Indian Pudding

My first encounter with Indian Pudding was over 20 years ago at Durgin Park, a landmark restaurant in Faneuil Hall, Boston, famous for its home-style Yankee cooking and, at the time, its cranky, octogenarian waitresses. Few desserts look so completely unappetizing yet taste so incredibly good. One bite of this lumpy, brown mush, with a dab of vanilla ice cream, and I was sold. Scraped every last bit from the bowl.

Why indian pudding isn’t more widely known I have no idea; it’s one of my favorite desserts of all time, and a traditional New England Thanksgiving classic. Indian pudding is a baked custard with milk, butter, molasses, eggs, spices, and cornmeal. The name is likely derived from the cornmeal, which was known as indian meal way back when. Here is a tried-and-true recipe for indian pudding adapted from An Olde Concord Christmas, a long out-of-print book from the Concord Museum.

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Indian Pudding Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Method

1 Scald the milk and butter in a large double boiler. Or heat the milk and butter for 5 or 6 minutes on high heat in the microwave, until it is boiling, then transfer it to a pot on the stove. Keep hot on medium heat.

2 Preheat oven to 250°F.

3 In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and salt; stir in molasses. Thin the mixture with about 1/2 cup of scalded milk, a few tablespoons at a time, then gradually add the mixture back to the large pot of scalded milk. Cook, stirring until thickened.

4 Temper the eggs by slowly adding a half cup of the hot milk cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture back in with the hot milk cornmeal mixture, stir to combine. Stir in the sugar and spices, until smooth. At this point, if the mixture is clumpy, you can run it through a blender to smooth it out. Stir in the raisins (optional). Pour into a 2 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.

5 Allow the pudding to cool about an hour to be at its best. It should be reheated to warm temperature if it has been chilled. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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Indian Pudding

46 Comments

  1. Jeanne

    Has anyone ever seen cans of Indian pudding? I used to buy it about 25 years ago….and we heated it a double boiler. Does anyone know where I might find them now?

  2. Gail S.

    I have been seeking an old recipe from the Joslin Clinic Cookbook that was published in the 1970’s that listed an Indian or Hasty Pudding recipe calling for liquid dietetic sweetener, molasses, and powdered brown sugar. I’ve called the Joslin Clinic in Boston, asked various nutritionists and sought the old cookbook out, but can’t get a satisfactory recipe. I have attempted to get a similar flavor and have been unsuccessful. If anyone can give me the old Joslin Clinic recipe or guide me there that would be wonderful as the rest of my family is now diabetic even though I have been divorced from my Diabetic Hasty Pudding eating husband for years now. I want the recipe, not the husband.
    Thanks.

  3. Cris

    Yummy! It’s called “Indian” Pudding due to the cornmeal, which the early settlers learned to grow and eat from the First Peoples. Steamed puddin was a staple for the Brits and they naturally just incorporated it as a local ingredient.

    But for fun you can believe it was named by a hungry guy who got lost, landed in Boston and thought he was in India eating Kheer with molasses :-)

  4. Don

    It is called “Indian” pudding because the early settlers referred to the main ingredient as “Indian meal” – the meal used by the American Indians. Generally, any recipe using Indian meal as the main ingredient was called Indian… . Over time, the plant became known as corn, and the meal made from it as corn meal. The old recipes kept their original names; and even now, some corn meal packaging uses the word Indian on the label.
    Look’s Gourmet out of Maine makes a canned Indian Pudding under the lable Look’s Atlantic Premium. It is carried in the Big Y/World Class supermarket chain. Years ago, Howard Johnson’s sold a canned Indian Pudding in their New England restaurants, under their own lable.

  5. Kaly

    Thank you so much for this recipe!
    I worked at Durgin Park for a summer in college- those octogenarians taught me a lot about waitressing and about life. It was an experience I’ll never forget. I adored their indian pudding, and I’m looking forward to making this recipe over the holidays.

