This Puerto Rican Sopa de arroz con leche is an old-fashioned rice milk soup recipe made with only a few ingredients such as rice, water, milk, butter, and a pinch of salt.
This arroz con leche soup is a simple savory soup made with minimal ingredients, perfect for a light lunch or evening snack that brings you back to memory lane.
What does arroz con leche taste like?
The flavor profile for this savory sopa de arroz con leche is delicate with it's cooked rice, in a simple creamy milk broth that's touched with butter and a tiny hint of salt.
Almost like a bowl of traditional oatmeal or grits without any extra fixings, this arroz con leche is a cornerstone recipe in the Hispanic community. A taste of the past ready to continue through to the next generation.
What's the difference between sopa de arroz con leche and arroz con leche (dulce de leche)?
Arroz con leche de dulce: Rice Pudding
- A sweet rice pudding is usually made with sugar, condensed milk, cinnamon sticks, and sometimes raisins.
- Served cold and usually around the holidays.
Arroz con leche means rice with milk. Depending on the region, you'll get different answers. A quick way to tell the difference is by looking for words such as "sopa" which means soup or "dulce" which means sweet.
Notes on the ingredients:
- Uncooked White Rice: Traditionally, short-grain rice is used to make sopas de arroz. Medium-grain rice is easier to find, so I'm using this.
- Water: To cook the rice.
- Warm Milk: Whole milk is recommended. Using warm milk keeps the cooking temperature consistent.
- Butter: If using salted butter, you can omit the salt (if desired).
- Salt: To taste.
Alternative ingredient options:
- Dairy-Free: For a dairy-free rice milk soup, you can use a dairy-free alternative such as soy milk, oat milk, or nut milk. Coconut milk will make a fantastic broth for tropical sopa de leche.
- Different Rice Grains: Use what's in your cabinet. Use short-grain rice such as arborio, sushi rice, or pearl rice. Sello Rojo is a brand that's often used in Puerto Rico. (It can be found at Walmart or Amazon.)
- Note: If you're using short-grain rice, use 2 cups of water instead, and use 3.5 cups of water to make arroz con leche with long-grain rice.
- Brown rice: I have not tested this recipe with brown rice. If you want to use brown rice, allow for a longer cooking time.
Prepare your rice.
Clean your rice.
To make this rice milk soup, you must first clean your rice. Cleaning your rice removes excess starch that can make the rice too sticky or how Boricua's like to say it "amogollao".
To clean your rice, fill a bowl with water that goes about 3-4 inches higher than the rice top of the rice and stir it around with your hand. Drain the white rice with a colander to ensure the rice remains.
Do this about 3-4 times or until the water in the rice is clearer.
Soak your rice.
Once you drain your cleaned rice, place it in a bowl with cool water and cover it by 2-3 inches. Cover the bowl using plastic wrap or a clean towel and set aside the bowl for an hour. This helps the rice soften and cuts down on cooking time.
- Cook rice: In a medium pot, add water, rice, butter, and salt and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated from the top.
- Hint: You'll start seeing some air pockets surface, almost like when you make pancakes, and it's time to flip it. That's when it's ready!
- Try not to stir during this process. You want the rice to cook through without it getting crispy on the bottom. Be sure that your heat is not too high. You want it to cook through gently.
- Add in warm milk: Once the water has mostly evaporated, you will stir in your warm milk slowly.
- Warm milk helps not shock the rice and helps shorten the cooking time.
- Cook for 15 more minutes: After adding the milk, cook it for 10-15 minutes over medium heat.
- If you want a more tender and thicker rice milk soup, cook for 15 minutes. For a looser arroz con leche, cook for about 10 minutes.
- Remember, you can add more milk if you want it thinner during the next step.
- Five more minutes: After about 10-15 minutes, stir your sopa de arroz con leche, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for about five more minutes or until it's your desired consistency.
- During this time, taste the rice milk soup and add more salt or butter to your liking.
