Easy recipe for Vanilla Pudding from scratch with just a handful of ingredients. Rich, creamy and full of delicious real vanilla flavor!
Homemade Vanilla Pudding makes a kid-friendly, delicious Snack or Dessert Recipe. Along with our easy recipe for Chocolate Pudding, you can make dreamy, creamy pudding at home with simple pantry ingredients. It’s so good, you may never buy box mix pudding again!
Table of contents
Sabrina’s Vanilla Pudding Recipe
Dreamy Vanilla Pudding is such a simple but delicious dessert. This recipe uses ingredients like milk, butter, sugar, and cornstarch, so you can make it anytime without making a special grocery store run. After cooking and giving the mixture time to set in the fridge, you’ll have the perfect creamy dessert pudding with rich vanilla flavor throughout.
You can also make this simple dessert into a homemade school snack for your kids. Rather than getting store-bought pudding cups, you can save money by making this homemade Vanilla Pudding and dividing it into serving-sized airtight containers. Store the homemade pudding cups in your fridge and add them to school lunches for an easy treat that your kids are sure to love!
Why make homemade pudding?
While you can skip the slightly longer cooking process by using an instant pudding mix, this homemade pudding recipe is 100% worth the extra effort. From scratch, Vanilla Pudding has a much thicker consistency and smooth texture and isn’t watery like store-bought pudding sometimes turns out. This simple dessert is a much more flavorful pudding with a rich vanilla taste. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to make a rich, flavorful creamy pudding from scratch!
- Egg Yolks: Before starting the recipe, separate 6 large egg yolks from the egg whites. The egg yolks add fat and help thicken the pudding mixture. Leaving the egg whites in would result in a thinner consistency and less rich flavor. To avoid wasting food, you can keep the egg whites in an airtight container in your fridge to use in another recipe for up to 2 days.
- Milk: Milk acts as the base liquid ingredient that you’ll eventually mix all the other simple ingredients into. Using whole milk creates the creamiest pudding mixture.
- Cornstarch: Adding ? cup of cornstarch makes a huge difference to the recipe’s texture. As the cornstarch blends into the liquid ingredients, it acts as a thickening agent to create the thick pudding consistency.
- Vanilla Extract: Wait to add the vanilla until you’re done cooking. You’ll mix the extract in along with the butter to flavor the dish before refrigerating. The vanilla gives the pudding its flavor, while the butter enhances the richness of the recipe. Together they create a more indulgent and complex dessert out of this simple recipe.
How to Make
Time needed: 4 hours and 30 minutes.
- Heat the Milk
Add 4 cups of milk to a large pot over medium heat. Bring the milk to a faint simmer, then turn off the heat. Be sure not to let the milk boil.
- Make the Pudding Base
Add the granulated sugar, remaining 1 cup milk, and egg yolks to a heat-proof mixing bowl. Then whisk until the egg yolk and sugar mixture is very well combined. Add the cornstarch and kosher salt to the egg mixture, and whisk well again.
- Temper the Egg Mixture
While continuing to whisk the pudding mix quickly, add ½ cup heated milk in a thin stream. Repeat with 1 cup of milk. Then place a fine strainer or sieve over the pot. Pour the mixture through the sieve into the remaining heated milk. Turn the heat back to medium-high, and whisk continuously.
- Cook the Pudding
Bring the pudding mixture to a simmer, then eventually to a boil. Continue to whisk for 4-5 minutes until it thickens to a pudding consistency. Then turn the heat off and remove the pot from the stovetop. Keep whisking off the heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add vanilla extract and butter, and keep whisking to combine.
- Chill and Serve
Pour the Vanilla pudding back into a large heat-safe bowl. Then press a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the pudding. This trick stops the skin from forming on top of the pudding. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Then whisk once more before serving. Add whipped cream, fresh berries, or any other choice of toppings.
Can this be made ahead of time?
While you can’t really make the individual parts of the pudding ahead of time, you can make it and chill it for a day or two before serving it. The flavor will deepen slightly in the first day too. You definitely need to give your Vanilla Pudding at least 3-4 hours to full chill and set, so make sure to plan enough time in advance for that.