  6. Kelly Abiodun

    You can buy cans of indian pudding at Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge Massachussets. I would imagine they have a website with a store. I do know this pudding has a slight tinny flavor, but it is still really good.

  7. Bob Carlson

    I got to thinking about Indian Pudding and thought I would try to make some. I was introduced to this pudding in Boston where I was livivg in the 50’s while I served in the Coast Gaurd. I first tried it at Durgin Park and liked it. Later I found it was available from S.S. Pierce in Boston. I believe they are long out of business. The story I heard about its origin was that it was made by indian cooks on the whaling ships that sailed out of the northeastern ports. I am planning to make the pudding and introduce to my family for CHristmas dinner. We’ll see.

  8. Kate Gahan

    Yum. My grandmother, a Yankee from Rockport, MA used to make this when we were kids. I think she used a crockpot – and I am wondering if I should try to make in crockpot… Anyway, I did attempt to make it for some friends here in Texas and they derided it as pumpkin-friendly pumpkin pie (like I made a pumpkin pie but no pumpkins were killed in the process).

  9. pat mitchell

    My favorite dessert. I couldn’t believe there is a thread on Indian Pudding. This was a tradition in our family; served every Thanksgiving. It always came from a can (I think the brand was Howards, not Howard Johnson though) and I loved it served hot with vanilla ice cream. However, the cans disappeared (it can still be found in specialty shops but way too expensive) so I was forced to make it from scratch and I’m glad to say it tastes just like the canned pudding that I loved. I only wish my family would give it a fair chance but they won’t go near it so I have to eat it all myself.

  10. Joyce Orlando Fenner

    Ah, Indian Pudding, one of the great gifts from my home of New England. I’m a Virginian now and have made it from scratch- easy to do, just takes watching and stirring time. After it’s done though, spoon what’s left over from your initial pig-out into a refrigerator container, dole it out later into a custard cup and zap it in the microwave. Indian Pudding makes a superb breakfast! Just eat a small serving, a small piece of fruit and coffee and skim milk. Try Indian Pudding with yogurt for breakfast. Or do as I’ve done, add just a bit to your heart healthy oatmeal porridge. Good to go. Get to work, go out to shovel snow, or get exercising. Bless the Pilgrim ladies who concocted this wonderful sweet! WICKED GOOD, Y’ALL! Vermont Country Store sells it in the can. Go to their website.

  11. marty becker

    Do you know if it is still possible to purchase Howard Johnson’s Indian Pudding? I believe it was sold in a can.

  12. Michael S. Steele

    You can buy Indian Pudding in many organic shops,or in the Hannaford chain stores,that is made by Echo Farms in Hinsdale,N.H. They make it right there on their farm with milk from their own cows. I highly recomend it. You may also be able to order it online.

  13. lydia

    I think indian pudding is one of the things you can actually cook in a coffee can (along with anadama bread, another New England indian specialty).

  14. krogdirekt

    Great! Indian Pudding makes a superb breakfast!

  15. Lydia Sugarman

    Is it possible to substitute something else, like maple syrup, for the molasses? I really don’t like the taste of plain molassess! Or, is like anchovies in recipes where they melt away just adding an interesting note to the dish?

    Note from Elise: The molasses is the dominant flavor of this pudding. It’s essentially a molasses corn pudding. You could try it swapping out the maple syrup, but then you would have maple syrup corn pudding, which would probably be perfectly tasty, it just wouldn’t be Indian pudding.

  16. Marianne

    It is so nice to see a thread about Indian Pudding! It is my absolute favorite dessert, one that I have every Thanksgiving.

    I am a true East Coast girl and I love introducing people to Indian Pudding. When I lived in California for two years after college it was my go-to potluck staple that no one had ever heard of but always ended up loving. My recipe calls for a mixture of grade B maple syrup and molasses and I don’t use any sugar.

