My Life in Peru

An Expat Mom Shares Her Experiences with Peruvian Life, Travel and Food

Arroz Zambito – Dark Rice Pudding

Posted on | November 12, 2010 | 11 Comments

arroz zambitoRice pudding is a favorite dessert in Peru, known locally as arroz con leche.  But there’s another rice pudding dessert eaten here – a darker pudding.

It’s call arroz zambito.  I suppose most of us have heard of Little Black Sambo, and are familiar with the connotations of the phrase “Sambo”.  In polite company, it’s considered a racist term.  Originally used specifically for people of mixed American Indian and African heritages, in the United States it later became a derogatory term for any black person in the US.

That American English term comes from the Spanish “zambo”.  In Spanish, the word isn’t in and of itself considered racist or derogatory.  While it certainly can be used in a derogatory fashion, in Peru it can also be used in a very loving and respectful form, as in the nickname of beloved criollo singer Zambo Cavero, who died last year. And while the term itself might not be considered racist, people who are classified as “zambo” are often treated very poorly in Latin American society.

So that brings us back to our food – Arroz Zambito, or Little Zambo Rice.  It’s called that because of its dark color which it gets from chancaca, the dark, sweet natural sugar used in so many Peruvian desserts.

Y’all already know all about chancaca, right? Because you’ve been reading along with me everyday, right? (crickets chirping)


While it’s generally considered that the Spanish brought arroz con leche to Peru, the native Peruvians took the recipe and ran with it, turning it into something that is very Peruvian.  So if we can look past the racial connotations of the name, we can see how it perfectly fits, in this marriage of European and indigenous Latin American flavors.


  • 1 quart (liter) of water
  • 3/4 cup of rice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 cloves
  • 1/2 cup of raisins
  • 1 cup of chancaca, grated
  • 3 cans of evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • grated coconut and powdered cinnamon for garnish

How to Make It:

  1. Boil the rice in the water with the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
  2. When the rice has absorbed all the water, remove the cinnamon and cloves.
  3. Add the raisins, the chancaca, and the three cans of evaporated milk. (make sure it’s evaporated, not sweetened condensed!)
  4. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes, then add the rest of the sugar. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding is of a creamy consistency.

Serve in a bowl, sprinkled with grated coconut and cinnamon, if desired.

NOTES: Some recipes say to use dark raisins, others say that golden raisins are traditional in this recipe. I say use what you like.

I should probably mention here – you can use brown sugar in place of chancaca. I’d probably use light brown sugar if I were at home.

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11 Responses to “Arroz Zambito – Dark Rice Pudding”

  1. Arroz Zambito | My Life in Peru | Indian Chef | Recipe Blog
    November 12th, 2010 @ 15:21

    […] Thanks To:- Arroz Zambito | My Life in Peru […]

  2. Arroz Zambito | My Life in Peru | Indian Chef | Recipe Blog
    November 12th, 2010 @ 15:21

    […] Hats Off:- Arroz Zambito | My Life in Peru […]

  3. Julie @ Baby Christmas Dressses
    November 12th, 2010 @ 16:41

    My dad was always a HUGE rice pudding fan! He would put a little cream in it to really make it a treat – so I know he would have LOVED this recipe!

    This is going in my recipe box – I think I’ll try to make this over the weekend, give me a little reminder of my Dad. :)
    Julie @ Baby Christmas Dressses´s last blog post ..Newborn Christmas Dresses

  4. Kelly
    November 12th, 2010 @ 18:53

    My mom made rice pudding all the time while she was here visiting. We always have so much leftover rice, and she wasn’t going to sit around waiting for it to go bad!

  5. Jackie
    January 3rd, 2011 @ 11:51

    Quick questionsu …does this typically get served hot or cold? Thanks,

  6. Kelly
    January 3rd, 2011 @ 23:38

    It’s usually served warm – but leftovers are good cold, too.

  7. Memories are like home made toffee | Claudia's Test Kitchen
    June 1st, 2011 @ 19:13

    […] night. I loved those weekends and I cherish the memories of those toffee-filled friday nights, and arroz zambito saturday […]

  8. John
    July 23rd, 2011 @ 11:09

    Looks a perfect breakfast for me for tomorrow! Nothing beats to a delicious dish that can be made easily.

  9. Michael
    September 30th, 2011 @ 04:33

    What’s the Yield of the recipe?

  10. Kelly
    September 30th, 2011 @ 07:32

    You’ll have 4 dessert sized servings

  11. Lima Eats…5 food/restaurant reviews! « Becky Abroad
    August 25th, 2012 @ 00:19

    […] (& therefore, colored) with a local type of brown sugar, and therein lies the difference. This particular blogpost can tell you a little more about the specific difference (& also the racial […]

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    I got tired of life happening while I made other plans, so I quit my job and came to Peru. I live here with my Peruvian husband, two sons, three dogs and various other family members, depending on the weather.

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