Rice Porridge for Christmas Eve
A cozy, creamy tradition
Taste of Norway Editor
Christmas dinner always concluded with riskrem at my paternal grandparents’ house. Perched above a Seattle neighborhood known for its community display of Christmas lights—and decorated with plenty of lights and tinsel itself—my grandparents’ home shone with all the warmth and light I associated with the holiday, mingled with the smells of their traditional Norwegian Christmas feast. As much as I loved the meal itself, one of my favorite parts was when my grandmother brought out the bowl of chilled riskrem—a rice porridge with whipped cream folded in—and a pitcher of deeply colored raspberry sauce to pour over it. I loved letting that sweet-tart sauce pool around the base of the riskrem in my bowl, a contrast in color, flavor, and texture. While I grew up eating this always in riskrem form, I’ve decided to embrace the tradition of the porridge as well.
Riskrem, after all, is simply rice porridge with whipped cream folded in. At its simplest, the porridge consists of rice cooked with water and milk, and maybe a pinch of salt. Some recipes sweeten it slightly, and I’ve also seen recipes with vanilla, cardamom, or cinnamon added. As I’m making this with Christmas in mind, a time when everything should be as special as can be, I’ve added a touch of sugar. I also add a vanilla bean, and, taking a cue from Magnus Nilsson’s The Nordic Cookbook, a cinnamon stick while the porridge simmers. If you prefer to leave those out, that’s just fine.
As for the topping, recipes in general call for a pat of butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. Some people serve it with cordial soup or milk, and others add raisins or berries on top. I keep mine simple with cinnamon, sugar, and butter. It’s hard to beat those essential elements, and I find that this recipe doesn’t need much more.
While I’m using the Norwegian name for this, the tradition of serving rice porridge at Christmastime spans the Nordic countries. The tradition of hiding an almond inside varies a little, with whoever finds the almond either winning a prize, or in parts of Sweden and Finland, a foretelling that they will marry before the next Christmas.
And, of course, if you’d like, you can always fold in some whipped cream sweetened with sugar to make it into riskrem.
Scandinavian Rice Porridge (Risgrøt / Risengrøt)As with any traditional dish, recipes and preparations vary. I’m providing this recipe as a guide—please be sure to adjust the sweetness and the quantity of milk to your taste.
That said, one of the biggest decisions to make for risgrøt is the type of rice to choose. I’ve seen recipes with short-, medium-, or long-grain. I’ve always used short-grain for my riskrem, so that’s what I’m using here as well. Specifically, I use arborio, an Italian short-grain rice. I’ve also seen a recipe calling for sushi rice.
Also, some recipes take place entirely on the stovetop, with boiling the rice in water and then adding the milk and simmering until the milk is absorbed—either adding the milk all at once or in small quantities at a time, much like risotto—while other recipes finish the porridge in the oven. I’m keeping it simple and adding all the milk at once, and completing the recipe on the stovetop.
Risgrøt shouldn’t be fussy. But you’ll still want to stir it regularly to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
3⁄4 cup arborio rice
1½ cups water
½ tsp. salt
3 cups whole milk
2 tbsps. sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise and seeds scraped out, both pod and seeds reserved
4 thin slices of cold butter
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
2 tbsps. granulated sugar for serving
1 whole blanched almond
In a medium pot, bring rice, water, and salt to a boil. Lower heat and maintain a good simmer, uncovered, until the rice absorbs the water, stirring regularly so the rice doesn’t stick.
Add the milk, sugar, vanilla seeds and pod, and cinnamon stick, and stir in. Continue to simmer, covered, and stirring regularly, until the milk is absorbed and rice is tender, about a half an hour or so, checking regularly and adding more milk as needed.
Remove vanilla pod and cinnamon stick. Taste and add additional sugar if desired. Transfer porridge to a serving dish or to four bowls, tucking a single whole almond somewhere inside one of the servings. Sprinkle with additional sugar and ground cinnamon and top with a pat of cold butter.
Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, www.outside-oslo.com. Find her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OutsideOslo), Twitter (@daytonastrong), Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 15, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784.4617.