homemade instant pudding

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okay, "homemade instant" is an oxymoron, but just saying that if you've ever craved those box mixes, this should suffice when all you have is milk, sugar, cornstarch and vanilla. using ingredients that everybody currently has, no eggs involved so no need to temper - carefully pouring hot mixture into cold mixture - and still satisfy your guilty pleasures for instant food. possible to tailor-make to dietary needs.

if you've got half-pint (1 cup) jars or even baby food jars, pour your pudding into there and you have yourself a portable dessert for picnics or for giving away to loved ones. also a good way of storing in fridge for those pick-me-up days.

yields: 4 cups
4 c whole milk (sub cream for some of the milk or use half-n-half, or non-dairy like rice or almond)
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter [optional]
1 tsp vanilla
special equipment
heavy-bottomed 2 quart saucepan
1. whisk together sugar, cornstarch and salt in a saucepan; whisk in milk, ensuring that there are no lumps. turn on heat to medium - watch carefully as the milk might boil over - stirring constantly. when milk starts to steam, turn down to low.

2. simmer, until mixture starts to thicken and bubbles develop around edges, about 5 minutes; stir constantly. reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until you achieve desired thickness. remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla extract.
3. pour into your container, 1-quart bowl or 6 to 8 individual ramekins. chill in fridge and serve...or eat it while it's still warm and slurpy.
other flavoring options:
-  add another essential oil, like orange or lemon, or add lemon or orange zest.
-  for chocolate pudding, add 4 oz of finely chopped, bittersweet chocolate as you are warming up milk, whisking constantly (for more chocolate flavor, add 1/4 c of unsweetened cocoa powder...or just 2 more oz of bittersweet, chopped). leave out vanilla and butter for a stronger chocolate flavor.
- add 1 tsp of instant coffee or 1 tbsp of finely ground coffee beans for extra uumph to chocolate pudding.
-  or how about chai (black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, star anise, ginger, pepper corn...) with coconut milk
horchata with rice milk and cinnamon.

possibly swap out cow milk for soy, almond or even coconut milk and leave out butter to make it vegan.

wonder if it's possible to fold in syllabub for some booziness?
-mix together about 1/4 c of sweet wine and 1/2 c of sugar, gradually adding the mixture as you beat whip cream (about 1 c heavy cream) to the soft peak stage.

from The Kitchn and Mark Bittman. also check out John Scharffenberger recipe which dumps everything into a double boiler and simmers for about 15 minutes with some stirring (yes, of Scharffenberger chocolate. yummm...) and the Kitchn's DIY instant chocolate pudding recipe, too.
Meal   SnackDish   Dessert
Cooking Method   SimmerPrep Time   less than 15 minutes
Cooking Time   less than 15 minutes 
Features   Dairy-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Wheat/Gluten-Free

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