Vegan brown rice pudding

Wrap my soul in a rice pudding blanket?

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Don’t mind if I doooooooooo.

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For someone who has a strong memory, my brain has become a little fuzzy over time. As much as I wish I could, I don’t remember every single Christmas. There are a few that stick out vividly in my mind, and little pieces that I’ll never forget. The Pilot’s first deployment, which was over Christmas -I cried the entire drive back to my apartment after family festivities- a ballerina doll that twirled on a stand, from when I was about 8. Kyle’s first Christmas- I was teaching him how to open presents and can still see my red flannel nightie and the shiny silver tinsel on our tree. It was the last Christmas that our parents were together. Watching Santa (a local dentist!) land on a neighborhood roof and shivering in the cold, but I didn’t mind because it was so.awesome. Going into the kitchen at my great-grandmother’s house to refill our bowls of brown rice pudding from the fridge.

While this version can’t touch my nana’s -and there’s no way she’d give me the real recipe (“Hmm, rice.. milk…” “Do you put cinnamon in it, nana?” “Well yes, of course cinnamon”),

it’s sweet, rich, delicious… even kinda healthy.

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I went through a time period when I wanted to “healthify” everrryyyyything. I think the Pilot would even get a little scared when I’d tell him I was going to bake something, and would return with sugar-free fat-free chocolate bricks, aka cookie impostors. It wasn’t that everything HAD to be healthy -during this time was the era of Southern BBQ and Friday night Midori margaritas at On The Border- but I felt like I had all of this newfound knowledge and wanted to experiment with different ingredients. Something I learned along the way: don’t ever feed dinner party guests a crumble sweetened with Splenda. Just thinking about it now makes me shudder. Make them the real dang crumble.

I learned the hard way that some things aren’t meant to be healthified and should just be enjoyed as is, especially if you have dinner guests over.

At the same time, sometimes  the healthier option tastes even better. Example 1: sweet potatoes will always taste better to me than white potatoes. Example two: brown rice > white rice. Every.single. time.

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White rice is ok, especially as an accessory to a raw piece of fish in a nori wrapper, but brown rice has a beautiful nutty, robust flavor.

So here’s a version of beloved rice pudding, using brown rice instead of white.

The coconut milk makes it extremely rich and creamy, which cinnamon sticks give a festive spice. I’d even serve it to dinner guests 😉

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Brown Rice Pudding

vegan, gluten-free

Makes about 10 servings

Cook time: 45 minutes – 1 hr

Active prep: 5 minutes

Chill time: Overnight in the fridge



-1 bag of brown rice (16 oz)

-1 can coconut milk (14 oz)

-14 oz water

-1 1/2- 2 C almond milk (or milk of choice)

-2 cinnamon sticks

-1 vanilla bean, scraped (save the outer pod to flavor coffee)

-1/4 C sugar

-1 C dried cranberries or raisins (optional)


1. Place the rice, coconut milk, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks and vanilla into the rice cooker.

2. Start the cooker on the brown rice setting. (You could also make this stovetop, just bring to a boil, down to a simmer and cover.)

3. After the rice is fully cooked (about 45 minutes), stir in the cranberries or raisins. Slowly start to add the almond milk and let the rice absorb the liquid.

4. Heat for an additional 10 minutes or so. Let set until room temperature, then store in the fridge.

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Does your family have a traditional dish that’s served over the holidays? 

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  1. Erica on December 4, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    This looks SO amazing! Nom nom. Totally making it.My family makes a raw cranberry sauce using an old fashion grinder. Its a staple!

  2. Cara @ I Don't Believe in Diets on December 4, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    holy moly this looks amazing. seriously.

  3. Stacy on December 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve made this before using the frozen brown rice you can pick up from Trader Joes. It works really well and can be made in a pinch 🙂

    • Fitnessista on December 4, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      that’s a great idea, since the rice is already cooked! i like to pay less and get the uncooked stuff though

  4. Leslie on December 4, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Gina, what if I don’t have a rice cooker? Could I use the slow cooker?

    • Fitnessista on December 4, 2012 at 4:32 pm

      no, i would do it stove top. for some weird reason, rice doesn’t cook well in the slow cooker

  5. Danica @ It's Progression on December 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I’ll be honest…my grandma makes a rice pudding but I always avoid it! Not because of the taste (it’s delicious) but because it’s full of cream and milk (which I’m allergic to)…Needless to say, I can’t wait to try this version!

