Pantry Pudding


Did you think I was going to pull a box out of the pantry? :)

Last year when I started this journey I was a pretty decent cook but there are so many pantry items I never would have even thought about making from scratch. Pudding was one of those things.

When you read the list of ingredients on the back of the pudding box it sounds so magical, so mysterious, so laboratory and so improbable that you could make pudding yourself from things you already have in your pantry or fridge in the same amount of time it takes to cook box pudding.

Imagine making amazing pudding anytime you want without having to run to the store because you are out of boxed pudding, and without giving a dime to a large food corporation. No special packaging to dispose of and no artificial flavors or chemicals. And because you control the amount of sweetener the ingredients are, for the most part, totally wholesome ingredients that can help you get nutrient dense calories into a growing child. How cool is that?


Tonight’s pudding is dessert but it could just as easily be breakfast if I increased the number of egg yolks and cut back on the sugar. In fact, I may just make a bacon and maple syrup flavored pudding for breakfast one day. It would be the same basic recipe that I’m about to share with you and that would be one of a million ways in which you could personalize it.

By adding various flavoring extracts in place of the vanilla (think orange, coconut, mint, almond) or steeping herbs and spices for 30 minutes in the warm milk before making the pudding (think mint, lemon verbena, cardamon, coffee beans, tea with Chai spices, cinnamon, even garlic, rosemary or basil), adding solids (think citrus zest or pureed pumpkin) or substituting another liquid at the end as part of the total liquid in the recipe (think Frangelico, Kahlua, scotch) your options are endless.

You can dial up or down the sweetness and the fat to your own personal preference since the sugar and butter have nothing to do with getting the pudding to set. The cornstarch and egg yolks take care of that for you.

And really, there’s always room for pudding. Everyone knows that.

Master Recipe for Pudding

3/4 cup organic sugar
3 tablespoons organic corn starch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons butter in 3 pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla


If you plan to steep herbs or spices in the milk gently warm the milk, add the spices, then turn off the heat and let the milk sit for 30 minutes before straining. Discard the herbs or spices and use the milk as directed in the recipe.

In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. If you were making chocolate pudding you would add your cocoa powder now as well. Add half of the cream and the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining cream and milk.

Place the pan over medium heat and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly once the mixture thickens. Boil the pudding for 1 minute then remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter along with any extracts, liquors or chocolate chips until the mixture is smooth.

Pour into individual serving dishes then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Pudding will set once it is chilled.


I have not found a satisfactory work around for covering the pudding surface with plastic wrap and I hate to use it around food. This step is not necessary but it does help make the pudding creamier since the steam doesn’t escape as the pudding cools and that thick skin doesn’t form on the surface.

What I do is put all the ramekins on a tray and cover that with another tray. Because the steam is trapped under the top tray the skin doesn’t form but as condensation forms on the tray above the pudding, it drips back down and discolors the pudding surface. The texture is still intact and you could easily hide the surface with some whipped cream if you were entertaining. My kids certainly don’t mind though! 

Flavor Variations:

Chocolate Pudding
Add 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder along with the sugar. Once the pudding is cooked and you’ve removed the pan from the heat stir in about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips or chopped baking chocolate. Cinnamon, mint, orange, coffee, Kahlua, or Frangelico would all be great in this chocolate variation.

Butterscotch Pudding
Substitute 3/4 cup brown sugar for the granulated sugar. Once the pudding is cooked and you’ve removed the pan from the heat stir in 2-3 tablespoons of Scotch along with the vanilla.

Chai Latte Pudding
Steep 1 tablespoon of black or rooibos tea along with 3 cardamom seeds, 3 peppercorns, 1/2 stick of cinnamon, 6 cloves and a pinch of ginger in the milk before making the pudding as discussed above. Proceed with the master pudding recipe.

11 Responses to Pantry Pudding

  1. Homemade pudding is excellent and a lot easier than most people realize to make. I grew up in a large family and my parents were stretched to feed us all well. Homemade pudding, cakes from scratch, and homemade summer freezer pops were regular items in the household – easy to make from scratch, low cost ingredients, and it kept all the kids from whining about not having some sweets occassionally.

  2. Yippee, Yippee, Yippee!!! I just discovered making homemade pudding and I’ve been looking for a generic, make-it-the-flavor-you-want recipe!! I’m so excited I could jump up and down!!!

  3. KFG – my mom never cooked so I was thrown out into the world of Betty Crocker mixes. It’s amazing how novel something like this can be!

    B – I’m so glad you were looking for this! I’d love to hear what flavors you have been thinking of so I can expand our pudding rotation. When you aren’t limited by the box your imagination can lead your stomach anywhere.

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  5. My mom used to use waxed paper pressed down on the pudding to prevent the “skin”. She would use custard cups and fill them to the brim, then lay the waxed paper right on top of the pudding. My favorite was always the butterscotch, though I guarantee there wasn’t any real Scotch in it!
    I’ve made ice cream w/5-spice powder that was really good — I think I’ll try that as a pudding!
    Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Sarahjess – duh! Why didn’t I think of that? That ice cream sounds divine. I remember reading in a Tom Douglas cookbook too that once Jackie made him an angel food cake with 5 spice powder for his birthday. You could do a trifecta – 5 spice Trifle!

  7. I’ve made your pudding recipe twice now, vanilla bean flavored only so far, and it was spectacular! I’m eager to try your chai one and your savory suggestions as well.

    I thought you might like this raw ice cream recipe. It’s a bit of a mashup of a couple different recipes I found online, one cooked, one raw, tweaked as we’ve continued making it.

    2 cups cream (I skim it off the top of our raw milk)
    1 cup whole milk
    3 egg yolks
    1 cup sugar
    1 cup water
    1 vanilla bean

    Use the sugar, water, and vanilla to make a simple syrup over medium heat. That is, cut the bean in half and then lengthwise, making it easy to splay open and rake out the vanilla “seeds” into the syrup and throw in the beans. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, remove the bean pod pieces, and place the syrup in the fridge to cool completely.

    Place the vanilla simple syrup and all remaining ingredients into an icecream maker, and in twenty minutes, enjoy serving alone or over pie!

    That’s how fast it is in my newer maker, though of course it’s longer stirred by hand over an ice water bath. It’s important to let the syrup and other ingredients chill well first or the ice cream will not solidify enough in the machine.

    Keep us posted on new pudding variations and other homemade dessert experiments!

  8. Oh! I almost forgot–I liked the pudding while still warm, while Rhett preferred it chilled from the fridge. I also liked the skin that forms on top and so didn’t worry about placing anything directly over the surface, but I can see how others might object to the difference in texture. I wonder what people did pre-WWII cookbook style for that sort of thing? There certainly wasn’t plastic wrap…

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