This easy Middle Eastern rice pudding recipe is a new favorite in my household! It's a basic stove-top rice pudding infused with vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Make the garnish or toppings your own, or use honey and crushed nuts like I do.  See my step-by-step tutorial!

Rice Pudding garnished with pistachios

A few weeks ago, my family went on a quick excursion downtown Atlanta. We were hoping for lunch at this cafe we had heard of. But on the way there, we stumbled upon a little Turkish restaurant; and somehow, a strong craving for Kofta Kebobs took us there instead.

At the end of our satisfying lunch, we were each served a little souffle cup of Middle Eastern rice pudding. It immediately took me back to the rice pudding of my childhood! And since the kids loved it so much, I was determined to recreate it at home.

It seems that rice pudding is among those universal treats. If you search closely, you will find rice pudding variations from our southern kitchens here in the United States all the way to Sweden, where it is a popular Christmas treat for Santa!

Middle Eastern Rice Pudding served in a bowl with honey on the side

Within the Middle East alone, rice pudding can take on different flavors depending on where you go. Some recipes utilize flavorings from rose water or orange blossom water. Others rely more on spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or even cardamom. And what you garnish your rice pudding with can vary as well. But the basics of a rice pudding recipe remain the same: rice; milk (or a mixture of milk and cream); and sugar.

Today's easy rice recipe pudding is fairly basic, adding a little vanilla extract, and cinnamon and cloves for aromatics.

Tip: if you have time, prepare the milk mixture with the vanilla extract, cinnamon, and cloves, then refrigerate overnight. This is a trick I learned from Ottolenghi; it helps infuse the milk with the aromatics from the cinnamon and cloves.

Here is the step-by-step tutorial for this easy middle eastern rice pudding

(Scroll down for the print-friendly recipe)

Place the milk, half and half, vanilla extract, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a medium saucepan. Heat on high and watch carefully. Just before the milk mixture boils, remove from the heat. Cool completely and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight so that the flavors develop and intensify (if you don't have time, you can proceed from here).

Milk, half and half, cinnamon sticks and cloves combined in a medium saucepan.
Remove the milk mixture from the fridge and set in room temperature for a few minutes. Add the rice, sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly. As the rice cooks, keep stirring regularly. The rice mixture will dry, add a little water (2 tablespoon or so at a time) to help it cook. Continue to stir and add water as needed until the rice cooks completely. The rice mixture should be moist, and the rice should be cooked through but maintain a little bite.

Rice, sugar and water added to the pot of ingredients

Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and evaporated milk.

Butter and evaporated milk are added to the pot of ingredients

Carefully remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves, then transfer to small serving bowls or even 3-oz mason jars. At this point you can cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready, add a little more evaporated milk to each bowl to loosen the rice pudding. Heat briefly in the microwave, then top the rice pudding bowls with a pinch of ground cinnamon, honey, and the crushed nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Close-up of Rice Pudding garnished with nuts and honey

 

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Easy Middle Eastern Rice Pudding Recipe| The Mediterranean Dish. Step-by-step tutorial for rice pudding infused with cinnamon and cloves, and topped with honey and nuts. The best!

Easy Middle Eastern Rice Pudding Recipe


Description

This easy Middle Eastern rice pudding recipe is a new favorite in my household! It's a basic stove-top rice pudding infused with vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves. Make the garnish or toppings your own, or use honey and crushed nuts like I do.  See my step-by-step tutorial!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 1 cup half and half (or heavy cream, if you prefer)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 cup medium grain rice
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • ½ cup water, more as needed
  • ⅓ cup evaporated milk
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Ground cinnamon for serving
  • Honey for serving
  • Crushed pistachios and walnuts for serving

Instructions

  1. Place the milk, half and half, vanilla extract, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a medium saucepan. Heat on high and watch carefully. Just before the milk mixture boils, remove from the heat.
  2. Cool completely and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight so that the flavors develop and intensify (if you don't have time, you can proceed from here).
  3. Remove the milk mixture from the fridge and set in room temperature for a few minutes. Add the rice, sugar and water. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat, then simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring regularly.
  4. As the rice cooks, keep stirring regularly. The rice mixture will dry, add a little water (2 tablespoon or so at a time) to help it cook. Continue to stir and add water as needed until the rice cooks completely. The rice mixture should be moist, and the rice should be fully cooked but maintain a little bite.
  5. Remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and evaporated milk. Carefully remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves, then transfer to small serving bowls or even 3-oz mason jars.
  6. At this point you can cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. When ready, add a little evaporated milk to each bowl to loosen the rice pudding, if you find that it harden in the fridge. Heat briefly in the microwave, then top the rice pudding bowls with a pinch of ground cinnamon, honey, and the crushed nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Cooking tip: Rice pudding can be served warm or cold.  Rice pudding should be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Visit our store to browse our spices, olive oils and bundles!
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern

Keywords: Rice Pudding, Middle Eastern dessert, Vegetarian dessert,

More Dessert Recipes:

Greek Yogurt Parfait with Kahlua and Nuts

Basbousa: Almond Coconut Semolina Cake 

Baklava 

Easy Apple Strudel with Phyllo

 

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I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
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Comments

  1. Hi- is there anything besides evaporated milk that I can use? Ditto for the half and half?

    I’m lactose intolerant and can get milk but not the rest.. thanks

    1. Hi, Stephanie. I have seen vegan versions of Middle Eastern Rice Pudding using just soy milk or almond milk, so you could try one of those. It's not something I've used here myself, though, so I can't speak to the results with this specific recipe.

  2. Being from Balkans, I make rice pudding very often. Here is how I "spice it" sometimes: before you start cooking the rice, peel a few apples or pears (peaches are also great, if it's summer), cut them in 6-8 pieces each, and sauté them with a little water and sugar until soft. Put aside and let cool. When rice pudding is cooked, put a half of sautéed fruit in a glass bowl, with a little syrup in which you cooked them. Cover them with the rice pudding, and then put the remaining fruit & syrup over it. There should not be a lot of syrup - just a little, enough to make for a nice "juicy" feeling. You can sauté your fruit with some lemon zest & juice, and with cinnamon if you use apples or pears. Try it sometimes - I will surely try this with crushed nuts and honey!

  3. Hi there,
    So in my area, we have a fantastic Lebanese restaurant that serves an amazing rice pudding (along with a whole host of other things). I'm hoping this recipe will be just what I'm looking for when I'm craving their version.
    My only question is, in the printed recipe, I don't see any instructions on when to add the vanilla. Am I just not seeing it?

    1. Hi Mike, the vanilla extract is added in the first step with the milk and cinnamon etc. Enjoy!

      1. I kind of figured, but I just wanted to make sure. Thank you for updating the recipe.

    1. In general, brown rice will take longer to cook. It's also a good idea to soak it and rinse it well. I have not tried it in this particular recipe though.

  4. Hi Suzy,
    I love Middle Eastern recipes including desserts, and rice pudding is my favorite! I do love rose water and orange blossom water, can I substitute either for the water and if so, how much should I use?
    Thank you for the wonderful recipes and I get so excited when I see your email arrive in my inbox.
    I look forward to your next recipe!

    1. Hi Louise, yes, you can surely add rose water or orange blossom water here. I would start stir in like 1/2 tsp to start with and see if you'd like more. Enjoy!

  5. Suzy first of all I love your blog, instagram and fb, so thank you for all your recipes. This is heaven in a bowl, I can almost taste and smell this delicious dessert. xoxo

    1. Beverly, thank you so much for your kind words! I am so glad to hear from you, and really appreciate you following along. This rice pudding is a favorite around here, hope you give it a try!

    1. Good question! So ground spices are going to be actually stronger than the whole here. So I would say for the cinnamon, use a little less than 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Ground cloves are spicy, so I would use this sparingly...start with 1/4 teaspoon, and you can go up if you like.

  6. Fantastic - I made it this afternoon and enjoyed it tonight, and have plenty left over for tomorrow!!
    This is such an easy recipe and makes plenty - I followed your recipe except had only basmati rice but it turned out really well.

    Thank you Suzy - I don't think I'll be buying readymade rice pudding any longer!
    My mum made great one (actually baked in the oven) when I was growing up in England. I think you version is even better.

    Mary - now in North Carolina

  7. I think i've just died and gone to heaven, Suzy. Sadly my wife hates rice pudding so I never cook it.

    Dave

    1. Dave, great to see you here! You'll just have to make some rice pudding for yourself, or share it with the neighbors 🙂