This easy vegan arroz con leche recipe, or Mexican rice pudding, is a classic Mexican dessert. It’s creamy, sweet, and can be served chilled or warm. Plus it’s also a budget friendly dessert the whole family will love. I really do think you’re going to love this vegan version of arroz con leche!
Table of Contents
Mexican Rice Pudding
Arroz means rice and con leche means with milk. Arroz con leche is what we in Mexico and across Latin America call rice pudding.
Traditionally the most basic arroz con leche is made with just white rice, whole milk, cinnamon and white sugar. But of course there are variations to this, as families all add their own touches. Some will use vanilla and a citrus peel for extra flavor.
There are also variations to the milk and sweeteners used, but more on that below.
Anyway you make it, there’s really no going wrong with these basic ingredients.
Vegan Arroz con Leche
You can’t get simpler than a dessert recipe that requires just 6 ingredients and is made in one pot right on the stove. That is the case for this vegan arroz con leche.
Just like the traditional recipe, which is a dairy based dessert, this dairy free version too can be made thick or as creamy as you’d like.
Mexican Vegan Rice Pudding Ingredients
As I previously mentioned, this vegan arroz con leche recipe needs just 6 simple ingredients — all pantry ingredients that I bet you already have in your cupboard.
- Rice: You’ll need long grain rice for this recipe. This is what’s traditionally used in Mexico and that is what this recipe is tested with.
- Cinnamon Sticks: If possible try to use canela or Ceylon cinnamon for a more aromatic rice pudding recipe. In a pinch you could use ground cinnamon but the stick will give you a stronger flavor.
- Water: Water is used to cook the rice and cinnamon in the first step.
- Plant-based Milk: I like to use an unflavored and unsweetened almond milk (Silk is a good choice). But have also tested it with soy milk, both are delicious but I feel the almond adds better flavor. See below other vegan milk options.
- Sugar: You’ll want to use an unrefined vegan sugar. I use cane sugar. Turbinado or muscovado are also good options. Below are some sweetener variations you could try.
- Raisins: I’m not the biggest fan of raisins but I always add a little bit to the pudding. You can choose to use or omit or adjust the amount that you’d like.
Easy Arroz con Leche Recipe Without Condensed Milk
Growing up my mom made THE BEST and creamiest Mexican arroz con leche.
Her secret was that she use evaporated milk, regular milk and condensed milk. These 3 milks make for a delicious dessert — be it quite decadent and caloric…but still delicious! It’s kind of like a tres leches rice pudding.
Though there are vegan condensed milk options out there, my recipe is a bit healthier and uses just almond milk and sugar, so this recipe is made without condensed milk.
As I previously mentioned, there are different variations. Below are some that come to mind, but there are countless.
Citrus Peel or Zest
To begin with some people add citrus peel to the traditional recipe, and you can too with this vegan rice pudding recipe. The most common is orange peel, but you could also do lime or lemon peel.
They each give the pudding a slightly different touch of flavor, but all add a nice burst of freshness to the sweet tones. If you don’t want to add the peel you could instead add some citrus zest when serving the pudding.
Dairy-Free Milk Variations
Instead of almond milk you could use any of the following vegan non-dairy milk of your choice: soy milk, coconut milk, cashew milk, oat milk — oat will probably give you the creamiest option. But really you can use any kind of dairy-free milk you’d like and find your favorite.
Sweetener or Sugar Variations
For the sweetener I just used the traditional basic sugar, but raw cane sugar which is vegan.
Other options would be to use muscovado sugar, or piloncillo would be a delicious alternative. I believe that coconut sugar would give this creamy Mexican treat a slightly healthier version. That with coconut milk would give you like a coconut arroz con leche.
Other sweetener options would be agave syrup or maple syrup.
Aromatic Spices Variations
Whole canela sticks are the aromatic spice most commonly used, but you could also use vanilla extract or star anise for yet another variation in taste.
Chocolate Rice Pudding
A fun variation for the chocolate lover is to mix in some cacao powder when you add the milk. You can use 2 tablespoons or more.
Yet another chocolate version is to use chocolate chips instead of the powder. You can either top with the chips or mix them in once the rice pudding has chilled so that they don’t melt completely.
What Type of Rice is Best
The traditional recipe uses long grain rice. It’s also what this recipe uses.
In a pinch I’ve also used short grain rice, it’s also called arborio rice. It will require more liquid so be aware of that, but will be quite creamy. Japanese sushi rice in a pinch could also be used. The one I wouldn’t really recommend using is brown rice. It takes forever to cook and the flavor won’t be the same, try to stick to the white rice or long grain if all possible.
How to Make Mexican Vegan Arroz con Leche
Making this easy dessert requires very minimal effort. Though this is my vegan version it’s incredibly close to the traditional rice pudding I grew up eating in my Mexican home.
