Simple Vanilla Custard (Pudding)

Everyone should have a simple stirred custard recipe handy. In America we call this sort of cornstarch-thickened mixture “pudding.” It’s terrific for eating just as it is, but it can also be used as a thick sauce for, well, whatever. This recipe is sort of a “pastry cream light.” It’s not as sweet as most pastry creams, nor as rich in cream or egg yolks, but it does have a dab of butter for sheen.

It’s quick, it’s easy and it tastes great when you have a cold (as I do today). The ingredients are:

1.75 ounces (1/4 cup) sugar
1.25 ounces (2 tablespoons, 2 teaspoons) cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 ounces (2 cups) whole milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Start by combining the dry ingredients in a small saucepan. Whisk them together. The littler the whisk, the better.

Pour in the milk…

…whisk it all together thoroughly, checking the corners of the pan to make sure there’s no clumped-up starch hiding there. Put the pan over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. It’ll thicken noticeably.

Pour about a third of the mixture over your egg yolks to temper them (i.e. gently bring them up to temperature)…

…whisk, and pour the whole mess back into the saucepan.

Bring the mixture back to a simmer for about twenty seconds, then remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the butter…

…pour in a little vanilla extract…

…and you’re done! Pour the custard (pudding) into serving cups if that’s how you intend to present it.

Otherwise transfer the custard to a bowl and let it cool down for at least half an hour, stirring every so often to keep it smooth. Chill it and serve to eager children (of all ages).

This entry was posted in Pastry, Vanilla Pudding. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Simple Vanilla Custard (Pudding)

  1. Malini says:

    Love love vanilla custard. Making it from scratch is so easy and those packaged and powdered ones are so gross!

  2. Rick Magnus says:

    Hi Joe – Love your site – very inspirational. Just want to confirm the cornstarch amt. Is that 2 tablespoons AND two teaspoons?

    Thanks ,
    Rick

  3. Silvia says:

    Hi Joe,
    Can this recipe be used to fill cream puffs or eclairs or it should be eaten only as dessert? Thank you!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey again Silvia!

      It will make a somewhat wet cream puff filling. I suggest either pastry cream or a simple Chantilly cream.

      - Joe

  4. Sue says:

    Happy Dad’s Day!

    I just made this for my husband and it turned out great. I actually used milk that was right on the verge of going sour (I figured it’s going to be cooked, so no harm, no foul) and it was a great way to use it up. I sprinkled a little cinnamon/sugar on top. Thanks for the easy to follow recipe.

    • joepastry says:

      Wow I bet that was good. A little tang was probably an outstanding addition. I must remember to add a little buttermilk next time! Cheers and thanks!

      - Joe

  5. Nupur says:

    I came here looking for proportions of milk to cornstarch to egg yolks and that sort of thing, and this recipe is spot on! I used it for a trifle pudding. Of course it is terrific on its own.

    • joepastry says:

      Thank you, Nupur!

      I’m glad the pudding worked for you. Please come back often!

      - Joe

  6. Sandhya says:

    What kind of milk ie 1%, 2%, or whole milk did you use? I only have 1% for daily use !

  7. Mrs. Holstein says:

    Joe,

    I was craving custard. I did a search and clicked on your link. While dinner was resting I made this, so after dinner the custard was ready to eat.I followed the recipe exactly, my husband & I loved it. My nephew never had custard and enjoyed it.

    This is a keeper.
    Thank You

    • joepastry says:

      So glad to hear it, Mrs. Holstein!

      Thank you very much for checking back with me!

      - Joe

  8. Heather says:

    Hello Joe,
    My household is a big custard pudding loving bunch lol. The pictures here are making my mouth water and I am going to go directly into the kitchen to whip this recipe up as soon as I say Thank you for you’re time in putting this up! So thank you and I can not WAIT to try this!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Heather!

      Let me know how it went!

      - Joe

      • Heather says:

        It was PERFECT lol everyone loved it, I pretty much inhaled mine while it was hot, my husband and roommate waited until it was chilled, Im going to make it again in a few minutes haha. So fast and simple to make, and not a messy project, only a few dishes to clean afterwards, what more could you ask for! :)

  9. Travis Mactier says:

    Wonderful! First time flawless! Tastes just like mom used to make back home in Canada, which is something considering I now live in Japan and will introduce my kids to it tonight! Thanks for sharing!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Travis!

      For some reason I only got this comment today! Cheers and hope you’re still enjoying the custard!

      - Joe

  10. Rini says:

    I’ve wanted to make a simple vanilla pudding for a very long time and I had no idea where to start. Tried this recipe and it came out perfect. Just the way I wanted it. My husband cannot stop raving about my new found skills! Thanks Joe!!!

    • joepastry says:

      Great, Rini!

      Very happy to help you look good for your spouse! We all need a little of that sort of help, I think. I know I do — and on a constant basis! ;)

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  11. Sarah says:

    Can I add lemon juice instead of vanilla? Do I add more or less?(lemon juice to extract) .Also, can I pour this on a cake kinda of like a tres leches cake but with only this custard?

    Sorry for so many questions, thank you.

    • joepastry says:

      Sorry I missed this comment, Sarah!

      Use lemon zest or extract rather than juice which has acid and might curdle the custard!

      It’s too thick for a tres leeches cake, but that’s a god idea!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  12. ana says:

    Can I use this as filling for a cake with fruit?

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Ana! Yes you can, though you won’t want to hold the cake for very long since the moisture from the pudding will start to weep into the cake after a couple of hours. Pastry cream behaves much the same way in cake, which is why you generally don’t see custard-filled cakes in pastry cases.

      Have fun!

