Instant pudding is a pudding mix which comes in powdered form designed for quick and easy use. When warm milk or water is added to the powder, components of the powder — usually gelatin or tetrasodium pyrophosphate — react with the liquid, allowing the pudding to set rapidly. Several companies make instant pudding in a wide range of flavors, and most markets carry it. Many of these companies also make sugar-free versions of their pudding, allowing individuals who are sensitive to sugar to enjoy their products.
It is also, of course, possible to make pudding from scratch. Depending on the type of pudding one wants to make, this can be almost as easy as making instant pudding, or it can be more difficult. In either case, pudding is usually served cold, so after it is made and poured into molds, it needs to be chilled for a minimum of one hour. Homemade pudding usually requires a longer chilling time, and it may need to be delicately handled to prevent it from liquefying.
One of the earliest versions of instant pudding was JELL-O® brand pudding, a popular global brand today. The first patent for a gelatin dessert was filed in 1845, although the fruit flavored gelatin closely associated with JELL-O® didn't appear until 1897. Early versions still required housewives to deal with sheet gelatin, a sticky, messy, and sometimes smelly process. When pre-gelatinzed starch was developed, truly instant pudding was born, since it could be made quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
Some instant pudding is designed to turn out like a rich custard. Common flavors for custard include vanilla, chocolate, coconut, and butterscotch. Others are clear flavored jellies; many of these jellies are fruit flavored, although the JELL-O company did at one point have chocolate flavored jelly. For custards, cooks usually use milk for a rich, filling flavor, while jellies are made with water. In both instances, cooks can add inclusions like pieces of fruit for additional texture.
There are a number of uses for this pudding. Some people enjoy it plain, either unmolded or scooped from pudding cups. The pudding can also be used to make fillings and frostings for desserts, and some people make savory versions with sugar-free instant pudding.