The first time I tried arroz con leche was at a Guatemalan restaurant in LA. My brother and I (not strong Spanish speakers) ordered a feast worth of dishes we knew little about in an effort to be “adventurous.” Arroz con leche was among them. We asked our waitress, wide-eyed, what arroz con leche was, to which she blankly said, “rice with milk.”
It is so much more than rice with milk, though. It’s a sweet, milky version of rice pudding boosted by its cinnamon and raisin components. Shocked to have unveiled such a culinary revelation, I asked our waitress for the recipe and (once she stopped laughing) she told me that depending on a number of factors, arroz con leche can be made many different ways. Some use orange zest instead of lemon, some use butter and sugar in their pudding, and still others use a cinnamon stick and whole cloves for flavor during cooking. Herewith, my simple tribute to an awe-inspiring discovery.
First, soak the rice and lemon zest in water for about an hour in a medium saucepan. Then, bring the water to a boil to start cooking the rice. Once the water has come to a boil, turn the heat down to medium low and cook for about 10 minutes or until the water has almost evaporated.
While the rice is cooking, mix your egg and whole milk together in a bowl and keep to the side. When the rice is cooked down, pour in the egg and milk mixture and mix well to combine them. Then add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and raisins and stir slowly. Let the mixture cook on medium-low heat for about 25—30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The arroz con leche is done when the liquid has evaporated a good amount — and this is to your preference. If you prefer a thinner pudding with more liquid, you can take it off the heat around 20 minutes, while if you prefer a thicker pudding texture, wait until 30 minutes have passed. Garnish with the ground cinnamon and serve.