Creamy Vanilla Custard

There is nothing that compares to a homemade vanilla custard. Velvety and smooth, serve it with fresh berries or cinnamon.

single serving vanilla custard with fresh berries text overlay


 

Why You’ll Love This Homemade Custard Recipe

Silky smooth and full of vanilla flavor, what’s not to love about this homemade vanilla custard recipe?

  • Velvety texture – The texture of the custard is perfectly smooth and creamy. Pouring through a fine-mesh sieve helps to het rid of any lumps, yielding the most velvety custard ever.
  • Perfect balance of flavor – With it’s slight vanilla flavor from real vanilla beans, this custard is the perfect base for any toppings or dessert you add it to.
  • Many uses – Whether you eat it by itself, top it with fruit or stuff it in a donut, there are endless delicious ways to use this recipe.
spoon with thick homemade vanilla custard

What is Custard?

The term custard often covers a wide array of recipes through many global cuisines. The shortest description is a mixture made with sweetened milk or cream cooked with egg, egg yolk, flour, cornstarch or gelatin for thickening.

Depending on the recipe and inspiration and purpose, custard will in consistency from a thin pouring sauce for cakes, pies and rice pudding to a thick pastry cream used to fill éclairs and donuts or make crème brûlée (baked custard) or crème anglaise.

I have stuffed the sweet custard it into doughnuts before with no issues and used it for my cookie and strawberry trifle, even made it into a custard pie and creme brulee. It would also be ideal for bread pudding or even using for creme brulee, maybe even French Cream Puffs. Even banana pudding or a pudding pie.

This Cookie Trifle recipe is a super easy trifle recipe that only uses 3 ingredients! Chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies, layered with vanilla custard and whipped cream! #cookiebomb #cookietrifle #triflerecipe www.savoryexperiments.com
Cookie Trifle

What Does Egg Custard Taste Like?

Luscious, velvety, and smooth are the best ways to describe vanilla custard. It is a little thicker and richer than pudding. Some might refer to it as a creme anglaise or bavarian cream.

It usually has a more robust vanilla flavor since many are made with whole vanilla beans instead of extract. Although this version just uses a high quality extract.

Vanilla pods can be used, just add a split pod to the scalding milk and let the caviar (flecks of vanilla bean) infuse the milk. Vanilla bean paste (my new favorite ingredient!) is also an option for a richer vanilla taste. Use a 1:1 ratio of paste to extract.

creamy vanilla custard ready for serving
angle view of custard ramekin with fresh berries

Vanilla Custard Ingredients

​Most of these simple ingredients are pantry staples. If you don’t have them on hand, they can easily be found at your local grocery store.

  • Whole Milk- It is essential to use full-fat milk in this recipe. Reduced fat milks don’t have enough fat to give custard it’s signature creamy texture. We have not tested this recipe using non-dairy alternatives, but if you do, we’d love to hear about it! This would include oat milk, almond milk, soy milk or coconut milk.
  • Vanilla Extract- We used a high quality vanilla extract, but for even more robust vanilla flavors, opt for vanilla bean paste or a whole, cut vanilla bean. Then you’ll get a lovely scent, flavor and those fun little flecks.
  • Sugar– Just plain old white granulated sugar.
  • Salt- Fine sea salt was used. Coarse can be used too. Please use sea salt and not iodized table salt which can have a metallic after taste. Salt balances sweetness and accentuates the vanilla.
  • Cornstarch– To thicken and make it silky and shiny without a gritty texture. We use this instead of the commercial thickening agent guar gum.
  • Egg yolks– Make sure they are room temperature to properly temper the mixture. You do not need whole eggs.
  • Unsalted Butter– Using unsalted butter lets you control the saltiness. If using salted butter, omit the additional salt. A grass-fed European butter will have a darker yellow hue, resulting in a more beige or yellow custard.
spoon scooping into creamy custard

How to Make Custard

Making custard isn’t hard, but does require a few tips and tricks to make sure you don’t end up with a grainy, frothy or scrambled egg-y mess. It also combines the cornstarch slurry in with the flour instead of adding it separately.

