Desserts · Pastas & Rice & Grains · Vegetarian

Tres Leches Rice Pudding with Cardamom and Cinnamon

It’s raining; it’s pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head,
And he couldn’t get up in the morning

The children’s nursery rhyme reminds me of my childhood days when my brother and I would happily-go-luckily stomp around in rain puddles. Despite our parents’ warnings of catching a cold and even the threat of “I’m going to count to 3 and if you don’t stop…1….2…,” we still ran from puddle to puddle seeing who could make the biggest splash. The nursery rhyme was fun to sing and the meaning of the rhyme was never questioned (or thought of) until almost 2 decades later:

  • What did the old man bump his head on? How did he bump his head (falling off the bed? Jumping up too quickly and hitting a conveniently located wood plank at head-level? Hitting his head on the headboard, the bedside dresser?)
  • Was the old man an alcoholic? How much did he have to drink the night before? Was he alone? Did he have enemies? How much was his life insurance worth?
  • What kind of “bump in the head” causes someone not to get out of bed? Sounds more like he either slipped from a drunken stupor and fell on his head, someone gave him a nice beating, or he was just lying to his wife so he wouldn’t have to do the dishes. Realistically? I think the latter is the most plausible.

Nowadays when it pours, there are only a few things that I enjoy doing:

  • Take a walk on the beach and getting completely drenched…until it’s just not fun anymore.
  • Lie next to a fireplace and watch the flames
  • Take a nap
  • Sit on the sofa and gaze outside at the rain (and try not to look like a stalker since my neighbors are located 10 feet away)

Now combine all of those in sequence and add a big bowl of warm rice pudding, and I’ve got my perfect rainy day. This isn’t just your regular Grandma’s-too-sweet rice pudding, this is rice pudding infused with 3 types of milk (milk, almond milk, and coconut milk,) coconut, cinnamon, and cardamom. Three different types of milk, coconut, warming spices, and a pinch of lemon zest and I can safely say this recipe is the best rice pudding I’ve had. I would give this recipe an award if it doesn’t sound strange. Perhaps the old man would be inclined to get out of bed for this rice pudding too.


  • 1/2 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut*
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup milk (non-fat works well)
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp sugar (depending on how sweet you like it – I’ve tried it both ways)
  • 1/4 vanilla bean, split (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • Pinch of cardamom (about a little less than 1/8 tsp)
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

For the garnish:

  • Sliced almonds
  • Lemon zest, grated
  • Toasted coconut

*Note: If your shredded coconut is coarse or tough (and you prefer a softer pudding overall) try putting it through the food processor, blender, or spice grinder to achieve a finer texture. Alternatively, you can soften up tough coconut by soaking it in advance – this should soften the coconut significantly.


In a large saucepan, place all the ingredients (except extract, if using). Bring to a gentle boil and turn down immediately. Allow to simmer gently, stirring often (or it will stick to the bottom) for 35 to 45 minutes, depending on how thick you like it.. The rice should be soft and significantly plumped up. Check it often towards the end of cooking to ensure it does not get overdone or burn.

Once it’s cooked to your liking, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the extract, and garnish with almonds, toasted coconut, and lemon zest.

Serve immediately or let it chill in the fridge and enjoy later. This rice pudding can be reheated as well.


2 thoughts on “Tres Leches Rice Pudding with Cardamom and Cinnamon

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