Cinnamon-Sugar Rice Pudding with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins

I was always that person that gave rice pudding the side eye. You know, the skeptical sideways glance that said, “Maybe, but deep down, I know I won’t like it.” For years, I had the hardest time wrapping my head around a sweet dessert that was based primarily on rice. Rice, as far as I was concerned, was meant to be served alongside chicken and a salad. Then I started seeing rice pudding pop up in a number of places. At first, my initial reactions were the same – I just couldn’t get into it. Before long, I was starting to feel a little tug at my taste buds. Most of the rice pudding dishes I was seeing looked not just good, but down right delicious. Like sweet comfort food for the soul. I made a mental note to give it a try at some point to see what I thought. That day came, and I’m sorry it didn’t come years sooner. I’ve been missing out on an amazing dessert – rich and creamy, loaded with flavor, and absolutely worthy of being deemed comfort food.

What I failed to realize during my unofficial boycott of rice pudding is that it’s very much a dessert version of risotto. I happen to love risotto, it’s one of my favorite dishes. Rice pudding uses the same basic premise as risotto, but instead of broth, you use water, milk, and cream to achieve a creamy, pudding-like consistency with the rice. Ah, decadence, one of my favorite things. Once you add your flavors of choice – here we have bourbon, raisins, vanilla, and cinnamon – this dessert reaches an entirely new level. You can eat it warm, room temperature, and chilled, which also makes it very versatile when serving to company. I tried it at all three stages and can honestly say I enjoyed each one, and don’t really have a favorite. It has a creamier consistency when warm, and then firms up a bit as it cools, so go with whatever your personal preference is.

The flavor combinations here are virtually limitless, although it seems that cinnamon and raisins are fairly traditional. I couldn’t help but to soak the raisins in bourbon; after doing so in other recipes, I’ve found that it gives a nice extra kick of flavor.

Do you have a favorite type of rice pudding?

Cinnamon-Sugar Rice Pudding with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes


¾ cup raisins
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 cups water
1 cup medium-grain white rice
¼ teaspoon salt
2½ cups whole milk
2½ cups half-and-half
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Combine the raisins and the bourbon together in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. As soon as it reaches a simmer, remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

2. Bring 2 cups water to boil in large, heavy-bottomed pot (at least 3 quarts). Stir in the rice and salt; cover and simmer over low heat, stirring once or twice until the water is almost fully absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Add the milk, half-and-half, and sugar. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain simmer without boiling. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, stirring every couple of minutes to prevent sticking and scorching, until a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding, about 15 minutes longer.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the raisins (with any extra bourbon), vanilla extract, and cinnamon. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. (It can be covered with plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding and then refrigerated up to 2 days.) You can stir in some extra milk if reheating it, to achieve the original creamy consistency, if you'd like.

Recipe Notes:

- You can omit the bourbon if you don't wish to use liquor. Simply add the plain raisins to the pudding when directed in the recipe.

- You can completely omit the raisins if you don't like them. Feel free to substitute another dried fruit if you wish, or leave out entirely.

(Recipe adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

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40 Responses to “Cinnamon-Sugar Rice Pudding with Bourbon-Soaked Raisins”

  1. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 10, 2012 at 1:00 am

    I love rice pudding and I’ve made oatmeal raisin cookies with rum soaked raisins…now I need to do that with rice pudding like you did!


  2. Maggie @ A Bitchin' Kitchen on April 10, 2012 at 1:48 am

    This looks delicious! I’ve loved rice pudding since I was a little kid, but have never made it homemade!


  3. Hannah at FleurDeLicious on April 10, 2012 at 3:45 am

    That is basically the exact path I took to a love of rice pudding. “I probs won’t like that…” to “How many different ways can I eat this?!?!?” I don’t make it enough (hardly ever), but this version sounds amazing! I kind of want it for breakfast…


  4. Kiri W. on April 10, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Mmmm, cinnamon rice pudding :) My favorite! And hey, bourbon makes everything better.


  5. Katrina on April 10, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Bourbon soaked raisins?? Yes, please!


  6. Jolene on April 10, 2012 at 7:32 am

    I’m on the fence about rice pudding… think I’ll pin the recipe to try and find out whether it’s for me!


    • Karrari on March 2nd, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      I can assure you there is nothing to be, “on the fence,” about when it comes to rice pudding. When it’s made with love (and a good chef,) it’s delicious and worth trying!


  7. Melissa on April 10, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I’m right there with you about rice pudding. I’ve always looked at it with skeptical eyes and have always been surprised to see it on a public menu (ew! how dare they?!)…then I tried it awhile ago, and I was changed forever. I swallowed my mean thoughts about rice pudding and have craved it ever since!


  8. angela on April 10, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I grew up on rice pudding and associate it with cinnamon toast and being sick in bed. It was our comfort food. Love the twist on the raisins.


  9. Debra Kapellakis on April 10, 2012 at 9:15 am

    My boys love rice pudding. I always bought it. One day I saw Jamie Oliver making it. I have made it his way every since. Now I will make two batches, yours for me and the other one for my boys. thank you


  10. Heather @ Bake, Run, Live on April 10, 2012 at 9:35 am

    As I have a deep love of chocolate, I make mine with chocolate chips instead of raisins!


    • Michelle on April 10th, 2012 at 9:37 am

      Oooh, love that idea!


  11. Janet on April 10, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Instead of just putting the raisins in as they are, I like to replace the bourbon with water and simmer them like that instead if alcohol can’t be used – it reconstitutes them and makes them wonderfully plump, tender and sweet :)


  12. Claire @ Live and Love to Eat on April 10, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I LOVE rice pudding, but no one else in my family does! I made it for Easter a few years ago and no one touched it. I’ll have to find a single serving adaptation! :)


  13. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Pepper on April 10, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Ohhh, your rice pudding looks fantstci. I’ve never been a big fan of rice except as a side with my dinner, but I am finding more and more use for it. I actually use it as my replacement for oatmeal int he morning. Crazy, but it tastes good.


