The basic recipe for the arroz con leche or Spanish rice pudding is believed to have been brought to Spain during the Moorish occupation of the region. Arroz con leche is a sweet, rice-based dessert that is made by slow cooking the rice in milk while gradually adding the other ingredients.
The Moors invaded the Iberian Peninsula, which includes modern day Spain, in year 711 and occupied the region until they were completely driven out towards the end of the 15th century. The belief that the arroz con leche originated from Moorish influences stems from the fact that rice pudding recipes, such as mixtures that include cinnamon and rice, are part of traditional Arabic cuisine.
During the Age of Exploration, the original recipe of the arroz con leche was brought to South America, where it gave way to many local variations. Spanish rice pudding recipes typically include cinnamon, raisins and vanilla as flavor enhancers. South American versions of the arroz con leche may include other ingredients, such as nutmeg and butter in the Costa Rican version, and chocolate and cayenne pepper in the Mexican arroz con leche recipe.
The traditional Spanish arroz con leche recipe includes egg yolks, cinnamon and lemon rinds as the main ingredients, apart from the rice, milk and sugar. The rice is boiled in milk, and should be constantly stirred to prevent the rice at the bottom of the pot from getting burned. The other ingredients are also boiled in milk, which is later added to the boiling rice. Once cooked, the dish may be served hot or cold.