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This classic vanilla pudding is as nostalgic as American desserts get. Equally adored by kids and adults, it’s quick, make-ahead friendly, and simple in all the right ways.

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

Some things don’t need to be overcomplicated, and vanilla pudding is pretty high up on that list. This classic version channels all the best parts of the instant pudding mix you’d make from a box, but without the nonsense. It has a clean, sweet but not cloying vanilla flavor and just the right texture. It’s:

  • Equally loved by kids and nostalgic adults
  • Make-ahead friendly
  • Made from just a few simple ingredients

This recipe is has no eggs, which you may prefer for ease of cooking or need for other reasons.

What you’ll need

Here’s a glance at the ingredients you’ll need to make this recipe. It’s not much!

ingredients in bowls
  • Whole milk creates just the right thickness and set after chilling.
  • Use a high-quality pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
  • A little bit of butter rounds out the flavor and helps create a silky texture. Here and everywhere, I’m a fan of a good cultured butter from grass-fed cows. It sounds fancy but doesn’t have to be. Kerrygold, for example, is widely available for a reasonable price.

How to make it

Here’s what you’ll do to make a crowd-pleasing batch of our classic vanilla 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 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 non-dairy 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 plant-based milk or every brand. You’ll have to experiment with your particular kind.

How can I prevent a skin from forming on 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. Classic vanilla 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

classic vanilla pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings in two jam jars with spoons

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classic vanilla pudding with whipped cream and chocolate shavings in a jam jar with a spoon
4.62 from 13 votes

Classic Vanilla Pudding (Eggless)

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 (100 grams) sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (48 grams) cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 cups (950 ml) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) butter
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract

Instructions 

  • In a medium pot, whisk together the 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. Whole milk creates just the right thickness and set after chilling. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. This vanilla 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1, Calories: 125kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, 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!

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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.

4.62 from 13 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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5 Comments

  1. Just found out I have an egg sensitivity. Using this to make banana cream pie. It’s yummy and has a lovely texture! Thank you.

  2. This looks delicious! I’m trying to find recipes And that does not have gluten. I am going to try this recipe in the next couple of days I am sure that it will turn up great for what I need . I’m planning on using it for my pudding in banana pudding. Thank you so much!

  3. I found this pudding a bit thin tasting, probably because there were no egg yolks to add richness. Adding a bit more salt was helpful to get a more full flavoured pudding.
    Otherwise it was an easy pudding to quickly cook up!

    1. Hi Norah, that’s a smart choice to add some salt if you’re looking to bring out a bit more flavor. I chose not to add eggs to this recipe because it’s not meant to be a more robust custard. It’s more of a homemade version of the simpler-tasting old-school pudding from a box. Thanks for trying the recipe!