Panamanian Arroz con Leche – Cooking with Kids

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am being compensated for this Panamanian Arroz con Leche post as part of Nestlé’s #juntosconnestlé campaign. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

One of the desserts I remember most from my childhood is my mom’s Panamanian arroz con leche. The tantalizing smell of cinnamon throughout the house would tempt this little girl so much that I would sneak to the stove and take a bite when my mom wasn’t looking – always, ALWAYS, burning my tongue and the roof of my mouth. It was just too easy to become impatient when the smell of cinnamon was so heavy in the air.

Arroz con Leche - Panamanian Rice Pudding - Cooking with Kids - The Gifted Gabber #ricepudding #arrozconleche


Because rice is a food staple in Panama, this rice pudding dish is a popular one there – used for holidays and special occasions but also for the random night that calls for a sweet treat. It can be served warm or cold, though I have always preferred it warm.

When I had the opportunity to recreate a heritage dish with a twist using Nestlé® La Lechera, I knew Mom’s Panamanian Arroz con Leche was a front runner recipe choice. This also would lend the opportunity for the girls to help make arroz con leche just like I used to do as a girl.  And since these girls seem to live for desserts, I knew the sweet and creamy dish would be right up their alley.

My mom’s original recipe calls for sugar. I chose to replace the sugar with Nestlé® La Lechera. La Lechera can be found in your local Walmart in the aisle of popular Hispanic products. The La Lechera comes in a can version or a squeeze bottle version. I decided on the squeeze bottle version because….well, cooking with kids! Kids love to squeeze things, ya know? I also picked up a Dulce de Leche version of the La Lechera which will be a fun addition to a different recipe this holiday season.

Arroz con Leche - Panamanian Rice Pudding - Cooking with Kids - The Gifted Gabber #ricepudding #arrozconleche

Little One was in full-on grump mode the weekend Scooter Britches and I prepared this recipe with the accompanying video. We let her sit out of the cooking session this time. It was for the best of everyone’s sanity.

SB had fun helping with the arroz con leche. Because the rice involved boiling water, I only allowed her to help with certain parts of the preparation. Obviously, she did not need to mess around with a boiling pot of rice.

pot of rice on stove


The La Lechera was a perfect replacement for the sugar – providing a thick and creamy consistency.

Arroz con Leche - Panamanian Rice Pudding - Cooking with Kids - The Gifted Gabber #ricepudding #arrozconleche

Man, this arroz con leche brought back memories and had me wondering what took me so long to make it! Just this morning in the car, SB asked me if we could make it again because it is “sooooo yummy!” It will definitely be part of our holiday menu.

Arroz con Leche - Panamanian Rice Pudding - Cooking with Kids - The Gifted Gabber #ricepudding #arrozconleche

Arroz con Leche - Panamanian Rice Pudding - Cooking with Kids - The Gifted Gabber #ricepudding #arrozconleche

Rice pudding is popular around the world. Does your family enjoy rice pudding?

Be sure to check out a few other Panamanian family favorites – our Panamanian patacones and our Panamanian tortillas asadas.

Panamanian Arroz con Leche – Cooking with Kids

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Category: dessert

Cuisine: Panamanian

Yield: 6-8 servings


  • 1 cup rice, medium grain
  • 6 cups water
  • Pinch of salt
  • Stick of cinnamon
  • 2.5 cups whole milk
  • 1 11 oz container Nestlé® La Lechera
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup of raisins (optional)


  1. Add rice, water, salt and stick of cinnamon to large pot.
  2. Bring rice to boil and cook uncovered for 20 minutes.
  3. Drain water.
  4. Stir in milk, La Lechera, and vanilla.
  5. Cook over medium-high heat until mixure comes to a boil.
  6. Add in most of the cinnamon, leaving a little for dusting later.
  7. Add in nutmeg and raisins (if using).
  8. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring constantly until mixture is thick - about 15 minutes.
  9. Transfer mixture to serving bowls.
  10. Dust with cinnamon.
  11. Serve warm or cold.
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  1. Kari says:

    My tía is Panamanian! 🙂 Sorry, that just made me irrationally happy to see. She’s actually one of my mom’s closest friends, but she’s basically family. 🙂 Arroz con leche is such a yummy dish, and it’s always fun to see the how the different Latina cultures all have certain strikingly similar foods. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

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