Comforting, classic, and creamy, this rice pudding is more like a rich vanilla custard while the bourbon-soaked raisins take it to the next level. Like a soothing hug in a bowl, it’s perfect as dessert or breakfast! It takes just 45 minutes to prepare and thickens as it cools on the stove or in the fridge.

A spoon full of rice pudding with raisins.

The Ultimate Creamy Rice Pudding Recipe

This delicious dessert just might be the very best dessert I make and always reminds me of home. It’s super creamy and rich, but not too sweet. If I’m being totally honest with you, I lick the bowl clean every time!

When I think of rice pudding, I think of pure comfort. I took my mom’s classic recipe of milk, raisins, and cinnamon and took it up a few notches with bourbon-soaked raisins, a vanilla bean and a custard instead of just milk.

I think Rice pudding became so common in the South because it was made with leftover rice and pantry staples and pretty simple to make. My friends from other areas of the country, have never heard of it. It’s about as Southern as banana pudding with vanilla wafers.

So if you’re not from the South, you may not have experienced this fabulous dessert before. You’ve been missing out on what I consider to be the ultimate comfort food, it ranks even higher than mac and cheese in my book. So give it a try, you’re going to love it.

One of the great things about rice pudding is that you can serve it hot or cold. If eating it warm, try adding some peach jam for an extra sweet treat.

A single bowl of rice pudding tooped with raisins.

I love that this recipe comes together with just a handful of ingredients. You can use regular raisins or golden raisins for this recipe! It may seem unusual if you haven’t had rice pudding before, but they’re what gives rice pudding its famous texture. You can use bourbon, rum or apple juice with the raisins depending on your flavor preference.

This version is like a vanilla custard with raisins and rice. (of course you can leave out the raisins but they add a nice contrast in both flavor and texture) The vanilla custard is similar to what I pour over rhubarb bread pudding. There’s just something about puddings and custard recipes that make them a go-to recipe when I want some comfort food.

Try out this easy dessert and let me know in the comments if you had this growing up. Cook extra rice next time you’re making a batch to have on hand for this dessert.

What’s The Best Rice to Use?

While you can technically use any type of rice, including leftover rice, I think short grain rice gives the best results. I use Japanese short rice like sushi rice, but you can use arborio rice (commonly used for risotto) too! Short grain rice absorbs liquid really well and has a lot of starch which is what gives the pudding its distinct creamy texture. 

​Why This Is The Best Rice Pudding Recipe

  • Right Amount of Sweetness – With just a half cup of sugar, the natural sweetness of the vanilla bean and raisins is what gives this dessert so much flavor. 
  • Creamy Comfort – With heavy cream and eggs, you get a rich creamy dessert.
  • Bourbon Flavor – A little bit of bourbon goes a long way, it adds just a hint of flavor to the raisins and is not overpowering.

Ingredients For Classic Rice Pudding

The ingredients for Custard rice pudding.
Gather the ingredients.

Rice – ​A short grain Japanese rice is my favorite for this recipe. This recipe will work with any type of rice including leftover rice from dinner the night before.

Vanilla Bean – ​I like the rich flavor that comes from a real vanilla bean.  If you want to substitute, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract or use vanilla paste.

Raisins – ​You can use any type of raisins. Unless you just hate raisins, don’t leave them out.

Bourbon – When cooking with alcohol, it’s important to use a kind you would like to drink! It’ll have a better flavor. I don’t always use bourbon. You can use water or apple juice. The goal is to get them soft and plump.

Pantry Staples – sugar, eggs, milk and heavy cream. You can also use half-and-half.

How To Make The Creamiest Custard Rice Pudding

Step One: Simmer

Place cooked rice, milk, and heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Scrape out the vanilla bean seeds and add to the pan, then heat until just simmering. 

Cream mixture with cooked rice in a saucepan.
Bring cream mixture to a simmer with rice and vanilla bean.

Step Two: Whisk Eggs

Whisk the egg yolks with sugar until smooth then stir in one tablespoon of the hot milk mixture at a time until the egg mixture is warm.

Eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Combine eggs and sugar.
Eggs and sugar whisked in a bowl.
Whisk eggs and sugar.
A bowl of eggs added to warm cream.
Gradually add warm egg mixture to warm cream.

Add the warm eggs to the rice and cook until it thickens about 6-8 minutes or until it coats the back of a wooden spoon.

A saucepan with custard that is being cooked with a vanilla bean.
Simmer until it thickens.

Step Three: Cool

Let the rice cool either on the stove or refrigerate it until cold. If you’re in a hurry, use an ice bath.

A bowl of rice pudding in an ice bath.
Quickly cool in an bowl of ice.

Step Four: Plump the Raisins

In a small pan, add the raisins, bourbon, sugar, and just enough water to cover the raisins. Cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes or until they are soft and plump.

A small saucepan with raisins, bourbon and sugar.
Simmer the raisins.

Step Five: Serve

To serve, top the pudding with the bourbon-soaked raisins.

Bowls of raisin rice puddings next to spoons.
Serve and enjoy!

Make Your Own Version of Custard Rice Pudding 

  • Add brown sugar or maple syrup for a hint of warm sweetness. 
  • Add fresh lemon zest in the cooking process and before serving for a punch of citrus!
  • Add some strawberry jam.

Storing Rice Pudding with Raisins

In The Fridge: Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

In The Freezer: Store individual servings in airtight containers or freezer-safe bags for up to two months. If storing in a bag, store flat to save space and keep air out. 

Two glass bowls of custard rice pudding topped with raisins.

Really, Really Good Rice Pudding

Comforting, classic, and creamy, this rice pudding is more like a rich vanilla custard while the bourbon-soaked raisins take it to the next level. Like a soothing hug in a bowl, it's perfect as dessert or breakfast, while still being pretty good for you! It takes just 45 minutes to prepare and thickens as it cools on the stove or in the fridge.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 472kcal


  • ½ cup short grain rice Japanese rice
  • 1 ¾ cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • water


  • Prepare the rice per package instructions. 
  • Add the cooked rice to a saucepan and add milk and heavy cream. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the mixture and add the vanilla bean. Heat over medium heat until it is simmering. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with ½ cup of sugar until smooth. Stir a tablespoon of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks, and continue adding a tablespoon at a time until the egg mixture is warm. Then slowly add the warm egg mixture to the rice mixture and cook, stirring until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 6-8 minutes. 
  • Cool to thicken. If you are in a hurry, you can place the rice mixture in a bowl of ice in the refrigerator. Otherwise refrigerate for several hours until it is cold. It will thicken as it cools. 
  • In a small saucepan, add raisin, bourbon, ¼ cup sugar, and enough water to cover the raisins. Cook on low heat until the raisins are soft and plump, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature.
  • To serve, remove the vanilla bean, top the pudding with bourbon soaked raisins. 


  • You can use Rum or apple juice instead of Bourbon for the raisins.
  • You can use half-and-half instead of cream, the more fat, the creamier it will be. 
  • Try using short grain rice for the creamiest texture. 
  • You can make this ahead and store in the fridge for 3 days. 


Calories: 472kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 118mg | Sodium: 48mg | Potassium: 364mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 30g | Vitamin A: 785IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 129mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @easy.southern.desserts or tag #easysoutherndesserts!

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