  17. Janet

    mmmm, my favorite dessert! My cousin just went to Durgin Park last Monday and raved about the Indian Pudding :-) I think I’ll make this for Thanksgiving, instead of pumpkin pie.

  18. n8

    How great to find this recipe and your site. My Mom and I used to stop at a Howard Johnson’s near the southern edge of the Adirondack Park as we’d travel north for vacations. I remember the place had very cool stuffed dinosaurs and Indian pudding that I adored. I’ve always wondered about making that dish myself. Now, at least, I can try! I’m glad I clicked through the GMail banner for this post. :)

  19. Sally C

    Smith College staple in the 60s. and tasty.

  20. Annie

    Indian pudding is another one of those things that no one could believe I’d never had, so I had to find a recipe and try it. My mother-in-law was a big fan of Yankee magazine and the Farmer’s Almanac, and I chose this recipe from the Almanac website: http://www.almanac.com/recipes/search/onerecipe.php?number=80
    It’s the same as your offerings on the basics but this one includes a small amount of chopped walnuts. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

  21. Astra Libris

    I’m seconding many of the comments here, writing to thank you for reviving Indian pudding! Amongst my grandmother’s treasury of handwritten recipes cards is, indeed, one marked “Indian pudding.” It’s nice to know cornmeal desserts haven’t been forgotten.

  22. Bill

    The introduction is something I could have written myself, except my discovery of Indian Pudding at Durgin Park was over 40 years ago. At that time, they gave out a free pamphlet with recipes, and we’ve been making IP at holiday time here in Los Angeles ever since. The pamphlet recipe is essentially the one on the restaurant’s website, but doubled. And it calls for baking soda instead of baking powder and half the salt. (1/4 tsp for the double batch) We’ve been making it in a crockpot for the past few years and it’s the perfect way to go — the original recipe finishes with the note: “The secret of its excellence lies in its slow and careful cooking.” Happy Thanksgiving!

  23. Ellen in Conn

    My Mom always makes Indian Pudding from Haydn Pearson’s “Countryman’s Cookbook”, 1947, with half maple syrup and half molasses for sweetening. We sometimes put in a bit of chopped, crystallized ginger, but I prefer it without. My cornmeal I get from Whit Davis of Pawcatuck, Conn, who grows the ancient flint corn. Alternatively, I get it from Kenyon’s Mill of Usquepaugh, RI.

    “Mr. Pearson” is my favorite cookbook ever. I have found copies for my kids, and transcribed the family notes into theirs.

    Do you remember, was it Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Mom, Caroline, who made “Rye and Injun Bread”?

  24. Lisa

    I just loved this pudding! My daughter and daugter-in-law surprised me with this at my shower. It was so good that I am planning on using this recipe to make for my family this Christmas. I first had indian pudding at a resturant here in Maine ovaer fifteen years ago and really loved it. Thanks so much Elise for sharing this. I love the idea that it is an old fashioned recipe too.

  25. rheanna

    Caroline Ingalls did make “rye and injun bread”.
    There is actually a “Little House” cookbook. Listed are all the recipes from the books. Most are not practical to make but very interesting!

  26. Carole

    Yes, the lady above is right…the name is Howards and to my knowledge was only served at Howard Johnsons resturant. I went there about 35 years ago and would always have fried clams and then Indian Pudding. The Howard Johnson closed a long time ago and I haven’t been able to get the cans of pudding since. Sure wish I could find it in cans somewhere. Anyone have any ideas? Thanks

  27. Debbie in CT

    I also love Indian Pudding from the old Durgin Park days in Boston. I remember my father making it a couple of times and commenting on how involved the recipe was. I also remember buying it in the can form, I belive under the brand name of “B&M,” like the beans. I haven’t seen it or any other brand lately in any grocery stores I use. I remember thinking the can version tasted quite good as a young bride many years ago. I did make the Durgin Park recipe recently to great reviews after a recent nostalgic conversation with some old Boston-based friends of ours. I also noticed a crock pot slow cooker version of another indian pudding recipe on line. I think next time I will try to make it in my crock pot using the Durgin Park recipe.