  1. Infuse the Milk. Start by scalding your milk with vanilla. You’ll need to have hot milk to make this work. I use vanilla extract for this recipe, but you can use vanilla bean or vanilla paste, just consult the notes section to learn how. You can also use plain warm milk for a similar effect. This is just milk heated over medium-low heat. Just plop the vanilla pod into the milk and let the caviar float on out.
  2. Prepare the Eggs. Next, whisk the egg yolks with sugar, corn starch and salt. It will start a little pasty, but then come to a thick pale yellow cream. This whole process is made much easier using a stand mixer. You can also use an electric hand mixer. Unless you have a super sonic arm, this will be tough by-hand.
  3. Temper the Eggs. Transfer the hot milk mixture to an easy pour measuring cup and/or use the pour in attachment on your stand mixer. In an even and steady stream, pour hot milk into the egg mixture while the mixer is on. This prevents the eggs from cooking. Do not mix or whisk too fast or else you’ll get a frothy mixture.
  4. Heat & Thicken. Transfer back to a medium saucepan and whisk and heat over LOW heat until mixture starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes. It won’t thicken all the way until it cools. Don’t bring to a boil or the mixture will get grainy. Use a wooden spoon so it doesn’t get too hot. You will know it is ready when the creamy custard thickly coats the back of a spoon. Some folks prefer to use a double boiler with hot water underneath, but I’ve never found this necessary.
  5. Add Butter. Remove from heat and add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter until smooth. If you want a thicker custard, do not use the butter. If your custard does develop foam or any streaky eggs, pour through a mesh sieve or colander to skim out any large bits.
  6. Transfer to Serving Vessels. Pour the custard into bowls, custard cups or small ramekins and cover with plastic wrap. Tightly covering wrap to the top of the custard will prevent a skin from developing.
  7. Chill. Chill for a minimum of 4 hours if in a large bowl, but 2 hours if in small bowls. Mixture can sit for up to 24 hours after being made before being served.

 How To Get Rid of Lumps in Custard

One of the most commonly experienced issues with making any custard or pudding is lumps and no one wants those! Depending on the consistency of the recipe, there are two ways to get them out.

  • Stick Blender/Immersion Blender– Stick this right into the pan and blend. It might thicken the mixture a bit with agitation, just add a small amount of milk to thin it back out.
  • Sieve- If the mixture isn’t too thick, you can push it through a mesh sieve using the back of a spoon. This will smooth out lumps or leave the big, annoying ones right in the basket.
overhead ramekin of vanilla custard with fresh berries

Toppings & Variations

Topping custard is similar to topping ice cream or pudding. Anything you think will taste good, probably will. And if you make the vanilla flavor, nearly anything will complement it. Here are a few ideas.

You can also use other extracts and flavors like espresso, coffee or almond. After custard is complet, add freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon. Instead of butter, whisk in 1-2 tablespoons of bourbon.

To make chocolate egg custard, add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa to the cornstarch mixture.

How to Make Frozen Vanilla Custard

To make frozen egg custard like you would buy at the store, you’ll need an ice cream maker to churn it. You can simply place the thickened version in the freezer, but it will be a solid hard brick.

You really need the churning and slow freeze to get it to be creamy. Follow your ice cream makers instructions for basic ice cream which usually includes freezer all the pieces and then allowing it to churn for 20-30 minutes before transferring to the freezer for hardening. Check our instructions for making vanilla ice cream for tips and tricks.

close up of berries in cutard

Storing Vanilla Custard

Can You Make Vanilla Custard Ahead of Time?

You sure can! I would make it up to a day ahead of time, just keep it refrigerated until you are ready to serve it.

Pro Tip

Cover with plastic wrap right on top of the custard to prevent that sticky film layer that often forms.

How Do You Store Vanilla Custard?

Custard can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week. Give it a good stir before eating.

Can you Freeze Vanilla Custard?

I do not recommend freezing custard unless you are making frozen custard and plan to keep it cold.

creamy vanilla custard ready for serving

Vanilla Custard Recipe FAQs

Custard vs Pudding

Is pudding the same as custard? Sometimes used interchangeably, they are vastly different. I think of custard as being more silky smooth, if made correctly, of course.
The term pudding is used more in Western culture and it made from sweetened milk and thickened with cornstarch. It is a little thinner, but still creamy.
Old fashioned custard, however, is made from whole milk and eggs using low heat to produce the coagulation of the egg proteins, which thickens the sauce. This is why you’ll commonly hear it called egg custard. The shortcut version is to add cornstarch.

Does Egg Custard have raw eggs?

Common question and the answer is…
It does contain near raw eggs, but has a little bit of heat added. If you are concerned, look for pasteurized or heat treated eggs at the grocery store.
You’d be surprised that many of your other favorites recipes also contain new raw eggs like hollandaise sauce, many cocktails, mayonnaise, aiolis and salad dressings. If treated and handled properly, eggs are perfectly fine to be eaten raw.

More Dessert Recipes

I love a good dessert and while I generally enjoy easy and quick dessert, making this custard recipe is an exception. Here are a few more easy dessert ideas.

overhead loaf of strawberry pound cake using fresh strawberries

Strawberry Pound Cake Recipe

4.56 from 95 votes
Deliciously moist and buttery, this is my award winning vanilla pound cake laced with fresh strawberries and topped with a fresh strawberry glaze. Makes 2 loaves!
See The Recipe!
a bowl of cookie butter

Homemade Cookie Butter Spread

4.12 from 52 votes
Ready to find your new favorite dessert?! This homemade version of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter is so easy to make and ready in 5 minutes. Serving ideas and cookie suggestions included!
See The Recipe!
plate of pile of buckeyes

