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Our easy chocolate pudding recipe is as classic as American desserts come. Equally adored by kids and nostalgic adults, it’s quick, make-ahead friendly, and simple in all the right ways.

chocolate pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings in two jam jars with spoons
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Why we love this recipe

Pudding is an institution. It even has a day. If you grew up in the U.S. or want to expose your kids to a little bit of Americana, this homemade version strikes just the right balance between wholesome deliciousness and nostalgia-inducing similarity to the packaged version. It has a good soul.

Our recipe is:

  • Just homemade enough — it’s like the best possible version of the stuff from the box mix
  • Honest, simple, and not too fancy
  • Make-ahead friendly
  • The perfect weekday treat or end to a casual dinner party

I first published this recipe here way back in 2010. I’ve updated the post for clarity and tweaked the recipe a bit, to current standards of perfection.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the short list of humble ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe.

ingredients in bowls
  • Use unsweetened natural cocoa powder. The taste and quality of this ingredient will have a big effect on the pudding, so choose one that you really like.
  • Whole milk creates just the right thickness and set after chilling.

How to make it

Here’s what you’ll do to make a perfect batch of our easy chocolate pudding. You can see the steps in action in the video that accompanies this post, and get all the details in the recipe card below.

step by step
  1. In a medium pot, whisk together the cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
  2. Little by little, whisk in the milk. Make sure all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Then simmer for 90 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.
  4. Pour pudding into one large serving bowl or four individual containers. I like to reuse my Bonne Maman jam jars for this purpose. Cover and chill for at least two hours. Serve topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if you like.

Expert tips and FAQs

Can I substitute a plant-based milk?

This recipe is really designed with whole milk in mind. In general, though, the answer is yes. I have heard from readers in the past that oat milk and soy milk tend to set just fine. I can’t vouch for every type of non-dairy milk or every brand. You’ll have to experiment with your particular kind.

How can I prevent a skin from forming on the top?

To prevent a skin from forming on the top of pudding, the traditional method is to cover it with plastic wrap directly touching the surface. You’ll need to do this fairly quickly.

Truth be told, my preferred method of covering the pudding is to pour into jars and immediately cover with lids, then pop them right into the fridge. This method results in a tiny bit of condensation collecting on top of the pudding, which seems to consistently prevent a skin. When you open the pudding, use the corner of a paper towel to easily soak up the bit of water before topping if you like.

Can I make this recipe in advance?

Yes, you can and you should. This chocolate pudding needs at least two hours of chill time in the fridge. You can make it much farther in advance if you like. It will keep well in the fridge for about a week.

More favorite classic American desserts

chocolate pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings in a jam jar with a spoon

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chocolate pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings in a jam jar with a spoon
4.72 from 14 votes

Easy Chocolate Pudding Recipe

By Carolyn Gratzer Cope
This pudding is as classic as American desserts come. Equally adored by kids and nostalgic adults, it's quick, make-ahead friendly, and simple in all the right ways.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 4
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Ingredients 

  • ½ cup (48 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ cup (100 grams) sugar
  • ¼ cup (32 grams) cornstarch
  • teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 cups (950 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • In a medium pot, whisk together the cocoa powder, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. 
  • Whisk in the milk a little at a time, until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
  • Set pot over medium-high heat.
  • Bring to a boil, whisking frequently. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer, whisking, for 90 seconds.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
  • Transfer to one large serving bowl or four smaller containers. Cover (with plastic wrap touching the surface if you’re picky about a skin forming) and chill for at least two hours.
  • When ready to serve, top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings if you like.

Notes

  1. Use unsweetened natural cocoa powder. The taste and quality of this ingredient will have a big effect on the pudding, so choose one that you really like.
  2. Whole milk creates just the right thickness and set after chilling.
  3. This recipe is really designed with whole milk in mind. If you need to substitute a plant-based milk, I have heard from readers in the past that oat milk and soy milk tend to set just fine. I can’t vouch for every type of non-dairy milk or every brand. You’ll have to experiment with your particular kind.
  4. To prevent a skin from forming on the top of the pudding, the traditional method is to cover it with plastic wrap directly touching the surface. You’ll need to do this fairly quickly. Truth be told, my preferred method is to pour into jars and immediately cover with lids, then pop them right into the fridge. This method results in a tiny bit of condensation collecting on top of the pudding, which seems to consistently prevent a skin. When you open the pudding, use the corner of a paper towel to easily soak up the bit of water before topping if you like.
  5. This chocolate pudding needs at least two hours of chill time in the fridge. You can make it much farther in advance if you like. It will keep well in the fridge for about a week.
I first published this recipe here in 2010. I’ve tweaked the recipe to current standards of perfection.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 131kcal, Carbohydrates: 13g, Protein: 9g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 191mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Sweet Spreads
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @umamigirl or tag #umamigirl!

Hungry for more?

Subscribe to Umami Girl’s email updates, and follow along on Instagram.

Hungry for More?
Subscribe to Umami Girl's email updates, and follow along on Instagram.
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

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Carolyn Gratzer Cope Bio Photo

About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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