  28. Patti

    I have been looking for the Howard Johnson’s Indian Pudding recipe. I had it on a trip to Maine in the 70’s. I loved it and I would go to Howard Johnson’s after that just to have it. I have used other recipes and the results have not been the same. I am hoping this one will be the one I’ve been looking for. Like many others, if anyone knows of available cans of Howard Johnson’s Indain Pudding or the recipe, I’d love to have either. Thanks so much!

  29. Robert in Houston

    The Seaman’s Club in Portland, ME had a great recipe (I know, as I and a good friend of mine were dishwashers there in the 1970’s). The restaurant is gone, as is the recipe, but I’ll have to try the Durgin Park one to see if it matches my memory.

  30. Susan

    When I was growing up in Keene, NH, we had a local dairy who operated a walk-up ice cream establishment in the summers. It was called “MacKenzies”, for those who might recall… They had dozens of flavors of homemade ice cream, one of which, my FAVORITE!, was Indian Pudding ice cream! YUMMMMY! They also had a Grape Nuts flavor, which was equally as good!

    I don’t know anything about making ice cream at home, but I suppose now that there’s an acceptable recipe for indian pudding, that perhaps, someone could figure it out? :)

  31. Pinkysmom

    After having been to Durgin Park as a young flight attendant in the early 70’s and eaten their “IP”, thought I’d have a look at their website for old times sake and found they share their recipe for Indian Pudding! You’ve given people the impression that your posted recipe is the Durgin Park one and yet it’s nothing like theirs. Whydyadothat? I’m sure yours is delicious but some people who’ve been to DP will be disappointed if they go to the trouble of making it. Theirs is so simple that it must be the 5 to 7 hours of cooking that makes it taste so special.

    I make it quite clear in my notes that the recipe I’m posting comes from the Concord Museum. I used to have the Durgin Park recipe posted as well, but I, and others, had so much trouble getting it to cook properly (half the time it would curdle) I took it down. I have found the Concord museum recipe to be the closest thing to what I have enjoyed countless times at DP. And it is a more reliable recipe. ~Elise

  32. Phil Miller

    Durgin Park! Why, it had been perhaps 60 years since I was last there! Memories of my grandmother and a childhood long ago. Climbing those stairs was something I still remember. And the Indian Pudding!! Something else long buried in my memory. Even though this is not DP’s recipe, I’ll have to do it. One problem – There’ll be just me to consume the batch!

  33. Juli Cook

    Wow – what a recipe. I just received an e-mail from a friend who lives in New England – he visited We-Li-Kit in Pomfret, CT this weekend. His wife ordered their seasonal favorite – “Indian Pudding Ice Cream”. I adore Indian Pudding (Durgin Park’s version is my favorite, but I might be nostalgic about the taste since I haven’t eaten there in over 20 years). So, I’ll be fiddling with your recipe and see if I can transform it into an autumnal frozen treat. This will definitely be on my Thanksgiving dessert table……thanks!

  34. anna

    This is so unbelievably good! I had never tried it, made this and it’s delish! A nice break, or addition to, the pumkin pie for dessert. I make it early in the day and keep on the counter to cool. For diabetics, try using some Agave nectar, works great as a sugar substitute, low glycemic, natural and a neutral flavor.

  35. Funlayo

    This recipe was absolutely deelish! I had never tried this or made it, but I made some for Thanksgiving dinner Thursday and it was a definite hit. The kids even liked it and we know how picky they can be.

    I used canned evaporated milk (diluted) because I always find it a little sweeter and creamier than fresh milk. I could have stood for it to be just a tad thicker, I think I will try a little extra corn meal next time. And I like the idea of chopped walnuts that I’ve seen in other recipes for this so I will try that next time too — this is an instant favorite for me so there will certainly be a next time!

