This dairy-free vanilla pudding recipe dates all the way back to the first edition of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. I’ve since seen several variations of it floating around the internet, and thought it was about time for me to share it online, too. This is a classic recipe that you can enjoy a la carte, topped with fresh fruit, or as the base for a range of dessert ideas.
Classic Dairy-Free Vanilla Pudding with Tips and Options
Chocolate often takes center stage, but this dairy-free vanilla pudding is more of a universal dessert. And it’s easy to make! It takes just minutes, and it uses everyday ingredients. I’ve also included some fun variations in the recipe, and address options and troubleshooting tips in the FAQs below.
Which Milk Beverage Do You Recommend?
When it comes to puddings, I think naturally rich options are best. I like to use milk alternatives with the simplest ingredients, and ones that have at least a few grams of fat per serving. This usually means coconut milk beverage or a nut milk. If you like to make your own milk alternative, this is a great time to use it.
Can I Use Coconut Milk to Make Dairy-Free Vanilla Pudding?
Yes! As mentioned, coconut milk beverage (the drinkable kind in cartons) works great. It’s my go to for this dairy-free vanilla pudding. But regular canned coconut milk also performs wonderfully. Shake the can and use 2/3 cup coconut milk + 1 1/3 cups water in this recipe. For a thicker, creamier pudding, you can use 1 cup coconut milk + 1 cup water or 1 can lite coconut milk + 1/3 cup water. Canned coconut milk will impart more coconut flavor, so I recommend increasing the vanilla extract to 1 1/2 teaspoons.
Will Oat Milk, Pea Milk, or Other Milk Alternatives Work?
Many brands will work just fine, but it’s hard to say which ones without testing each one. There are two major issues that can come up with milk alternatives: richness and thickeners. Some types are simply too watery or aren’t formulated in a way that they will thicken easily. But some types have gums or protein isolates added in amounts that can cause the pudding to thicken in an unpleasant or aggressive way. If concerned, you can test with a half batch first, and use the tips that follow to fix any issues.
Will a Vanilla Milk Alternative Work?
It will. I’ve used unsweetened vanilla to make this dairy-free vanilla pudding and it was delicious. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe. But if you are using sweetened vanilla milk alternative, you might want to lower the sugar just a little.
Will Coconut Oil work in Place of the Butter Alternative?
It does work just fine. It will impart a light coconut flavor, unless you use refined coconut oil. Again, you can increase the vanilla by about 1/4 teaspoon or more to help re-balance the flavor. Coconut oil will emulsify better if you use the egg option. Alternatively, you can simply omit the butter alternative. It adds a little richness and depth, but this dairy-free vanilla pudding still has a nice flavor and light creamy consistency without it.
Can I Use a Different Sweetener?
I’ve found that most sugar-based granulated and liquid sweeteners work just fine in this dairy-free vanilla pudding recipe. Coarser sugars like coconut sugar are easier to work with if more finely ground. And keep in mind that different sweeteners will impart their own flavors. Maple syrup will make a maple pudding, brown sugar will add butterscotch elements, etc. Sugar-free sweeteners are a different ballgame, and they need to be tested on an individual basis.
Help, My Dairy-Free Pudding is Too Thin! What Went Wrong?
It depends on what stage you are in. If it hasn’t thickened at all, you just need to be patient. If it thickened but seems to be getting thinner, you’ve cooked it for too long. Starches break down under prolonged heating. If it thickened but you refrigerated it and it’s now thin, there was a storage issue or you covered it while too warm.
It Seriously Isn’t Thickening! What Now?
If your milk alternative is too watery, then the pudding might be on the thin side. It should still thicken, but it might be a little runny. In this case, whisk another 1 tablespoon of starch with a splash of water until dissolved. Whisk this into your dairy-free vanilla pudding and cook a few more minutes until it thickens more.
How can I Re-thicken the Pudding?
If it thickened but then broke down, the fix is similar. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of starch to a bowl and whisk with a splash or cold water until the starch dissolves. Whisk this slurry into your dairy-free vanilla pudding, and start the heating process again.
My Dairy-Free Pudding has Lumps. Can it be Fixed?
Since you followed the recipe exactly (cold liquid, whisked until dissolved, and then whisked while heating) the issue is your milk alternative, which is discussed above. But it can be fixed. Use a stick / immersion blender to briefly puree the lumps until smooth. If it’s still too thick, simply whisk 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. If too thin, see the tips above. And next time, choose a different milk alternative!
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Vanilla Pudding
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. Just be sure to use ingredients that suit your dietary needs. See the post above for ingredient tips.
- ⅓ cup cane sugar
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch (can substitute arrowroot starch)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups cold plain or unsweetened dairy-free milk beverage (see post above for recommendations)
- 1 tablespoon dairy-free buttery spread (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Nutmeg, as needed (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, starch, and salt. Slowly add the milk beverage while whisking, until smooth. Make sure everything is dissolved.
- Place the pan over medium-low heat. Cook while whisking until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon, about 5 to 10 minutes. If it begins to boil, reduce the heat to low.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the buttery spread (if using) and vanilla.
- Pour the pudding into 4 individual serving dishes, and sprinkle each with a pinch of nutmeg (if using).
- Place the pudding in your refrigerator and chill for 2 hours, or until set. You can optionally place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of each serving to prevent a skin from forming, but don't do this when the pudding is hot.
- Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Vanilla Bean Variation: You can use an equivalent amount of vanilla bean paste in place of the extract, or scrape the seeds from a 2-inch piece of vanilla bean.
Instant Rice Pudding Option: After adding the vanilla, stir in 2 cups cooked brown or white rice. Optionally stir in ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and/or ½ cup raisins. Chill as directed above.
Banana Pudding Parfaits: Once the pudding has chilled and set, divide half of the pudding between 4 parfait glasses. Top the pudding with banana slices. Repeat the layers with the remaining half of the pudding and more banana slices. Garnish with dairy-free vanilla wafer cookies, like Kinnikinnick or 365.