Cooking Pudding Tips & Tricks
Use Whole Milk
The fat content in whole milk helps to create the thick, creamy consistency that you really want for a pudding dessert. If you don’t have whole milk, you could swap it out for 2%, but it’s best to add a little extra butter to maintain that rich texture and taste.
Don’t Curdle the Eggs
The hardest part of making custards is the chance to curdle or cook the egg yolks too quickly. Make sure your eggs and milk are room temperature so there isn’t as much temp difference when you add the hot milk. You also want to continually whisk the mixture and SLOWLY stream in the milk to temper the egg yolk mixture before adding rest of the milk and cooking the pudding.
Ways to Serve Vanilla Pudding
To make the dessert even tastier and give it an elegant look, top it off with fresh berries and Whipped Cream. Served in a glass cup with decorative toppings, the easy treat is worthy of any special occasion. You could also serve the dessert with Vanilla Wafers or use the pudding as an ingredient in our Berry Trifle Recipe.
There are so many different toppings you can add to this adaptable vanilla pudding recipe. Fresh fruit like banana slices or peach slices would also taste amazing. If you want some chocolate flavor to contrast with the Vanilla Pudding, add chocolate shavings or mini chocolate chips. Feel free to use semisweet, milk, or dark chocolate according to your taste. You can also sprinkle the pudding with toasted coconut, chopped nuts, brown sugar, or cookie crumbs.
How to Store
Store: Be sure to leave the pudding in the fridge for at least 4 hours before serving; otherwise, it won’t have completely set yet. After that, you still shouldn’t leave this recipe out at room temperature for more than an hour or two at most. To keep this Vanilla Pudding recipe for later, cover it in plastic wrap or transfer it to an airtight container. Kept sealed in a storage container, the pudding can stay good for 3-5 days.
Freeze: You could also freeze the leftover pudding for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight, and whisk thoroughly before serving to smooth it out and help it thicken up a bit.
Custards and puddings have many similarities, but they are not the same thing. Although puddings use egg yolks to add to the texture, the recipe isn’t relying on the eggs to thicken the mixture. Instead, the cornstarch thickens it to the right consistency. On the other hand, custards use the eggs themselves as a thickening agent.
Custard. In the US, pudding and custard refer to two similar but slightly different dishes, but in the UK, if someone says custard, they’re likely referring to what an American would call pudding.
- Add 4 cups of whole milk to a large pot over medium heat.
- Note: We are not bringing milk to a boil, just to a very faint simmer, then turn off the heat.
- In a large heat safe bowl, add the sugar, remaining 1 cup whole milk, egg yolks and whisk very well.
- Add in the cornstarch and salt and whisk well.
- While whisking very fast add in ½ cup of the heated milk in a very thin stream (similar to how you would temper eggs in an ice cream recipe).
- Repeat again with another 1 cup of heated milk.
- Holding a fine strainer over the pot, pour the mixture back into the remaining heated milk in the large pot.
- Turn the heat back onto medium heat.
- Note: Whisk the mixture in the pot constantly.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer, then to a boil.
- Keep whisking for between 4-5 minutes until the consistency has thickened to a pudding consistency.
- Turn off the heat, remove the pot from the heat.
- Keep whisking for 2-3 minutes.
- Add in the vanilla extract and butter, keep whisking until well combined.
- Remove the pudding to a large heat-safe bowl.
- Press a layer of plastic wrap directly onto the top of the pudding (this will prevent a skin from forming on the top of the pudding).
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
- Whisk well before serving.
- Best topped with whipped cream and served with fresh berries.
Butterscotch Pudding: You can use the same basic recipe to create different pudding flavors. One of my favorite options is butterscotch pudding. To make this version, substitute white sugar for brown sugar and add 2 tablespoons of scotch, rum, or bourbon along with the butter.
Coffee Pudding: Another delicious flavor to add to pudding is coffee. To make silky coffee pudding, add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the sugar mixture. Then whisk in 1 tablespoon instant espresso along with the butter and vanilla before putting the dish in the fridge.
Dairy Free: To make your vanilla pudding dairy-free, you’ll need to swap out the milk and the butter for vegan alternatives. For the milk, I’d recommend coconut milk because it’s creamier than other milk alternatives like almond milk. You should be able to find a dairy-free butter substitute at the grocery store. You can also serve the pudding without butter, although it is richer with the addition.