Here are the five main ingredients that you need for rice pudding:
Rice: You can use uncooked long-grain or short-grain white rice here, but not uncooked brown rice, which needs more cooking liquid than white. However, if you are starting with cooked rice, white or brown can be used. Jasmine rice has a beautiful floral flavor, and it makes the best rice pudding rice.
Milk: Any kind of milk will work, although the higher the fat percentage, the creamier the results. Want to go dairy-free or vegan? Use an unsweetened non-dairy milk: cashew milk, and oat milk work wonders. You can even use canned coconut milk, but be prepared for a strong coconut flavor (or try the subtler stuff found in boxes). Use four cups milk if starting with uncooked rice, three cups if starting with cooked rice.
Sugar: Start with 1/3 cup granulated sugar and add more at the end if you want it sweeter. Feel free to play around with brown sugars or liquid sweeteners, but start with a few tablespoons and add more to taste.
Salt: Just a small amount of salt brings out all the flavors, so do not skip it.
Vanilla: You can add vanilla bean paste or half a vanilla bean right at the beginning so that the rice pudding is nicely infused, or stir in vanilla extract at the very end.
Rice pudding can be customized with add-ins like ground cinnamon or raisins. Feel free to play around with your favorite warm spices or dried fruit.
Make and Serve Rice Pudding
Cooking rice pudding is as easy as putting all the ingredients into a saucepan and simmering until the rice is very tender and the mixture thickens up. Remember to stir it occasionally to make sure the bottom does not scorch. There are some rice pudding recipes that temper in egg yolks for richness, but it is a fussy step and you run the risk of scrambling the eggs. Instead, to make the rice pudding extra-rich, stir in a tablespoon of unsalted butter in at the end.
Serve rice pudding at whatever temperature you would like: straight from the pot, warm, or even cold. It does thicken up as it cools, so thin it out if needed with more milk to get it back to your desired texture.