Arroz con leche is a rich and creamy Mexican treat that's guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth. Our vegan version is made with tender rice cooked to perfection in soy milk and flavored with aromatic orange zest and cinnamon.
We promise this recipe will convert all the skeptics!
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If you love delicious desserts that are simple to make, we have got you covered. This dairy-free version of Mexican rice pudding is sweet, creamy, and perfect to eat hot or cold.
Arroz con leche Mexicano has a longwinded history that starts hundreds of years ago with the Moorish people in Northern Africa.
It's believed that during the 16th century when the Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula (modern-day Spain and Portugal), their cultural practices influenced the surrounding area — including Moorish food.
Since there are versions of rice pudding in Arabic cuisine, this is the most likely reason for arroz con leche becoming a Spanish staple.
But how did it get to Mexico?
During the exploration age, Europeans heavily influenced South American culture by bringing new foods, customs, and ways of living.
As with many traditional recipes, variations of this dish occurred after it made its way to the Americas due to native practices and available ingredients.
Although there is no "right" or "wrong" way to make arroz con leche Mexicano, some ingredients not found in the original recipes include nutmeg, butter, cayenne, and chocolate.
What is it?
Arroz con leche is essentially the Spanish version of what many people know as rice pudding.
The basic recipe starts off with aromatics like cinnamon and citrus peel, then fluffy rice and various milks are added in. Everything is slow-cooked together until it forms a creamy, dreamy, and irresistible consistency.
There are so many mix-ins you can use like different spices, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and more!
In a traditional Spanish arroz con leche recipe, you'll find cow's milk or sometimes egg yolks. Eggs don't usually make their way into Mexican and South American recipes, but these versions often contain evaporated milk, condensed milk, and cow's milk.
In this recipe, we replace all those ingredients with soy milk to provide a similar flavor and texture (just without the stomach ache afterwards).
Is it vegan?
Because of the addition of many milk ingredients and sometimes egg yolks, arroz con leche is not usually vegan. However, by omitting dairy and replacing it with soy milk, this meal becomes 100% vegan-friendly and gluten-free.
Serve vegan arroz con leche as a dessert after your favorite meal, as a snack on its own, or have it for breakfast with some fruit (we've been known to do this).
The best part about this treat is how good it tastes both hot and cold. We lean towards serving it cold, but you'll have to let us know what you think!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: rice (arroz in Spanish) has a rather plain flavor by itself, but it takes on the flavors of the other ingredients (like cinnamon and orange peel) super well. Arroz con leche also gets its soft, tender texture from cooked white rice.
Health: white rice is often demonized because of the higher amounts of processing it goes through (removal of the husk, bran, and germ). But, it's not all bad! White rice is almost always enriched with iron and folate, making it a great source of both nutrients.
Taste: we opt for soy milk in this recipe since we think it emulates the consistency of traditional arroz con leche Mexicano closely. Soy milk does have a slightly nutty flavor, but it's overpowered by the sweet cinnamon and citrus flavors.
Health: naturally free of cholesterol, low in fat, and a great source of protein, it's really a no-brainer to choose soy over cow's milk. Plus, humans aren't equipped to digest lactose. In fact, up to 75% of the population is thought to be lactose intolerant.
Taste: with subtle spice, and a sweet, woody flavor, cinnamon sticks add a more infused flavor than ground cinnamon. We think they take this dessert to another level, but if you don't have access to whole sticks, just use ground cinnamon!
Health: apart from its potent antioxidant effects, one interesting fact about cinnamon is that it may help with lowering blood sugar. If you can find it, definitely opt for Ceylon cinnamon as it contains the most health benefits.
Taste: in order to add a little "oomph" to this dish, cook it with some citrus peel. The acidity balances out the sweetness and provides a fresh element in each bite. We use orange peel in this recipe, but lime or lemon are both delicious too.
Health: low in calories, high in vitamin C, and helps prevent heart disease? That's something we can get behind! Plus, who doesn't love the tangy flavors of citrus fruits?
If you have questions about this vegan arroz con leche recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: simmer the water for a couple of minutes with the cinnamon sticks and orange peel in your pot. In the meantime, rinse the rice a few times, or until the water runs clear.
Step 2: add the rice to the same pot and bring the mixture to a low boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the rice mixture until the water has mostly absorbed and the rice is tender.
Step 3: mix in the soy milk and half of the sugar to the pot and continue simmering for an additional 20-25 minutes with the lid off. Make sure to man the pot and stir it frequently to prevent the bottom from burning.
