sephardic rice pudding recipe sutlach recipe easy rice pudding recipe
Photo credit Susan Barocas

This Sephardi Rice Pudding Is My Ultimate Comfort Food

I’ve loved quick, creamy sutlach since childhood.

When I need some comfort food I often turn to rice pudding, a childhood favorite. My mother usually used leftover rice, sugar, vanilla and milk, with cinnamon sprinkled on top. I didn’t know the term “comfort food” then, of course, but I knew how it made me feel a little bit more ok with whatever was going on in my world. 

Rice pudding has been comforting and nourishing humans since ancient times, when Romans made a savory version with goat milk. Medieval Persians, who cooked rice with goat or almond milk, added sugar and rose water or orange blossom water to their pudding.

Recipes for many variations of sweet and savory rice puddings have appeared in Middle Eastern cookbooks since the tenth century. The dish was prepared by Jews and Muslims explains Hélène Jawhar Piñer in “Sephardi: Cooking the History.” She points out that a recipe for “honeyed rice” pudding is included in a 13th century Iberian cookbook written in Arabic. Spanish Jews ate the pudding as well. 

Whole grains of rice were used as the base for the pudding until the 13th century, when Persians started preparing a smoother, quicker version by grinding rice into a fine powder. The Ottoman Turks incorporated many variations of rice-flour puddings into their wide-ranging cuisine, most commonly calling the sweet pudding “sütlaç” (SOOT-lach), a shortened way of saying “rice milk pudding” in Turkish.

Sephardim arriving in the Ottoman Empire in large numbers in the 15th and 16th centuries enthusiastically adopted the dish, calling it “sutlach” in Ladino. Since then, it’s traditionally prepared for Shabbat breakfast, Purim and to break the Yom Kippur fast when, instead of milk, the pudding can be made even more restorative by using pepitada, a drink made by steeping ground melon seeds in water, though this isn’t so common these days. Many of today’s older generation of Sephardim fondly remember mothers or grandmothers sprinkling cinnamon in the shape of each child’s initials on the top of individual bowls of sutlach.

These days, my rice pudding of choice is quick, creamy sutlach, comforting either warm and soft or chilled and firm. Flavor it to your liking. My favorite is with vanilla extract, orange zest and cinnamon, picturing my Sephardi ancestors enjoying the same comforting pudding with every spoonful.


  1. Using brown rice flour will result in a very lightly tan pudding. 
  2. The pudding will keep for two days, covered and refrigerated.
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sephardic rice pudding recipe quick rice pudding recipe
Photo credit Susan Barocas

Sutlach – Sephardi Rice Flour Pudding

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4 from 5 reviews

Sutlach is comforting either warm and soft or chilled and firm. Flavor it to your liking, and savor it by the spoonful. 

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 1x


  • ½ cup fine rice flour (white or brown)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • small pinch of fine sea salt
  • ⅓ cup tepid water
  • 4 cups milk or milk substitute, such as almond or coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 11 ½ Tbsp grated orange zest or 12 tsp orange blossom or rose water (optional)

To garnish (optional):

  • ground cinnamon
  • chopped pistachios
  • pomegranate seeds
  • orange zest
  • edible rose petals
  • a drizzle of pomegranate syrup


  1. n a medium bowl, whisk together the rice flour, sugar and salt. Whisking constantly, slowly add just enough water to form a thick, smooth paste. Whisk vigorously to make sure there are no lumps.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to just before boiling, when you can see little bubbles starting to form around the edge. Do not let it boil. To keep lumps from forming, stir with a wooden spoon or whisk constantly as you slowly and steadily add the rice flour paste to the milk. Keep stirring with a spoon constantly until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Be sure to scrape from the bottom and sides while stirring. Lower the heat if needed to keep the mix from boiling.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and orange zest, orange blossom water or rose water until fully incorporated and smooth. 
  4. Pour into shallow custard cups or small bowls for individual servings. Sprinkle with cinnamon, forming initials, Hebrew letters or other designs if desired, or sprinkle other optional garnishes. Serve warm, at room temperature or refrigerate until chilled. 


