Vanilla Pudding – Budget Bytes

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$2.79 recipe / $0.70 serving

Written by Monti – Budget Bytes

The hardest thing about making this dreamy vanilla pudding from scratch is not eating it all in one sitting. Drop the instant pudding mix and try this easy homemade pudding STAT! All you need is a few minutes and a handful of ingredients to make this ultra-creamy, luscious dessert.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl with whipped cream on top and cut strawberries on the counter.

I’m just blown away by the price point on this ultra-easy to make, luscious dessert. I can make almost 4 cups of pudding for a little below $3. Which means I can make a double batch and stash half of it to gobble down by myself while I’m watching the ladies on The Bachelorette make bad decisions. Perfection.

What Is Vanilla Pudding Made Of?

Traditionally you make vanilla pudding with whole milk, a little sugar, and, of course, vanilla. But if that’s all you used, you’d be left with a bowl of vanilla milk. Pudding needs to have body! While you can use flour to thicken a pudding, I prefer corn starch which also adds a glossy finish. Egg yolks give the pudding its buttery hue while adding richness and helping it set. 

Do I have to use whole milk for pudding?

You need the fat content of whole milk to create the creamy mouth feel of a proper pudding. You can use 2% if that’s all you have, but I would add an extra tablespoon of butter to the party to compensate for the fat loss. I know many of you can’t do dairy, so feel free to substitute whole milk with coconut milk, which has higher fat content than other milk alternatives. You can also replace the butter with vegan butter.

Help! My Pudding Is Lumpy!

Life happens, and so does lumpy pudding. To prevent lumps, use a pot with rounded sides so your whisk can tuck into the edges. If you use a pot with straight sides, the whisk can’t get into the corners, and you’ll get thick pasty bits that can also scorch. It’s also important to temper your eggs, which is just chef-speak for bringing the temperature of the egg yolks up little by little, so they don’t scramble. Keep away from high heat, period.

Vanilla Pudding Toppers

While this creamy dessert is fantastic as is, you can embellish it with all sorts of ingredients to transform it into something even more impressive. 

  • Vanilla pudding pairs perfectly with fresh fruit, especially berries.
  • Layer it with vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and whipped cream for a southern-style banana pudding. 
  • Add diced granny smith apples, chopped Snickers bars, and whipped cream to create a Snickers salad for a midwestern twist. 
  • Swirl in a bit of dulce de leche and chopped shortbread cookies, like I do, because my sweet tooth is so large it rides shotgun.

Storing Leftovers

When storing vanilla pudding, the most crucial step is to cover the surface with plastic film, so the pudding isn’t exposed to air, which will cause it to develop a thick skin. Great for work meetings, not so much for pudding.

You can store the pudding in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. It keeps in the freezer for up to three months. If you want to go all out, pour it into popsicle molds and enjoy it as a frozen treat.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl topped with a dollop of whipped cream and surrounded by strawberries.

Vanilla Pudding

The hardest thing about making vanilla pudding from scratch is not eating it all at once. Drop the instant pudding mix and try this recipe!

Author: Monti – Budget Bytes

Servings: 4 3/4 cup each

  • 1/2 cup sugar ($0.12)
  • 3 Tbsp corn starch ($0.09)
  • 3 cups whole milk ($0.73)
  • 3 large egg yolks ($0.60)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract ($0.87)
  • 3 Tbsp salted butter ($0.38)
  • Add the sugar and cornstarch to a medium-sized pot. Mix them together and set the pot over medium heat.

  • Add the milk and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.

  • The milk should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Take the mixture off the heat.

  • Beat the egg yolks. Whisk one tablespoon of the hot milk into the beaten egg yolks.

  • Continue to whisk in the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the egg mixture is very warm.

  • Set the remaining pot of milk over medium heat and whisk in the warmed egg mixture. Bring the pudding to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.

  • Take the pudding off the heat. Add the vanilla and the butter. Stir until the butter has melted.

  • Strain the pudding through a fine mesh sieve.

  • Add the strained pudding to a large bowl. Serve warm or cover with plastic film touching the pudding’s surface and store in the refrigerator until the pudding has cooled.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 0.75 cupCalories: 350 kcalCarbohydrates: 40 gProtein: 8 gFat: 18 gSodium: 144 mgFiber: 0.1 g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.


The equipment section above contains affiliate links to products we use and love. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Side shot of white bowl of vanilla pudding with two other bowls and cut strawberries in the background.

How to Make Vanilla Pudding – Step by Step Photos

Overhead shot of sugar and cornstarch in a pot.

Add the sugar and cornstarch to a medium-sized pot with rounded edges. Mix them together and set the pot over medium heat.

Overhead shot of milk being poured into dry ingredients in a pot.

Add the milk and stir constantly until it comes to a boil. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.

Overhead of a wooden spoon comin out of a pot with milk that has thickened on it.

The milk should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Take the mixture off the heat.

Overhead shot of egg yolks being tempered in a white ramekin with a spoon stirring it.

Beat the egg yolks. Whisk one tablespoon of the hot milk into the beaten egg yolks. Continue to whisk in the milk, tablespoon by tablespoon, until the egg mixture is very warm.

Overhead shot of tempered egg yolks being stirred into pudding in a pot.

Set the remaining pot of milk over medium heat and whisk in the warmed egg mixture. Bring the pudding to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue stirring for 1 minute longer.

Overhead shot of vanilla and butter being stirred into pudding in a pot.

Take the pudding off the heat. Add the vanilla and the butter. Stir until the butter has melted.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding being strained through a fine mesh sieve into a white bowl.

Strain the warm pudding through a fine mesh sieve.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl with plastic film on top.

Add the pudding to a large bowl and cover it with plastic film touching the pudding’s surface.

A bowl of refrigerated vanilla pudding.

Store in the refrigerator until the pudding has cooled.

Overhead shot of vanilla pudding in a white bowl with whipped cream on top and cut strawberries on the counter.

Portion the pudding into four serving bowls and enjoy as is, or top with homemade whipped cream.

Other Desserts You Can Make For Under $1 A Serving

Try these wide-open bags of deliciousness without breaking the bank!



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