Riz au Lait with Caramel Sauce is what we call a recette de grand–mère, aka a “grandmother’s recipe”. Practically every French grandmother knows their way with pantry staples (rice, milk, sugar and vanilla) to make this creamy rice pudding topped with caramel sauce. This is a comforting and thrifty dessert that always pleases both kids and adults.
What makes “Riz au Lait” different from North American rice pudding?
Riz au Lait (translating to “rice with milk”) is far less custardy than its American cousin, as it includes no eggs. Rice, milk, sugar and vanilla for flavoring are the only ingredients. In essence, the starch from the rice is the only component used to build the creamy texture. Riz au Lait is smooth, yet slightly loose, and tastes just a touch lighter than rice pudding since they are no eggs.
In terms of flavor, while nutmeg, cinnamon and sometimes raisins are added to classic American rice puddings, the riz au lait often only includes vanilla (vanilla bean paste or extract). The addition of caramel sauce on top is very common, and truly makes it a unique French recipe.
A beloved, nostalgic French treat
Riz au Lait is such a beloved French recipe, that is enjoyed for dessert or as mid-afternoon snack. For most, it is a childhood treat that brings feelings of nostalgia and comfort.
But truth to be told, while riz au lait with caramel sauce has always been a French’s favorite, a lot of people nowadays don’t really take the time to make it at home anymore – like many other recipes you could say. Instead, it is more common for French people to enjoy riz au lait from store-bought plastic cups, available in all grocery stores and under several brand names.
In my opinion, most store-bought versions of Riz au Lait with caramel sauce are often quite dense. They lack the creaminess that make riz au lait really unique, and are often overly sweet as well. Once again, I think there is just no comparison with making your own riz au lait at home – it is guaranteed to be better.
2 Tips for a perfect riz au Lait:
Riz au Lait is an easy and frugal recipe, made with simple ingredients: milk, rice and sugar. But before you dive into the recipe, here are 2 essential tips to know in order to achieve a perfect riz au lait.
- Watch your pot. Riz au Lait is achieved by slowly simmering milk with rice, and then sugar. Milk can boil and spill over very fast. So make sure to keep a close eye on your pot, especially at the start. As it warms up, the milk will start to steam. At this point, it is only a matter of seconds before it starts to simmer and potentially rise and spill over. Keep the pot on a low simmer at all times.
- Stir frequently. Because short-grain rice is starchier than long-grain, it can stick and clump easily. Make sure you stir your pot frequently (every 5 or so minutes) to avoid the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pot and preventing any clumps of rice from forming.
More cooking notes:
- When comparing different riz au lait recipes, you will find the rice quantity varies from 90g to 140g for 1L of whole milk. After testing many recipes across the board, I find that 100g of rice is a perfect amount. I think it achieves a perfectly creamy pudding texture – yet that’s still loose enough to be labeled as a French riz au lait. In comparison, rice puddings found in North America will often be more compact. If you prefer a very loose pudding, you can opt for 90g of rice. If you prefer a thicker texture, opt for up to 140g.
- For the rice, short-grain is best. Arborio, a medium-grain rice that is widely available, is a good option too as it is starchy enough and doesn’t turn mushy when cooked. I would very much avoid using long-grain rice types.
- Whole milk is best, to create a rich and creamy consistency. You can use 2% milk in place of whole. Although do know the riz au lait may end up slightly less creamy.
- Using vanilla bean paste is preferred to re-create a true riz au lait. But vanilla extract can be used as a substitute.
- This recipe will give you 4 little servings (served in little ramekins or pots) or 2 large servings (served in large bowls, as pictured here).
I hope you’ll love this Riz Au Lait with Caramel Sauce recipe as much as I do! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment.
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For the Riz au Lait:
1/2 cup (100g) short-grain rice
4 cups (1 L/1q) whole milk
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract or ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
1/3 cup (67g) sugar
For the caramel sauce:
1/3 cup (67g) sugar
2 tbsp (28.5g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup + 2 tbsp (105ml) heavy cream (25% mf)
For the riz au lait:
Step 1 – Place the rice in a colander and rinse it thoroughly under cold water.
Step 2 – Place the rice, milk, salt and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over medium heat (lid on) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 1 hour, stirring frequently to ensure the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and to prevent any clumps from forming. After 1 hour, the rice should be tender and the mixture should resemble very loose porridge (some liquid should still be visible).
Step 3 – Stir in the sugar and continue simmering (lid off) until the mixture thickens slightly further. At this point, you can decide if you prefer a loose rice pudding or firmer in texture: in that case, simmer until desired consistency. Remove from heat and set aside.
For the Salted Caramel:
Step 1 – Place the sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat the sugar without stirring until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat slightly, bring to a low boil and boil until the syrup turns a dark caramel color.
Step 2 – Immediately remove from the heat, stir in the butter and heavy cream. BE CAREFUL as it will bubble. Some of the caramel may solidify, this is normal. Place back onto the heat, and stir continuously until the caramel is homogeneous.
For serving, you can enjoy the riz au lait warm, cool or chilled, and the caramel sauce warm or cool as well. The riz au lait will be firmer when chilled. Place three or four spoonfuls of riz au lait in serving bowls and top with a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Riz au Lait will keep up to 4 days in the fridge, covered and up to 2 months in the freezer. For freezing, make sure the riz au lait is completely cooled to room temperature before placing in an airtight container and into the freezer. Deforest the riz au lait overnight in your fridge.