Try creamy cranberry vanilla rice pudding, studded with tart cranberries and flavored with fragrant vanilla beans for a unique holiday treat!

Marx Foods was kind enough to send me samples of mushrooms, vanilla beans, rice, and peppers. My challenge was to create a festive dish to bring to a Thanksgiving potluck, using at least one or two of the samples.

I used the vanilla beans and the Italian Vialone Nano Rice, a short grain rice similar to Arborio rice. Rice pudding may not be traditionally a Thanksgiving recipe, but I made it more festive by adding tart, fresh cranberries and fragrant vanilla. The recipe was adapted from Joy the Baker.

Closeup overhead of rice pudding in triangular white dish, with spoon, and garnished with fresh cranberries.

Cranberry rice pudding is a creamy, delicious dessert perfect for any occasion, including breakfast! Oh yeah…and Thanksgiving. Something for people who might not love pie. Or for people who DO love pie, but are still hungry.

About this rice pudding

This recipe is very similar to making a risotto except instead of stirring in broth gradually as the rice absorbs it, you’ll be stirring in milk. Make sure you have 25 to 30 minutes to devote to making the pudding so you can constantly stir it. It’s what makes it delicious!

You’ll need a good sized saucepan and a stirring spoon. 

Closeup of uncooked rice in wooded bowl.

What ingredients will I need to make cranberry vanilla rice pudding?

  • Short grain rice, such as Arborio
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Dark brown sugar
  • A dash of cinnamon and salt
  • One vanilla bean

Closeup of fresh cranberries.

You’ll be scraping the seeds out of the vanilla bean. The cranberries cook down, lending a beautiful rose color to the rice pudding.

Closeup of two vanilla beans in a bowl with dark brown sugar.

You’ll need pretty serving dishes for the rice pudding, too! Serve the rice pudding warm (I love it warm!) or refrigerate to serve later. It will keep for up to four days in the fridge.

Closeup of rice pudding garnished with three fresh cranberries.

Make it your own:

  • Don’t have vanilla beans? Substitute a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.
  • Cranberries not in season? Stir in another fruit of your choice. As you can guess, the pudding will be a different color, depending on the fruit you choose. Try blueberries, cherries, or dried apricots. Golden raisins would be good, too.
  • Don’t add any fruit at all, if you prefer a more classic rice pudding.

Overhead closeup of a spoonful of rice pudding with triangular bowl in background.

More pudding, please!

If you like pudding, try one of these easy homemade pudding dessert recipes:


Cranberry Vanilla Rice Pudding

Cranberry Vanilla Rice Pudding

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Try creamy rice pudding studded with tart cranberries and flavored with fragrant vanilla beans for a unique holiday treat!


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup short grain Italian rice, such as Arborio
  • 1 heaping cup fresh cranberries, washed
  • 4 cups 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • seeds scraped from one vanilla bean


  1. In a small saucepan, over low heat, warm the milk. Don’t boil it -- bring it to almost boiling and then turn off the heat.
  2. In a large heavy pan, such as a Dutch oven, over low heat, melt butter. Once it is melted, add the rice and cranberries and stir to coat and slightly toast the rice, or about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Ladle in about 3/4 cup of the warm milk and continue to stir. Once the rice has absorbed the milk, add another ladle of milk. Continue this process–stirring nearly continuously until the rice is tender (taste it!) and your milk is almost gone, about 25 minutes. Make sure to watch out for the cranberries–they like to pop!
  4. Add the final bit of milk, the sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Serve warm, or cold.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 187Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 23mgSodium: 168mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 6g sometimes provides nutritional information, but these figures should be considered estimates, as they are not calculated by a registered dietitian. Please consult a medical professional for any specific nutrition, diet, or allergy advice.

Did you make this recipe?

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Disclosure: I was sent free products to use and review. However, all opinions expressed in this post are, as always, 100% my own. I was not compensated for this post other than the free products.