This rice pudding is absolutely bananas. It’s insanely, unbelievably creamy (and in that starchy way that you only get from not rinsing the rice before you cook with it), and the toppings are almost unfairly good. The coconut crumble gives you the crunch that you need just when the creaminess starts to almost overwhelm you, and the lime gives a tiny kick of sweet acidity to balance out the fattiness from the coconut. And of course because some recipes just get everything, the puddings are stunningly gorgeous when served and garnished (assuming you spoon them into something cute, like a glass or a tea cup – don’t be thinking you can use your mingy old cereal bowls here). If this recipe were a person, they would be all perfect, and well-rounded, and vegan to boot, with amazing skin and hair; but they’d also be like, super genuine and nice, so you couldn’t even hate them that much. Ugh, this recipe is the worst. Except it’s the best.
Coconut Milk Rice Pudding w/ Coconut Crumble + Candied Lime
Adapted from Alice Medrich (Epicurious)
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 14-oz cans light unsweetened coconut milk
1 14-oz can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup Arborio rice
¾ tsp salt
½ vanilla bean, cut lengthwise (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 large egg white (okay, so technically this one thing isn't vegan - it's the topping though, it doesn't really count!)
¾ cup white sugar, divided
½ tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
2 ½ cups unsweetened coconut shavings (aka large flakes aka coconut chips)
1 large lime
Start by getting the pudding going – place the shredded coconut in a small pan and set over medium heat. Toast, stirring frequently, until the coconut is golden and toasted (but certainly not blackened). Scrape onto a plate and let cool for 5 minutes. Combine the 3 cans of coconut milk, sugar, rice, and salt in a large heavy saucepan. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the pod. Stir in the warm, toasted coconut. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a hearty simmer. Turn the heat down to a bare simmer (very low) and partially cover. The rice should always have a bit of a bubble happening around the edges – if not, turn the heat up ever so slightly until it does. Stir frequently to avoid any rice from congealing on the bottom or sides of the pan. Cook for 30-35 minutes, or until the pudding is thick but still relatively loose, like runny porridge. Take off the heat once finished cooking.
While you are (wo)manning the pudding station, make the toppings. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg white, 3 tbsp white sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the coconut shavings and toss until evenly moistened. Spread the coconut on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy. Stir up the coconut every 5 minutes or so to ensure even browning. The coconut will be quite sticky while warm, but once cooled it will become crisp and breakable.
For the candied lime zest, peel the skin from the lime in as long a piece as you possibly can (if you wind up messing up and only being able to cut small shavings, use a few pieces). Place the zest on a cutting board and, using a small paring knife, scrape/shave off as much of the bitter white pith as possible. Place a small pot of water to boil on the stove. Add the lime zest to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Pluck the lime zest from the water, and rinse under cold water. Return the water to a boil and repeat the process of boiling and rinsing the lime peel. Discard the boiling water and replace it with 1/3 cup water and ½ cup sugar. Bring the sugar-water to a boil to dissolve the sugar particles. Cut the lime peel into very long, thin strips. Add the lime strips to the sugar-water and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the lime zest to a piece of parchment paper to cool. Toss the cooled lime zest to coat with the remaining 1 tbsp sugar.
To assemble the puddings, spoon the warm (not hot) coconut pudding into attractive cups or bowls. Break up the toasted coconut shavings into large crumbles. Scatter over the puddings. Top prissily with the candied lime zest. Serve smugly.