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A silky, decadent homemade vanilla pudding recipe by a pastry chef! An easy, no bake dessert that uses only pantry ingredients and can be made in 30 minutes. The perfect gluten-free dessert or afternoon snack!

vanilla pudding in blue bowl with spoon dipping.

Sometimes a simple, well-made dessert is the best. I put a budino (pudding) dessert on the menu at the Italian restaurant where I was the pastry chef and it flew out of the kitchen as fast as I could make it. I had fun alternating layers of vanilla pudding and this chocolate pudding, or vanilla with caramel pudding.

This homemade vanilla pudding recipe is so much better than even the fanciest store-bought pudding cups. Finishing it with butter makes it rich and silky smooth, and using just the right amount of vanilla extract and vanilla bean adds a deep, pure vanilla flavor. You can serve it with a dollop of homemade whipped cream or transform this pudding into a banana pudding ice box cake!

Why This is the Best Vanilla Pudding Recipe

  • Uses whole eggs. Unlike most other vanilla pudding recipes out there, my recipe uses whole eggs rather than egg yolks. This makes this pudding taste like vanilla and has no eggy taste.
  • No tempering! In this easy recipe the everything is whisked together (in a particular order, of course) and then cooked. There is no tempering the eggs; the sugar and cornstarch protect the eggs from overcooking even during boiling!
  • No sweetened condensed milk. I use only pantry ingredients in this recipe. This recipe relies on sugar for sweetness unlike the vanilla pudding in my banana pudding recipe, which uses sweetened condensed milk.
  • Silky smooth and rich. I’ve made thousands of pounds of this pudding (and others like butterscotch pudding), so lean on me for all the tips and tricks to make the smoothest, silkiest pudding.
  • Stays fresh without separating for 2 weeks! Store in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. The perfect make ahead snack or dessert.
4 blue bowls of vanilla pudding with berries on wooden surface.
Caramel Pudding in blue glass with whipped cream
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Professional Tips for Making Homemade Vanilla Pudding

  • Whisk together the dry ingredients followed by the egg. The sugar helps separate the cornstarch granules and the cornstarch helps keep the sugar from denaturing the egg protein. Bonus points if you add beaten egg rather than a whole egg.
  • Don’t skip the butter at the end. In for a penny in for a pound. 2 ½ tablespoons of butter add so much richness, keeps it smooth, and gives it a silky mouthfeel.
  • Just keep whisking. Once the heat is on, your only focus is whisking this pudding. Get all the corners of the pot and don’t stop whisking. Not for the baby, not for the cat, definitely not for the hubs. (Just kidding, take the pudding off the heat and check the baby!)

Ingredients & Substitutions

vanilla pudding ingredients on marble.
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch increases the thickening power without altering the flavor.
  • Kosher Salt: Be sure to use a kosher salt. The same amount of another salt will be too salty. Kosher salt also has a neutral flavor which is important in a dessert with a light vanilla flavor like pudding or rice pudding.
  • Large Eggs
  • Whole Milk: I use whole milk for the added fat and flavor but you can substitute an alternative milk of your choosing or low fat milk. The whole milk does make give this pudding an extra creamy texture.
  • Vanilla Bean: The vanilla bean is optional but it adds another layer of vanilla flavor. You could also use vanilla bean paste.
  • Vanilla Extract: This is the star of the show, so choose a pure vanilla extract like Nielson Massey Madagascar vanilla extract.
  • Unsalted Butter: Finishing with a touch of butter adds a rich, silky quality to the pudding. You can omit it.

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

Variations

  • Make it lemon or another citrus: Did you know you can stir lemon curd into cooled vanilla pudding for a tasty, vibrant lemon pudding? You could also add a little lemon or orange zest to the sugar before mixing.
  • Change the flavor: You can substitute coconut milk for the whole milk for an easy coconut pudding or add additional flavoring like melted chocolate, caramel sauce or maple syrup before it cools. This caramel pudding makes a caramel from scratch or you can substitute the granulated sugar for brown sugar to make the best butterscotch pudding ever!  
  • Make banana pudding! The secret to the best banana pudding is homemade vanilla pudding! You can use this one or you can use my Magnolia bakery copycat recipe which has sweetened condensed milk. Simply fold in whipped heavy cream and layer with bananas and ‘Nilla wafers!

What makes homemade pudding better than box?

Boxed pudding mix leans on artificial ingredients and flavoring, which makes it bland and artificial tasting. Box pudding is also overly sweet to over compensate. Not only does this homemade pudding recipe have real vanilla extract and an optional vanilla bean, but it uses a little butter to enhance the flavor and texture.  

vanilla pudding with whipped cream in a blue bowl and berries.

How to Make Vanilla Pudding from Scratch

Use these instructions to make the perfect homemade vanilla pudding! Nothing is going to be easier than instant pudding mix but this is pretty close and tastes way better! Further details and measurements can be found in the recipe card below.

