Vanilla pudding with bananas and a cocoa topping. Photo by Dream79 | Fotolia.
Last Updated July 2012
Vanilla Pudding Recipe & More
Including Variations For Butterscotch, Chocolate,
Coconut & Pineapple Puddings
Vanilla Pudding History
May 22 is National Vanilla Pudding Day, but what we enjoy today is far different from the dish’s origins.
Culinary historians believe that the precursor of vanilla pudding originated in earl early medieval Europe, an evolution of an Arab pudding-like dish of rice and almonds. The oldest recipe known dates back to the early 13th century, a translation that is believed to have been based on a manuscript from the 12th century or earlier.
Over the centuries, the recipe turned into blancmange (pronounced blah-MOHNJ), meaning “white dish,” from the Old French blanc mangier. This dish was enjoyed by Europe’s wealthy during the Middle Ages. It appears frequently in recipe collections of the time from all over the Continent, and is called one of “the few truly international dishes of medieval and early modern Europe.”*
The dish is referred to in the prologue to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and in an early 15th century cookbook written by the chefs of Richard II. We first came across the reference as a child, in the book Little Women.
Originally a white stew, the key ingredients of the original blancmange were milk or almond milk, sugar and shredded capon or fish. In the 17th century, the meat was dropped and the dish evolved into a dessert pudding made with cream and eggs (and, later, gelatin*). In the 19th century, arrowroot and cornstarch were added and the dish evolved into the final, modern blanc mange, known in the U.S. as vanilla pudding (and originally known as cornstarch pudding).
*Gelatin was made in ancient times by boiling the bones; powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. The concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an inventor named Peter Cooper.
Vanilla Pudding Recipe
Be sure to see the “variations” at the end of the recipe.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup cold milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Scald 2 cups milk in a double boiler.
- Separately mix cornstarch, sugar and salt. Stir in 1/4 cup cold milk.
- Combine mixture to scalded milk in double boiler. Cook 15 minutes, stirring constantly until the pudding thickens.
- Cool slightly, thickening occasionally. Add vanilla. Chill and serve.
Fill tart shells with vanilla pudding and garnish with berries, julienned orange peel and fresh mint. Photo by Viktor | Fotolia.
- Coconut: 1/2 cup shredded coconut, added to the scalded milk
- Pineapple: 3/4 cup crushed pineapple, added to the finished pudding
- Butterscotch pudding: Omit white sugar. Melt 1 tablespoon butter, add one cup brown sugar and stir until the sugar melts. Add slowly to the scalded milk and stir until well blended. Continue with recipe.
- Chocolate Pudding: scald the milk with 2 ounces unsweetened (100% cacao) chocolate. Beat until smooth and continue with recipe.
Pudding is a dish that can be dressed up or dressed down, for everyday or special occasions, for kids or adults. And of course, the garnishes can be used with just about any other pudding, from rice pudding to tapioca pudding.
Add To The Bottom Of The Dish
- Sliced bananas, berries or other fruit
- Shredded or flaked coconut
- Berries and an optional mint leaf
- Brandied fruits (fresh fruit marinate in Grand Marnier or fruit liqueur)
- Candied orange peel or julienne of orange peel
- Chocolate curls, shaved chocolate, mini chocolate chips, chocolate medallion,
Hershey’s kiss, butterscotch chips
- Chopped pistachio nuts
- Cocoa powder: a 50-50 mixture of cocoa powder and sugar
- Crème fraîche or mascarpone
- Shredded coconut
- Whipped cream
- For Kids: Sprinkles, vanilla wafer, chocolate wafer or other cookie
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