Vanilla is exotic, the proof is in the pudding

Food Recipe: Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding

These days, when people say ‘vanilla’ they often mean boring, but the Mexican orchid flower responsible for the long, fragrant bean is anything but average — and the same goes for this vanilla bean rice pudding

By Louise Crosby

This is turning out to be the summer of vanilla rice pudding. I’ve made this recipe – from food blogger Molly Wizenberg featured in bon appétit magazine – three times in the past two weeks, and as I write these words, another batch is burbling away on the stove. Eaten warm or icy cold from the refrigerator, it is rich and creamy and bursting with vanilla flavour, and we can’t get enough of it.

I’ve made the pudding twice with a vanilla bean and once with a generous tablespoon of Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean paste, which makes an excellent substitute if your store runs out of beans. I also threw in a fat cinnamon stick during the cooking of the last batch, making the flavours even more complex and mysterious.

Vanilla beans run in the range of $10-$12 each, not unreasonable when you consider that it takes two years for the vanilla plant to produce its orchid flower, that pollination is done by hand, and that seed pods need another nine months to develop and several months of curing. Like fine wine, vanilla flavour is affected by terroir, the growing conditions, the timing of the harvest, and the particular curing process.

I’m going to pack up some of this latest batch and take it to my Mom, who knows a good thing when she sees it. We’ll polish off the rest, probably by tomorrow.

vanilla bean rice pudding

Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding: Comfort food you can dress up for any occasion

Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding

1½ cups water
¾ cup basmati rice
¼ teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup sugar
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Bring 1½ cups water, rice and salt to a simmer in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover. Simmer until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add milk, cream, and sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Increase heat to medium; cook uncovered until rice is tender and mixture thickens slightly to a soft, creamy texture, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
Remove pudding from heat and discard vanilla bean. Divide pudding evenly among small bowls. Serve warm or press plastic wrap directly onto surface of each pudding and chill thoroughly. Pudding can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Serves: 6 to 8

Vanilla bean plant

Vanilla Plants (genus Vanilla) are native to Mexico, where the word translates as “little pod” in Spanish. Efforts to cultivate the plant outside Mexico originally failed because pollination depended on the Melipona bee. It was only after a slave by the name of Edmond Albius discovered the plant could be pollinated by hand that widespread cultivation became possible.



For more delicious recipes from Louise Crosby, please click here or visit

THE EX-PRESS, July 6, 2016



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