If you love light and creamy desserts, Sutlac, also known as Turkish rice pudding recipe is for you! Creamy and rich with a golden top, this baked rice pudding is also gluten-free. Learn how to make this tasty dessert with this tutorial and step-by-step photos.
Middle eastern and Mediterranean cuisines are known for decadent, tasty deserts. From Iran's saffron ice cream and cardamom muffins to Turkey's almond cookies, our desserts are filled with amazing flavors. They're light, easy to eat and usually not too sweet. Today's dessert is another delicacy from Turkish cuisine called Sutlac, known as rice pudding in many countries.
What is sutlac?
Sutlaç (soot-laahch) or Fırın Sutlaç is a Turkish baked rice pudding made with short grain rice and milk. It's made on the stove in a large pot, then divided between oven safe bowls (usually made of clay) and baked in the oven until the tops are browned and settled. Then it's cooled in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
Turkey is popular for its milk-based desserts and sutlac is one of the most loved desserts in Turkey that you can find in many restaurants and bakeries. There are even "Milk dessert shops" in Turkey called muhallebici which sell all kinds of milk-based desserts from chocolate puddings to rice puddings and everything in between.
Turks often make sutlac at home in individual clay cups or ramekins. Making this gluten-free dessert at home requires quality ingredients and a bit of time.
What makes Turkish rice pudding special?
- Texture and appearance: Turkish rice pudding is very special because of its creamy texture and golden topping. Many rice pudding recipes don't call for the baking step and also add egg yolk to thicken it, however, the Turkish version calls for cornstarch instead.
- Flavor: Some recipes call for spices such as cinnamon or dried fruit like raisins but this rice pudding recipe doesn't include any of that. This baked rice pudding recipe is not overly sweet so it's not overwhelming at all and is pretty light for its creamy texture.
- Method: Even though rice pudding is a world-renowned dessert, each country approaches it with its own style. Unlike many other similar desserts, this one is actually baked in the oven so the top gets brown and set. It's always served cold and it's common to make it in advance.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Short grain rice: Any kind of short grain rice would work for this recipe. If you have jasmine rice on hand, that would work, too.
- Milk: Whole milk works best for this recipe because it adds to the flavor and the creaminess of the dessert. However, you can also use 2% milk.
- Vanilla: Use vanilla extract or the vanilla sugar packets.
- Sugar: Granulated sugar is the classic way to go. Alternative sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or stevia will not give the same results.
- Cornstarch: We need a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to thicken the rice pudding.
This is a baked rice pudding recipe without eggs which makes it even easier to make. If you're looking for a reliable gluten-free dessert recipe, this is going to be your new favorite.
How to make rice pudding the Turkish way
- Cook the rice: In a large pot, cook the rice with two cups of milk until it's completely cooked. This will take about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the rice.
- Make the rice pudding: Add four cups of whole milk to the cooked rice. Bring to a simmer and add the vanilla extract and sugar. Mix the cornstarch with milk to make a slurry and add that as well. Cook for about 25 minutes or until it starts thickening and sticks to the back of the spoon (please check out the step-by-step photo below).
- Divide between the ramekins: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Divide the rice pudding between oven-safe ramekins and place them in a 9x13 baking pan. Fill the pan halfway with water (this is to prevent the rice pudding from drying and keep it creamy).
- Bake: Bake the rice pudding in the oven for 15 to 25 minutes until the tops are brown. Check constantly to make sure they don't burn. Keep in mind that the rice pudding would look runny under the crust when hot. It will thicken when it cools completely.
- Refrigerate: Once the rice pudding is cooked, let them cool at room temperature and then refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.
Vegan rice pudding
This recipe is not vegan since it uses whole milk. However, you can use coconut milk (the ones in a carton that are mixed with water, not the canned ones) or cashew milk instead of whole milk to make this into a vegan rice pudding recipe. Proceed with the recipe and simply use nondairy milk instead. Rice pudding made with coconut milk will have a subtle coconut flavor as well.
Frequently asked questions
Rice pudding is a great way to use up plain cooked white rice. Most rice will triple when cooked so for this recipe you need about 1 ½ cup cooked short grain or jasmine rice.
To make rice pudding with cooked rice skip the first step (cooking the rice) and start by mixing the cooked rice and 4 to 6 cups of milk to simmer and proceed with the instructions mentioned in the recipe.
Turkish rice pudding is meant to be creamy. Therefore I don't suggest using low fat or non-fat milk to make it since they won't deliver that creaminess.
Yes, when cooking in the pot and right after baking, sutlac would look pretty runny and watery. But it will thicken up as it cools and rests in the fridge.
You can refrigerate this dessert for up to 4 days. Make sure not to cover the ramekins too tight otherwise the tops might get wet.
You can make this rice pudding recipe in advance and serve it at your convenience. If doing so, make sure you do not cover them tightly, otherwise they will be wet on top.
Rice pudding is mainly made with milk, so if you freeze it freezer burn may occur or the milk may crystallize. I don't recommend freezing this dessert but you can definitely make it a couple of days in advance.
More Turkish recipes
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Turkish Rice Pudding Recipe (Sutlac)
- ½ cup short grain rice
- 6 ⅓ cups whole milk divided
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoon cornstarch
- Place the rice and 2 cups whole milk in a large pot. Cook over medium heat until the rice is fully cooked.
- Add 4 cups whole milk to the cooked rice and bring it to a simmer.
- Add in vanilla extract and sugar and stir well.
- In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and the remaining ⅓ cup whole milk to make a slurry. Add it to the rice and milk and simmer over medium low heat for about 25 minutes. Keep in mind that the rice pudding will still look watery and not very thick.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and place 4 to 6 oven-safe ramekins in a 9x13 baking pan.
- Divide the rice pudding between the ramekins. Fill the baking pan halfway with water. This will prevent the rice pudding from drying.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes on the middle rack until the tops are brown. Check constantly to make sue they're brown enough for your liking. If they're not browning as much, turn on the broiler and broil them 3 to 6 minutes.
- Once the rice pudding is ready, cool it at room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. The rice pudding will thicken as it cools in the fridge.
- If using cooked rice, skip step one and proceed with the recipe.
- You can make this rice pudding recipe a couple of days in advance and keep refrigerated until you're ready to serve.
- Refrigerate the leftovers for up to 4 days.
- You can use any kind of short grain rice or even jasmine rice for this recipe. I don't recommend using long grain such as basmati rice.
- Low fat and non-fat milk would change the texture of the rice pudding and will make it less creamy.
- For vegan rice pudding use carton coconut milk (not canned) or cashew milk.