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

Step 2: Whisk in eggs followed by vanilla bean (optional) and then slowly whisk the milk into the cornstarch mixture.

Step 3: Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Be sure to allow the pudding to boil 1 minute to eliminate the starchy taste of raw cornstarch.

Step 4: Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla extract using a silicone spatula.

whisking dry ingredients for vanilla pudding.
Adding milk to whisked eggs slowly in pot.
whisking butter into thickened pudding.

Step 5: Pour into a large bowl or a plastic wrap lined sheet pan. If there are no lumps, then you don’t need to strain. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and poke a few holes. Alternately you can portion it directly into bowls, ramekins or miniature trifle dishes.

If you do have lumps, then press it through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl.

Step 6: Refrigerate until set. The cooling time will depend on how you portioned it. If you spread it flat on a sheet pan, it will cool in 30 minutes but a large bowl will take several hours.

Step 7: Portion pudding into dishes, spoon into bowls or put into a clean, airtight container and refrigerate.

cooling vanilla pudding on sheet pan covered with plastic.
vanilla pudding with whipped cream in a blue bowl and berries.

If the pudding is lumpy after cooling, this is normal, simply put it into a large bowl and whisk smooth.

Chef Lindsey’s Recipe Tip

For the cleanest presentation, transfer cooled pudding into a piping bag, cut off the tip and then squeeze into bowls or dishes. This is also the prettiest way to layer different flavors of pudding.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to store homemade vanilla pudding?

Cool completely and store in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. I wouldn’t recommend freezing pudding because it can separate and have an unpleasant texture when it thaws. You can, however, eat it frozen straight from the freezer!

Is vanilla custard the same as vanilla pudding?

Vanilla pudding is a type of stirred custard. Custard is a broad pastry term that spans dishes like crème brûlée, pastry cream, easy chocolate pie, and bread pudding! You can read more about custards and find all our professional custard recipes here!

What ingredients make pudding thick?

Both cornstarch and eggs make pudding thick. The eggs thicken it like another stirred custard, crème anglaise, but the cornstarch helps thicken it further without altering the flavor.

What can I use instead of vanilla extract in pudding?

In place of the vanilla extract in pudding you can use vanilla bean paste, vanilla beans that have been split and scraped, or you can use an imitation vanilla. The last one will taste a little artificial but it is a good substitute when vanilla extract is out of budget or unavailable.

How to serve vanilla pudding?

Vanilla pudding is excellent serve alone as a decadent snack or easy dessert, but I love adding homemade whipped cream or lemon curd whipped cream and then adding a crunch. Try your favorite crunchy chocolate chip cookies, Oreo cookies, gingersnaps or ‘Nilla wafers. Serve with sliced strawberries, blackberries, ripe peaches or all three!

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

vanilla pudding with whipped cream in a blue bowl and berries.
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Homemade Vanilla Pudding

A silky, decadent homemade vanilla pudding recipe by a pastry chef! An easy, no bake dessert that uses only pantry ingredients and can be made in 30 minutes. The perfect gluten-free dessert or afternoon snack!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 6 Servings

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • In a medium saucepan whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
  • Whisk in eggs followed by vanilla bean (optional) and then slowly whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until bubbly and thickened. Be sure to allow the pudding to boil 1 minutes to eliminate the starchy taste of raw cornstarch.
  • Remove from heat, stir in butter and vanilla extract using a silicone spatula.
  • Pour into a large bowl or a plastic wrap lined sheet pan. If there are no lumps, then you don’t need to strain. If you do have lumps, then press it through a fine mesh sieve into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface and poke a few holes.
  • Alternately you can portion it directly into bowls, ramekins or miniature trifle dishes. Refrigerate until set. This will depend on how you portioned it. If you spread it flat on a sheet pan, it will cool in 30 minutes but a large bowl will take several hours.
  • Portion or pipe into dishes, spoon into bowls or put into a clean, airtight container and refrigerate. If the pudding is lumpy after cooling, this is normal, simply put it into a large bowl and whisk smooth.

Notes

Yield – 3 cups, 6 servings
Presentation – Serve with whipped cream and fresh berries like I did!
Flavor Tips – Using quality pure vanilla extract will make a huge difference even without a vanilla bean.
Storage – Cool completely and store in a clean, airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. I wouldn’t recommend freezing pudding because it can separate and have an unpleasant texture when it thaws.

Nutrition

Calories: 224kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 266mg | Potassium: 221mg | Fiber: 0.04g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 439IU | Calcium: 173mg | Iron: 0.3mg
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Calories: 224
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Before You Go

I hope you enjoyed this professional chef created recipe. Check out our other custard recipes or find one of our 250+ cookie recipes to serve alongside this easy pudding!

Hi, I’m Chef Lindsey!

I am the baker, recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Chef Lindsey Farr. I believe in delicious homemade food and the power of dessert!

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