Nuts for coconuts

Brazilian coconut rice pudding pairs well with Latin-inspired dishes.

Bill Hogan | Chicago Tribune

Since I first tasted my great-grandmother’s coconut cake, I’ve been a fan of coconut.

But I was an adult before I discovered dishes where the sweet fruit takes on savory notes.

Big in Asian and Latin cooking, coconut is quite a popular fruit.

It’s been popping up everywhere lately, from articles in other newspapers to cooking magazines, so I’ve tried a few new recipes.

One called for using light coconut milk to mash sweet potatoes. It was a perfect pairing.

Since desserts are still my favorite way to use coconut, I wanted to share a coconut rice pudding recipe I tried.

It’s a great complement to any Latin-inspired meal.


Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 35 minutes

Makes: 8 servings

Adapted by the Chicago Tribune from “Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking” (Rodale Press).

  • ½ cup golden or dark raisins
  • ¼ cup light rum or 1 teaspoon rum extract plus ¼ cup water
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup arborio rice, rinsed until water runs clear
  • 1 stick cinnamon, 3 inches long
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup sweetened condensed skim milk
  • 1 cup light coconut milk
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon each: grated orange zest, grated lemon zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup toasted shredded unsweetened dried coconut

Combine raisins and rum (or rum extract and water) in a small bowl; let soak, 15 minutes. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine water, rice, cinnamon stick and vanilla. Heat to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low; simmer, covered, until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 20 minutes.

Stir in condensed and coconut milks. Add raisins and their liquid. Simmer, covered, until rice is very soft, 10 minutes. Stir in brown sugar, citrus zests and salt. Cook, 5 minutes. Add more sugar if desired. Cool pudding to room temperature. Discard cinnamon stick. Spoon into serving bowls or martini glasses. Refrigerate until cold. To serve, garnish with toasted coconut.

Nutrition per serving: 309 calories, 6 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 58 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 68 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

M. Clare Haefner enjoys cooking for family and friends. Contact her at or (254) 501-7551.

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