Some vegan recipes include the caveat, “It doesn’t taste bad at all!” It’s almost as if people believe that vegan recipes are inherently inedible, and there has to be an attempt to “sell” them.
But this Creamy Chai-Spiced Rice Pudding tastes so much like the original milk-based version that it took my family and friends by surprise when they found out it was completely free of animal products. I said to them, “See? Vegan recipes aren’t boring!” I wasn’t trying to fool anyone, but they were shocked it was vegan!
How Do You Make Vegan Rice Pudding?
Coconut milk is the key ingredient to vegan rice pudding. Thanks to the slow-simmering and frequent stirring of the rice and coconut milk, the starch from the rice thickens the pudding without the need for tempered eggs. A final cup of coconut milk is stirred in just prior to serving to ensure a smooth, silky dish of rice pudding.
The difference between this vegan rice pudding and a traditional rice pudding truly is nonexistent, with regards to taste and creaminess.
- If you’re in the market for a non-vegan rice pudding recipe, I highly recommend this version .
How Much Coconut Milk Do You Need?
You’ll need three 13 1/2-ounce cans of coconut milk for this recipe, which is unsweetened and essential to achieving a creamy vegan rice pudding. Refrigerated and boxed coconut milks don’t have the full taste of canned coconut milk. Also because canned coconut milk is unsweetened, you can control the overall sweetness of the finished rice pudding.
If you crave an even creamier pudding, stir in 1/2 cup of smooth coconut cream just before serving, instead of the remaining coconut milk.
What Kind of Rice Do You Use?
Its floral essence and larger grain make jasmine rice my preferred type of rice to use in all of my rice puddings. Basmati, which has a nuttier flavor, is another great rice to use in this dish. Plain, extra-long grain, or long grain are great replacements for jasmine as well.
I would avoid using short or medium grain rice, because the grains would break down considerably during cooking, leaving you with a porridge instead of a pudding with plump grains of rice.
This recipe is also a great way to use up leftover rice, so long as it hasn’t been heavily salted during steaming. To use leftover rice, simply skip the rice steaming step, and add an additional 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the spice mixture. Proceed with the recipe as written, and add the star anise to the pot after adding the coconut milk.
What Are the Spices in This Rice Pudding?
This recipe is inspired by my favorite chai latte and begins with infusing cinnamon and star anise into jasmine rice as it steams. A spice blend of (more) cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt, and a pinch of black pepper is later added with the coconut milk and vanilla extract.
Although it’s “chai-inspired,” there isn’t any tea used in the recipe. However, if you want to stay true to the chai moniker, steep a couple of bags of black tea in the rice water.
Other Ways to Flavor Rice Pudding
- Add one cup of sultanas (golden raisins) or black raisins when you add the coconut milk.
- For almond rice pudding, use refrigerated almond milk instead of coconut milk and almond extract instead of vanilla. Add a three-inch lemon peel to the boiling rice water instead of the star anise, and omit the ground cardamom and the black pepper from the spice mixture. Garnish the almond rice pudding with toasted slivered almonds.
- Chocolate chips (white, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate), dried fruits (cranberries, cherries or pineapple), and/or marshmallows are great for creating variety.
- Top your rice pudding with a drizzle of caramel sauce or chocolate sauce.
How to Serve Rice Pudding
Rice pudding should be served cold. After the rice has finished cooking, transfer it to a shallow dish and allow it to chill completely (about three hours).
Once cold, stir in the remaining coconut milk (for extra creaminess) and spoon the pudding into individual serving dishes. Garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and toasted coconut flakes.
How to Store and Freeze Rice Pudding
Keep leftovers stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. You may freeze any leftovers you don’t plan to eat within three days. Packed in a freezer-safe storage container, the rice pudding can be frozen for two months. Thaw the pudding in the refrigerator and add a 1/4 cup of coconut milk to thin it, if needed.
More Vegan Desserts to Try!
- Vegan Banana Bread
- Vegan Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
- Nut-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Vegan Chocolate Frosting
- Gluten-Free Fudgy Chocolate Brownies
- For the rice:
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- For the pudding:
- 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more to garnish
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 (13 1/2-ounce) cans full fat unsweetened coconut milk, divided
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- Toasted coconut flakes, to garnish, optional
Cook the rice:
In a 4-quart pot, combine the water, cinnamon stick, and star anise, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and steam it until it is no longer crunchy, about 15 minutes.
Make the spice blend:
In a small bowl, combine the spices. Add the vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to the spices, and whisk to create a smooth paste. This prevents the spices from clumping together when you add them to the steamed rice.
Combine the rice and coconut milk:
Once the rice has finished cooking, add 4 cups of the coconut milk and the spice paste to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any rice that may be stuck.
Simmer the rice pudding:
Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat, uncovered, and cook without stirring for 15 minutes. The surface of the rice pudding should develop small bubbles; if large, rapidly moving bubbles break the surface of the milk, lower the temperature. Don’t stir it because you don’t want the rice to break up. A skin will form on the surface, but that's fine!
After 15 minutes, add the brown sugar and stir the pudding (also stir any any skin that's formed). When you scrape the bottom of the pot, it will sound like rustling paper. Simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the pudding has thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise.
Transfer to a shallow dish and chill:
Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise from the pudding and discard. Transfer the pudding to a shallow dish (like a pie plate or casserole dish) and refrigerate uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours, up to overnight.
Finish with coconut milk and cinnamon:
Just prior to serving, stir in the remaining coconut milk. Spoon the pudding into individual serving dishes and garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and toasted coconut flakes.
Store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.