Solution for Leftover Rice: Coconut Cardamom Pudding

We've all been there before: rice was on the menu for dinner and you simply made too much.

I don't know why, but rice is one of those things I find nearly impossible to estimate right. Sometimes it forms a main component of a meal (think rice & beans) and we find ourselves scraping the pot clean. Other times, it's the flavorless and forgotten side. It ends up packed in a container and stowed away in the fridge, waiting for the day it's discovered again and promptly tossed in the bin. Because, let's face it, microwaved rice really stinks. 

Rice pudding was invented, like so many similar glories (French Toast, Bread Pudding), to save this starch from an empty death. Like its glutinous counterparts, leftover rice is redeemed by cooking it a second time, but now soaked in dairy and sugar. I came across this recipe years ago, and very quickly fell in love. Over time, I've adapted it to the ratios and ingredients commonly in my kitchen. Now, whenever I cook rice, I only hope there's enough leftovers to cook up this creamy indulgence. 

Beneath the Crust: Solutions for Leftover Rice: Coconut Cardamom Rice Pudding

Coconut Cardamom Rice Pudding

Sweet and creamy, this rice pudding is made from leftover rice simmered in coconut milk with a hint of cardamom and a touch of sweetness. The cook time is long enough to soften the rice, but not so long that it loses all texture. I find myself eating spoonfuls of the hot concoction right out of the pot, but it is best chilled. Enjoy it as an afternoon snack, a refreshing dessert, or an indulgent breakfast (scoot over, overnight oats!!). 


  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked white rice

  • 1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk

  • 1/2 cup of half & half

  • 1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons of white sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cardamom

  • 1 tablespoon of butter (optional; see note)

  • pinch of salt (optional; see note)


  • Place the cooked rice and coconut milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk gently to remove clumps as you bring the mixture to a boil.

  • Once it reaches a boil, reduce the temperature to low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

  • Whisk in half & half, sugar and cardamom. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, and continue to stir as it thickens, about 5-7 minutes more.

  • Taste with a spoon. The rice pudding should be creamy and soft, but not mushy. If you desire more sweetness, add additional sugar a tablespoon at a time. If the mixture seems on the dry side, dribble in a bit more half & half a little at a time, stirring thoroughly. Add optional butter and salt (see note).

  • Once you are satisfied with the flavor and texture, remove from heat. Pour into a glass bowl and cover until cool, then place in the fridge until ready to serve. Alternatively, you can portion it out into little dishes or jars and cover with plastic wrap. Stow in the fridge for a quick and easy snack.

Note: Because of the variables involved in the initial cooked rice, this recipe opens itself up to a little improvisation. If your rice was originally cooked with salt and fat, then there is no need to add the optional butter and salt. But oftentimes I am starting this recipe with 100% plain cooked white rice, in which case the pudding really benefits from the depth of flavor that a tablespoon of butter and a few pinches of salt can bring. Likewise, if your cooked rice is already on the mushy side, you won't need as much liquid nor as much cooking time to get a rich, creamy consistency. And if your leftover rice is on the drier side, simply add more half & half and cook it a bit longer. 

Adapted from Alton Brown