Rice Pudding- The Ultimate Comfort Food

Rice pudding with pistachios & salted caramel | Sippity Sup

What do kids today think about rice pudding? Real rice pudding. The kind made by mothers and grandmothers. The kind you can stand a spoon up in. Do kids today even understand what rice pudding has meant to a waning generation of children who were raised on pudding that did not come in a plastic cup or a cardboard box?

I make that statement with a certain air of nostalgia, though I admit the nostalgia is not my own. I was one of those kids that grew up on pudding that came in a box. A box with the bright red (all caps) JELL‑O logo. The pudding of my youth came in two colors: Brown and Yellow (I hesitate to even call them flavors, but technically they were chocolate and vanilla).

In my very young years these pudding boxes were prepared with milk heated on the stove. As a young cook my mom made JELL‑O pudding as a treat. By the time the 1970s were in full swing my mom had discovered Julia Child. JELL‑O pudding was banned in our house. However, my love of the stuff was already deeply ingrained. There was nothing my mother and Julia could do to dampen my desire for JELL‑O pudding.

This is also about the same time that JELL‑O introduced its instant varieties. Meaning even a shy boy could “cook” pudding all on his own. Just add milk, stir and chill. I was so enamored of the instant variety that I would often spend my allowance on the stuff. Though in hindsight I realize my fascination with pudding wasn’t because I loved the taste (I don’t remember it having any taste). Rather it was the joy I found in the “cooking” of the pudding (behind my mother’s back).

Even then I knew it was a forbidden thrill– a guilty pleasure. Little boys shouldn’t get thrilled by making pudding when nobody was looking. Little boys stole peeks at Playboy magazine and collected baseball cards with their allowances. The rules were clear– inedible pink bubblegum sticks for boys. Instant pudding and Easy-Bake Ovens for girls.

This bit of personal history is offered to highlight the fact that thick and creamy, melt in your mouth rice pudding is not something from my youth. Nope, the memory of that rice pudding is stolen from my partner Ken’s childhood. Because he had one of those grandmas who made rice pudding the old-fashioned way. Thick with rice and studded throughout with raisins. His grandmother’s rice pudding was just slightly sweet. It was made in one pot and plopped into bowls. Seconds (and thirds maybe) were not unheard of.

Rice Pudding

These days I know how much Ken loves rice pudding, and I’d love to make it for him. But he loves a certain style of rice pudding. A style that seems to be disappearing from our tables. Still, every once in a blue moon I try to make rice pudding for him. Old-fashioned rice pudding. Thick, creamy and sorta sweet (with raisins studded throughout). The kind of rice pudding you can stand a spoon up in. But once I get in the kitchen, that little boy’s adventurous love of cooking comes back to haunt me. Which means my rice pudding never comes out quite right for Ken. I just can’t help myself. I always tart in up in a way that seems foreign to the little boy in Ken who’s looking (again) for his grandma’s embrace. GREG

rice pudding with pistachios and salted caramel

Cardamom Rice Pudding with Pistachios and Caramel 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 8Source Adapted from Le Cordon BleuPublished

This can be made in one large serving vessel or divided into individual servings before topping with caramel.

cardamon rice pudding


  • 1 3/4 cup heavy cream (divided)
  • ¼ cup Aborio rice
  • kosher salt (as needed)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (divided)
  • ½ vanilla bean (split lengthwise)
  • 10 cardamom pods (lighly crushed)
  • 1 cup (plus 2 tablespoon) granulated sugar
  • 2 sheets gelatin (about 4 grams, soaked in cold water until softened)
  • ½ cup water (divided, plus more for rice)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • pistachios (finely chopped, as needed for garnish)


Make the rice pudding: Using a whisk and a well-chilled bowl whip ½ cup heavy cream until soft peaks form. Set aside in the refrigerator.

Combine rice, salt and enough water to cover the rice by about ½‑inch in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Bring just to a boil, then strain the rice in a fine-mesh sieve. Return the rice to the same saucepan, add milk, vanilla bean, cardamom pods, 2 tablespoons sugar, and another ½ cup heavy cream. Set the mixture over low heat and cook until rice is al dente and the liquid is reduced by half, about 12 minutes. Remove from heat, add the gelatin sheets and set aside to cool completely. Push the mixture through a fine meshed sieve into a medium bowl to remove the cardamom pods and vanilla bean, then gently fold in the chilled whipped cream. Divide the pudding between 8 individual serving vessels. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator. The rice pudding can be made to this point up to 24 hours in advance before assembly.

Make the caramel sauce: Combine the remaining 1 cup sugar and ¼ cup of the water in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is completely dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and cook without stirring until the syrup turns a rich caramel color. Remove the pan from the heat add the remaining ¼ cup water, 3/4 cup cream and sea salt. It may splatter so please be careful. Transfer to a small pitcher and set aside to cool completely.

To serve: Bring the pudding from the refrigerator. Gently pour enough caramel sauce to cover the surface (or to taste). Garnish with pistachios.