Rice Pudding, Lightened Up

I was never a rice pudding fan until a few years ago when my middle daughter starting requesting it daily. Since then I’ve been experimenting with a few variations of this classic to help lighten up the creamy calories while still maintaining its delicious flavor.
Related To:

Pumpkin Rice Pudding with whipped topping in small glass dessert dishes and gold spoons sticking in them

Photo by: Stephen Murello

Stephen Murello

I was never a rice pudding fan until a few years ago when my middle daughter starting requesting it daily. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with a few variations of this classic to help lighten up the creamy calories while still maintaining its delicious flavor.

Classic Puddings

One half-cup of store bought rice pudding contains 133 calories and 3 grams of fat. When you order up rice pudding at a restaurant or make a batch at home, the portions are 3 to 4 times that amount. The increase in portion size causes the calories to skyrocket to over 500 calories and 12 grams of fat. Some homemade batches use coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, heavy cream or half-and-half, which add a tremendous amount of calories and artery-clogging saturated fat.

The Rice

Both short grain and long grain rice can be used to make rice pudding. Arborio is a shorter and fatter variety of short grain rice that has higher amounts of starch which gives this dish a creamy texture without lots of added fat. Long grain basmati rice can also be used; it has a nuttier flavor and aroma and is available in both white and brown varieties.

Besides the type of rice, the portions are also important. Aim for about 1/2 cup cooked rice per serving — when combined with milk, you’ll end up with about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of pudding.

The Milk

There are so many variations to experiment with when it comes to the milk. In order to keep calories and fat in check, use more of the lower calorie milks (like whole milk and soy milk) and then top off the pudding with a few spoonfuls of higher-fat  milk like sweetened condensed milk, half-and-half, almond milk or heavy cream. Just to give you an idea of the calories and fat for one cup of various types of milk:

  • Sweetened condensed milk: 982 calories; 27 grams total fat; 17 grams saturated fat
  • Half-and-half: 315 calories; 28 grams total fat; 17 grams saturated fat
  • Coconut milk: 360 calories; 33 grams total fat; 30 grams saturated fat
  • Heavy cream: 414 calories; 44 grams total fat; 28 grams saturated fat
  • Soy milk: 100 calories; 4 grams total fat; 0 grams saturated fat
  • Whole milk: 146 calories; 8 grams total fat; 5 grams saturated fat

One switch I wouldn’t suggest is choosing low-fat or skim milk. The consistency of the pudding will be more watery and the mouth feel won’t be as creamy and smooth.

Flavor Enhancers

There are some flavor enhancing ingredients that add flavor without many calories. These include spices like ground clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, lemon or orange zest and unsweetened cocoa powder. Various liqueurs can also be used — as long as you’re adding them during the cooking process, the calories will be minimal.

Some other add-ins should be used in moderation, such as chocolate chips, raisins, maple syrup and chopped nuts like pecans as they contribute fat or sugar.

Recipes to Try:
TELL US: What's your secret to rice pudding?

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

You Might Also Like:

Keep Reading

Next Up

Bread Pudding, Lightened Up

Soaked in sugar, eggs and half-and-half, bread pudding is decadent to say the least. Good news – it’s possible to cozy up with a tasty version of this comfort food for less calories.

Recipe Spotlight: Lightened-Up Banana Pudding

Banana pudding is a classic, creamy, indulgent dessert, but Food Network Kitchen's came up with an easy-to-make lighter version.

Easter Desserts for Everyone

Accommodate everyone on your Easter celebration guest list with these seasonal treats.

Best Valentine’s Day Treats for Two

Make a perfectly portioned dessert this Valentine's Day with Food Network's sweetest recipes for two.

Tiramisu, Lightened Up

In honor of Italian week, we’re lightening up this all-time favorite dessert. Find out how you can enjoy this delectable classic without all the guilt.

7 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Grilled Summer Fruit

Heighten the natural sweetness of fruit with a little time on the grill.

Red, White and Blueberries

Food Network's 4th of July dessert recipes are perfect whether you're hosting a holiday cookout or will be a guest at a backyard bash -- the the recipes now.

Budget-Friendly Cherry Jam Tart — Recipe of the Day

Melissa's take on the classic French cherry tart cuts down on time and the cost of pricey cherries by using good-quality cherry jam.

5 Decadent Hand-Held Desserts for a Tailgate

The treats are perfect to bring to a tailgate in the stadium parking lot or serve at home while watching the game on television. They're easy to make, easy to eat and you won't have any plates to tidy up after.

Outside the Chocolate Box: Valentine’s Day Dessert Ideas

This Valentine's Day, think outside the box of chocolates and whip up one of these homemade treats for your sweetheart. Get the recipes.