  1. Using brown rice flour will result in a very lightly tan pudding. 
  2. The pudding will keep for two days, covered and refrigerated.
  • Author: Susan Barocas
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Quick
  • Cuisine: Sephardic


Leave a Comment

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  • Shoshannah

    My grandmother and mom used to make this! Brings back so many wonderful memories.

  • Mike

    Is there a good recipe to make rice pudding with cauliflower. I am a diabetic.

  • Anne Sandler

    My mother made an awesome rice pudding that we couldn’t remember if it was done in the oven or the stove top or both. It was a lovely moist pudding underneath with about a 2 inch custard on top. Does anyone remember how to make this or have a recipe

  • Mary Ann Dewsnap-Flignor RN

    Yes I know this rice pudding recipe which is a bit more complicated a bit richer and depending on how much comfort you want it’s absolutely fabulous. I make a huge portion so you can break it down respectively
    Start on stove top In a 6 qt pot add
    1 cup of rice (long grain or jasmine work – most any)
    4 cups of milk
    Dash of salt
    Bring to gentle boil then lower heat to simmer until tender on stove-
    Add 4 oz OR 1/2 cup butter while rice is hot and mix – it can sit on stove whole next step is being done.

    In a large mixing bowl
    Mix 6-9 eggs with 1 cup or less sugar until creamy or light yellow
    Add Vanilla ext to your preference start with 1 tsp
    Mix in another 4 cups of milk
    Fold in the rice mixture
    Pour into a DEEP 9×13 casserole pan
    Obviously the rice will separate sinking to bottom of pan. That’s sort of a good thing to guarantee the custard on top.

    Bake at 350 depending on oven May need 25* lower or higher. Typically it needs 45-60 min yet that is at high altitude. Check it after 30-40 min without disturbing then every 10 min until it has appeared to have puddinged itself together. I usually can tell it’s done by inserting a butter knife in center – it jiggles like a custard.

    I do not believe this recipe was intended to take form of two layers ie, custard layer topping a kugel-like rice layer. The recipe I learned suggested to gently stir the content of pan after about 20 min in oven, to achieve an even consistency. I once forgot that step and tada I got more custard – always my favorite part of rice pudding- that my dad made and his mom and her mom all made ( they also mixed in raisins or dates) so a more consistent texture I imagine would be desired. However, if you want that custard on top DO NOT interrupt while in oven. So leave it alone.
    If it’s overdone it can be dry yet my family knows whipped cream fixes that. Even when cooked perfectly whipped cream can only make it more perfect. By now you realize This is not a heart healthy dessert by any means. Tho my husband – a cardiologist- totally loves it. Yet the calcium and protein are exceptional and that is rather important. Almost everything I make I learned from watching or listening to recipes spoken in English mixed with Yiddish or Italian. Seldom did I see it in writing- if so, I could
    barely understand it. So now it’s all programmed and only I can discern these recipes despite varying linguistic forms and confusing dialects. Not so convenient when it’s a successful recipe and a sought after favorite. It’s difficult for me to deliver an easy to read and follow recipe. I notice this now that our kids are going off on their own, when I get a sudden phone call “Mom I need your ????? recipe”. Yikes I can’t think that fast. So it’s time I write things down and let others do their own ad lib and tweak to their delight.

    • KK

      My nana used to make this version and I miss it so much, thank you for sharing!!

      She used to use medium grain rice

  • Nancy Siefer

    I followed the recipe substituting a combo of almond flour and cornstarch for the 1/2 cup of rice flour and stirred for 40″ and it never got thick. What happened?

    • The Nosher

      Hi Nancy, this recipe was developed using rice flour, so we’d guess that you would need to revise the ratio of your almond flour/cornstarch substitutions.

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