What Is Vanilla Pudding?

Susan Grindstaff

Vanilla pudding is a type of smooth custard made with eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla. It is often eaten as a dessert, and can be served either warm or cold. Vanilla pudding is often combined with fruits and cookies to create other dessert dishes.

Milk is a key ingredient in vanilla pudding.
Milk is a key ingredient in vanilla pudding.

Many fruit puddings use vanilla flavored puddings as the base ingredient. The pudding is used as a filling between layers of cookies and sliced fruit. This type of dessert can be made using many types of fruit such as strawberries, pineapples, or bananas.

Vanilla pudding is a custard dessert that can be eaten alone or added to other recipes.
Vanilla pudding is a custard dessert that can be eaten alone or added to other recipes.

Layered desserts made from vanilla puddings are often served cold with whipped cream or ice cream as a topping. They can also be scooped and served over pre-baked dessert cups made from cake batter. Some people prefer to serve this type of dessert hot from the oven, where they are baked with an egg meringue topping.

Eggs are one of the main ingredients in vanilla pudding.
Eggs are one of the main ingredients in vanilla pudding.

Vanilla pudding is also often used in cake recipes. Using pudding in cake batter can sometimes produce cakes that are lighter and moister. Sometimes the pudding is a substitute for the egg requirements in a recipe, but it can also be included in addition to the eggs. Vanilla flavored puddings can be used in most all types of cake batters including golden, chocolate, and pound cakes.

When preparing vanilla pudding, most cooks prefer to use real vanilla extract. Less expensive imitation vanilla is readily available at most groceries, but it usually lacks the bold flavor of a real extract. Real vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a solution of water and alcohol. The beans need to soak for several months before the extracting process is complete. Due to cost concerns, many commercial food manufacturers use imitation vanilla when making vanilla based puddings.

Though vanilla pudding has an abundance of sugar, it has more nutritional value than many other types of sweetened desserts. The eggs contained in the mixture add protein, and the milk delivers calcium and vitamins A and D. For diabetics or those who want to avoid sugar, vanilla pudding can be made using other natural or artificial sweeteners.

The history of vanilla pudding is vague, but most food historians believe that it probably originated in Europe sometime during the Middle Ages. Earlier versions of the dish were much denser, and more like a custard than a smooth pudding. One of the earliest recipes found for modern style vanilla pudding was published in 1934, but there is no evidence to suggest that this was the originating recipe for the dish.

Real vanilla extract is made by soaking the beans in water and alcohol.
Real vanilla extract is made by soaking the beans in water and alcohol.

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Discussion Comments


I love vanilla pudding. It's something I always have at home because it makes such a fast and easy dessert for unexpected guests or just when I have a sweet craving. I add cubes of cake and fresh fruit like strawberries and blueberries and some whipped cream on top. It's so delicious.


@fify-- Making vanilla pudding is actually not difficult. It just requires milk, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch, butter and vanilla extract. The ingredients have to be mixed and cooked on the stove to thicken.

If you want, there are also cook and serve versions at the grocery which require just adding milk and cooking it on the stove top for a a few minutes. These taste much better than the instant mixes and also save time.

But if you don't mind a few extra steps, you can easily make it yourself and it will be delicious. There is nothing like fresh vanilla pudding. I make mine with real vanilla beans and I like to cook it a little longer than usual. I enjoy having it very thick, more like a custard.


I wish I could make vanilla pudding at home. I used to think that instant pudding and ready-made pudding bowls at the grocery were good. And then I went to Italy where I tasted some divine puddings and custards. I realized that the instant puddings we buy in the States are not very good. But since that's all most people eat, we don't know what else to compare it too.

Unfortunately, making vanilla pudding from scratch is more work than I'd like and takes time as well.

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