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Risalamande – Traditional Danish Christmas Dessert

In Recipes by Einherjar

Risalamande (in French: Riz à l’amande) might sound like it is a French dish, but its origin is actually Danish. The combination of the ingredients might sound strange, I mean how can rice, almonds, and whipping cream with cherry sauce on top possible even taste good? But it does!

Risalamande was invented at the beginning of the 20th century among the upper-class in Denmark, and it might have been because the rice began to be cheaper, which resulted in the Christmas dish rice porridge (Danish: risengrød) started to become common in the lower-class.

However, there could be something about it, French was the language of the upper-class, and pretty much everything that came from France was considered special. The name Riz à l’amande is french and means ”rice with almonds”, and it is possible that by giving the dish a french name, it made the dish more popular among the upper-class.

The ingredients in risalamande were expensive at the time, and I would argue that this is even the case today, at least for an average family. The most expensive ingredient in the dish is definitely the vanilla pod, and I would recommend using one, and not just vanilla sugar. The vanilla pod adds a much deeper taste of vanilla, and it really makes the difference.

After the second world war, risalamande moved up to the most popular Christmas dessert in Denmark. Since one rice dish was enough at the Christmas table, risalamande replaced the traditional starter dish risengrød (Rice porridge).

Almond present

Risalamande is served cold with a blanched whole almond in it on Christmas Eve. Whoever finds this almond in the dish will get the almond present, which is typically a marzipan pig or a small box of chocolate. The almond gift was also a party game, that was played with the dish ”risengrød” which risalamande slowly replaced.

It is believed that the almond present idea originates from a French custom from the 16th century, where the royals would put a bean in the epiphany cake (a sacred cake), and whoever got the piece of cake with the bean in it, would become King with all his privileges.

Risalamande in Sweden and Norway

In the two other Scandinavian countries, they have a Christmas dish, that was inspired by risalamande. In Sweden, this dish is called ris à la Malta, and it is typically made without almonds, and instead of a warm cherry sauce, it is served with pickled tangerine boats.

There is also another version that has diced oranges called orange rice (In Swedish: apelsinris). If you have tried risifrutti from the grocery store, you should have an idea, of how it tastes like.

The Swedes do also put an almond in their ris à la Malta, however, you won’t be getting a small gift. Because whoever finds the hidden almond in the dessert will get married before the next Christmas Eve.

In Norway, they also have a similar dish to risalamande, called rice cream (In Norwegian: riskrem), and just like in their neighboring country Denmark, the person who finds the almond will get the small almond present.

The Norwegian version that I’ve tasted, had only chopped almonds on top, and not stirred into the dish. The Norwegians do also not seem to serve it with warm cherry sauce, as the Danes do, but instead, they serve it with raspberry or strawberry sauce.

If you want a traditional Scandinavian Christmas, then one of these risalamande versions is really a must-have as a dessert. A few of the people in my family do not like the dish, but we always make sure to have some vanilla ice cream for them instead, and then they can still have some of the delicious cherry sauce.

Risalamande ingredients

  • 125 gram porridge rice
  • 1 deciliter water
  • 10 deciliter milk
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 75 gram blanched almonds
  • 2.5 deciliter whipping cream
  • 75 gram sugar
  • 500 gram cherry sauce

How to make Risalamande

  1. Put the water in a pot and when it boils add the rice.
  2. Cut the vanilla pod open and take out the grains.
  3. Add the milk after 2-3 minutes.
  4. Then add the vanilla pod, and the vanilla grains.
  5. Let the porridge boil for approximately 1 hour.
  6. Remove the vanilla pod, and let it cool down.
  7. Chop the almonds.
  8. Whip the cream into whipped cream.
  9. Stir the chopped almonds, and the sugar into the porridge.
  10. Add the whipped cream little by little to the porridge.

The risalamande is served cold, with warm cherry sauce. Remember to add a whole ”marked” blanched almond, if you are planning on having a small gift for the person who finds it. We always mark the almond, because some people like to cheat by bringing their own blanched almond (They only do this for fun, and to confuse the host).