Sweet Risotto with Buttermilk and Sultanas


Sweet risotto reminds me of my grandmother, and her closely-guarded recipe for rice pudding.  I don’t remember much about my grandmother’s kitchen, only a tiny table, a white stove, real New York frankfurters cooked in mustard water, a crystal candy jar full of Jolly Ranchers, and her rice pudding.

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She guarded her recipes.  After years of marriage to my father, my mother finally proved her worth and eked out my grandmother’s recipe for rice pudding, though I’m not entirely convinced my grandmother included all the ingredients on that little slip of paper she handed my mother. While I don’t have her recipe, and certainly wouldn’t publish it here lest I bring down her fury from the grave, I thought I’d share with you my favorite recipe which is less a rice pudding than it is a sweet risotto, flavored with cardamom and vanilla, and spiked with the pleasant sourness of cultured buttermilk.

My Softer Take on Whole Grains

I’ve always favored whole grains, prepared through souring, soaking or sprouting.  That is, until very recently, when I re-read and the work of Ramiel Nagel in Cure Tooth Decay, and began to implement his protocol for our family.  His work describes how traditional cultures didn’t necessarily consume whole grains; rather, grains were prepared very carefully by invariably removing (or partially removing) the tough outer bran of grains which contains a high level of anti-nutrients such as phytic acid.

Diet as a Mechanism for Healing Tooth Decay

Since discovering that my family has a few cavities, we’re taking that protocol more seriously, and paying a lot of attention to the speakers at the Healthy Mouth Summit – a free online summit about alternative dental health that features the perspectives of dentists, doctors, nutritionists and other experts.

Along with the guidance of our dentist, I’m focusing more on real food as a mechanism for healing: avoiding eating out, placing special emphasis on organ meats and shellfish, limiting sweets to twice a month.  I’ve also taken a much softer approach to whole grains for my family: where we ate brown rice, now we eat white or partially milled rice.  Where we ate whole meal flours, now I bake from high-extraction einkorn flour (find it online) or I mill flour freshly in a grain grinder and sift it twice to partially remove the bran before baking my favorite no-knead sourdough bread. And, in this sweet risotto, I use plain white carnaroli rice, and it is divine.

Cultured Buttermilk for Sweet Risotto

For this sweet risotto, I combine cultured buttermilk with whole milk which produces an extraordinarily creamy, but slightly tart dessert. The buttermilk pairs well with the rice and its abrupt tartness is softened by the use of honey and fresh orange juice.You can use store-bought buttermilk, but it often contains additives; I favor making buttermilk at home as it’s impossibly easy.  You simply need a starter, which you can find online or in well-stocked health food stores.  Whisk it with a bit of milk, set it on the counter overnight and the next day you have cultured buttermilk.

Sweet Risotto with Buttermilk

Sweet Risotto

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By Jenny Published: January 15, 2013

  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Ready In: 50 mins

Sweetened with honey, sultanas and amaretto, this risotto takes on a superbly creamy texture from the use of whole milk and cultured buttermilk. I favor making buttermilk from scratch to avoid additives (you can find a starter online.) You can also find the spices called for in this recipe online.


  • 1/2 cup sultanas (or substitute raisins)
  • 1/2 cup amaretto
  • 4 cups milk (preferably not ultrapasteurized)
  • 2 cups cultured buttermilk
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 1 medium orange (juiced and zested)


  1. Place the sultanas in a small bowl, and cover them with amaretto. Allow them to plump in the liquor while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Pour milk and buttermilk together in a 2-quart saucepan. Drop the spices into the milk, and stir in honey. Warm the liquid ingredients over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, taking care not to let them boil.
  3. Melt butter in a wide skillet over medium-low heat. When it froths, stir in the rice. Stir the rice frequently until its edges become slightly translucent, then stir in the orange zest. Stir in the sultanas and amaretto. Working 1/2 cup at a time, strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve into your rice. Stir the rice continually until all the liquid is absorbed, then strain the remaining milk - a 1/2 cup at a time - into the rice until it is all absorbed. Stir in the orange juice into the rice, and continue stirring until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and cooked through. Serve warm.