- Serve right away once it's ready. Note: As the rice cools, it will begin to thicken a little bit.
This Puerto Rican sopa de arroz con leche is like a blank canvas, waiting to become modernized with simple twists to create a new recipe inspired by the past.
- Spiced: Star anise, cloves, nutmeg, or cinnamon are great spices that will make your dish pop!
- Sweet: Almost like a sweet version of arroz con leche, you can add in some sweetness by spooning in white or brown sugar. You can even mix in some creamy condensed milk! (My dad's favorite.)
- Cheesy: Topping your creamy rice milk soup bowl with cheddar, gouda, or mozzarella cheese will add a unique finishing touch! (And if you're brave, maybe some hot sauce!)
- Savory: When cooking your rice, swap your water with some chicken broth. Infusing a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme into your milk while warming separately will add a significant layer of fresh herbaceous flavor to your arroz con leche!
- Floral: Lavender and lemon-infused rice milk soup makes a perfect spring and summer lunch recipe with a side salad!
Recommendation: Try our sopa de fideo soup for a savory soup full of flavor.
Storage & Reheating
While this rice and milk soup is ideally enjoyed fresh, it can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 48 hours.
When reheating this sopa de leche, consider pouring it into a small pot and gently warming it over medium-low heat for a few minutes until it reaches the desired temperature.
Adjust the consistency by adding more milk if needed. Add a spoonful of butter and a pinch of salt to suit your taste preferences.
Story Time: Connecting to our past.
My mother recalls eating this sopa de arroz con leche in Puerto Rico as a child. She remembers long summer days on the finca, when her mother would ask her to milk the cow and bring in fresh milk to make the best arroz con leche soup.
This rice milk soup reminds me of a depression-era recipe with its simplicity. You have to appreciate that our ancestors were able to create delicious meals with little ingredients. They even took curdled milk to make a dulce de leche cortada (curdled milk dessert).
When I first tried this soup, I was in a bit of shock. Considering the few ingredients used, I thought it would taste like nothing.
The reality is that simplicity gives it a delicate taste that makes your tastebuds exercise in search of looking for more, yet that exercise leads to the realization that it's perfectly balanced.
There's beauty in simplicity, and in our generation of more, we often lose sight that simple dishes can be delightful.
Note: Fresh milk is richer, creamier, and tastier than our store-bought milk. There's a reason this authentic arroz con leche sopa was a hit back in the day. Just imagine eating this with warm milk straight from the cow. How amazing would it be?!
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Let's keep the conversation going in the comments below or over in our Facebook group, which has over 160,000 members! I want to know when you first tried sopa de arroz con leche was it with fresh or store-bought milk?
Sopa de arroz con leche: Puerto Rican Rice Milk Soup
- 3 cups water
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 1 cup rice short grain
- 2 cups milk warm
Prepare the rice
- Rinse rice 1-2 times by putting rice into a bowl and covering it with about 4 inches of water. Mix it well, drain it with a colander, and repeat it.
- Pour rice into a large bowl, cover it with about 2 inches of water, and let it soak for an hour to soften. This step is optional; read notes..
Cooking the arroz con leche on the stove
- Pour water into a large pot over medium-high heat, season water with salt to taste, and add butter.
- When water begins to boil, add in rice and allow it to cook until most of the water evaporates. (Stir as needed.)
- Lower heat to medium-low and add in the warm milk, stirring frequently. Cook the arroz con leche until the liquid thickens; this may take about 10-15 minutes.
- Once the arroz con leche thickens to the desired consistency, taste one last time and add more butter or salt, if desired.
- Serve hot or cold.
- For a thinner soup, add in more warm milk at the end.
- Rinsing your rice is optional. This helps soften the rice for a quicker cooking time and removes excess starches that can make your sopa de arroz con leche too sticky, like a pudding. For this recipe, we want loose grains of rice.
- For a dairy-free rice milk soup, swap dairy milk for your favorite dairy-free milk alternative.