Southern Rice Pudding

In 2023, the theme of Black History Month is Black Resistance.  Eat the Culture is recognizing the remarkable and underrated resistance of our ancestors in bringing culinary traditions across the Atlantic to shape the vibrance of Black cuisine that we know and love today. They physically and mentally carried African foodways across the deadly Middle Passage to pass down through generations. This year’s Eat the Culture Black History Month Virtual Potluck traces popular dishes of the Diaspora from their West African roots to North America and beyond.  You can grab the full list of recipes from this year’s collaboration on the  Eat the Culture website.

Friends, I am THRILLED to announce that I’ve been selected to participate in the Eat the Culture 2023 Black History Month Potluck event! And, as part of the event, I got to create a Southern Rice Pudding that absolutely knocked my socks off.

It is the most luscious, decadent, creamy rice pudding that I’ve ever eaten. Topped with my now-famous brandied cherries, this is rice pudding to the nth degree, Honey.

Let’s talk about it. Because it’s perfectly sweet (without being too sweet), it’s incredibly creamy (thanks to my rice choice and two finishing ingredients), and it’s literally so easy to make.

The most expensive ingredient is actually…time.

“Time is an Ingredient”

One thing that I am so grateful to my mother taught me about our family’s cooking legacy, is that time is an ingredient.

She counseled me to not cook when I was rushed. She taught me how to properly braise, and roast, and baste, and watch. That rushing to make something won’t ever make it better. That conveniences like a microwave (which we got when I was in high school and which she refused to use) would lead to the downfall of “good food”.

There are a few recipes on my site that use time as a real ingredient (for example, my Blueberry Cardamom Sauce). Time is necessary to help flavors develop, to soften textures, to get to the objective. You cannot cheat time. And Friend, a microwave is NOT IT.

This was a central premise of my education. Both as a cook and as a baker later on. But it started with her mother. And her mother’s mother. And generations long before them and thousands of miles away.

About Southern Rice Pudding

One of the reasons I was so thrilled to participate in this event, was because we had the opportunity to look at dishes across the African diaspora, and how those dishes have changed over the years and miles.

It is so grounding to think of a dish that you’ve consumed all of your life, and think about how your family and ancestors ate that dish thousands of miles away and hundreds of years ago. And how they continue to consume that dish to this day.

This Southern Rice Pudding is one such dish. What we know as “rice pudding” is based on a West African dish called Thiakry. The preparation is much the same, except that the original dish uses millet instead of rice.

Making this recipe was such a full-circle moment for me. You see, my parents were born and raised in the South (LUCKY!), but I was born and raised in the Midwestern United States. That meant that my parents had the Herculean task of teaching me everything that there was to know about Southern cuisine. And that task included helping me understand how the cuisine that we were eating in the 1980s was derived from African cultures.

My parents were up to the task and they approached it zealously. ????

Southern Rice Pudding Ingredients

Arborio Rice: Yes. Arborio. Not Jasmine. Not Basmati. Arborio. The starches in arborio rice make this rice pudding impossibly creamy. I tested this rice pudding almost two dozen times, Friends. You want arborio rice.

Whole Milk: Whole milk adds to the luxuriousness of this particular rice pudding. It helps make the egg custard just….delicious.

Eggs: In this recipe, as with many recipes, eggs are a multi-tool. The fatty yolk adds…you guessed it…luxuriousness, while the protein-rich egg whites help the custard (and ultimately the pudding) thicken.

Kosher Salt: Salt is very important in any dessert; it balances the sugar and keeps the dessert from becoming cloyingly sweet. If using table salt for this recipe, cut the amount in half.

Granulated Sugar: The granulated sugar in this dessert adds sweetness! But we don’t want it too sweet, so we have some balancing ingredients. Too much granulated sugar will make this dessert cloyingly sweet, and nobody wants that.

Pure Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract gives this rice pudding a warmth that cannot be beat. We add vanilla extract after cooking so that we don’t lose the potency of the vanilla extract.

Greek Yogurt: One of the absolute stars of the show. Thiakry is traditionally known for being not overly sweet, and even a little bit tangy. I absolutely wanted that element in this rice pudding, and I found that Greek yogurt added the tang without adding too much additional fat (because, with whole milk, butter, and eggs, we don’t need much more fat). It was just perfect.

Butter: Butter goes in at the end with the Greek yogurt. Friend, there is no way to describe how creamy that 1-2 punch at the end gives to this rice pudding. It must be tried to be believed.

Toppings: Traditionally, rice pudding can be topped with coconut, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, or really any spice that complements this tangy, sweet dessert. I chose to pair it with one of my favorite toppers of all time: my brandied cherries. Because OMG WHY NOT.

To Make this Southern Rice Pudding

This Southern Rice Pudding is actually quite simple to make! You need some time to make it, but once it’s complete, it’s so worth it.

Start by adding the whole milk, granulated sugar, eggs, and salt to a 2.5-quart saucepan. Use a balloon whisk and whisk to combine them. Keep in mind that the mixture will NOT completely combine at this point because of the egg yolks:

Next, put on a stove over medium-low heat. Whisk occasionally for the next 30-45 minutes. The mixture will gradually transform, and the egg yolks will just…disappear.