In a large pot add the rice, cinnamon stick then pour in the water. Turn the heat to medium heat and allow the water to come to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. Allow to simmer until nearly all of the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
Once the rice is tender then you can pour in the vegan sugar or sweetener of choice, the raisins, almond milk or dairy milk of your choice. Put the lid back on the pot, turn the heat to a low simmer and cook for 8 more minutes or until the rice and the raisins is nice and plump. The milk will have thickened up and not be as thin.
Stir now and then to make sure it has not stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Carefully without burning yourself taste the arroz con leche and adjust either the cooking time or adding more sweetener or extra milk to make it thinner or thicker.
Once cooked you can remove from the stove and allow this creamy vegan rice pudding to come to room temperature before either serving or storing in an airtight container.
If you’d rather make the traditional dairy based Mexican arroz con leche, I also have that recipe. Go check it out on my YouTube channel, because I won’t be publishing the recipe here on the blog.
The best and most useful tips I can give you when it comes to making Mexican arroz con leche are to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn and to taste test to make sure the rice is tender — no one wants a hard rice pudding.
If you like experimenting with the flavors then test out the different plant-based milks to test out the creaminess and flavors until you find your favorite.
You could try the different spices and lemon zest or aromatic orange zest or peel all will create different versions of arroz con leche.
Don’t skip the cinnamon, it adds a nice aromatic flavor to the already creamy rice pudding.
Something that I’ve always wanted to try, and maybe will do next time, is to try making this pudding but with leftover rice. It would be a great way to use those leftovers and would cut down on the cooking time. Of course as long as the rice is just steamed plain without any seasonings!
How to Make it Creamier
To make the pudding creamier you simply add more milk and continue to simmer until it thickens up a bit. Once the arroz con leche cools, or is stored in the refrigerator, it will thicken up and you can simple reheat or served chilled and pour in a bit more milk. But don’t over do it or the sweetness and other flavors will be watered down.
The taste of this Mexican vegan arroz con leche is sweet, creamy, tender, cinnamony, and just so delicious.
It’s amazing how the simple ingredients can create a most delicious dessert that you can make right at home and not have to buy at the grocery store or wait to enjoy at a restaurant.
The best part is dipping your spoon into the cup and getting that first bite!
How to Serve
The great part about this pudding and why it becomes one of peoples favorite desserts, it’s because it can be served warm during the cooler months or chilled during the warmer months.
You can serve it as a dessert or even as a snack. I know some people enjoy it for breakfast too, but I much prefer a savory breakfast to a sweet one.
If you want to take this creamy dessert to yet another level then you could top it with seasonal fresh fruit. I love berries, plums, and peaches on mine.
There is a type of arroz con leche empanada where the pudding is used as the filling. It looks so delicious, this recipe in Spanish looks easy enough to follow. But for a shortcut I would just use ready made pie dough and stuff with the rice pudding you make from my recipe.
How to Store
Allow the arroz con leche to come to room temperature before storing. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months, when ready to use do thaw out in fridge preferably the night before.
How to Reheat
To reheat on the stove top, place in a small pot, add a splash of almond milk and heat for a few minutes on low heat. Check the temperature before serving.
In the microwave you can reheat for a few minute, but add more almond milk or it will thicken too much.
Easy Vegan Arroz con Leche Recipe (Mexican Rice Pudding)
- 1 cup long grain rice
- 1 whole cinnamon stick canela or Ceylon
- 2 1/2 cups of water
- 3 cups almond milk unsweetened & unflavored
- ⅓ cup raw cane sugar
- 1/4 cup raisins or to taste
- In a large pot add the rice, cinnamon stick then pour in the water. Turn the heat to medium heat and allow the water to come to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. Allow to simmer until nearly all of the water has been absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Once the rice is tender then you can pour in the vegan sugar or sweetener of choice, the raisins, almond milk or dairy milk of your choice. Put the lid back on the pot, turn the heat to a low simmer and cook for 8 more minutes or until the rice and the raisins is nice and plump. The milk will have thickened up and not be as thin.
- Stir now and then to make sure it has not stuck to the bottom of the pot. Carefully without burning yourself taste the arroz con leche and adjust either the cooking time or adding more sweetener or extra milk to make it thinner or thicker.
- Once cooked you can remove from the stove and allow this creamy vegan rice pudding to come to room temperature before either serving or storing in an airtight container. Serve with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.
Nancy Lopez is a food blogger and author of the cookbook Mexican Tamales Made Meatless. Born in Mexico, raised in the US, and currently living in Southern Mexico, she has followed a meatless diet for almost 10 years. It is her passion and mission to share all she has learned about vegan Mexican cooking and vegetarian Mexican recipes. Mexican Made Meatless is a blog dedicated to preserving the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine just without the meat. It’s a place to celebrate Mexican culture and all it’s delightfully delicious traditional foods. Read more…