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.