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The holidays are a time rich in tradition and food. Combine the two, and generation upon generation will be eating the same dishes at Christmas for decades (or even centuries).
While this is good (I love family traditions), it can also be difficult for those of us with food sensitivities or allergies. Our family has had to adapt and make changes to many of our favorite holiday dishes (like pecan pie, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and dinner rolls), and this year, I finally got around to modifying my mother-in-law’s rice pudding.
Rice pudding is pretty much a staple in my husband’s family at the holidays. We could forget all other food, but rice pudding is a requirement. Problem is, the dairy leaves me feeling less-than-stellar after I eat it, but I didn’t want to skip it altogether, it’s really that good.
So I did what any determined foodie did: got the original recipe from my mother-in-law that had received it from her mother-in-law, and I altered it to fit my family’s paleo lifestyle. I know rice is one of those iffy things that not everyone agrees on. Nikki Jencen wrote a guest blog about the pros and cons of rice that you might find useful if you’re on the fence or looking for more science on the matter. As for our family, we do eat white rice every now and then. We are able to tolerate that grain with no issues so we no longer cut it out completely.
If you are not on #teamwhiterice, you could still make this recipe but replace the rice with cooked tapioca pearls instead and have some tapioca pudding. I personally have not tried this, but I imagine you will have similar results. The flavor and creaminess of this pudding is so good, I really wouldn’t want you to miss out just because of the rice. It really is worth it.
The original family recipe called for 3 different types of milk: heavy cream, half and half, and 2% milk. That’s a lot of thick dairy right there. In order to get the same results, I wanted to use ingredients that were naturally smooth and creamy and wouldn’t require any thickeners like gelatin or starches. Coconut milk was a given, but I wanted to stay away from almond milk because I didn’t feel it would lend the right creaminess to the recipe.
Enter cashew milk. Oh man, if you haven’t made cashew milk before, you are missing out. It is so easy and creamy, and it’s the perfect replacement for the dairy in this recipe. You really should make it yourself instead of trying to find some at the store. The store brands have many ingredients, most of which aren’t really acceptable to me. The homemade version has two ingredients: cashews and water. Trust me, just do it.
Dairy-Free Rice Pudding
- 3/4 cup Full-Fat Canned Coconut Milk
- 1 1/4 cup Homemade Cashew Milk instructions included
- 2 large Eggs
- 6 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
- 1 Vanilla Bean or 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 cups uncooked White Rice short grain - I use sushi rice
- 2 cups Water
Cashew Milk (makes approx. 2-1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup Raw Cashews
- 2 cups Filtered Water
- Soak the cashew in 2 cups of water (not your filtered water for the recipe) for at least 4 hours. Drain the soaking water.
- Place the soaked cashews and filtered water in a high-powered blender (I use the Blendtec with the Wildside Jar). Blend until completely smooth. On the Blendtec, I run the 'Whole Juice' cycle twice, just to be sure.
- There's really no need to strain, but if you are using a standard blender, you may want to pour the milk through a fine mesh strainer, just in case.
- Store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.
- Add the uncooked rice and water in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.
- Turn heat to High and bring to a boil. Once it starts to boil, reduce heat to Low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat, take off the lid, and fluff the rice with a fork. Allow to cool about an hour before mixing into the pudding.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs. Set aside.
- In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, cashew milk, and maple syrup over medium heat.
- Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds. Add the seeds and the bean to the milk mixture.
- Bring to a low simmer, whisking occasionally to prevent burning on the bottom or a film forming on the top. This may take up to 10 minutes.
- When the milk starts simmering, reduce heat to medium-low, remove the vanilla bean and discard.
- Take 1 cup of the milk mixture and very slowly pour it into the eggs in a thin stream, whisking constantly. This is to temper the eggs so you can add them to the milk mixture without scrambling them.
- Now add the egg mixture to the milk mixture in a slow, thin stream, whisking constantly. Continue simmering the pudding mixture over medium-low heat for another 3-4 minutes, whisking occasionally.
- Remove from heat and pour mixture into a 1-quart glass bowl. Add the cinnamon stick, cover with plastic wrap (or a lid) and refrigerate until slightly chilled, about 1-2 hours.
- Once the pudding mixture is chilled, stir in the cooled, cooked rice, just a bit at a time. I prefer to use only about 3/4 of the cooked rice, because as the pudding cools and sets, the rice will absorb the pudding and if you add too much rice, it will be too thick. About 1/2 - 3/4 of the cooked rice is right.
- Leave the cinnamon stick in, just serve around it.
- Serve rice pudding warm with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon on top.
- If you can't tolerate white rice at all or just don't want to consume it, you could substitute tapioca pearls instead and make this a tapioca pudding. Just replace an equal amount of prepared tapioca pearls for the cooked rice.