Homemade Vanilla Pudding

$2.79 recipe / $0.70 serving
by Monti - Budget Bytes
4.70 from 13 votes

Edited by Beth - Budget Bytes

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The hardest thing about making homemade vanilla pudding from scratch is not eating it all in one sitting. This classic vanilla pudding recipe is ultra rich and creamy, delicious warm or cold, and it’s the perfect simple pleasure (or addition to your favorite dessert). So drop the powdered instant pudding mix and try this homemade pudding recipe STAT! That homemade flavor is SO worth it!

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl with whipped cream on top and cut strawberries on the counter.

I’m just blown away by the price point of this ultra-easy-to-make vanilla pudding recipe. I can make almost 4 cups of pudding for a little below $3, which means I can make a double batch and stash half of it to gobble down by myself while I’m watching the ladies on The Bachelorette make bad decisions. Perfection.

Ingredients for Vanilla Pudding

Homemade vanilla pudding is incredibly simple so you can whip up a batch with pantry staples with next to no planning. Here’s what you’ll need to make homemade pudding:

  • Sugar: Simple white granulated sugar gives the vanilla pudding the right amount of sweetness without masking the flavor of the vanilla.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch helps thicken the pudding to its classic, smooth texture.
  • Whole Milk: Milk provides body and creaminess to the pudding and acts as the perfect vehicle for the creamy vanilla flavor.
  • Egg Yolks: Egg yolks help thicken the pudding, create an extra rich flavor, and they give the pudding its classic light yellow hue.
  • Vanilla Extract: It wouldn’t be vanilla pudding without the vanilla!
  • Salted Butter: Butter gives the pudding extra richness and makes it velvety smooth. The little bit of salt in the butter helps all of the flavors POP.

Do I have to use whole milk for pudding?

You need the fat content of whole milk to create the creamy mouth feel of a proper pudding. You can use 2% if that’s all you have, but I would add an extra tablespoon of butter to the party to compensate for the fat loss. I know many of you can’t do dairy, so feel free to substitute whole milk with coconut milk, which has higher fat content than other milk alternatives. You can also replace the butter with vegan butter.

Tips for Smooth Pudding

Life happens, and so does lumpy pudding. To prevent lumps, use these tips:

  • Use a pot with rounded sides so your whisk can tuck into the edges. If you use a pot with straight sides, the whisk can’t get into the corners, and you’ll get thick pasty bits that can also scorch.
  • Temper your eggs, which is just chef-speak for bringing the temperature of the egg yolks up little by little, so they don’t scramble. Keep egg yolks away from high heat, period.
  • Whisk often! If you stop stirring after the egg yolks are added, the pudding will thicken unevenly and become lumpy.

What to Serve with Vanilla Pudding

While this creamy dessert is fantastic as is, you can top it with all sorts of ingredients to transform it into something even more impressive. Here are some ideas for how to serve vanilla pudding:

  • Top with fresh fruit, especially berries.
  • Layer with vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and whipped cream for a southern-style banana pudding
  • Add diced granny smith apples, chopped Snickers bars, and whipped cream to create a Snickers salad (IYKYK it’s a midwest thing). 
  • Swirl in a bit of dulce de leche or caramel sauce and chopped shortbread cookies, like I do, because my sweet tooth is so large it rides shotgun.

How to Store Vanilla Pudding

When storing vanilla pudding, the most crucial step is to cover the surface with plastic film, so the pudding isn’t exposed to air, which will cause it to develop a thick skin. Vanilla pudding can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. It keeps in the freezer for up to three months. If you want to go all out, pour it into popsicle molds and enjoy it as a frozen treat.

Side view of white bowl of vanilla pudding with a spoon coming out of it with strawberries and two other bowls of pudding in the background.
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Vanilla Pudding

4.70 from 13 votes
This homemade vanilla pudding recipe is super rich and creamy, only takes a few simple ingredients, and is so much better than instant mixes!
Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl topped with a dollop of whipped cream and surrounded by strawberries.
Servings 4 3/4 cup each
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar ($0.12)
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch ($0.09)
  • 3 cups whole milk ($0.73)
  • 3 large egg yolks ($0.60)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract ($0.87)
  • 3 Tbsp salted butter ($0.38)

Instructions 

  • Add the sugar and cornstarch to a medium-sized pot. Mix them together and set the pot over medium heat.
  • Add the milk and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.
  • The milk should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Take the mixture off the heat.
  • Beat the egg yolks. Whisk one tablespoon of the hot milk into the beaten egg yolks.
  • Continue to whisk in the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the egg mixture is very warm.
  • Set the remaining pot of milk over medium heat and whisk in the warmed egg mixture. Bring the pudding to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.
  • Take the pudding off the heat. Add the vanilla and the butter. Stir until the butter has melted.
  • Strain the pudding through a fine mesh sieve.
  • Add the strained pudding to a large bowl. Serve warm or cover with plastic film touching the pudding's surface and store in the refrigerator until the pudding has cooled.

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Nutrition

Serving: 0.75cupCalories: 350kcalCarbohydrates: 40gProtein: 8gFat: 18gSodium: 144mgFiber: 0.1g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl topped with a dollop of whipped cream and surrounded by strawberries.

How to Make Vanilla Pudding – Step by Step Photos

Overhead shot of sugar and cornstarch in a pot.

Add the sugar and cornstarch to a medium-sized pot with rounded edges. Mix them together and set the pot over medium heat.

Overhead shot of milk being poured into dry ingredients in a pot.

Add the milk and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.

Overhead of a wooden spoon comin out of a pot with milk that has thickened on it.

The milk should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Take the mixture off the heat.

Overhead shot of egg yolks being tempered in a white ramekin with a spoon stirring it.

Beat the egg yolks. Whisk one tablespoon of the hot milk into the beaten egg yolks. Continue to whisk in the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the egg mixture is very warm.

Overhead shot of tempered egg yolks being stirred into pudding in a pot.

Set the remaining pot of milk over medium heat and whisk in the warmed egg mixture. Bring the pudding to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.

Overhead shot of vanilla and butter being stirred into pudding in a pot.

Take the pudding off the heat. Add the vanilla and the butter. Stir until the butter has melted.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding being strained through a fine mesh sieve into a white bowl.

Strain the warm pudding through a fine mesh sieve.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl with plastic film on top.

Add the pudding to a large bowl and cover it with plastic film touching the pudding’s surface.

A bowl of refrigerated vanilla pudding.

Store in the refrigerator until the pudding has cooled.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl with whipped cream on top and cut strawberries on the counter.

Portion the homemade pudding into four serving bowls and enjoy as is, or top with homemade whipped cream.

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Comments

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  1. Doubled the vanilla and whisked 4 oz. of cubed cream cheese into the hot pudding. Really good made even better!

  2. Super easy and delicious! When I got to the straining step it didn’t seem necessary so I skipped it and had no issues.