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The Nicest Rice for Pudding

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2015

Rice pudding is usually made with long-grain rice, but we wondered if it could be improved by swapping in Arborio or sushi rice.

Rice pudding is usually made with long-grain rice, but we wondered if it could be improved by swapping in Arborio or sushi rice. Since these short-grain rices have a high proportion of amylopectin—the starch that makes risotto creamy and sushi rice cling—could they make a more luxurious, creamier rice pudding?

To find out, we compared stovetop rice pudding (served cold) made with long-grain rice, Arborio rice, and sushi rice. Some tasters objected to the softness and lack of “bite” in the sushi rice grains, while Arborio was panned for contributing a slight grittiness. Turns out this is due to a genetic “defect” in their cores called chalk that never softens completely. It’s what gives risotto a desirable al dente texture, but we found it unwelcome in pudding.

For pudding with a creamy texture boasting rice with a pleasant, mild chew, long-grain rice is still the best choice. That’s because it contains a good amount of a starch called amylose that retrogrades, or rearranges into crystalline structures, when the rice turns cold, giving it the chew sushi rice lacks without making it too firm.