This creamy, fragrant rice pudding is topped with “superfood sprinkles” and is equally lovely served for breakfast or dessert. This recipe is gluten-free, dairy-free and can easily be made vegan.

As a child I would often think about my mother with huge admiration. She had her own way of doing things that would make me feel so special, and her thoughtful nature and how that manifested into her everyday actions is difficult for my mind to tease away from what I think a mother is. Even the littlest things … she had a way of making small gestures special. I think that all parents try to do their very best for their children, and I know that my experience was her best despite the toll that took on her. I have a few friends with children, and many that like me, aren’t in that phase of life yet. Lately though I find it’s been on my mind … I’ve been wondering how parents who also work manage to do it all (actually go to work plus make dinners, sweep their floors, buy groceries, keep all the child-related necessities on-hand, know what to do when a child is sick, know when something warrants a doctor and when it doesn’t, take care of themselves while ensuring the kids have all that they need of your time/attention/everything else…) and it feels very overwhelming.

So my mind wanders back to happy memories of my own childhood, and for now I feel at ease again. I can remember being in the first grade when my mom once packed leftover rice in my lunch, combined with a bit of butter and a little sugar, and I happily sat in the school cafeteria feeling like instead of lunch I lucked out and went straight to dessert. It was so reminiscent of rice pudding (which she knew I loved). She could also pull together the most stylish outfit for me and crimp my hair just so, pulled high into a ponytail that bounced with each step I’d take (keep in mind, it was 1991). Her old sweater – the one from the early eighties with coloured triangles – became the “dress” I loved to wear for dance parties at home, cinched at the waste with a belt. It was always such a treat when she’d make her rice pudding. Hers would be slowly baked in the oven, with cinnamon and sometimes raisins (for my dad). Our house would fill with the gorgeous aroma and I’d continuously peak in the oven, wishing the hour would pass more quickly and feeling like it was taking three times as long as it should have.

Rice pudding continues to be one of my favourite treats. I love the creaminess, the hint of sweetness, and the cinnamon-tinged flavour. When I moved to Toronto for graduate school and met a group of girls who had much more adventurous taste in food than me, we used to go for dinners out at various restaurants. A quick favourite among my friends and I was an Indian restaurant that sat on Bloor Street West, where we’d always eat way too much (but it was hard to resist – everything I ever ate there tasted amazing). The restaurant always had long lines, but made the most deeply-spiced and tasty dishes so it was worth the wait. I still remember the rice pudding I had during one of our visits and noticing how different it was from the rice pudding my mother had made; theirs was sweeter with a floral taste and was served very cold.

The version I’m sharing with you is much quicker to make, and has a lovely light touch of rosewater, flecked with vanilla bean, with lots of texture from the “superfood sprinkles” topping of pomegranate, toasted coconut flakes, gogi berries, bee pollen, and dried flower petals. An easy substitution makes this vegan. This rice pudding can be served as a nourishing breakfast, snack, or dessert.

Coconut Rice Pudding with Rosewater & Vanilla + Superfood Sprinkles

Serves 2, but can be doubled to serve more. This recipe is adapted from the recipe for “Coconut Rice Pudding with Lady Apples” by Canelle et Vanille, which has been my go-to rice pudding recipe for the last few years. Rosewater can be substituted for orange flower water, and both can be found inexpensively in the International Foods section of many grocery stores – make sure to choose a natural and pure variety, without any artificial flavours. Arborio rice is often used for risotto and works nicely here. If you don’t have it, you could try another rice variety – the cooking time might increase, so just check for doneness before adding the coconut milk and know that you might need to add a bit more water.

  • 1/4 cup arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/8 tsp pure rosewater
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla bean powder (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1/2 a vanilla bean)
  • a tiny pinch of pink himalayan salt, or sea salt
  • 1 heaping tbsp raw or liquid honey (or 1 tbsp agave syrup or maple syrup, for vegan)
  • 1 tsp chia seeds combined with 2 tbsp water, set aside to become gel (optional to include)
  • Superfood Sprinkles:
  • 1 tbsp flaked coconut
  • 1/2 tsp bee pollen (omit for vegan)
  • 1 tbsp gogi berries, briefly soaked in warm water to soften
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate arils 
  • 1/2 tsp dried rose and/or hibiscus flower petals (or dried flower tea) 
  • 1 small pear, sliced thinly, to serve (optional)

Stir 1 teaspoon of chia seeds with 2 tablespoons of water, and set aside to become chia gel.

Add the flaked coconut to a small dry frying pan set over medium heat. Stir frequently and remove from heat once the coconut smells toasty and is slightly browned – be careful not to let the coconut burn (it can happen quickly!). Set aside.

Add water and arborio rice to a small pot, set over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, and continue to cook until the water is absorbed by the rice (about 10 minutes). Stir occasionally, to prevent the rice from sticking to the pot.

Add the coconut milk to the rice, followed by the honey, salt, vanilla and rosewater. Stir to combine, and continue to cook over medium heat until the coconut milk is mostly absorbed and the rice is completely cooked. Stir in the chia gel, if using, and remove from heat. Taste for sweetness and add 1 teaspoon more of the sweetener you used if you need it.

Divide the pudding into serving dishes. Top with toasted coconut flakes, softened gogi berries, pomegranate arils, bee pollen (if using), dried flower petals (or flower tea), and sliced pears. Enjoy warm, or chilled.

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