Caramel Rice Pudding with Brown Butter and Crème Fraîche

December 27, 2009
3 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 35 minutes
  • Serves 6 to 8
Author Notes

For this dessert, I began with the idea of using brown butter and arborio to make a risotto-style rice pudding. But the original version wasn't that exciting. That's when the idea of starting with a brown butter caramel worked its way into the pudding, along with the addition of crème fraîche, which I thought would cut the sweetness nicely. After a few more test runs, I also decided that the rice had a nicer texture when it was simmered with all of the liquid than it did when cooked like risotto, adding the liquid bit by bit. The bonus is that this also means less work for you! —Merrill Stubbs

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, plus more for serving
  • 6 cups whole milk
  • seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup arborio rice
  1. Put the butter in a 3 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter stops foaming, and you see orangey brown specks start to appear, stir gently with a wooden spoon. After a minute or two, when the specks are nut brown and the butter smells nice and toasty, sprinkle ¼ cup of sugar over the butter and stir to combine. (It will clump up a little, but don’t worry!)
  2. Switch to a whisk, and cook the butter and sugar, whisking all the time, until the sugar has melted and the mixture becomes a smooth, rich brown caramel, about 5 minutes. (Early on, the butter and sugar will separate, and the butter will pool around the edges of the sugar, but never fear! Once the sugar has fully melted, the two will start to come together again, and you’ll have a nice smooth caramel.)
  3. When the caramel is a rich nut brown and starts to smoke, remove the pan from the heat and quickly and carefully whisk in the crème fraîche and about 1/2 a cup of the milk. Don’t worry if the mixture bubbles up when you do this – it’ll settle down again quickly. (This step cools off the caramel and keeps it from cooking further.) Return the pan to the heat and whisk in the rest of the milk, the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the vanilla seeds and the salt. If the caramel seizes a little, just keep whisking until the mixture becomes smooth again.
  4. Switch back to the wooden spoon and stir in the rice. Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the milk is simmering steadily and cook the rice pudding uncovered for about 25 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, especially towards the end. The rice should be tender but not mushy, and the pudding should thicken but still be quite loose – remember that it will thicken a lot more while it’s cooling. Transfer the pudding to a container, cover and refrigerate until cold. Serve in individual bowls with a dollop of crème fraîche.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • insecureepicure
  • Bonnie Kushnerick
    Bonnie Kushnerick
  • Terra Swan
    Terra Swan
  • frances
  • SKK

