Almost Instant Vanilla Pudding

Almost Instant Vanilla Pudding
There is a reason that Jell-o instant pudding is so popular, and that is the fact that you can make it in about an instant. The pudding mix magically thickens cold milk when the two are combined and you can ave pudding in seconds with no cooking required. The secret to instant pudding is a modified corn starch that doesn’t need heat to thicken. You can buy something like it to make your own facsimile for instant pudding, but my homemade Almost Instant Vanilla Pudding doesn’t require any unusual ingredients and takes only a little longer than the instant stuff to make.

The pudding is thickened with cornstarch, but using an unusual method. Instead of adding the cornstarch to the milk mixture while it is on the stove – which can lead to a lumpy pudding if you have uneven heat on your saucepan – a hot milk mixture is poured over the cornstarch (which is mixed with a little cold milk in advance to ensure that it incorporates smoothly). I used a similar method for butterscotch pudding and it really works – and makes the pudding-making process seem a whole lot faster.

From start to finish, I would say that you could finish this off in about 5 minutes and while that doesn’t qualify as “instant,” it certainly is a quick way to satisfy a comfort food craving. Vanilla pudding happens to be my favorite flavor, so I flavored mine with some organic vanilla extract. If you want to fancy your pudding up, you could scrape a vanilla bean into the milk mixture before boiling it to infuse it with flavor and give your almost instant pudding an elegant, vanilla-flecked look.

Almost Instant Vanilla Pudding
3 cups milk (pref. whole)
2/3 cup sugar
5 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 2/3 cups of milk and sugar and cook over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved, then bring the milk up to a boil.
In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/3 cup milk with cornstarch until cornstarch is fully incorporated. When milk comes to a boil, immediately remove it from the heat and pour it all into the bowl with the cornstarch. Whisk rapidly for about 30 seconds and the pudding will begin to thicken. Whisk in vanilla extract.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap to prevent skin from forming and allow pudding to cool to room temperature before serving. Pudding will thicken more as it cools. Alternatively, you can divide pudding into six individual dessert cups and cool it that way.

Serves 6.


  1. Awesome! Sounds super easy and would be nice to have pudding that is homemade instead of from a box! I wonder if whole milk is the only milk that would work – curious because I can never get my rice pudding to thicken unless i use whole milk… I wonder if this would be similar? Thanks for a great recipe!

  2. Looks quick and awesome. Can’t wait to try it. I did find a more natural instant vanilla pudding but I’d love one from scratch instead. Doesn’t sound like it takes any more time than instant to have a better pudding. And I love good pudding.

  3. I like knowing what makes recipes and comercial products work. Your posts excell in explaining this. Thank you very much.

  4. Lauren – The pudding will still thicken if you use other types of milk such as nonfat or low fat. The fat does help it to thicken and the starch in rice (as in rice pudding) is not super strong, so it never thickens quite as much with nonfat milk. The pudding will probably be a bit thicker with the whole milk, but it will still work.

    Barb – Thanks!

  5. I just made it for tonight. I put it in the fridge to help it cool faster Pluse cold pudding is my favorite, thanks for the recipe.

  6. It just came out like vanilla soup, so far hopefully it will be thicker tomorrow.

  7. What makes it yellow in color? Regular pudding calls for egg yolks which make it yellow.

  8. Marianne – This particular recipe is approximately the same color as milk, which is closer to white than to yellow. This is why it has a much lighter color than commercial vanilla puddings. Food coloring is what makes most “instant” pudding recipes yellow-ish in color.

  9. Is it possible to cut back on the amount of sugar in it? If so how much can it be cut back without ruining the taste or consistency of it?

  10. Lenore – This pudding is only mildly sweet to begin with. The sugar probably cannot be reduced by much. That said, the recipe can be halved, so you can play around with a smaller batch if you want to experiment! If you are using a full fat milk, the creamier base will be better able to withstand a slight reduction in sugar than a pudding made with nonfat milk.

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