Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding

This is the easiest homemade vanilla pudding recipe—it doesn’t even require you to temper egg yolks!

Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding with Chocolate Shavings as a Topping

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Through middle school and high school, I finished every school lunch with a Snack Pack vanilla pudding cup. Vanilla pudding was my favorite because it was sweeter and creamier than chocolate. Even today, when September rolls around, I inevitably crave vanilla pudding. 

These days, I make vanilla pudding at home on the stovetop. It takes less than 30 minutes—though it needs to chill for about 2 hours—and the results are wildly tastier than the pre-packaged puddings I ate all those years ago. Plus, the recipe calls for pantry staples that I usually have! Make this pudding on a Sunday and you’ll have a sweet treat to enjoy all week long.

Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding in Multiple Bowls with Some on a Spoon

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

What’s in this Easy Vanilla Pudding? 

Milk and cornstarch: The base of this pudding is whole milk and sugar thickened with cornstarch. A lot of pudding recipes include heavy cream or egg yolks for extra richness and silkiness, but I prefer this simpler version thickened with only cornstarch because it's so much easier.

Twice the vanilla: A vanilla bean adds a full-bodied vanilla flavor and I love the small specks of vanilla seeds sprinkled throughout. Vanilla extract, added at the end, imparts a bolder vanilla flavor. 

Butter: Unsalted butter with higher fat content—typically European butters, such as Plugra—adds extra richness to the pudding.  

My Tips for Making Homemade Vanilla Pudding

Creamy, silky pudding is the result of cooking the milk, sugar, and cornstarch mixture low and slow. Here are my tips for making sure the pudding is smooth and creamy:

  • Thoroughly whisk the dry ingredients before whisking in the milk to avoid lumps and grittiness.
  • Keep the heat on medium-low for the best texture. A lower temperature ensures the pudding is smooth. If you increase the temperature, the pudding can becoming gritty and chunky because the cornstarch may overcook. 
  • Whisk the mixture slowly and watch for bubbles breaking the surface. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil—take your time and do not increase the heat. This ensures that the cornstarch is activated for properly thickened pudding. 
  • The pudding thickens as it cools so don’t worry if it looks a little runny when hot. 
Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Delicious Substitutions You’ll Love

  • Swap the granulated sugar for brown sugar. The pudding will take on a butterscotch-like flavor.
  • Pour the pudding, while still hot, over 4 ounces of chopped chocolate—any kind you like—and mix well for a rich chocolate pudding.
  • Swap the dairy for non-dairy milk and butter—just make sure the non-dairy milk is unsweetened.
  • You can use fat free milk, 2% milk, or heavy cream—or any combination. The less milk fat, the less rich and creamy the pudding will be. I don’t recommend using more than 1 1/2 cups heavy cream.

Yes! Toppings Are Encouraged! 

Top your homemade vanilla pudding—just wait to add it until right before serving the pudding. Here are a few ideas:

  • Crumbled graham crackers or chocolate cookies
  • Soft sliced fruit, such as bananas and strawberries
  • Spoonful of whipped cream
  • Sprinkle of flaky sea salt
  • Chocolate shavings

Simple Tip!

I advise against using this pudding for a pudding pie. It’s not firm enough for slicing cleanly.

Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding in Multiple Bowls

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Creamy Treats are Love and Comfort

Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding

Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Chill Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 25 mins
Servings 5 to 10 servings
Yield 2 1/2 cups

This is a soft-set vanilla pudding that thickens and sweetens as it cools. 

The vanilla bean adds more vanilla flavor, but if unavailable, increase the vanilla extract to 4 teaspoons. 

I prefer using a European style unsalted butter, such as Plugra, for the high butter fat content, but any type of unsalted butter works.


  • 1 vanilla bean (see Recipe Note) 

  • 2/3 cup (134g) sugar

  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 cups whole milk

  • 2 tablespoons (28g) European unsalted butter, such as Plugra (see Recipe Note)

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For optional toppings

  • Crushed graham crackers

  • Sliced strawberries

  • Raspberries

  • Blackberries

  • Sliced bananas

  • Whipped cream

  • Chocolate shavings

  • Flaky sea salt


  1. Set up strainer: 

    Set a fine mesh strainer over a medium heat-proof bowl. You’ll need it to strain the pudding.

    Bowl with a Strainer for Vanilla Pudding Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  2. Cut the vanilla pod: 

    Use a sharp paring knife to cut the vanilla bean pod in half lengthwise. Use the back of the knife to scrape the seeds into a medium (4-quart) saucepan. Add the pod in there too.

    Knife Scraping Vanilla Bean Seeds from a Pod for Vanilla Pudding

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Vanilla Bean Pod and Seeds in a Pot for Homemade Vanilla Pudding

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  3. Add the remaining ingredients: 

    Add the sugar, cornstarch, and salt and whisk until combined. Add the milk and continue whisking until the dry ingredients are fully dissolved. Then, add the butter.

    Milk Added to Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Butter Added to Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding Mixture

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  4. Slowly bring to a boil: 

    Set the saucepan over medium-low heat. Continue to whisk slowly, ensuring that the whisk reaches the edges of the pot. As the mixture warms, the butter will melt but not be completely incorporated. The mixture will first thicken to look like heavy cream. Then, it will steam and bubbles will appear around the edges. This will take 15 to 20 minutes. Do not increase the heat and rush the process—the pudding will become gritty or the cornstarch may overcook and get clumpy.

    Homemade Vanilla Pudding Whisked in a Pot

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  5. Boil the pudding: 

    As soon as you see bigger bubbles appear in the center of the saucepan, set a 1-minute timer and continue to whisk gently. After 1 minute, remove the saucepan from the heat. The pudding will be pourable and the texture will be similar to unstrained yogurt.

  6. Strain and add vanilla extract: 

    Pour the pudding through the prepared strainer. Use a rubber spatula to scrape all the pudding out of the pot and through the strainer. Discard the vanilla pod. 

    Stir the vanilla extract into the pudding. Cover it with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap is pressed against the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

    Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding Strained into a Bowl

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

    Homemade Vanilla Pudding Covered in Plastic Wrap

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

  7. Serve:

    Remove the pudding from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Stir the pudding and scoop into small bowls. 

    Top the pudding with any of the optional toppings, such as graham crackers, sliced strawberries, berries, sliced bananas, whipped cream, chocolate shavings, or a sprinkling of flaky sea salt.

    Transfer leftovers into an airtight container or individual mason jars—4-ounce ones are the best size—and refrigerate. Stir well before serving to help loosen the pudding. Keep toppings separate from the pudding and top once ready to eat.

    The pudding will last for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. For longer storage, transfer the pudding into popsicle molds—the pudding pops will last for 2 months in the freezer.

    Love this recipe? Leave us stars below!

    Easy Homemade Vanilla Pudding with Chocolate Shavings as a Topping

    Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
128 Calories
5g Fat
19g Carbs
2g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 5 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 128
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 13mg 4%
Sodium 95mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 17g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 84mg 6%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 99mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.