Rice pudding, or arroz con leche, is one of Costa Rica’s most popular desserts. Often made with the zest of an orange or a lemon, Costa Rican arroz con leche is always very sweet and very creamy. Historically, rice and sugar have been important cash crops in Costa Rica, and these two ingredients naturally found their way into one recipe.

Costa Ricans have a special fondness for arroz con leche, because most ate it as children. Arroz con leche reminds Costa Ricans of naptime, cozy evenings and grandmothers. In fact, arroz con leche is such a childhood favorite that every Costa Rican knows the words to a popular nursery rhyme about the dessert. Although the lyrics sometimes change slightly, the words are basically as follows:

Arroz con leche.
Me quiero casar
con una señorita
de la capital.

Que sepa coser
que sepa bordar
que sepa abrir la puerta
para ir a jugar.

Loosely translated into English, the words are:

Rice pudding.
I would like to get married
to a young lady
from the capital.

Who knows how to sew
who knows how to embroider
who knows how to open the door
to go outside to play.

The Magnolia Restaurant serves a particularly spectacular arroz con leche, which quickly runs out, no matter how much the kitchen makes. Be sure you’re at the head of the line the next time arroz con leche appears on the Magnolia’s buffet menu!

Listen to Arroz con Leche, the nursery rhyme. (In this version, the singer wants to marry someone from San Nicolás–”de San Nicolás–instead of from the capital.)

Writing and editing by Beaumont Hardy Editing.