Irma’s Swedish Rice Pudding

If you have ever been invited to a Smörgåsbord, you might have had the opportunity to enjoy one of the culinary triumphs of Scandinavia—Swedish Rice Pudding. It was often made for dessert when the housewife had rice left over from dinner the day before. A dessert made with leftover rice may seem a little pedestrian, but it is is just one of many classic comfort foods that use ingredients saved from earlier meals.

Bread puddings are a good example. The best versions are made with stale bread. Of course, there are savory dishes in this category as well. Sauces, soups and casseroles frequently call for stock or broth made by simmering that ham or beef bone or turkey carcass left over from Sunday dinner. We should also remember that the Thanksgiving turkey should be stuffed with dressing made with bread that is at least a couple of days old. The bags of dried croutons at the supermarket are paltry imitations of bread that has been allowed to develop its full flavor in your kitchen.

Like my mother, Irma often made her pudding with leftover rice, and it was delicious. We may have tasted it at one of the Smörgåsbords at the First Lutheran Church in New Richmond, but Irma also served it to us in her home. When I asked our friend Anne about her mother’s rice pudding, she told me she was pretty sure that it was her grandmother’s recipe. Anne’s grandmother died before she was born, but her mother was proud of the Swedish customs and recipes she had inherited. She contributed her Swedish Rice Pudding recipe to the New Richmond First Lutheran Church Cook Book.

When I asked Anne if she had any tips for me about how to make the pudding taste as good as her mother’s, she said, “Whisk the eggs until they are nice and yellow and use whole milk. Oh, the rice should be cold.”

While we were talking I had the church cookbook open to the recipe, so I replied, “The recipe says to drain the rice and blanch it in cold water.”

She hesitated and cleared her throat. “She used leftover rice, didn’t she?” I asked.

“Well, yes, most of the time,” confessed Anne. One of the secret ingredients of Swedish Rice Pudding is now known, so cook extra rice when you are making dinner. Your family will bless you on the morrow.


For the rice:
1/2 cup rice
1 cup cold water
Dash of salt

For the custard:
5 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
4 cups milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup raisins


Bring the rice, water and salt to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the rice until the water is absorbed, about twelve minutes. Rinse the rice with cold water in a colander and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease a three quart casserole. You could also begin heating some water.

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until they are lemon yellow. Combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl and whisk these dry ingredients into the eggs. Stir in the milk and vanilla, then stir in the rice and raisins.

Pour the mixture into the casserole and put the pan on a center shelf in the oven. Pour about an inch of hot water into the pan and bake the pudding for one and a half to two hours. Using a fork, gently stir the pudding after thirty minutes to distribute the rice, raisins and cinnamon in the pudding.

After ninety minutes, test for doneness with a table knife. If it comes out clean, the pudding is done. If not, let it continue to bake for a few minutes and test again. You can serve it warm or cold.

NOTES: If you, like us, usually have only one or two percent milk in the refrigerator, you can fortify the milk with some half and half or cream. I use three fourths cup of half and half with three and a quarter cups of one percent milk. I haven’t tried it, but adding a couple tablespoons of melted butter would probably also work.

There are nine different recipes for rice pudding in the First Lutheran Church Cook Book. That number tells me that there must be thousands of different recipes for this dessert just in Wisconsin. I know that my mother made one similar to Irma’s baked in the oven, but she also made a simple version with leftover rice, milk, eggs and sugar that she cooked in a saucepan. I will try to find that recipe, as that pudding tasted pretty good too and doesn’t take as long to cook.

Irma’s Swedish Rice Pudding tastes great made with rice cooked as above and even better with leftover rice! Trust Irma! And my mother!

Jerri’s Banana Pudding

When I brought home a large bag of bananas, Jerri sent me off with a disapproving look and orders to buy a package of vanilla wafers. She was going to make banana pudding. I can endure a few scowls if I know that banana pudding will be on the menu, so it was with a light heart that I ventured out into the cold.

I felt like I did when Mom sent me out to fill the woodbox or shovel the path to the chicken coop when she was making vanilla pudding with vanilla wafers and bananas next to her on the counter. Work it might be, but my reward was being put together in the kitchen. Not only did her banana pudding taste wonderful, it looked beautiful.

Jerri’s does too. Here is a photo of the one Jerri made for me because I was thoughtful enough to bring home some extra bananas. To be honest, she admitted that she had been thinking it was about time for another banana pudding.


1 1/2 cups sugar
4 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups whole milk
2 large eggs
4 T butter
2 tsp. vanilla
4 – 5 ripe medium bananas
1 package of vanilla wafers


Break two large eggs into a one quart bowl and allow them to come to room temperature while you cook the pudding.

Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt together in a three-quart saucepan. Stir the milk into the dry ingredients gradually and put the pan over medium heat. Stir frequently while the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously when the pudding starts to thicken. Cook the pudding until it is thick and starts to bubble. Cook another two or three minutes over very low heat to make sure that the cornstarch is cooked. Remove the pan from the heat.

Beat the eggs until they are lemon colored and use a small measuring cup to dribble about a half cup of hot pudding into the eggs while beating vigorously. Whisk this egg mixture gradually into the pudding while bringing it back to a simmer over low heat. Cook for another two minutes, stirring the pudding constantly.

Remove the pan from the heat, add the butter and vanilla and stir until everything is blended together. Cover and begin to assemble your banana pudding.

Layer the bottom of a two or two and a half-quart soufflé dish with vanilla wafers. If you wish, you can break a few wafers into pieces to fill in the spaces between the cookies, but it is not necessary.

Next, put a layer of sliced bananas over the wafers. Spoon a generous layer of hot pudding over the first two layers. Repeat until you are almost to the top of your soufflé dish, ending up with a layer of pudding.

Line the inside of the soufflé dish by pushing wafers into the pudding. Finish by crushing three or four wafers and sprinkling the crumbs over the pudding. If you want to be artistic, do like Jerri does and put a wafer in the center. Allow the pudding to cool for fifteen minutes, then put it in the refrigerator and serve it well chilled.

NOTES: If you make the pudding in a two quart dish, you will have some vanilla pudding left over. This is a very good thing, since it makes a nice simple dessert or snack that is delicious by itself or with fresh or canned fruit.

You can use low fat or skim milk to make this pudding, but the texture and flavor will suffer. Replacing part of the milk with a quarter cup of cream or a half cup of half and half will improve the result. If you are very concerned about eating too much butterfat, take a smaller serving of the pudding.

Like my mother, Jerri makes her own vanilla pudding. There are mixes of course, but don’t try to make this dessert with instant pudding. The hot pudding reacts with the fresh bananas and vanilla wafers to create a marvelous flavor that you will never get with that instant stuff.

Plus, have you looked at the ingredients added to make instant pudding thicken? When I encounter banana pudding made with mixes, covered with whipped topping and who knows what else, I always think of some lines from a song by Tom Lehrer.

In “It Makes a Fellow Proud To Be a Soldier, ” he tells of his old mess sergeant whose “taste buds had been shot off in the war.” The unfortunate sergeant’s cooking reminded him “of all the marvelous ways they’re using plastics nowadays.” As with all satire, there is truth in the humor.