Rice Pudding with Honey and Spices

October 18, 2010


Breakfast, Fall, Local Eating, Recipes, Winter

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A few nights ago, I conquered the common cold over the stove. It was a long journey to recovery, I realized. As I stirred the nutty, spicy mixture of soy milk, cardamom, cinnamon and honey into a lump of leftover Chinese takeout, I knew that I had finally grown up. That is not a joke.

I’ve spent too many years in the adolescent doldrums, where caring for myself was an afterthought, or worse, an admission of weakness. Not only did I regularly ignore feeling sick, I regularly made myself sick. My body was a thing to be used and worn-down—not a thing to be loved.

When I was little, my grandmother gave me chicken soup and grapefruits with brown sugar and honey-lemon cough drops whenever I was sick. My mother rubbed my tummy and sang me lullabies. And I started, bit by bit to remember that, when I felt too tired to walk out the door last weekend. I decided it was time to do right by me: so I bought lots of citrus, cooked up some soup and stuffed my pockets with Halls.

I wouldn’t have strayed from grandma’s triumvirate, except that by the third day of my cold, I was bored out of my mind and my soup supplies were low. I wanted something sweet, salty, filling and warm all at once—a manna served to me in a single, beautiful bowl. But all I seemed to have was a carton of crusty white rice and a half a gallon of soy milk. It turned out to be the best combination of limiting factors I could have asked for.

After the rice had reconstituted into a soft, gentle pudding, I sprinkled it with spices, doused it in honey and threw in some nuts for texture. I set the table with my wedding china and a silver spoon, lit some candles and got well again.

Maybe it was the fact that I ate nearly 3 cups of warm, milky rice in a single sitting. Maybe it was the fact that I put myself to sleep by rubbing my bulbous tummy and humming Tchaikovsky’s Peter and the Wolf. Or maybe it was the thought I had of the women who have cared for me, and the happy thought that I can be one of them. Either way, this bowl of rice was a way home.

Rice Pudding with Honey and Spices

Makes 4 servings

2 c cooked white rice

4 c soy milk (or cow’s milk, if you prefer)

1 T butter (optional)

½ c honey

1 t cinnamon (plus more for garnish)

½ t cardamom (plus more for garnish)

½ t salt

½ c raisins

½ c chopped walnuts


Place rice and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Decrease the heat and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes, until mixture thickens.

Add honey, spices (and butter) and stir to combine then turn off the heat.

Add raisins and continue stirring for a few minutes, until raisins plump.

Sprinkle with walnuts and additional spices just before serving.

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