  6. Kerry @ Totes My Oats on December 4, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Yum! I always make Rice Pudding with leftover rice from Chinese. This recipe sounds great.

  7. Katie on December 4, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    My family always has cod fish cakes on Christmas Eve for dinner and then the leftovers are reheated on Christmas morning with scrambled eggs and Povatitsa, a Serbian coffee cake.

  8. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on December 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    This looks like it tastes amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Beverly Aragon on December 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    Mmmmm, that looks fabulous! I heart rice pudding, but flan will forever be my fave.

  10. kyla on December 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    We make cranberry walnut bread for christmas morning every year. It’s so delicious and we always eat it with coffee and opening presents 🙂

    Less delicious but still made for drink consumption is glug. It smells terrible, but tastes alright. It’s like a mulled wine. I’ll take my wine white and cold, just how winter should be.

  11. Catherine on December 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    This looks DELISH. I’ve tried vegan rice pudding recipes before that just used almond or soy milk and it always tasted thin and disappointing. The coconut milk is the perfect way to make it rich and creamy with no dairy. I am really excited about this!

    My family always loves it when I come home and make them healthy meals, so I will definitely present this over the holidays. 🙂 Thank you!

  12. Melissa on December 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    My family makes eating rice pudding a game! We put the rice pudding into cups and one cup has a nut at the bottom. Whoever finds the nut in their cup wins a small prize (usually a lotto ticket!). I believe the game is a Danish tradition.

    I just started reading your blog and I really enjoy it!

  13. Averie @ Averie Cooks on December 4, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    I love making rice pudding with coconut milk and raisins – it’s THE BEST! Yours turned out awesome looking! I like adding cinnamon to mine or even nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice or whatever Im in the mood for. Mmm, I want some now 🙂

  14. Lizzie on December 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Oh my. I haven’t had rice pudding in years, and I actually have all of the necessary ingredients on hand. I love when that happens! Making this right after dinner tonight.

  15. Herbivore Triathlete on December 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Oh yummy! My mom always makes rice pudding with oranges for Christmas. I have never attempted making it myself, but this looks like a recipe I can handle. Love switching white rice for brown!

  16. Angie on December 4, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Yummm this looks amazing! What kind of brown rice did you use? I have jasmine and short grain in my kitchen (both brown). Which do you recommend?

  17. Lindsay @FitandAwesome on December 4, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    This looks really good! The recipe is gluten-free, right? It seems to me like it is. I will have to try it out! This is my first holiday season being gluten-free so I am learning how to put new spins on old time favorite desserts.

  18. Stephanie on December 4, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    On Christmas morning, we always have chocolate chip banana French toast. Not too healthy, but very simple to prepare Christmas eve and bake in the morning!

  19. Emily @ Emily Eats and Runs on December 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Mmm, rice pudding. I’ve always wanted to make Ina Garten’s recipe, but she uses so much whole milk and half-and-half! I’m so excited to try this healthier version of rice pudding!

  20. Amanda @ .running with spoons. on December 4, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    It’s a freezing cold day in these parts, and a warm bowl of coconutty rice pudding sounds about perfect right now – thanks for the recipe 🙂 My family has a few different traditional Polish dishes that come out during the holidays, but my favorite is probably beet soup with mushroom dumplings, followed by a chocolate covered spice cake.

  21. Kristen on December 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Yum! I’m making this very soon!

    My aunt always makes “dirt cake” with homemade vanilla pudding in it and Oreos crumbled on top with fresh whip cream. I’m sure it’s not the least bit healthy at all but it is so. freaking. delicious. She used to make it for the kids but I thinks she’s learned over the years that its just as much for the adults 🙂

  22. Grace @ Practicing Grace on December 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks for sharing those sweet memories! This rice pudding will be in the works soon!!

  23. Laura on December 4, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Do you think you could use a slow cooker for this?

    • Laura on December 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Just read your comment to a previous inquiry. Sorry for jumping the gun!

  24. Natalie @ FreshLifeFindings on December 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Yum this looks great! I love brown rice more than white rice for sure. And I love the coconut and cinnamon flavors added to it, yum 🙂

  25. Eating 4 Balance on December 4, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    Love this idea. Looks delicious!

