This chai-spiced rice pudding gets its creaminess from canned coconut milk, which also means—bonus!—this dessert is vegan. Garnish with cinnamon and coconut for a decadent dish.
For the rice:
For the pudding:
1 Cook the rice: In a 4-quart pot, combine the water, cinnamon stick, and star anise, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and reduce the heat to low, steaming it until it is no longer crunchy, about 15 minutes.
2 Make the spice blend: In a small bowl, combine the spices. Add the vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to the spices, and whisk to create a smooth paste. This prevents the spices from clumping together when you add them to the steamed rice.
3 Combine the rice and coconut milk: Once the rice has finished cooking, add 4 cups of the coconut milk, the water, and the spice paste to the pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any rice that may be stuck.
4 Simmer the rice pudding: Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat, uncovered, and cook without stirring for 15 minutes. The surface of the rice pudding should develop small bubbles; if large, rapidly moving bubbles break the surface of the milk, lower the temperature. Don’t stir it because you don’t want the rice to break up.
After 15 minutes, stir the pudding. When you scrape the bottom of the pot, it will sound like rustling paper. Simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the pudding has thickened to the consistency of mayonnaise.
5 Transfer to a shallow dish and chill: Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise from the pudding and discard. Transfer the pudding to a shallow dish (like a pie plate or casserole dish) and refrigerate uncovered until cold, at least 3 hours, up to overnight.
6 Finish with coconut milk and cinnamon: Just prior to serving, stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Spoon the pudding into individual serving dishes and garnish with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and toasted coconut flakes.
Store any leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.