Forbidden Rice Pudding

Dried apples go for a boozy chai bath in this exotic take on a cozy classic, made modern with nutrient-rich forbidden rice and low-glycemic granulated nectar.

Growing up with two sisters and a very health-conscious mama, it was a rare treat when all-out dessert was served, and an even rarer one when it wasn't shared between all three of us. But for some reason, rice pudding walked a fine enough line between sweet thing and side dish that our mom was more lenient about its consumption, and every so often, after being picked up from elementary school, we'd wind up at Scottsdale's stronghold of 90's yuppie mall dining: Tomatoes. 

At Tomatoes they served rice pudding in face-sized wine goblets with a healthy dollop of cinnamon whipped cream, and the glory of having one set in front of you - in front of you specifically, not in some wartime triangulation between three hungry sisters - was the epitome of after-school heaven.

Back then, exotic rices were used in some rice puddings, but rarely in the restaurant variety, so when the popularity of run-of-the-mill white rice waned in favor of couscous and other, more highbrow grains, rice pudding faded into dessert obscurity. And when Amy Rothstein – the brilliant founder of our fellow NYC food company Dona Chai – sent us a special delivery of her perfectly spiced chai concentrate, rice pudding wasn't exactly on our minds. But as we dug through the pantry in search of a worthy pairing, our hand settled on Lotus Foods forbidden rice, a wacky rice varietal that bleeds aubergine and offers up more antioxidants than blueberries and more nutrients than any other rice. Legend has it this rice was eaten by China's Emperors, making it the perfect choice for bringing rice pudding back to a modern nobility. Aha!

First, we reconstituted dried fruit in a boozy bath of chai and bourbon, then drained off the remaining liquid for a killer cooking cocktail. (Just kidding, we didn't – but there's no reason why you shouldn't, since forbidden rice takes it sweet time to cook.) Then we made the rice, using extra water to soften the grains, added a creamy mixture of milk, nectar, eggs and vanilla, then folded in the plump, chai-soaked fruit. Topped with a spoonful of whipped cream, this simple purple pudding makes for a gloriously intriguing dinner party dessert.

This recipe calls for whole milk and cream, but if you want to get the dairy out or otherwise lighten it up, swap your milk of choice for the liquids, then whisk in a tablespoon of no-gmo cornstarch to help the pudding thicken (sometimes we find that reducing the fat content in a pudding or other rich sauce can lead to it breaking; the cornstarch will stop that from happening). 

Forbidden Rice Pudding

For the fruit:

1/2 cup chopped dried apples

1/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup Dona Chai (or other chai concentrate) 

2 oz bourbon


For the rice pudding:

1 cup forbidden rice

3 cups water

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup cream

1/2 cup whole milk

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated nectar

1 tsp vanilla


1. In a small bowl, combine bourbon, chai concentrate, apples and raisins. Allow to soak for 30 minutes, then drain.

2. In a medium pot, combine forbidden rice, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes, or until all water has evaporated. Meanwhile, whisk together cream, milk, egg yolks, granulated nectar and vanilla.

3. Add milk mixture to rice, whisking as you pour. Return to a simmer, stirring regularly, until mixture has thickened (about 10-15 minutes). The mixture doesn't need to be as thick as a pudding – it will continue to thicken as it cools - so aim for a hollandaise-style consistency. 

4. Turn off heat, then add fruit. Allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.