This Vanilla Pudding is a rich, silky custard with full vanilla flavor. Make pastry chef-level pudding in under 30 minutes with this straightforward recipe and pantry ingredients! It is all made in one pot without any tempering needed!

Partially eaten vanilla pudding in a cup.

This vanilla pudding recipe will have you throwing away your instant pudding mix! I am here to show you how simple and delicious making homemade pudding really is. With easy-to-find ingredients and simple step-by-step instructions, I just know this will only be the beginning of your stirred custard journey. 

Once you have mastered this creamy and rich pudding, I suggest you try your hand at my butterscotch pudding, chocolate pudding or Nutella pudding! Better yet, layer that Nutella pudding with this one for an easy and impressive dessert! 

Why You Will Love This Homemade Vanilla Pudding 

  • Perfect vanilla flavor without being too sweet. Using both whole vanilla beans and vanilla extract will give it a fully rounded vanilla flavor. Kosher salt and sugar enhance the vanilla flavor. It tastes comforting and nostalgic. 
  • Step-by-step instructions from a pastry chef. I will give you all my tips and tricks to ensure you get a perfect creamy pudding every time. My team and I made huge batches of pudding several times a week just to keep up with the demand at the restaurants, so you can trust I have all the secrets.
  • Perfect silky, rich, and smooth texture. The fat from the butter and eggs creates a silky, rich texture, but the ratio of the sugar and cornstarch also adds texture and flavor! 
Vanilla pudding displayed on a tablescape.

Professional Tips for Making Vanilla Pudding 

  • Read the recipe through before starting. Stirred custards are notorious for making you think fast on your feet, and yes, this is a simple recipe, but it will move quickly once you start cooking. Be sure to grab all the ingredients and tools before you start. 
  • Whisk, whisk, whisk. Whisking is the name of that game. A lump-free pudding starts by whisking your dry ingredients together to ensure the cornstarch is thoroughly distributed. Then, whisk until you don’t see any streaks of egg, and once you turn on the heat, don’t stop whisking!
  • Choose a heavy-bottom pot that is the right size for your batch. You don’t want your pot to be too tall, or you won’t be able to reach the edges and risk burning your pudding. Too short of a pot, and you risk spillage when whisking. Having a pot with a thicker bottom will also give you more of a buffer from the heat to keep the pudding from scorching on the bottom. 

Ingredients & Substitutions 

Ingredients for vanilla pudding laid out.
  • Granulated Sugar: Sugar has many roles in the pudding. It provides sweetness, protects the eggs from curdling in the milk, and helps prevent the milk from burning. 
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch is a thickener like the eggs, and it helps bind all the ingredients together when cooked. 
  • Kosher Salt: Kosher Salt enhances the flavor without adding more sugar.
  • Whole Eggs: Eggs in a stirred custard are the most important. They help thicken the pudding and also add fat to help create that creamy texture. I use whole eggs rather than egg yolks to keep the pudding from tasting “eggy.”
  • Whole Milk: Milk is the liquid in pudding. The fat adds flavor but isn’t essential like it is in some recipes, so feel free to use your favorite alternative like coconut milk or lower-fat milk. 
  • Vanilla Bean: You can use a spent vanilla bean from another recipe. A full-split and scraped vanilla bean will have a more full vanilla flavor. You can also omit this or use vanilla bean paste instead and the pudding will still be delicious.
  • Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract is here to add to the fullness of the vanilla flavor. 
  • Unsalted Butter: Butter allows you to control the salt content of the custard while still adding all the buttery goodness. It also helps to give the pudding a luscious, silky texture! 

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations 

  • Add alcohol You can add up to 1 ½ tablespoons of dark rum, bourbon, or amaretto! Whisk in after the butter. It will loosen the custard, so be aware as you pour it up! 
  • Infuse the milk beforehand. Take your milk and add bananas, coffee, or toasted almonds. Boil together, remove from heat, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to sit for an hour or two, depending on the strength of the flavor you want. 
  • Vanilla strawberry trifle. I am currently obsessed with my strawberry cake. Layer this pudding lightened with whipped cream, strawberry jam, and strawberry cake! Top with some lightly sweetened whipped cream and graham crumbs. 
  • Experiment with the extracts. Almond, coffee, or lemon. There are a lot of fun extracts out there. Just be careful; not all extracts are created equal, and you might need to add less. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away.

Ideas for serving vanilla pudding

I served mine simply with homemade whipped cream but there are so many fancy, yet easy, ways to serve pudding! 

  • Layer with another pudding. This vanilla pudding with butterscotch pudding or Nutella pudding! Top with some lightly sweetened whipped cream, and you have the perfect after-dinner dessert. You can also stir in lemon curd for an easy lemon pudding. 
  • Add some crunch. A sprinkle of candied walnuts or pecans, a sprinkle of homemade granola, or even pumpkin seed brittle
  • Fresh or macerated fruit.  Fresh berries like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries will pair perfectly with the pudding. You can also mix the fruit with some sugar and lemon juice and serve on top for a silky take on berries and cream. 
  • Make Banana Pudding! Follow my recipe for banana pudding. Trust me, you won’t have to stop at Magnolia’s again. 

