Southern Rice Pudding Deserves a Comeback

Southern Rice Pudding by any other name is still a warm and comforting Christmas treat.

Rice Pudding
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Rice is an important crop in many parts in the world, and recipes for variations of rice pudding, a creamy, sweetened rice dessert, can be found in cookbooks around the world. Risalamande is served during a traditional Scandinavian Christmas meal, you may find Kheer served in your favorite Indian restaurant, and Arroz Con Leche is a delicious offering from the Latin American and Caribbean regions.

Southern Rice Pudding

Just like corn and its many byproducts (cornmeal, grits, hominy, etc.), the rice crop has had a significant impact on the foodways of the American South. Whether served as a main dish, a dressed-up side dish, or partnered with tasty jambalaya, rice can find its way into any Southern meal.

Blended with a variety of other ingredients such as sweetener, spices, milk, fruit, and nuts, rice pudding was once as popular in the American South as in other regions. Some people enjoyed it as a soothing, hot breakfast. For others, the Southern holiday sideboard was not complete without a dish of hot rice pudding, scented with traditional seasonal spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, alongside the pies and cakes.

It is easy to take a shortcut and buy pre-made rice pudding, but investing just a short amount of time to prep your own Southern Rice Pudding is well worth the effort. This Christmas, look beyond the refrigerated rice pudding in the dairy section of your grocery store, and revisit this vintage dessert. This is Christmas comfort food at its finest.

Variations on an Old Favorite

You can make rice pudding from uncooked rice or leftover rice, on the stovetop or baked in the oven. In February 1978, Southern Living published a recipe for Rice Pudding sent in by Mrs. Roy Norton of Stony Point, North Carolina. This recipe uses a small amount of sugar (just 1/3 cup), raisins, and both citrus juice and zest (we called it peel in the original recipe).

This is a very approachable recipe, so feel free to add your favorite spices, substitute dried cranberries for the raisins, or add fruit preserves or chocolate shavings to the whipped topping. Made with cooked rice, this recipe is a nice option for using leftover rice.

Rice Pudding Ingredients

1 Tablespoon grated orange peel

2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup raisins

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups cooked rice

1/4 teaspoon salt

Whipped cream

Preparation Instructions

  1. Combine orange peel, lemon peel, juices, and raisins in a small bowl; let stand 1 hour.
  2. Combine eggs and sugar; beat until thick and light colored.
  3. Stir in rice, salt, and raisin mixture.
  4. Pour into a buttered 11/2-quart baking dish.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 30 to 40 minutes.
  6. Serve with whipped cream. Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
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