  26. Katie @ on December 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm

    I am so excited to try making this rice pudding!

  27. Bunmi on December 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Looks great! May have to try this soon!! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  28. Alicia F. on December 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    OMG! I <3 you! I LOVE LOVE LOVE rice pudding, only the kind my daddy makes. I've tried to make it, but it NEVER comes out the same…and so I've given up on it and the fact that it isn't the healtiest thing to eat, but my dad SWEARS "it's good for you!" 😉 I cannot wait to try this!! 😀 I'm seriously giddy with joy!

  29. alicia on December 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    My favorite recipe when I visited my Dad as a young girl was his “sweet rice”!! Be-still my heart!!! thanks for this recipe, I cannot wait to try it!

  30. Katie@ skinnyminniemoves on December 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    That looks great! I’ve never actually tried brown rice pudding before, but always looking for new things to try. I hate coconut milk though! Almond milk is my drink of choice, wondering if I should add extra or find a substitute… hmmmm let me brainstorm this!

    • Rebecca on December 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      I was wondering the same, as I can’t get coconut milk where I live. Would semi- or non-fat milk work?

  31. Bek @ Crave on December 5, 2012 at 12:01 am

    This looks so good! My mum likes creamed rice, so I might have to make it for her. Haha, I’m one of those ‘healthifiers’ too 😉 Some things should just never be messed with, I agree!

  32. Emily on December 5, 2012 at 2:48 am

    This sounds so good! I’m also intrigued about the vanilla pod coffee – do you just put the emptied bean in the jar of ground coffee and leave for a while to infuse? I usually throw the whole pod in the Vitamix when making a smoothie or soup, but I’m liking the idea of flavoring up my coffee too…

  33. Jenny on December 5, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Although rice and I aren’t good friends, quinoa pudding sounds awesome. Thank you for the recipe–gonna give it a try. And since I am behind on my blog reading, congrats on Caroline! As a vet, I see lots of dogs and CKCS are awsome! They are the sweetest dogs! My boss has had 3 and they were all loves. My 3 kids (5, 4, and 8 months) all love her and have played with her a lot.

  34. Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit on December 5, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Our men have to be so patient with us as we make those sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, healthified cookies, eh? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told Kevin that I’ll make him cookies only to come out with something that looks like a cookie but tastes like a brick of sawdust. Heh.

  35. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on December 5, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Haha I went through a period when I tried to make everything healthy too – it was when I first started reading blogs and I just wanted to try all the ideas I read about! It definitely resulted in some major recipe flops though. 😛

    This rice pudding looks awesome!

  36. Faith on December 5, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I’ve definitely learned that there is a time and a place for healthy substitutions, and there is a time and a place for the good stuff – i.e., a loaf of crusty bread gets REAL BUTTER, not a pseudo-margarine. Desserts for guests definitely get the luxe treatment too – gotta put some love into the food so it’s a real treat!

    At any rate, our holiday dessert was something called frozen fruit salad. It was basically cool whip, cream, maraschino cherries, coconut, pineapple and nuts all mixed together and frozen. Sounds absolutely bizarre but it was my favorite thing as a kiddo!

  37. Danielle@cleanfoodcreativefitness on December 5, 2012 at 9:12 am

    This looks amazing! I totally agree with you too on the brown rice over white. It just tastes so much better!

  38. Lucie on December 5, 2012 at 10:34 am

    I can totally relate on the sweet potato vs. white potato. Tastes so much better in my opinion! That pudding looks delicious!!

  39. joelle @ on a pink typewriter on December 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Oh my gosh! I just wrote about brown rice pudding on my blog today, because I ate some Sunday out at a restaurant and it was an amazing experience. It’s like you read my mind. Rice pudding is where it’s at. 😉

  40. Steph @ Steph Stays Slim on December 5, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Yum, that looks great! I have a version of brown rice pudding I’ll be posting pretty soon! I usually don’t add in fruit or nuts…I may give that a try next time!

  41. John Lawless on April 21, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Is it possible to make this with stevia instead of sugar? Has anyone tried? Also do you have to add the coconut milk? I’m looking for ways to make this as low cal as possible.

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