You are ready to move on when the custard looks like the last picture. There should be absolutely no egg yolk visible in the custard, and it should be slightly thicker than it was when you started. Don’t skimp on this step!

Next, add your cooked arborio rice. Friend, I tried this recipe with just about every type of rice that’s commercially available on the market. Please trust me and use arborio. And please trust me when I say that uncooked rice is not your friend in this recipe.

Oh. And please rinse your rice before cooking.


Add the rice and continue cooking on medium-low heat until the pudding has a creamy, loose texture. Like this!

Once you get to this point, add your greek yogurt, pure vanilla extract and butter and allow them to melt into the rice pudding before stirring.

That’s it! You’re done! You’ve made the most amazing rice pudding of your life!

Top with raisins, coconut, cinnamon, or my amazing brandied cherries for a delicious treat.

You can serve warm or cold, but I prefer to chill this amazing dessert for about 2-3 hours before eating.

Important Tools Used in this Rice Pudding

Below, you’ll find some tools that I used for this rice pudding. These are the tools that I use all the time in my own kitchen.

**I get paid a small commission if you purchase directly from these links, but they are truly amazing products that you’ll find in my kitchen.**

2.5-Quart Saucepan

Balloon Whisk

Wooden Spoon

Heat-Proof Bowl

I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in Eat the Culture’s Black History Month potluck event! Any time I get to spend time thinking about my Mommy in the kitchen, it’s a good thing.

I hope you LOVE this recipe!

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Southern Rice Pudding

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 3 reviews

This Southern Rice Pudding must be experienced to be believed.  It is impossibly creamy, decadent, and rich!  Pair with coconut, cinnamon, or, my favorite, brandied cherries for the ultimate in decadence!

  • Total Time: 70-80 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


Units Scale

For the Rice Pudding:

  • 316 g (2 c) arborio rice, cooked
  • 1000 g (4 c) milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300 g (1.5 c) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 113 g (1/2 c) greek yogurt
  • 113 g (1/2 c) butter

For the Brandied Cherries:

  • 700 g (5 cups) pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
  • 200 g granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 125 g plus (1/2 c) cold water
  • 125 g (1/2 c) brandy


To Make the Rice Pudding:

  1. Cook arborio rice according to package directions.  After fluffing with a fork, spoon rice into measuring cups to measure the rice.  Place in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Add milk, eggs, salt, and sugar to a medium saucepan.  Whisk until yolks are broken up.  
  3. Heat mixture over medium-low heat (do not boil!), whisking occasionally, until the mixture is warmed all the way through, there are no more bubbles in the mixture, and the egg yolks are fully absorbed into the milk.  This takes patience (and 30-45 minutes)!  If you warm the mixture too quickly, the eggs will curdle and scramble and you don’t want that.
  4. Once the mixture is fully combined and warm, add the 2 cups of cooked rice.  Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine.  
  5. Continue cooking over medium-low heat until the rice pudding has a creamy, loose texture.  The rice granules should be very visible, but the mixture should look very creamy and smooth.
  6. Remove from heat and add greek yogurt, butter, and vanilla extract.  Allow the butter to melt a bit, then stir to combine.  
  7. Place in a heat-proof bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours.  Pudding will thicken upon standing.

To Make the Brandied Cherries:

  1. Add the cherries, granulated sugar, and fresh lemon juice to a 2.5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir to combine.  
  2. Once the mixture begins to bubble, stir again and reduce heat to medium-low.  Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the cherries are softened (but not mush).  
  3. Combine the water and cornstarch in a small prep bowl.  Add to the cherry mixture.  Increase heat to medium-high for one minute.
  4. Remove mixture from heat.  Add brandy to the mixture.  Use a camp lighter to CAREFULLY light the brandy.  Allow the brandy to burn off completely before stirring.
  5. Place cherries in a heat-proof container and allow them to cool completely before using.
  6. Spoon cherries over the top of the rice pudding for an extra treat.  Or, you can actually make a parfait-style rice pudding with the brandied cherries for ultimate decadence!


  • Arborio rice is a must for this recipe.  Other types of rice don’t give you the creaminess that arborio rice does, and it’s such a disappointment!
  • Author: Shani
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 60-70 minutes
  • Category: Dessert


  1. Wow I would have never know that history of rice pudding. This recipe sounds creamy, decadent, and delicious. I’ve never made rice pudding before but I will definitely have to give this a try!

  2. Rice pudding is one of my favorite recipes of all time. I can’t wait to try this. I always have arborio and 1/2 and 1/2 on hand but never regular milk, so my thought it so do a quick calculation and see if the fat would be the same with 1/2 and 1/2 (plus 4oz more for the skipped butter) and skipping the butter entirely?

    • Hey! I wouldn’t recommend skipping the butter entirely. I totally understand what you’re trying to do, but the butter actually plays a different role right at the end of the cook time. Not sure how it will work with half and half, but I’m very interested to hear your results! Maybe halve the butter instead of cutting entirely? Can’t wait to hear!

  3. Wow! The best I’ve ever made. I had to exercise my patience however the end result was so worth it. Thank you for sharing this absolutely delicous receipe!!


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