Creamy, Old-Fashioned Comfort
Rice pudding is old-school comfort food, the kind that's easy enough and frugal enough to appeal to any busy cook. Preparing it in your Crock-Pot simplifies dessert even more, freeing up your attention—and oven space—for other things. This Crock-Pot rice pudding recipe is infinitely variable, so you can tweak its sweetness, creaminess and flavors to suit your family's tastes.
Total Time: 3 1/2 to 8 hours | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 6 to 8
- 1 cup long-grain or arborio rice, uncooked
- 1 quart milk
- 1 1/2 cups half-and-half
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Prepare the insert of a 4-quart Crock-Pot by buttering it, spraying it, or lining it with a slow cooker liner.
- In a fine-mesh strainer, rinse the rice under cold running water to remove the excess starch that normally accumulates on the surface of the grains while they're in the bag. This helps keep the finished pudding from being stodgy.
- Place all of the ingredients in your Crock-Pot, and stir until they're well mixed. If you're using a slow cooker liner, it's best to stir the ingredients in a mixing bowl first and then add them to the Crock-Pot, so you won't puncture the liner.
- Cook on the high setting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, or low setting for 7 to 8, whichever best suits your schedule for the day. After that, the rice should be very soft, and the sauce creamy. If it isn't thick enough, stir the pudding and let it sit for another 45 minutes to an hour before serving. If it's too thick, thin it with milk or half-and-half until it reaches the texture you prefer.
- Serve warm with a dusting of additional cinnamon, or other garnishes as you like.
- Add 1/2 cup of raisins, dried cranberries or chopped dried cherries to the pudding at the beginning of the cooking time. For adults, soak the raisins in rum or a flavored liqueur.
- Add a cup of chopped apples at the beginning of the cooking time, or spoon either stewed apples or applesauce over the finished pudding when you serve it.
- Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon or orange zest at the end of the cooking time, to brighten the flavors. Keep back a pinch of zest to garnish each bowl.
- If you like your rice to remain slightly firm when the pudding is finished, use long-grain rice. If you want it to be extra-creamy, use arborio.
- Rice pudding can use as little as 3 cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice for a relatively dry, firm finished dessert; or as much as 6 or 7 cups of liquid per cup of rice for an especially creamy result. This recipe falls at the creamy end of the scale, so you can reduce the milk by a cup or more and still have a wonderful dessert. Cooking time would be shorter by 30 to 45 minutes on high, or 60 to 90 minutes on low.
- Sugar can be increased to 3/4 cup or more, if you like a sweeter pudding.
- These proportions work best in a 4- to 5-quart Crock-Pot. The recipe will cook more slowly in a 3-quart model, or more quickly in a 6-quart.
- If your Crock-Pot is 6 quarts or larger, use liner bags to double down on convenience: Make up two batches in separate bags and seal them with twist ties, then cook them side-by-side in your Crock-Pot. Serve one, and freeze the other for another day. Alternatively, put your entree in the second bag and have your whole meal ready when you get home.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.