This classic Rizogalo recipe (Greek Rice Pudding) is so easy to make and so delicious! This traditional Greek style rice pudding is the perfect comfort food and so easy to make with ingredients you likely have on hand right now!
There is something about rice pudding that appeals to everyone. There are variations of this dessert found all around the world, although the ingredients may change slightly from place to place. Growing up in a Greek home, we called this dish “Rizogalo” which is literally the Greek word for rice (rizi) and milk (gala) put together, the main ingredients of this pudding.
Growing up in a Greek family, my mom would make rice pudding or rizogalo (in Greek) for our family to enjoy. I would get so excited seeing her cook up this traditional Greek dessert. I absolutely loved it and could never wait for it to cool, preferring to eat it warm off the stove! To this day, it is my favourite way to eat rice pudding, though it can be enjoyed warm, at room temperature or even cold out of the fridge.
Making Greek rice pudding is incredibly simple. It only uses a handful of simple ingredients and they are typically things most people have on hand anyway. Rice, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon. That’s all it takes to put together this nostalgic treat.
This traditional recipe does not require cornstarch to thicken, since the rice will release enough starch to thicken the whole milk on its own as you stir it. That said, I have included some tips for thickening with cornstarch just in case you use a milk with less fat and want it to be thicker.
Ingredients in this Greek Rice Pudding Recipe
- Whole milk: traditionally, this recipe is made with whole milk. If you are using a milk with less fat content, see the “Tips, Substititions and Variations” section below for tips on how to alter the recipe.
- Vanilla extract
- Rice: rinsed, white rice (I do not recommend brown rice for rice pudding). The variety of rice you use varies across recipes and is really up to personal preference. I usually make my rice pudding with long-grain or medium-grain rice as it can withstand the cooking and still retains some of its shape without getting too mushy. If you want an ultra-creamy treat, Arborio rice or other short-grain rices are the way to go.
- Ground cinnamon: for serving. I love to sprinkle the pudding with plenty of ground cinnamon before serving.
Note: Ingredient quantities and full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post.
Simple Steps for Making this Rizogalo Recipe
While the recipe is simple, it does take a bit of time to make but I don’t mind as it simmers on the stove without needing too much fuss. Just the occasional stir from time to time and a check on the liquid levels.
The full instructions are in the recipe card at the end of this post, but essentially, making this rizogalo recipe comes down to a few simple steps.
- Bring the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt to a boil. The first step in making this rizogalo recipe is to heat up the milk (and other ingredients). This will dissolve the sugar and prepare the base for the pudding before adding in the rice.
- Stir the rice: Stir in the rice and let it simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture should thicken up as it cooks. While this sounds like a long time, you don’t need to fuss too much with the pudding. Occasionally stir the rice (this helps to release starch and thicken the pudding and also helps ensure that the rice pudding doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot) and look out to make sure there is enough liquid.
- Cool and enjoy: Remove from heat, ladle into bowls or ramekins and let is cool completely. Enjoy as is or refrigerate. Before serving, sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
Tips for this Rizogalo Recipe
- Watch the temperature. When you are making rice pudding, you want to make sure that you are cooking it at a low temperature. When heating up the milk and sugar, keep a close eye on the pot and drop the temperature to medium-low as soon as it begins to boil. Once the rice is added, it should remain at a low simmer until the rice is cooked. This will prevent your milk from boiling over.
- Don’t forget to stir. You don’t need to stir the rizogalo constantly, but you should stir pretty frequently. This not only helps release starch from the rice to create a creamier texture but it will also help prevent the pudding from burning.
- Stay close to the pot. For the reasons listed above, you will want to stay close to the pot to stir and watch the temperature. Additionally, you may want to adjust the cook time, particularly as different rice varieties can differ in cook times.
- Watch the liquid levels. Although I have not had this issue myself, if you find yourself in a situation where your rice is under-cooked but the liquid is quite low, don’t fret. Bring a small pot of milk or water to a simmer and add as much as needed to continue the cooking process.
- Pudding too thick? Add more liquid. This is entirely up to personal preference, but I find that once the rizogalo cools, it becomes thicker than I personally like. If you feel the same way, you can add warm milk (or cold if you prefer it cold) and stir it in to thin it out.
Variations and Substitutions
- Flavour variations: The classic Greek rice pudding I grew up with is what I included in the recipe card but that doesn’t mean you can’t add extra flair to your pudding. Lemon or orange zest can add a nice flavour and brightness to this pudding (or use lemon peel or orange peel if you would like the option of removing it at the end of cooking). A cinnamon stick can also be added to the pot while cooking rizogalo to infuse more cinnamon flavour. Other options include adding stir-ins like raisins or nuts.
- Whole milk substitutions: If you do not have whole milk on hand and want to use a milk with less fat, that can also be done. Keep in mind that you will likely have a thinner pudding (though you may actually prefer that). If you want to thicken it up, you can make a cornstarch mixture using 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of milk to create a slurry. Then stir the slurry into your pudding and continue stirring until it thickens.
- Non-dairy substitutions: If you want to make this recipe vegan or lenten-friendly, you can substitute a non-dairy milk in place of the whole milk. Coconut milk, almond milk and other varieties can be used. Keep in mind that these milks tend to be thinner so you will likely need to use the cornstarch slurry listed above to thicken up the pudding.
I hope you enjoy this delicious dessert as much as I do! Kali orexi!
Looking for more Greek dessert recipes? You may also like:
Rizogalo Recipe (Greek Rice Pudding)
- 5 cups whole milk
- 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup rice rinsed, white rice (Long-grain, medium-grain or short-grain rice can be used. See Ingredient section in the post above for comparison).
- ground cinnamon, for serving
- In a large saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce heat to medium-low.
- Stir in the rice and let it simmer for approximately 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. The mixture should thicken up as it cooks.
- Remove from heat, ladle into bowls or ramekins and let is cool completely. Enjoy as is or refrigerate. Before serving, sprinkle with ground cinnamon.