      - Joe

  13. Melissa McIntire says:

    Hi Joe.
    I made this with lemon extract, since I was out of vanilla, and poured it over Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookies in a shallow hand-made bowl. It was yummy & lovely. (I also prefer to use the whole egg, and whipped them well prior to tempering). A sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg on top finished it off. Delicious! Thanks for the easy recipe. -m

  14. Allwin Joy says:

    Thank you so much, Joe! You made my lonely Friday Evening all the more interesting…Loved the Pudding!

    • joepastry says:

      Glad to hear that, Allwin! There’s something about pudding that makes the trials day-to-day life a little easier to bear. I’ll look forward to reading your blog!

      - Joe

  15. Amelia Pond says:

    This tastes great with fish fingers! Thank you so much for posting it!

  16. Karen Brooks says:

    The custard was fantastic! I was wondering if I could add left over spaghetti to make a spaghetti custard? Or is there another recipe for spaghetti custard/pudding! I really hate to constantly throw away all of those leftovers. Thanks for any ideas!

    • joepastry says:

      Thanks, Karen!

      I’ve never heard of that, but it sounds like fun! You can certainly pour the finished custard over the cooked spaghetti and let it set up that way. My guess, however, is that a dish like that is probably better made in the style of a rice pudding which you can find right here: http://www.joepastry.com/category/desserts-and-cookies/pudding/rice-pudding. Just swap cooked spaghetti for the rice!

      I’m going to have to try that! Thanks, Karen!

      - Joe

  17. Jane says:

    This was such a delicous and simple custard, thanks (:

  18. Deborah says:

    My custard did not set, even after a night in the fridge it’s still very runny. I used fat free milk. Is that the problem?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Deborah!

      That shouldn’t affect it. Indeed the on on the site I actually made with skim milk. Can you think of anything else you might have done differently from the recipe as written?

      - Joe

  19. Fiona says:

    I made this with coconut sugar instead of white sugar, and coconut oil instead of butter, which increase it’s nutritional value. Wonderful mild toffee taste!

  20. Pingback: Celebrate 8/17

  21. Roxanne Russell says:

    I had been looking for a custard for a burnt almond cake filling. I just now made Joe’ custard pudding. Easy to make,yum, still
    cooling. Thank You! Roxanne

  22. Sheanda says:

    Hi Joe!

  23. Sheanda says:

    Hi Joe!
    I made this for the first time from scratch, and it turned out just wonderful. I am a teenager so this is a great recipe for me when I have a sweet craving but I don’t have much time! Thank you for posting this!

    • joepastry says:

      It’s my very great pleasure! I love pudding, especially when it’s made from scratch. This is almost as easy as a box mix, and tastes so much better. Glad it worked out so well for you.

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  24. Helen says:

    Thanks so much, Joe. This was the PERFECT recipe to satisfy those college nights when you have an immense dessert craving. The best part is that it only has a few ingredients that almost everyone has in their pantry.

    • joepastry says:

      It’s great how that works, isn’t it? There’s so much you can do without fancy chocolates or gourmet salts!

      Thanks for the comment and best of luck with your semester!

      - Joe

  25. Amy Jeanne says:

    I’m surprised so many people have had success with this recipe. I tried to make it tonight and it didn’t set up at all. I followed the directions exactly, and it looked thick and pudding like when i poured out into a bowl. But as it cooled it gradually turned to soup. I tried to salvage it, but it will probably have to be thrown out. What a waste of ingredients.

    • joepastry says:

      I’m very sorry to hear that, Amy! Did it simmer very long? A long simmer could have caused it to thin back out again.

      - Joe

  26. Katie says:

    I made this tonight to mix with some wild rice I had left over, slivered almonds and dried cherries. I also drizzled in just a bit of maples syrup. It was fabulous!

  27. Heather says:

    My Mom used to make a pudding like this and I forgot the recipe was so glad to find this. She would put just the egg yolks in. When cooled she would add oranges and fold in the whipped egg whites. It was my and my brothers favorite…Thanks for helping us bring a little of Mom back for the holiday.

    Heather

    • joepastry says:

      That comment made me feel warm all over on a cold day, Heather! Thanks very much for writing in with it. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

      - Joe

  28. Meena says:

    I need to make this recipe dairy free for my nephew, could I use soya milk instead of whole milk ?

    Meena

  29. Lynn says:

    found this recipe this morning as I was looking for a nice bread pudding recipe, I just moved an I have missed placed all my recipes. What a wonderful pudding. So fast and easy to make. I used milk that is about to expire. The taste is like my mom’s…..so creamy. Thank-you for sharing.

    - Lynn

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Lynn! Your comment warms my heart on a cold day!

      Thanks very much, please come back! Cheers,

      - Joe

  30. Tami says:

    Hi Joe, I made this a few times and it always turns out great. Thanks so much for posting it. Can I turn it into a chocolate custard by adding some cocoa powder to the dry ingredients and using chocolate extract?

    Tami

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Tami!

      Thanks so much for the kind comment! You can do that indeed. You can whisk some cocoa powder into the milk. Alternately you can whisk a few ounces of finely chopped bar chocolate into the pudding when it’s finished but still hot. Either way!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  31. Pingback: How to make Jamaican bread pudding with kids | the mommy talks

  32. Gina says:

    Can u use this custard as a choclate cake filling?

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Gina!

      You can though I’d suggest using one of the pastry creams in the Pastry Components menu instead since they’ll be firmer and will also weep less as they sit. They are also very easy to make!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  33. Bay Cobalt says:

    Hey, this recipe is amazing on a tad of pie pastry. Thanks a bunch it was wonderful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>