Buckeye Candy

4.38 from 16 votes
If you love a dessert with peanut butter and chocolate you will adore this Classic Buckeye Candy recipe. Perfect for the holidays!
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layers of chocolate cream pie

Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe

4.73 from 18 votes
Mocha Cream Pie Recipe is three layers of delicious pie: brownie base, chocolate pudding, and whipped cream top all laced with coffee.
See The Recipe!
vanilla custard recipe for pinterest
overhead ramekin of vanilla custard with fresh berries

Vanilla Custard Recipe

4.16 from 445 votes
Homemade vanilla custard is a little old fashioned, but totally worth the time and effort. Use for banana or bread pudding, trifles or plain.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Chilling: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 22 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Heat the milk and vanilla extract (or paste) in a heavy bottom, medium saucepan until at a low simmer. Do not let it boil, until heat until little bubbles form around the edges.
  • Meanwhile, place the sugar, cornstarch and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a large mixing bowl with a whisk, blend dry ingredients until mixed. Add the egg yolks and blend until a pale yellow.
  • Slowly pour the milk mixture into the eggs while whisking at a low speed. Do not mix too fast or it will froth and foam. Blend until mixed.
  • Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes, or until thickened. Whisk continually to prevent mixture from scalding to the pan. Mix until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • As soon as the mixture thickens, remove from heat and whisk in butter (or bourbon), if desired.
  • Transfer to a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Press plastic wrap into the custard mixture so there is no air between the two. This prevents the filmy skin that can develop. To set faster, place in small ramekins or bowls.
  • Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours, but up to 2 days.
  • If you have tried this recipe, come back and let me know how it was in the comments or ratings.

Video

Notes

To use a whole vanilla bean, cut open and use 1/2 teaspoon vanilla caviar (little specs inside) in the scalded milk. You can also use a leftover, spent vanilla bean in the milk and remove before adding to egg yolks.
Do not use skim or 2% milk, this really does require WHOLE MILK.
Instead of butter, try adding 1 tablespoon of bourbon!
Get rid of lumps by: 
  1. Stick Blender/Immersion Blender- Stick this right into the pan and blend. It might thicken the mixture a bit with agitation, just add a small amount of milk to thin it back out.
  2. Sieve- If the mixture isn’t too thick, you can push it through a mesh sieve using the back of a spoon. This will smooth out lumps or leave the big, annoying ones right in the basket.

Nutrition

Calories: 347 kcal, Carbohydrates: 47 g, Protein: 6 g, Fat: 14 g, Saturated Fat: 7 g, Cholesterol: 222 mg, Sodium: 208 mg, Potassium: 180 mg, Sugar: 39 g, Vitamin A: 630 IU, Calcium: 161 mg, Iron: 0.5 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 347
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: homemade custard, vanilla custard
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
old fashioned vanilla custard for pinterest
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I wanted a very traditional custard recipe, and this was it! I only used half a cup of sugar instead of 2/3c. And half of a vanilla bean. Personally with 1/4c. of starch, it was a bit thicker than I would like. I’m going to fold it into some whipped cream for banana pudding 🙂

    1. Hi Olivia! I actually made this recipe today as well and yes, the 1/4 cup is fairly thick. I use mine for fillings and such so it needs body and structure. I’ll add a blurb about reducing the amount for a thinner custard.

  2. Was I supposed to add the hot milk to the cornstarch? I added cocoa powder to the cornstarch but it clumped up badly. So the chocolate taste wasn’t as deep as it should have been but it did cut down on the sweetness.

    1. Hi Tessa, yes add a small amount of hot milk to the cornstarch and then temper it back in. Same with the cocoa or it won’t dissolve.

  3. 5 stars
    I found it a little sweet – trying to cut down on sugar – maybe less then taste and add more to desired taste!!! but otherwise delicious and very silky
    And I made it in the microwave – l find less chance of mixture sticking to the bottom of the saucepan

  4. 5 stars
    Turned out excellent! I had heavy creamer to use up so I used it in place of milk. I prefer arrow root so I used that in place of the corn starch. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Will be making this again!

  5. 5 stars
    I just made this. After 4 hours I took it out of the fridge and was the consistency was like pudding. Not sure what I messed up. The taste was still outstanding. Hopefully next time I can figure out what I did wring

    1. Hye Scott- custard is about the consistency of pudding- it is creamy but not super thick. Were you looking for frozen custard or a pastry cream? They are a little different.

  6. 5 stars
    This custard is so amazingly rich and creamy! I love it and the whole family agrees. It was gone in a flash!

  7. 5 stars
    This recipe was so delicious! I hadn’t tried custard that tasted quite like this and it was a fun new twist on one of my favorite desserts! Can’t wait to make this again!

  8. You forgot to include the sugar and corn starch in the actual steps. It made me completely mess up my custard. Please pay closer attention when you post these.

    1. Step #2 states “egg yolks THROUGH salt”, which includes corn starch and sugar. Please pay closer attention when reading the instructions.