One of the traditional Christmas foods of Iceland is the so-called Almond Porridge. It is a simple rice porridge, but we put one almond in it at the end according to Christmas tradition. The one who is lucky enough to get it gets a gift from the Yule Lads.
Rice porridge is known all around the world, but the custom of eating it over Christmas with a whole almond in it comes from Scandinavia. In Sweden and Finland, getting the almond means good luck in the following year. In Denmark, Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands, the one who gets the almond gets a gift from the Yule Lad or Nisse.
That’s not to say Icelanders don’t eat rice porridge at any other time over the year, it’s just extra special during Christmas. Rice porridge is also eaten during the þorri celebration in January with slátur.
Some people make a fancier version of it for Christmas, called Risalamande (which is Danish but comes from the French riz à l’amande). Then it is served cold and has been mixed with whipped cream and sweetened.
Your Friend In Reykjavik & family has Almond Porridge for lunch on Christmas Eve, our main day of celebration and when we open our presents.
When we were growing up, this used to be the entree, but we decided to turn it into lunch as it is very filling, and we really need to make room for that smoked glazed ham :).
To make the Almond Porridge takes about an hour in total, so prepare yourself to stay in the kitchen during that time as it can easily burn.
The Recipe for the Almond Porridge
- 2,5 dl (250 ml) white rice
- Enough water to cover the rice
- Slice of butter
- 1 Liter of milk
- Raisin (optional)
- Vanilla extract
- A single Almond (Or two if you have two small ones)
- Put the rice, butter, and water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Boil them until the water has almost evaporated.
- Pour one litre of milk into the pot, and bring it to a boil.
- Lower the heat and add the vanilla extract.
- Remember, the milk can easily burn, so keep an eye on the porridge and stir regularly for about 30-40 minutes or until you see that the rice is completely soft. It is safer to find yourself something to do in the kitchen than leave it because you can’t save it once it burns!
- Add the raisins near the end to warm them up and soften them a little bit. If you add them too early, they might get too mushy.
- Finally, put the single almond in the pot and stir. Unless you have a secret someone you really want to get the almond, just sneak it into their porridge. In our case, we secretly sneak two almonds into the porridge of two little humans 😉 .
- The Almond porridge is served with white sugar mixed with cinnamon.
For those who don’t have time or will to make their own rice porridge, it is possible to buy it ready-made in Icelandic supermarkets. You can both buy rice porridge (called grjónagrautur) and Risalamande (called hrísmjólk) with caramel or redcurrant and raspberry sauce.