Step 4: taste and adjust the sugar to your preferred sweetness, then mix in the raisins and remove the pot from the heat. Cover the pot and let it rest for a little while longer to let it thicken up.
Step 5: discard the orange zest and cinnamon sticks, then serve your Mexican rice pudding while warm, room temperature, or cold with a sprinkle of cinnamon, chopped nuts, or nutmeg on top. Happy eating!
This vegan arroz con leche recipe is tasty hot or cold, but make sure to follow these instructions to keep it as fresh as possible!
Let your rice pudding cool to room temperature before transferring it to the fridge. Once it's cool, store it in an airtight container and it'll last for up to 5-6 days.
Once again, let this recipe cool to room temperature, add it to a freezer-safe bag or container, and your arroz con leche will last for up to 3 months in the freezer.
When you're ready to serve some, thaw it in the fridge overnight and eat it cold in the morning. If you want it warm, check out the next step.
Although eating cold Mexican rice pudding is normal, the easiest way to reheat it is on the stovetop. Add what you're going to serve to a small pot and cook it on low for 4-5 minutes, or until warmed. If you want a thinner consistency, add a little soy milk while heating it.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while creating this vegan arroz con leche recipe for you:
- Switch up the citrus. Mexican rice pudding is delicious with lemon, lime, or orange peel (or any combination).
- Stir frequently. To prevent this dessert from sticking to the bottom and burning, make sure you're stirring it frequently when the milk goes in.
- Try a different plant milk. Use your favorite plant milk to make this dish your own. Other delicious varieties include coconut, oat, rice, almond, or cashew.
- Add some kick. Some Mexican arroz con leche recipes contain cayenne to add a little kick. Try it out to see if you like it!
- Use different spices. Some commonly used spices are star anise, nutmeg, and cardamom. They all make excellent additions to this recipe.
- Thin it out. If it's too thick for your liking, you can always add more soy milk until you reach your preferred consistency.
- Make it ahead of time. Since it's so good cold, this arroz con leche recipe is perfect to prep ahead of time.
🍴 Tasting notes
We love making vegan arroz con leche when we're in the mood for a no-fuss treat. It's:
If you try this Mexican rice pudding, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Vegan Arroz con Leche
- Large saucepan
- Fruit peeler
- 1 cup white rice ($0.14)
- 2 cups water ($0.01)
- 2 whole cinnamon sticks ($0.08)
- 1 large piece orange peel ($0.07)
- 5 cups soy milk ($1.51)
- 1-3 tablespoon sugar ($0.02)
- ⅓ cup raisins ($0.22)
- In a large pot, combine water, cinnamon sticks, and orange peel, and bring to a simmer with the lid on for a few minutes. In the meantime, rinse your rice until the water runs clear.
- Add the rice to the pot of water and bring the mixture to a low boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer with the lid on for 12-15 minutes, or until the water has mostly absorbed and the rice is tender.
- Add in the soy milk and ½ the sugar to the pot. Simmer for an additional 20-25 minutes with the lid off, stirring frequently to prevent the bottom from burning.
- Taste and adjust the sugar to your preferred sweetness, then mix in the raisins and remove from heat. Cover the pot and let it rest for 15 minutes to allow it to thicken up.
- Discard the orange zest and cinnamon sticks and serve your arroz con leche while warm, room temperature, or cold with a sprinkle of cinnamon, chopped nuts, or nutmeg on top. Happy eating!
- The rice should be soft, but not too mushy.
- Arroz con leche also tastes great cold for a more refreshing dessert.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more sweet and tasty recipes, check out our:
- Mexican oatmeal for a creamy breakfast made with piloncillo to create a unique and mouthwatering flavor.
- Strawberries and cream for a rich, sweet, and juicy dessert that's extremely kid (and adult) friendly.
- Vegan churros if you love desserts that are crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, and served with chocolate sauce.
- Strawberry tamales for a new, fun, and sweet way to enjoy this Mexican snack.
Yes, this vegan arroz con leche recipe works with any type of plant milk. Our favorites include soy, coconut, oat, cashew, or almond milk.
If eaten in moderation, we believe vegan arroz con leche is healthy. The dairy-free version contains no lactose or cholesterol, which are both found in cow's milk. To make it even healthier, omit the sugar or use stevia.
Yes, this arroz con leche recipe is gluten-free.
Regular long-grain and jasmine rice are the most commonly used varieties for Mexican rice pudding. However, short-grain white rice can also be used for a creamier consistency.