50 Reviews

mary H. November 19, 2020
Bummer I cooked an additional 15 minutes. Still not pudding like. Tomorrow I will add eggs
Having read the reviews it makes me wonder. Do you test these recipes before posting. Disappointing
Susan P. March 18, 2017
Having read about the blandness in these reviews, and wanting to make a smaller quantity, I halved everything in the recipe except the butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and creme fraiche. I was taken aback when my pristinely fresh milk and creme fraiche curdled in the caramel, but the curdling either went away or was masked with the addition of the remaining milk and rice. Turned out really well.
insecureepicure February 5, 2017
I made this for a party last night. I used coconut milk and sushi rice. It got rave reviews!!
Bonnie K. January 31, 2015
A little drizzle of chocolate was yummy. Wish I thought about nutmeg. That sounds great too !
Terra S. July 21, 2014
Can I use vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean seeds?
frances March 19, 2014
Personally I found this pudding to rich and lacking contrast (e.g. salt/sour/savoury). I probably should have used more creme fraiche. My brother on the other hand loved it and ate half of it in a sitting.
SKK January 14, 2014
Hi Merrill, Going to make this for a friend's birthday party. This is Tuesday, her party is Thursday night. Do you think it would be good making it tonight - 2 nights early? Thanks in advance.
Merrill S. January 14, 2014
I think you'll be okay!
SKK January 14, 2014
Thank you!
BavarianCook October 17, 2012
This rice pudding is phenomenal. I made it with a mixture of half & half, whipping cream and 1% milk. I know, kind of a hodgepodge but I wanted to make it right there and then and this was what I had on hand at home. It did thicken nicely for me and I added a little more brown sugar. Great recipe - thank you!!!
lschrive January 12, 2012
The taste of this pudding is amazing - but I too had a problem with the consistency. I'm pretty sure I cooked it long enough, but it never thickened the way I was expecting. Like I said though, the flavor is amazing and I will try it again soon to see if I can get it thicker. Thank you!
AntoniaJames December 28, 2011
Made this today, with brown sugar. Will serve it with blueberries from my bushes, which I canned in light syrup about an hour after picking them last August. The pudding is absolutely divine. I added a few gratings of nutmeg for bit of fragrance. ;o)
Merrill S. December 28, 2011
So glad you liked it! The blueberries sound like a great accompaniment.
BakedBean April 18, 2011
i made this for class and served it with a cherry cardamom sauce it was SLAMMIN'
fortyniner December 4, 2010
Totally love Rice Pudding (memories of a childhood in UK) so made this recipe last night. I took note of the comments made by others so reduced the amount of milk by half and then just gradually added more milk when it looked as if it was starting to dry out and rice still needed a bit of extra cooking time. Didn't have Creme Fraiche on hand, but used a Double Dollop style cream, along with some normal pouring cream.
I ate mine hot as no way could I wait for it to cool down, way too impatient for that. It was so creamy and caramelly - I loved it and had to stop myself from eating the whole lot!
Great recipe that I will definitely be using again! Have enough for 2 more (big) serves in fridge - all for me - as family away!!

Thanks Merrill.
lbn May 18, 2010
I liked the flavor of the brown butter and caramel but I agree with Texas chicki that this was a bit blander than I like my rice pudding. Tasted a little too much of milk, I think? Perhaps cooking it longer would help, or maybe just increasing the amount of brown butter / caramel. Thanks for the recipe though, fun to try!
Merrill S. May 18, 2010
So glad you tried it -- let me know if you make it again with any of those changes, and how it turns out. I think I must like my pudding "milkier" than some!
Christi D. March 8, 2017
I like my rice pudding milky too. That's how it should be!
Texas C. May 11, 2010
This is a very interesting take on rice pudding, unfortunately I couldn't stomach it. It was really thin and very bland. I'm used to pudding and without eggs this isn't pudding! Very disappointing, sorry Merrill.
Merrill S. May 11, 2010
So sorry it didn't turn out the way you'd hoped. I've made this recipe many times, and it has never seemed either thin or bland. Is it possible you might not have cooked the rice and milk long enough? If you used something other than arborio rice, that could have had an affect too. If the pudding is cooked to the right consistency, you shouldn't miss the egg at all -- it's plenty rich!
cheese1227 February 8, 2010
I made this recipe this weekend and it was fabulous. I want to thank you for all of the paranthetical notes within the recipe that pretty much predicted right where I would say "uh, oh", thinking it was all going wrong. The notes told me where to expect the rough spots and to keep working through them to the finished product. This one is a keeper.
Merrill S. February 8, 2010
I'm so glad you enjoyed it -- and that the notes helped. It could definitely be a somewhat panic-inducing recipe if you didn't know what to expect...
hope.thurman January 31, 2010
Can't WAIT to try this. I've been trying to make an excellent rice pudding for a while but it just hasn't been successful. Maybe I'll get it right with this one! I just used brown butter and marscapone cheese in an ice cream-such a good combo with the creme fraiche!
Merrill S. January 31, 2010
That sounds delicious! How about posting the recipe? ;)
Maria T. January 8, 2010
Merrill, congratulations to you and Amanda, both recipes are great.
Merrill S. January 7, 2010
Thanks, everyone, for your votes! I'm very flattered. I did indeed have some very stiff competition -- Amanda's pudding was delicious, and her technique was inspired.
Food B. January 6, 2010
Congratulations, Merrill! You certainly had some stiff competition.
TasteFood January 6, 2010
Congratulations on a lovely recipe!