How to Make Vanilla Pudding from Scratch

Use these instructions to make the perfect creamy vanilla pudding every time! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

Prepare the pudding:

Step 1: In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and kosher salt. 

Have a strainer on hand. The strainer is there if later your eggs curdle from overcooking or from not enough whisking. You can actually save your pudding by pouring it through the strainer over your butter, and whisk to combine. 

Step 2: Whisk in the eggs until smooth and homogeneous. There should be no streaks of eggs and no lumps of cornstarch. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, add the milk, vanilla seeds, and scraped pod, and whisk. 

If there are lumps of cornstarch, grab a spoon and press them up against the side of the pot or saucepan to break up the cluster. Whisk again to incorporate. 

Step 3: Before turning the heat on, measure your butter and vanilla extract. Stirred custards wait for no one. 

Cook and cool the pudding: 

Step 4: Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Once the pudding has started to bubble, you will need to whisk for at least 1 minute to thicken it and cook away the cornstarch flavor. Improperly cooked cornstarch also has an unpleasant mouthfeel. 

If your heat is too high and you start to see lumps in the pudding not all is lost. Turn your heat down or off and whisk until the lumps are gone. If the lumps don’t go away, finish cooking the pudding, then strain it through a colander into a bowl with the butter.

Whisking dry ingredients for the pudding mixture.
Slowly adding milk to the pudding mixture.
Adding vanilla extract to the pudding mixture.

Step 5: Remove the pot from the burner and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Whisk until there are no streaks of butter. We add the vanilla extract at the end because cooking vanilla extract will actually dilute the flavor. 

Step 6: Pour the pudding into a bowl, plastic-lined sheet tray, or individual cups. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin. Then, poke a few holes to allow the steam to escape. Refrigerate until set. 

To keep your pudding completely smooth, you can pour your hot pudding into a bowl set inside an ice bath. Then, actively chill it with a whisk or spatula. This keeps it from clumping as it cools. Once cooled, it can be smoothed and loosened by whisking vigorously. (or in your stand mixer with a paddle attachment if you’re tired of whisking.)

Step 7: For the pudding pictured in the photos I cooled the pudding on a sheet tray as pictured above, whisked it once cool and then spooned it into the cups. You can also use a piping bag to keep the sides perfectly clean. Okay, you caught me. That’s totally what I did!

Whisking butter into the vanilla pudding.
Cooling vanilla pudding on a sheet pan.
Finished vanilla pudding topped with whipped cream.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store vanilla pudding?

Store pudding in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, covering it with plastic wrap or sealing it in an airtight container.

Can you freeze pudding?

I would not freeze pudding. Once you defrost the pudding, it will start to separate, and the texture will become icy.

Can you make a larger or smaller batch?

Absolutely! Making a smaller batch will be harder to keep the pudding from clumping, so cook on medium heat and make sure you can reach all edges of the pot. With a large batch, a wide opening for the pot is best. You want to be able to reach the bottom of the pot without burning your wrists.

Close-up of vanilla pudding with vanilla bean flecks.

If you enjoyed this recipe, please leave a star rating and let me know how it goes in the comments below! I love hearing from you and your comments make my day!

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Vanilla pudding served on a china plate.

vanilla pudding

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  • Author: Lindsey Farr
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 25
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This Vanilla Pudding is a rich, silky custard with full vanilla flavor. Make pastry chef-level pudding in under 30 minutes with this straightforward recipe and pantry ingredients! It is all made in one pot without any tempering needed!


Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

Prepare the pudding:

  • In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and kosher salt. 
  • Whisk in the eggs until smooth and homogeneous. There should be no streaks of eggs and no lumps of cornstarch. Once the mixture is fully incorporated, add the milk, vanilla seeds, and scraped pod, and whisk. 
  • Before turning the heat on, measure your butter and vanilla extract. Stirred custards wait for no one. 

Cook and cool the pudding: 

  • Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Once the pudding has started to bubble, you will need to whisk for at least 1 minute to thicken it and cook away the cornstarch flavor. Improperly cooked cornstarch also has an unpleasant mouthfeel. 
  • Remove the pot from the burner and stir in the butter and vanilla extract. Whisk until there are no streaks of butter. We add the vanilla extract at the end because cooking vanilla extract will actually dilute the flavor. 
  • Pour the pudding into a bowl, plastic-lined sheet tray, or individual cups. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin. Then, poke a few holes to allow the steam to escape. Refrigerate until set. 
  • For the pudding pictured in the photos I cooled the pudding on a sheet tray as pictured above, whisked it once cool and then spooned it into the cups. You can also use a piping bag to keep the sides perfectly clean. Okay, you caught me. That’s totally what I did! 

Notes

Presentation – Serve with some crushed-up chocolate chip cookies for a fun take on cookies and milk. 

Flavor Tips—Use good-quality vanilla extract. Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract has the best flavor, in my opinion. 

Storage—If you have pastry bags, you can store your pudding in them. That way, you can pipe your pudding into any dish you desire.

Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef tested recipe. Check out our other delicious, chef-developed no bake treats!