  14. Mary @ Bake Break on April 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I’m glad you’ve come around to rice pudding (and made this awesome recipe!) – it’s on of my favorite desserts!


  15. Laura Dembowski on April 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

    This looks amazing. I’ve never had rice pudding before, but now I’m really looking forward to trying it. Thanks for sharing!


  16. Nancy @ CouponClippingCook on April 10, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    This looks so good! Love all of the ingredients and with the touch of bourbon…sounds delicious!


  17. Maria on April 10, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    I haven’t had rice pudding in a long time. I need to make this recipe!


  18. Laura on April 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I’m soooo making this immediately! Looks fantastic!


  19. Jesse on April 10, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Rice pudding was my enemy growing up, my mom made it every year for Christmas Eve and i never ate it. BUT NOW.. its seriously my favorite pudding! And one of my favorite desserts. Im putting this on my Tomake list for sho! Looks delish! much love.



  20. Erin @ Brownie Bites on April 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I have been meaning to try making my own rice pudding. I’ve never tried it, but I’m dying to give it a whirl. It sounds dreamy!


  21. Mal @ The Chic Geek on April 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    This looks so deliciously creamy! mmmm


  22. Kris on April 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    I’m suprised there are no eggs in this recipe! Every rice pudding recipe and any time quickly throw it together with leftover rice from dinner, it always includes egg. I feel silly asking but how on earth does it thicken with just milk and half and half??


    • Michelle on April 10th, 2012 at 9:24 pm

      Hi Kris, The rice absorbs the milk and half-and-half and it creates a very creamy texture. I’m not sure if you’ve had risotto, but that’s exactly what happens when the rice absorbs the broth – it plumps and gets very creamy.


  23. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on April 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I always felt the same way as you about rice pudding. You may have convinced me to try it…


  24. Lilienthal on April 10, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I must say I was surprised when I initially discovered how uncommon rice pudding was across the pond. In (mainland) Europe I would say that it’s basically a staple dessert, especially in its simplest form which only uses (dessert-type) rice and milk sweetened with (vanilla) sugar. And in reply to Kris, it most definitely thickens on its own as the rice absorbs the milk much in the same way that a risotto does. Frankly I consider the thought of adding eggs to rice pudding somewhat blasphemous. :]


    • Kris on April 11th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      Ouch, that’s a bit harsh. :( Eggs make it rather like a custard with a lovely silky texture…being a huge fan of custard and rice pudding, adding egg yolks makes the pudding truly decadent! Adding cream cheese or even marshmallows can also add pizzaz to a simple rice pudding. I’ve been eating it all my life (egg version) and like to dress it up a bit. It’s a wonderful way to use up leftover rice from dinner!


  25. Agos on April 10, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Love rice pudding :) I like it raisin less and flavored with orange zest.


  26. Alexandra on April 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I’m terribly picky about the texture of my desserts (hence my usual reaction of turning my nose up at the sight of rice pudding) but your recipes always manage to persuade me to try new things. I think I’ll take the plunge :)


  27. Kim on April 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    I love, love, LOVE Chocolate Rice Pudding!!! My mom made it for the last 10 years before she died…the sad part is she got it perfected but never wrote it down before she died. :( My sister and I have been scouring recipes all over the net to try to find a good one but no such luck yet. When I read your recipe my mind immediately went to chocolate chips instead of raisins…Looks like Heather and I think alike. LOL

    I’m going to give your recipe a try!!! :)


  28. Valerie on April 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    I grew up eating rice pudding – it’s how we used leftover rice. My mom taught me to just keep adding milk and sugar until it was creamy and sweet. One of those recipes that doesn’t really have a recipe – delish!


  29. Elisa on April 13, 2012 at 12:41 am

    I have to agree in Europe rice pudding is extremely common. When I grew up my grandma made quite often for me with lots of cinnamon. Nom nom!
    I will try your recipe next time, Michelle. But instead of raisins I will try it with cranberries.


  30. Courtney @ Bake. Eat. Repeat. on April 15, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I am so ready to hop on the sweet rice pudding band wagon! This looks delicious!


  31. Crystal on April 30, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I am going to try this for my father, he absolutely loves Rice Pudding. I am going to replace the Bourbon with some Amaretto instead.


  32. RisaG on May 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    I love rice in anything at all. Hot, cold, savory, sweet – all delicious. This sounds so good.i have to try it.


  33. heidi on October 9, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    I love rice pudding. And I haven’t been able to find a recipe that comes out right. I’ll have to try this one. Thanks for sharing.
    Buy Here Pay Here


  34. Cassandra on February 22, 2013 at 1:27 am

    My boyfriend and I are whole food vegans, so I made a couple of substitutions, vanilla soy milk for the whole milk and half & half, a mixture of maple syrup and agave in place of the sugar (used a little less since agave conversion is 2/3 to 1). I also left out the bourbon. It turned out beautifully! It’s nice to find an easily converted-to-vegan dessert recipe. Thanks!


  35. Dorothy on August 31, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    I just made this recipe last night and it turned out great! I omitted the raisins but it still came out delicious. Thank you!


  36. Lisa on January 11, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    I can’t put into words just how delicious this is, Michelle! I just finished making it, so I’m tasting it for the first time as I write this. The only I think I adjusted was the amount of bourbon — I doubled it. I’m from Derby City (that’s Louisville, KY and where the horses run on Derby Day) as we love our bourbon! Divine. Simply divine. Can’t wait to share with those I love. Thank you!


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