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Food Mother's Day Cook-off

Mama Reina’s Arroz Con Leche

Learn how to make authentic Salvadorian rice pudding in 10 easy steps!

A Mother’s Day Special

Authentic Salvadorian Rice Pudding

For as long as I can remember, my mother has been my source of inspiration for life advice, fashion, and homemaking. Born and raised in the tropics of El Salvador, my mother has mastered the art of embracing new traditions while still paying homage to her home’s heritage. In a true matriarch fashion, she has kept old traditions alive by passing down her inherited knowledge to the generations after her. As age inevitably approaches all of us, the importance of maintaining cultural traditions only becomes more imperative.

My mother Reina photographed at a family event—circa 1990’s.

During my coming of age, it was only natural for me to learn about the traditions that came before me, and those that will continue to exist after me. One of the most precious forms of tradition that has been passed down to me was learning how to make my mother’s arroz con leche (rice pudding). This divine confection is considered a specialty in my household—only making appearances during major holidays such as Christmas, New Years, and most recently—Mother’s Day. Enjoyed warm or cold, this traditional Salvadorian dessert is a treat reminiscent of the culture in Central America.

Arroz con leche (rice pudding) garnished with cinnamon and lemon zests.

Although I was not born in the motherland of my parents, I still find myself craving a deeper connection to the ancestors that came before me. As I become more integrated into the culture of my generation, I become worried that I am losing touch with my ancestral roots. In order to restore my sense of connection, I have found delight in learning traditional family recipes from the best chef I know: my mother. 

Before she can begin her cooking tutorials, my mother finds herself immersed in memories of the past by sharing stories from her childhood in El Salvador. I enjoy listening to these tales in order to gain insight of the lifestyle in El Salvador—although in my humble opinion, this small tropical country deserves to be seen rather than described:

Views of El Salvador captured via drone.

Besides my own family’s cooking, I also enjoy finding new recipes to add to my own personal cookbook. I recently learned how to make sauce from scratch after reading about the Norris Family Marinara Sauce Recipe. (Which has since been added to my cookbook—and it should be on yours, too.)

Passing down family recipes is not just a nostalgic pastime—it allows us to honor our culture in the best way possible: by immortalizing a connection to our ancestors. Families across the world embark in this shared tradition to preserve their ancestral roots, and to create everlasting memories—one home cooked meal at a time.

Recipe card for arroz con leche (rice pudding).

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 cup milk
  • 14 oz evaporated milk
  • 7 oz condensed milk
  • cinnamon sticks
  • pinch of salt
  • lemon zest (optional)
  • ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot under high heat.
  2. Add 1 stick of cinnamon to boiling water.
  3. Once water comes to a simmer, add 1 cup of white rice.
  4. Allow ingredients to simmer for 10-15 minutes; stir occasionally.
  5. Check that rice has absorbed water, then add 1 cup of milk. (Use dairy-free milk as a substitution.)
  6. Add 14 oz of evaporated milk and 7 oz of condensed milk. Continue stirring to prevent rice from sticking to pot.
  7. While stirring, add a pinch of salt. (Optional: toss in a zest of lemon for flavor.)
  8. Do a taste test for sweetness; add more condensed milk if necessary for a sweeter flavor.
  9. Allow pot to boil for 10-15 minutes while stirring occasionally until rice becomes soft.
  10. Remove lemon zest. Check rice and lower heat until ready to be served.
  11. (Optional: garnish dish with a dash of ground cinnamon for an extra kick of flavor!)

From my family to yours, enjoy a traditional Salvadorian dessert with your loved ones this Mother’s Day.

By Jocelyn Herrera

Jocelyn Carolina Herrera is a first-gen business woman with a passion for fashion and creative marketing. Her background in writing, photography, and retail management has led her to several opportunities as a creative professional. She is known for her contributions working in the fashion industry as a visual merchandiser, stylist, and event coordinator. Most notably, Ms. Herrera has collaborated with companies such as Victoria’s Secret, Urban Outfitters, and Buffalo Exchange. Born and raised in the sunny suburbs of Southern California, Ms. Herrera is currently pursuing a career in fashion marketing and public relations.

One reply on “Mama Reina’s Arroz Con Leche”

I read this article it is extremely informative and interesting. I read it and wanted to know more about the culture and most definitely about the food. I am most definitely going to try to make the rice pudding myself. Article is well written most definitely interested to read future articles from this writer again🙌

Liked by 1 person

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