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Risalamande (or Ris a la mande) is a Danish rice pudding that is served around Christmas. This creamy, sweet pudding is a delicious dessert that everyone will love, whether or not you have Danish roots!
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Risalamande (or Ris a la Mande) is a Danish rice pudding that is typically served on or around Christmas Eve as a dessert. Though the name is French (riz à l’amande) it is a very Danish dessert.
In the 1800’s the Danes wanted to up their rice pudding game and make it more fancy than just a plain rice porridge (Risengrød). They added some cream and almonds to the recipe and risalamande was born. Throughout the years, some warm cherry sauce and vanilla sugar was added to give it a brighter flavor. This is still how it is served today.
A Family Christmas Tradition
I love Christmas traditions. I love hearing about other peoples’ traditions and I love our own little traditions. Some of our traditions go way back, and some have been established within the last few years. Either way, in my opinion, traditions make Christmas extra special and unique for each family.
No two Christmases are the same and I love that. Risalamande (and Mandelgave) is a tradition we have been celebrating for over 15 years now and I hope it continues for generations to come.
Risalamande: A Tradition that Started in Denmark
My husband served his mission in Denmark and told me about the Danish traditions that they do there and I LOVE them. Since our family has Danish ancestry (and since he lived in Denmark) we decided that we wanted to incorporate many of them into our own Christmas traditions. Risalamande (and Mandelgave) specifically, is a tradition we have been celebrating for over 15 years now and I hope it continues for generations to come.
Mandelgave (aka Almond Present)
To add to the Danish Christmas tradition, there is a fun, traditional game called “mandelgave” (or “Almond Present). This is where a single, whole almond is mixed into the risalamande and hidden before serving. The skin of the almond is carefully peeled or shaved off to make it harder to find. The rice pudding is served in a very large bowl and everyone scoops a heap into their own, smaller bowl to eat.
Whoever finds the single, whole almond in their bowl will get a little wrapped gift or prize! The finder of the almond will often keep it a secret from everyone else until all the pudding is gone and watch the fun play out before revealing they have the almond. In Denmark, a common prize for the winner is a marzipan pig, but it can be anything you would like!
When to Celebrate
Our family celebrates our “Danish Christmas” on December 23rd. In Denmark the 23rd of December is called “Lille Julaften” or “Little Christmas Eve” (the day before Christmas Eve). If you are in Denmark on this day, you would likely have a big meal. Then, on actual Christmas Eve, you get to open presents, sing songs, serve rice pudding, etc.
We roll all the Danish celebrations into one day and do it all on the 23rd. I love doing this because it is like having three days of Christmas celebrations/traditions: Little Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, and Christmas!
- Arborio Rice – This is the typical rice that is used for any rice pudding. It is an Italian short-grain rice. It can be found in most grocery stores.
- Milk – We like to use whole milk for creaminess, but 2% will work. Using skim milk may alter the texture and you may not get the creamy rice pudding you are hoping for.
- Vanilla Sugar – This is what gives risalamande its unique, sweet flavor. Vanilla sugar is not easy to find but it is a MUST for the recipe. You can find it at World Market, most European markets, or you can order it online. You will usually find them in little individual packets as pictured below. Can’t find vanilla sugar anywhere? No problem! See the next paragraph.
- Sugar – Added in for sweetness and a bit of texture to the pudding.
- Almonds – The almonds should have a coarse texture. You can get this by chopping roughly with a knife or pulsing a few times in a food processor. Remember to scrape the skin off of one whole almond to use for people to find!
- Whipping Cream – Not half and half. You need to be able to whip it into whipped cream for this recipe so it needs to be heavy cream.
- Cherry or Raspberry Sauce – Traditionally, a cherry sauce is used. The cherries they use in Denmark are different from the cherries you can find here in the States so we usually opt for a raspberry sauce.
As mentioned above, vanilla sugar can be difficult to find. The good news is that it can be made at home with some granulated sugar and a fresh vanilla bean (not dried). Just slice open the vanilla bean pod and scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife. Combine the seeds and ½ cup of sugar in bowl and whisk together until well incorporated. Place the vanilla sugar in a glass jar with a lid and store until ready to use. Don’t throw out that vanilla bean pod! Allow it to dry out (this may take up to a week), then cut it up and add it to the sugar jar. If you can’t find vanilla sugar OR a vanilla bean pod, worst case scenario, you can add a teaspoon of fresh, high quality vanilla extract to the mix.
Tips for Making Risalamande
This recipe is easy enough to make, but here are some tips to help you get started if it’s your first time making rice pudding.
- Cook the rice low and slow. Don’t rush the process. Yes, it takes a while for the rice to soften, but it’s worth it. Let it simmer, don’t allow it to boil. Cooking the rice too quickly can cause the milk to burn or the rice to stick to the pan.
- Use pre-chopped almonds, then give them a run-through with a knife to coarsely chop. Chopping whole almonds can be a pain. Just remember to have at least one whole almond if you are going to play “madelgave”.
- The traditional topping for risalamande is a warm cherry sauce. You can make your own with fresh market cherries or by use cherry pie filling. We usually go for the raspberry sauce since fresh cherries are difficult to find in the U.S. in the winter.
- Serve it warm, at room temperature, or cold. I prefer this rice pudding warm, but other people prefer it cold. It’s personal preference, so try it both ways and see!
“I Made this for a gathering and it was a hit, everyone loved it! Will definitely make it again!”-Shadi
Frequently Asked Questions
Risalamande originated in Denmark.
It is traditionally served at Christmas dinner and also Christmas lunch (julefrokost).
They are very very similar but not exactly the same. They are both a short-grain white rice but arborio is a little more firm in the middle. Pudding rice is more starchy and works well with sweet recipes. Either can be used for this recipe.
This risalamande dessert can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for five to seven days long.
Other Danish Recipes to Try:
Whether you want to make a traditional Little Christmas Eve meal, or just want to try some Danish food, these recipes are fantastic. Give them a try!
Risalamande (Danish Christmas Rice Pudding)
For the rice pudding:
- Bring milk to a simmer slowly in a large pot over low heat.
- Add rice, keep simmering until rice is tender, stir every 3 min or so to prevent rice and/or milk burning at the bottom. This step takes approx 40 minutes.
- While the rice is simmering you can make the raspberry sauce and chop the almonds.
- When rice is tender and has thickened, remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
- Add vanilla sugar, sugar and almonds.
- Fold in whipped cream.
- Keep warm or chill before serving (we actually like the rice pudding warm… but some like it chilled. Either way works).
- Serve with raspberry sauce or warm cherry sauce.
- In medium sauce pan, place frozen raspberries and 2 Tablespoons of water, heat until thawed, add sugar and stir. Let simmer for approx. 3-5 minutes.
- Strain seeds (catching the juices/pulp over a bowl), discard seeds and put juices back in the sauce pan.
- Mix cornstarch with water and add to the sauce SLOWLY to thicken. You probably won't need all the mixture. This step can be omitted if you want a more natural and thinner sauce.
- Serve sauce warm.
How to store risalamandeThis risalamande dessert can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for five to seven days long.
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This recipe was adapted from Food.com.. click here!