If there is a more important dessert than arroz con leche (rice pudding) it is hard to imagine. From childhood games, to restaurants, and the every day delight of home after home, arroz con leche is part of what makes Peru Peru.
This dessert that sweetens life, arroz con leche, is one of our favorites. It has a history and it is easily prepared and exquisitely pleasing.
History tells us that arroz con leche originated in Spain but with the passage of time it was improved with just a little touch of the flavor called Peru. Whatever its origin, this delicious creole dessert is one of the most popular and consumed in Peru.
In every place the ingredients and its preparation varies from place to place, but the flavor is always enticing and sweet.
In Cuzco there is a different tradition for serving this dessert. It is made with rice, two milks (evaporated and condensed) and the raisins, cinnamon, and cloves. Here we serve it accompanied by a different dessert mazamorra morada, purple pudding. This last is made from Peru’s own purple corn flour and apple. The sweet shops (dulceras) in Cuzco combine the two desserts into one obtaining as a result a fusion of the two with an unbelievably good mixture of flavor and color. White and purple are the two colors that sweeten your life.
Along the way they follow an Andean tradition called dualism where people and the world are organized into two parts that come together to make a whole. In this case the two are white and purple, the Spanish and the Indigenous, rice and corn. This is like how Cuzco was divided in Inca times into Hanancusco and Hurincusco, the upper and lower halves of the city.
You can find this dessert in the shops specializing in desserts. At the same time it is sold by the women who, beginning at four pm, line up with their carts to begin the labor of sweetening the palates of Cuzco’s people with out delicious rice pudding, our arroz con leche.
While I was looking for a place where I could enjoy a good arroz con leche in the city of Cuzco. I found a friend who told me “If you want to have a good arroz con leche go to Q’era street”. Q’era is a popular street where there are hotels and tourist hostals. There are also restaurants and chifas there. And, it is only three blocks from the Plaza de Armas, the main square.
Although there are lots of places where they sell rice pudding, such as cafes, pastry shops, and others, I decided to take my friend’s advice and I went to the place called Todo Dulce (Everything Sweet). It is a small place but the taste of its arroz con leche was amazing.
Rice pudding is also included in the daily menus (fixed meals) of midday as a common dessert in Cuzco’s popular restaurants. After a good meal this dessert hits the spot to finish off a great and satisfying lunch.
Not only is the dessert served in restaurants and Cuzco’s streets, it is one of the most popular desserts in Cuzco’s homes. People love its rich and satisfying, sweet taste, and its ease of preparation.
Given its popularity, especially among children, it is not surprising a song and game arose among kids called “Arroz con Leche”. In kindergartens and in children’s parties they sing and play this song and game.
“Arroz con leche
me quiero casar
con una señorita
que sepa lavar,
que sepa planchar,
que sepa abrir la puerta
con esta si..
con esta no…
con esta señorita
me caso casar.”
“Rice with milk
I want to marry
a young woman
Who knows how to wash
who knows how to iron
who knows how to open
the door for play.
With this one yes…
with this one no..
with this young lady
I will get married.”
Saturated with implied gender roles, the children sing this song in a circle like a round as they playfully choose their bride
Arroz con Leche
(for 4 persons)
2 cups water
1/4 kilo of rice
1/2 cup of sugar
1 can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
100 grams raisins
cloves (two or more, to taste)
cinnamon (one stick plus ground cinnamon for dusting)
orange peel (or orange zest)
Boil five cups of water in a pot with the cinnamon stick and the cloves. Once the water is boiling add the rice which was previously washed. (You can remove the cinnamon and cloves, although these .
Once the rice has cooked, add the sugar, raisins, minced orange peel (or orange zest), the evaporated milk, stir vigorously until well mixed and then add the condensed milk, stir more.
Serve in glasses or bowls and dust with powdered cinnamon.
If you want to serve with mazamorra morada, you can find a recipe in English here.
There are many versions of the children’s song “Arroz con Leche” in Latin America. Although it varies from the Peruvian one quoted above here is an Argentine version.