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Homemade Vanilla Pudding (Gluten Free)

With a silky, creamy texture and a rich vanilla flavor, this homemade vanilla pudding is a billion times better than saccharine store-bought packets. You can serve it all on its own as a heavenly dessert, but be sure to check out the notes below for some of my other favorite ways to serve it. While you can certainly spring for a fresh vanilla bean, vanilla paste gives the pudding flecks of vanilla seeds and a rich flavor at a fraction of the cost (it lasts forever in the pantry). You can also use vanilla extract for a milder flavor. For an almond-scented pudding, add ⅛ teaspoon of almond extract in addition to the vanilla.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Chilling time2 hrs
Total Time2 hrs 25 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: easy vanilla pudding recipe, homemade vanilla pudding, vanilla pudding from scratch
Servings: 3 cups

Equipment

  • Saucepan

Ingredients

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract, or the seeds from ½ vanilla bean

Instructions

  • In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth (you'll be using them soon).
  • In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Whisk in the milk.
  • Place the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the milk starts to simmer (the foam will mostly subside and you’ll start to see the milk plop and bubble), about 7-8 minutes—don’t be tempted to walk away during this time (whisking constantly will prevent the bottom from browning and will create a smooth texture). Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Slowly pour about ½ cup of the hot milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks while whisking (this is called tempering the eggs and will prevent them from curdling in the hot liquid). Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan in a slow, steady stream while whisking.
  • Put the saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, whisking, until the pudding starts to bubble and thicken, about 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter pieces and vanilla.
  • Pour the pudding into a storage container or bowl (if some of the egg has curdled, or if the bottom has browned, pour the pudding through a mesh strainer). Cover the pudding with plastic wrap, placing it directly on the surface of the pudding (this will prevent a skin from forming).
  • Refrigerate the pudding for at least 2 hours, or for up to 5 days (it will thicken as it cools). Stir well before serving.

Notes

Do Ahead: The pudding can be refrigerated for up to 5 days (keep a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming).
Serving Suggestions: You can serve this homemade vanilla pudding all on its own as a simple dessert (my kids love it as an after-school treat), or you can dress it up. Top it with whipped cream, fresh berries and/or chopped Candied Maple Pecans (my favorite!). To take it over the top, pair it with some crunchy biscotti or cookies (such as these Mini Pecan Tarts). The pudding is also fabulous in parfaits and Trifles.
Tips:
  • Using a heavy bottomed saucepan will help prevent the pudding from browning or burning on the bottom.  
  • It’s important to whisk constantly while the milk comes to a simmer—this will also help prevent the bottom from browning and will ensure a smooth pudding. A long thin whisk makes it easy to get into the corners of the pan. 
  • If the pudding browns on the bottom, or if the eggs overcook and curdle slightly in the pudding, don’t fear! Simply strain the pudding through a fine mesh strainer before refrigerating. 
  • Using a heavy bottomed saucepan will help prevent the pudding from browning or burning on the bottom.  
  • It’s important to whisk constantly while the milk comes to a simmer—this will also help prevent the bottom from browning and will ensure a smooth pudding. A long thin whisk makes it easy to get into the corners of the pan. 
  • If the pudding browns on the bottom, or if the eggs overcook and curdle slightly in the pudding, don’t fear! Simply strain the pudding through a fine mesh strainer before refrigerating. 
  • For an easy but elegant dessert, top the pudding with whipped cream and chopped Candied Maple Pecans!
  • For a show-stopping dessert, layer the pudding in this Gingerbread Trifle!
  • For a chocolate version, don’t miss this Homemade Chocolate Pudding Recipe.