Rice à la Malta

Ris à la Malta

Rice a la Malta, a popular Christmas dessert in Sweden

Ris à la Malta is a popular Christmas dessert and usually forms part of a julbord (Christmas buffet). Indeed it is my favourite julbord dessert!

It is an easy dessert to make, but it does require planning ahead as the orange peel needs to soak for 3 or 4 days and the rice takes 4 or 5 hours to cool and set. However, the dessert is easy to assemble at the last minute and always creates a 'wow'!

A photo of Ris a La Malta from a Swedish cookery book

This recipe is loosely based on Jenny Åkerström's version (shown above), taken from the 1948 edition of Prinsessornas nya Kokbok (The Princesses' New Cook Book). Jenny Åkeström taught three Swedish princesses and developed the recipe for Prinsesstårta (Princess Cake), Sweden's most famous cake.

Ris à la Malta is made in three distinct stages. Start by making the syltade apelsinskal (candied orange peel), which is used as a garnish and can be made a week or more in advance. The second stage is to make the rice puddings, ideally a day in advance. Finally comes the bärsaft (berry sauce), which can be made just before serving or a few hours in advance, in which case it will need gently reheating.

Nobody knows for sure how the dessert got its name. One theory is that it was because it was garnished with candied orange peel made from oranges shipped from Malta. (We know that in the early 19th century Johan Gustav Göllcher, a Swedish seafarer, shipped oranges from Malta to Stockholm every year.) Certainly, in the 19th century a garnish of candied orange peel would have been a wonderful exotic treat and naming it after Malta could have added to the dessert's appeal.

Another explanation, given in Wikipediasuggests that the dessert has nothing to do with Malta, but arises from a corruption of the Danish name, Risalamande. In short, the origin of the name of Ris à la Malta remains a mystery, but it is a stunningly attractive dessert anyway! John Duxbury


Recipe summary for Rice a la Malta

This recipe will make enough rice to fill at least four 180 ml (¾ cup) pudding moulds.


• The puddings should be served cold, ideally straight from the fridge, but the sauce should be served lukewarm.
• These days the rice is often flavoured with cinnamon, although Jenny Åkerström only used vanilla sugar,
• Any fruit can be used to make the sauce. (Raspberry, cherry and plum are probably the most popular).
• Many Swedes like to hide an almond in one of the puddings because it is said that whoever gets the almond will get married, or at least find true love, the following year! An almond is really only supposed to be hidden in risgrynsgröt (rice pudding/porridge), but it is such a cute tradition than most Swedes I know can't resist putting an almond in Ris à la Malta!

Candied orange peel

2   large oranges
125 g (⅔ cup) granulated sugar
75 ml (5  tbsp) water

Oranges being used to make candied orange

1. Scrub the oranges in hot water and then peel the skin with a knife or a potato peeler. (Try to avoid peeling the orange too thickly.) Cut the peel into thin strips about 3-6 cm long (1-2 inches). Place the orange peel in a bowl and cover with cold water.

2. Change the water once or twice a day for 3 or 4 days. (If you are short of time, you can boil the peel for 30-45 minutes until it is tender, but the flavour will not be as good.)

3. On day 3 or 4, transfer the orange peel to a small saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes, then pour off the water through a sieve and discard it.

4. Add 125 g (⅔ cup) of sugar and 75 ml (5 tbsp) of water to the cleaned-out saucepan. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

5. Add the sieved orange peel to the syrup and boil for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a fork, until virtually all the syrup has evaporated. Take out the orange peel and transfer to a sheet of greaseproof paper to cool. Once cold it can be stored in a jar for several weeks.

Two types of candied orange peel

Note: stirring the mixture with a fork in step 5 above will cause some crystallisation (as shown on the left above). This gives the candied peel a nice crunchy texture which contrasts well with the creamy pudding.

Normally, when making candied orange, thicker strips are used and the pan is just swirled around during step 5 to ensure that all the peel gets covered with syrup, but without any crystallisation. It produces lovely candied peel (as shown on the right above) that is ideal for use in cakes and breads.

Rice puddings

110 g (½ cup) pudding rice
¾ tsp   salt
500 ml (2 cups) whole milk (full-fat milk)
1   cinnamon stick, optional
2 tbsp   caster (superfine) sugar
3   leaves of quick dissolving gelatine*
180 ml (¾ cup) whipping cream
2 tsp   vanilla sugar
1   almond, optional

*In Europe, 15 leaves weigh 25 g (about 1 oz).

1. Place the rice and salt in a saucepan. Add 220 ml (1 cup less 2 tablespoons) of water and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add the milk and cinnamon stick (optional). Mix well, cover and leave on a low heat until the rice has absorbed the milk, which will take 30-45 minutes. (Take care to keep the heat low because otherwise the rice will burn.)

3. When the rice is cooked, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes and then remove from the water and gently squeeze out any excess liquid. Add to the hot rice and stir very thoroughly to ensure that all the gelatine is dissolved.

4. When the rice is fairly cold, but not set, whip the cream and vanilla sugar together and then fold into the cold rice. (The amount of cream can be reduced to 120 ml (½ cup) if you prefer your puddings less creamy.)

5. Divide the rice between four 180 ml (¾ cup) puddings moulds - you might have enough rice left over to fill a fifth mould. Add an almond to one of the moulds if desired, marking the mould with a pen so you know who should get it!

6. Refrigerate the puddings for at least 3 hours. (If you make them more than 12 hours in advance, cover them with clingfilm (food wrap).

Raspberry sauce

500 ml (2 cups) raspberry cordial/syrup*
1 tbsp   potato flour or cornflour (corn starch)
100 g (½ cup) fresh raspberries, optional
2+ tbsp   caster (superfine) sugar

*Read our recipe for raspberry cordial (syrup) by clicking here.

1. Pour the cordial (syrup) into a saucepan and whisk in 1 tablespoon of potato flour or cornflour (corn starch).

2. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring continuously, until it just begins to bubble. (Do not boil for long as the sauce will become very gluey.)

3. Stir in 100 g (½ cup) of raspberries (if available) and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, but aim for a little sharpness to contrast with the puddings. Serve lukewarm.


Rice a la Malta, a popular pudding served at Christmas in Sweden 

1. Run a knife round the edge of the pudding mould 3 or 4 times and then tip out on to a serving plate.

2. Pile some candied orange peel on top of the pudding.

3. Spoon some lukewarm sauce round the edge of the pudding. Serve the remaining sauce in a jug.


printer copy sb  printer version.pdf

Phone and tablet h32  phone & tablet version.pdf



SwedishFood.com is run by a not-for-profit company set up to help English speakers around the world who would like to learn more about Swedish food. If you like the site please help us to promote it and bring Swedish food to a bigger audience by following us on:

 Facebook logoTwitter logoPinterest logo

John Duxbury
Editor and Founder