    I tried some of the leftover with coffee ice cream instead of vanilla and it was very tasty!

  36. Alice Simpson

    I make Indian Pudding about once every ten years. It was time.
    My recipe calls for baking for 6 to 7 hours. At hour 6.5, the phone rang. The pudding was forgotten…until I smelled it burning.
    Burned! After all that work!

    Oddly enough, the crust was carmelized like candy, and there were a few delicious pudding spoonfuls left in the center. Just enough to melt vanilla ice cream; not enough to share! Lucky me.
    It will probably be another ten years before I yearn for this strangely addictive dessert.

  37. FSnow

    I finally tried a can of Indian Pudding I picked up a few years ago while in Salem, MA. It was made by Ye Olde Pepper Company. I have to agree, aside from the appearance the taste is delicious. I’m inspired now to try a homemade recipe.

  38. Shirley Warren

    Does anyone know if you can still buy Durgin Park Bean Pots at the restaurant?

  39. pavi

    I realize that this recipe does not refer to India, but when I first saw the picture I thought it was a dessert from the southern region of my beloved subcontinent, called Pal Kova. I’m not sure of all the ingredients, but it’s heavy on the ghee, milk, and sugar…a very occasional indulgence :)

  40. indianpudding

    Brown’s Ice Cream place in York, Maine also has IP icecream…I don’t live on the east coast but I came to visit and got there ONE DAY TOO LATE to go to Brown’s since they close for the winter. It had been 7 years since I’d had that ice cream and I was so looking forward to having the IP ice cream!

  41. Izzy

    How do you know when it’s done? Mine’s been in for 2 hours but still looks pretty wet/soft. What does it look like when done?

    It sort of has the consistency of hot cereal, like cream of wheat or oatmeal, so yes, it is somewhat soft. ~Elise

  42. Cindy

    I always wondered if Indian pudding existed outside of my family, so I did a search and found this. I find it interesting how different the Indian pudding is while the same as what I’ve known. My family’s recipe has been passed down since they first settled Eastern LI NY, I’m the 17th generation since. But, the pudding I’ve had was cooked on the stove in a steamed pudding pan. It always came out as a sweet bread. It looks as the recipe is almost the same. I’ll have to try it sometime for comparison.

  43. Oxenhandler

    On October 8th, 2011, Izzy wrote: “How do you know when it’s done? Mine’s been in for 2 hours but still looks pretty wet/soft. What does it look like when done?

    Elise replied: “It sort of has the consistency of hot cereal, like cream of wheat or oatmeal, so yes, it is somewhat soft.”

    Like Izzy, I followed the recipe and cooked for two hours at 250 degrees Fahrenheit as directed but the pudding in the picture posted with the recipe is firm and holds its shape… that’s what I want mine to do, so, I’ve put it back in the oven, turned up the heat to 425 F. and set the timer for three more hours.

    The pudding in the picture is not firm. It looks that way because it is thick, not runny. It really does have the consistency of thick, hot oatmeal. It should be soft, not firm. ~Elise

  44. hungrygrrl

    Is it me or is that an awful lot of nutmeg?

    -sara

    It gets overpowered by the molasses. ~Elise

  45. Toni

    I’m so very late to the Indian Pudding party, but I just HAD to comment when I saw your recipe!
    You took me back to my childhood when my Dad and I would head to Boston to eat at Durgin Park. The waitress always remembered what we’d ordered the last time we visited, which left me in awe.
    We always ordered the Indian Pudding for dessert. I miss Durgin Park and I miss Indian Pudding. Miss my Dad too.
    Thank you so much for posting the recipe and allowing me to head back 50 years to a simpler time when I waited in eager anticipation for dessert at Durgin Park with my Dad!

  46. Meredith

    Is the cook time really 2 hours? How shallow is the pan?
    I’m coming up on 1 hour cooking in a 2.5 qt cake type rectangular glass pan and it’s quite brown on top.

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