Vanilla Pudding

$2.79 recipe / $0.70 serving
by Monti - Budget Bytes
4.50 from 8 votes
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The hardest thing about making this dreamy vanilla pudding from scratch is not eating it all in one sitting. Drop the instant pudding mix and try this easy homemade pudding STAT! All you need is a few minutes and a handful of ingredients to make this ultra-creamy, luscious dessert.

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 on this ultra-easy to make, luscious dessert. 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.

What Is Vanilla Pudding Made Of?

Traditionally you make vanilla pudding with whole milk, a little sugar, and, of course, vanilla. But if that’s all you used, you’d be left with a bowl of vanilla milk. Pudding needs to have body! While you can use flour to thicken a pudding, I prefer corn starch which also adds a glossy finish. Egg yolks give the pudding its buttery hue while adding richness and helping it set. 

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.

Help! My Pudding Is Lumpy!

Life happens, and so does lumpy pudding. To prevent lumps, 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. It’s also important to 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 away from high heat, period.

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.

Vanilla Pudding Toppers

While this creamy dessert is fantastic as is, you can embellish it with all sorts of ingredients to transform it into something even more impressive. 

  • Vanilla pudding pairs perfectly with fresh fruit, especially berries.
  • Layer it 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 for a midwestern twist. 
  • Swirl in a bit of dulce de leche and chopped shortbread cookies, like I do, because my sweet tooth is so large it rides shotgun.

Storing Leftovers

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. Great for work meetings, not so much for pudding.

You can store the pudding 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.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl topped with a dollop of whipped cream and surrounded by strawberries.
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Vanilla Pudding

4.50 from 8 votes
The hardest thing about making vanilla pudding from scratch is not eating it all at once. Drop the instant pudding mix and try this recipe!
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 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 20 mins

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 1/2 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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Side shot of white bowl of vanilla pudding with two other bowls and cut strawberries in the background.

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

Other Desserts You Can Make For Under $1 A Serving:

Try these wide-open bags of deliciousness without breaking the bank!

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  1. Wow. This was so good and pretty easy. My only round edge saucepan is enamel so I used a wooden spoon instead of a whisk, but I didn’t get any milk scummy bits. I also added 4 oz. of a chopped up semisweet chocolate bar plus 2 oz. of semisweet chocolate chips off the heat at the very end. Delightful!

  2. I’m wondering how to keep the bottom of the pot from getting burned milk scum. Any ideas? Yes, I mixed the whole time (I promise!) but I only used a wooden spoon. Was the temperature set too high? I ended up with flecks of it after straining, but it’s okay because it kinda sorta looks like I used vanilla beans if you don’t know better! Flavor is delicious and mine came out super thick (wonderful!).

    1. Sounds like the heat was def too high. You shouldn’t have any burned milk scum. XOXO -Monti

  3. I made this and it was delicious!! I didn’t have whole milk, so I used equal parts 2% and half and half. I would cut back to one cup half and half next time. I also had homemade vanilla sugar, and did equal parts with the plain sugar. I’m disappointed I didn’t temper the eggs better, but that’s why the sieve step is so important. Fingers crossed for a chocolate version!!

    1. Hi Alyssa! You can always add a few pats of butter to replace the fat loss when using 2%. So excited that you used vanilla sugar in it. I love vanilla sugar and make my own with used vanilla beans. THE BEST! We will definitely work on a chocolate pudding. XOXO -Monti

    1. It came out perfectly for us. Sorry you didn’t have the same experience. Perhaps you skipped a step? Or didn’t wait for the pudding to thicken? XOXO -Monti

  4. I made this with soy milk and margarine because I try to have as little dairy as I can. It turned out really well.  We topped it with some blueberry compote I had leftover and it was great. 

  5. If I only have unsalted butter, about how much salt would I need to add to make up the difference?

    Also: Do you know how can we adapt this recipe for other flavors (chocolate, banana, etc)?

  6. Would using flour instead of cornstarch be fine? I’m ok if the texture isn’t exactly the same, but I wonder if I would have to adjust any of the other ingredients.

    1. Hi Cammie! You can totally use flour. But you’ll need to double the amount to 6 tablespoons. XOXO -Monti

    2. I tried this recipe and it worked out so well! The pudding tasted amazing, thank you so much. I plan to use this recipe as a base and experiment more with it to make chocolate pudding or maybe a fun slightly alcoholic pudding for a party 😋

  7. I love from-scratch puddings. I want to flavor this one with cracked green cardamom pods and saffron. The problem is, I’m in Florida, my only A/C is a barely functioning window unit for the entire living area and, beyond that, the kitchen, and it feels like 100+°F inside EVERY DAY. Maybe until October or November. So I can’t do much cooking at all. Standing over a hot stove and stirring something for more than five seconds is impossible: enervating, even life threatening.

  8. I want to try this with coconut milk, I understand results may vary. Do you recommend canned full fat coconut milk?
    Ill post my results once I do make it! Thanks for the help and for giving us simple homemade dessert options! We use tons of your recipes and have for many years. 

    1. I love your fearlessness in the kitchen Renee!! Use full fat coconut milk. Though you’ll want to skim the cream that settles up top. It will give you a waxy pudding once it cools. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out! XOXO -M

  9. This is SO easy, SO good, and SO inexpensive. I don’t have a saucepan with rounded edges, but do have a fairly pointed spoon and frequently run it around the pan moving part of the mixture caught along the edge of the pan within reach of my whisk. There are places to cut fat, but this isn’t one of them! Whole milk is fairly innocuous in the whole scheme of things, and if you want to get decadent, you can replace some of the milk with half and half–I use whole milk, but just saying. You can use this relatively low fat pudding–as compared with whipped cream or ice cream–as a filling for cream puffs, or a dollop on top of sliced fresh strawberries or peaches.

  10. The only thing wrong with this recipe is that the pudding skin is the best part…skip the plastic film. Thank you for the recipe.