Tres Leches-Ish Rice Pudding Recipe

This tres leches-ish rice pudding is a Latin American twist on a classic rice pudding recipe. Inspired by the cake of the same name, it incorporates three types of milk to create an ultra-creamy texture and is topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. Many of us have fond memories of rice pudding as a special childhood treat. When that rice pudding is infused with the flavors of Mexican tres leches cake, it takes the familiar dish to a new level.

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According to Ksenia Prints of At the Immigrant's Table, rice pudding is a warm and comforting dessert that can be found in many cultures around the world. This sweet treat relies on slowly cooked rice, which, in this version, is simmered with three types of milk — condensed, evaporated, and whole — to create a luscious, velvety pudding. Though the ingredient list is short, the layers of flavor are complex. The rice drinks up the milk mixture and softens into an almost souffle-like consistency. A dusting of cinnamon on top provides an extra dash of spice.

Tres leches rice pudding, the ultimate comfort food, feels like a warm hug in a bowl. Serve it for dessert or even breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning, for the perfect spoonable treat with a taste of nostalgia.

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Gather the ingredients for tres leches-ish rice pudding

Rice pudding is a staple of many countries, and the base ingredients remain unchanged. To make this dish, you will need room-temperature water and long-grain white rice. For the tres leches-inspired flavor, you will need a cinnamon stick, a can of evaporated milk, a can of condensed milk, and a cup of whole milk. A bit of ground cinnamon, for sprinkling, and your rice pudding is complete.

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Step 1: Boil the water

Bring 2 of cups water to a boil in a pot over high heat.

Step 2: Add the rice

Add the rice and cinnamon stick and return to a boil.

Step 3: Cook the rice

Lower heat to low, cover and cook for 18 minutes, until the rice is soft.

Step 4: Remove the cinnamon stick

Discard the cinnamon stick.

Step 5: Add the milks

Mix in the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk.

Step 6: Cook for 20 minutes

Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and stir constantly for 20 minutes until thickened.

Step 7: Ladle into bowls

Transfer the pudding to serving bowls.

Step 8: Top with cinnamon

Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.

Step 9: Serve the rice pudding

Serve warm.

What makes tres leches pudding different from regular rice pudding?

Most classic rice puddings involve rice that is simmered in milk until very soft and tender. What makes this rice pudding different is the addition of three types of milk — evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk. This distinction gives the pudding its name: Tres leches means "three milks" in Spanish. The pudding is inspired by the tres leches cake, a dessert popular in South and Central America, in which sponge cake is soaked in these three types of milk. This combination creates an ultra-rich texture that is the signature of the tres leches rice pudding. 

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Regular rice pudding usually contains just one type of milk, resulting in a thinner consistency and milder flavor. In this version, evaporated milk provides a velvety texture and rich taste. The sweetened condensed milk amps up the sweetness and takes the place of sugar, and it gives the pudding a smooth mouthfeel. Finally, the whole milk lends a fresh dairy flavor that balances the sweetness. Together, these three kinds of milk meld to transform the rice into a lush, spoonable pudding with complex layers of flavor. The rice soaks up the tres leches mixture, becoming soft and almost souffle-like. The result is a rice pudding more intense and satisfying than the standard version.

What are some serving suggestions for tres leches rice pudding?

While tres leches rice pudding is delicious on its own, there are many ways to dress it up before serving. The ultra-creamy pudding provides a neutral, milky base that pairs nicely with a variety of flavors. A sprinkle of cinnamon, the most traditional topping, highlights the warm spices used to cook the rice and gives a subtle heat. You could also add a pinch of nutmeg for a more complex spiced topping. Another old-school approach is to add some raisins to the mixture. In a more Latin-inspired vein, fresh tropical fruit is another popular topping, as the sweet, bright notes offset the rich pudding. Diced mango, pineapple slices, or a spoonful of passion fruit make excellent options. 

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Shredded coconut flakes would lend tropical flair and textural contrast. For a special touch, top the rice pudding with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or a drizzle of caramel or chocolate sauce. You can take inspiration from rice pudding's comforting cousin vanilla pudding and serve it with vanilla wafers, although crushed gingersnaps or graham crackers would also complement the cinnamon in the pudding. Other crunchy toppings like granola or toasted nuts can provide a tasty textural contrast to the pudding. You can get creative with different mix-ins to customize the tres leches rice pudding, as just about anything will beautifully finish this simple comforting dessert.

Can I make this rice pudding vegan?

To make a vegan version of tres leches rice pudding, the key is finding plant-based substitutes for the three types of dairy milk. For the evaporated milk, coconut milk works very well. Full-fat coconut milk has the same thick, creamy texture as that of homemade evaporated milk. For the sweetened condensed milk, you can make a homemade version by simmering coconut milk with sugar to reduce it down to a syrupy consistency. Add vegan butter or coconut oil for even more richness. 

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As for whole milk, soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk can provide a neutral milky flavor. Use unsweetened varieties to avoid clashing with the sweetened condensed milk. Once you have vegan versions of the three milks, the process is the same — simply simmer the cooked rice with the plant-based milk mixture until thickened and creamy. The result will be a dairy-free tres leches-inspired rice pudding with all the comforting qualities of the original. For extra creaminess, blend in some silken tofu.

Tres Leches-Ish Rice Pudding Recipe

5 (21 ratings)

Inspired by the Latin American tres leches cake, this easy rice pudding combines three kinds of milk and a dusting of cinnamon for a creamy, comforting dessert.

Prep Time
5
minutes
Cook Time
40
minutes
servings
6
Servings
Three servings of rice pudding on red napkin
Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 1 10-ounce can condensed milk
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot over high heat.
  2. Add the rice and cinnamon stick, and return to a boil.
  3. Lower the heat to low, cover and cook for 18 minutes, until the rice is soft.
  4. Discard the cinnamon stick.
  5. Mix in the evaporated milk, condensed milk, and whole milk.
  6. Cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and stir constantly for 20 minutes until thickened.
  7. Transfer the pudding to serving bowls.
  8. Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.
  9. Serve warm.

Nutrition

Calories per Serving 372
Total Fat 9.9 g
Saturated Fat 6.0 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 36.6 mg
Total Carbohydrates 60.1 g
Dietary Fiber 0.6 g
Total Sugars 33.5 g
Sodium 141.2 mg
Protein 11.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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