborio or Valencia rice, you can use other types of rice as well. Long-grain rice, such as Basmati or Jasmine, can be used as a substitute, but keep in mind that the texture and cooking time may vary slightly. The key is to select a rice variety that absorbs liquid well and becomes creamy when cooked.

Is Arroz con Leche served warm or cold?

Depending on personal preference, Arroz con Leche can be served either warm or cold. Some people enjoy it warm, while others prefer to chill it in the refrigerator before serving. If you serve it warm, let it cool slightly after cooking to allow the flavors to develop. If you prefer it cold, refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight to allow it to set and enhance the creamy texture.

Can I customize the flavors in Arroz con Leche?

Yes, you can customize the flavors in Arroz con Leche to suit your taste. While the traditional recipe uses cinnamon sticks and lemon peel for flavoring, you can experiment with other additions. Some popular variations include adding a splash of vanilla extract, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, a touch of nutmeg, or even a drizzle of caramel sauce on top. Feel free to get creative and adapt the recipe to your liking while preserving this classic Spanish dessert’s creamy and comforting nature.

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