Warm Sweet Risotto with Saffron and Dried Cherries

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The most divine rice pudding you have ever dreamed of. This very simple variation is made without eggs, using instead the natural creaminess in arborio rice to achieve its richness and luxurious texture. This makes the pudding both lighter and more delicately flavoured than those made with eggs. I have infused the risotto with rich vanilla, grated orange and a hint of saffron which adds an elusive flavour. The sweet dried cherries can be replaced with any other good-quality dried sweet fruit, such as dates, figs, apricots or raisins. Make sure the fruit you choose is unsulphured, as in this delicate pudding the “off” taste of the sulphur is quite detectable.




Total Timeunder 1 hour

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursedessert

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian



Taste and Texturecreamy, fruity, rich, spiced, sweet

Type of Dishdessert, pudding


  • ¾ cup arborio rice (short-grain rice)
  • 2½ to 3 cups whole milk (3.5%), do not substitute low-fat or skim milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 plump vanilla bean, scraped out (use both seeds and hull)
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • ½ cup plump dried sweet cherries, such as Bing


  1. In a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan, combine all of the ingredients save the cherries. Place the pot over medium-low heat and stir until bubbles break the surface. Reduce the heat to keep the mixture at a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the pudding is thick and creamy, and the rice is tender and soft. Add the cherries during the final 5 minutes of cooking, then serve the pudding immediately in warmed shallow bowls.

  2. Variation:

  3. Moroccan-Spiced Rice Pudding with Dates, Orange Flower Water and Honey: Increase the grated orange zest in the master recipe to 1½ teaspoon. Reduce the sugar to ¼ cup and add 1/3 cup flavourful honey. Add ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom. At the end of cooking, add ½ cup coarsely chopped Medjool dates instread of the cherries, as well as ½ cup finely chopped pistachio nuts or thin strands of Candied Orange Peel, if desired.

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