Risalamande: Danish Rice Pudding

‘Tis the season for baking and cooking! These last few weeks I’ve noticed so many articles online sharing the “Top 10 Recipes to Make this Christmas” or “Best Crockpot Recipes for the Holidays!” While I love these lists for quick appetizer ideas and time saving recipes, it makes me sad that many young couples are not recreating family recipes and traditional meals from their heritage. It made me wonder how many people still have a traditional Christmas dinner or favorite meal that they have just this one time of year!

During my junior year of college, I was fortunate to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. The best part of my experience was that I stayed with a loving host family who cared for me as one of their own, and shared all of their family traditions with me – including Christmas! (If you haven’t already, check out my post on the DIY Advent Calendar that my Danish host mom made me!)

Danes celebrate Christmas differently than Americans do. For starters, they celebrate on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is the day that families gather and prepare a classic Nordic dinner, which is typically a roast pork or duck with gravy, served with boiled red cabbage and sugar glazed potatoes. The rest of the night is spent exchanging gifts, dancing, singing, and playing games (mostly card games, from my experience!) Rather than leave cookies for Santa, children will put out porridge or rice pudding for the nisse, a mythological creature resembling a garden gnome, who is believed to provide good fortune all year round and gifts at Christmastime.

You’re probably wondering when I’m going to talk about pudding and what’s so special about it? In Denmark, and most Nordic countries, Risalamande is the traditional dessert served for Christmas, and has been since the 19th century. It’s made similarly to classic rice pudding by boiling rice, milk and vanilla, and then mixing in almond slivers, homemade whipped cream and topping it with a delicious cherry sauce. Danish families also play a game revolved around the rice pudding called mandelgave. One whole almond is secretly placed in one of the pudding cups, and whoever finds the almond wins a small gift or prize! If you go to Sweden and enjoy their version of risalamande, it is believed the person who finds the almond will be married by next Christmas!

In my family, traditions have come and gone over the years. People got older, new families formed and life just changed. As I enter this new domesikated stage of my life, I hope to mirror my life to that of the Danes – cherishing time with my family and friends each year, and celebrating with traditions that can be passed down for generations to come. Because Denmark will always have a special place in my heart, this risalamande dessert is now a tradition in my household.


Risalamande: Danish Rice Pudding

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Pudding Ingredients:

1/2 cup Arborio rice

1/4 cup water

2 cups milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup almond slivers

1 cup heavy whipping cream

2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1 whole peeled almond 

Additional almond slivers for garnish

For the Cherry Sauce:

1 bag frozen cherries

4 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tbsp. corn starch

Half lemon, squeezed

1. Add rice and water to a medium pot and bring to boil over medium heat. Add in milk, vanilla, salt and sugar and reduce heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2. Once rice absorbs milk and thickens, turn off heat, stir in almonds and let cool completely. 

3. Using stand mixer, beat heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into rice pudding.

4. In a small pot, heat cherries, sugar and water over medium high heat. 

5. In a separate bowl, combine corn starch and lemon juice until dissolved.

6. When cherries begin boiling, mash them with potato masher then add corn starch mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, or until thickens. 

7. Place one whole almond in someone’s bowl. Spoon pudding into each bowl and top with cherry sauce and additional almond slivers. 

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