Rice Pudding - Food History - Via WritingInTheKitchen.Com - @WritingInTheKitchen

A Brief History: Rice Pudding

Rice pudding, whilst rejected by some for being too plain and stodgy, still remains one of my favourite comfort foods. It’s actually been around for centuries, believe it or not, and was thought to have originated in China, which has an ancient rice culture. This has been disputed by some food historians; they argue that rice pudding likely originated in India, which has an ancient rice culture as well as an ancient sugar culture.

In Asia rice pudding was never referred to as rice pudding; instead, it was called a sweet rice porridge instead. Rice is mixed with water, milk, or cream, and then sweetened to taste before boiling or baking. Sometimes dried fruits are added to the mixture, such as raisins or apricots.

Nearly every country in the world has a rice pudding recipe; in Spain it is called Arroz con leche – rice with milk, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest. In the south of India it is called payasam where rice is slowly boiled with sugar or jaggery and nuts, and in the north of India the same concoction is referred to as kheer. In Indonesia a black glutinous rice porridge is referred to as ketan hitam, and in Iran firni is served, which is broken rice cooked with cardamom and pistachios before being reduced to a paste and served.

In the Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson writes: Rice pudding is the descendant of earlier rice pottages, which date back to the time of the Romans, who however used such a dish only as a medicine to settle upset stomachs. There were medieval rice pottages made of rice boiled until soft, then mixed with almond milk or cow’s milk, or both, sweetened, and sometimes coloured. Rice was an expensive import, and these were luxury Lenten dishes for the rich. Recipes for baked rice puddings began to appear in the early 17th century and nutmeg survives in modern recipes.

Here’s a link to an authentic Tudor-style rice pudding; the recipe was inspired by several historical Tudor dynasty cooking manuscripts.


  • Martyna @ Wholesome Cook 19th October 2017 at 5:09 pm

    I quite like rice pudding too, when done well it can truly be comforting in winter and uplifting in summer with fresh mango… yum!


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