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 custard with text overlay


 

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.

Although it comes by many names, it is one of my favorite desserts and this is a basic recipe; simple and delicious.

What is Egg Custard used for?

This egg custard recipe is fairly traditional and is not meant to be super thick like a pastry cream for cake.I make this version for eating just like pudding, but you can use it for a variety of other purposes.

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 this Egg Custard Recipe 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.

spoon with thick homemade vanilla custard

History of Egg Custard

Apparently the origin of custard goes all the way back to when Queen Victoria sat on the throne. It was made to stuff into pastries and cakes rather than be eaten alone.

Then, Sir Alfred Bird created an eggless custard powder in 1837. It was made from sugar, cornstarch, flavorings, and colorings, and it only needed some hot milk added to it to make it into custard.

It is essentially what we know as instant pudding today. There were no eggs added to it because his wife was allergic to them.

A fun little fact for you is that he also created baking powder. I guess we have Sir Alfred Bird to thank for a couple things!

American custard is sometimes referred to as pastry cream in England and France. It is more stable than pudding and therefore makes a better sauce for stuffing pastries.

creamy vanilla custard ready for serving

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.
angle view of custard ramekin with fresh berries

How to Use this Vanilla Custard Recipe

Custard can be eaten plain, like pudding, and it is used in creme brûlée and other baked desserts like flan.

It doesn’t stop there though, most are hybrids between custard and pudding, like this recipe because I am using both eggs and a thickener- cornstarch.

As long as there is a large proportion of eggs, I typically call it a custard, they all produce a very similar texture and consistency. After the base is made, custards can be flavored with whatever floats your boat.

spoon scooping into creamy custard

Egg 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.
overhead ramekin of vanilla custard with fresh berries

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 this Custard Recipe

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.

Custard Recipe Toppings

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 my favorites:

  • Crumbled cookies
  • Crushed candy
  • Fresh fruit
  • Fresh mint
  • Chocolate chips

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.

Can you Freeze Vanilla Custard?

I do not recommend freezing custard.

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.

What are common mistakes making custard?

Making custard can be a tad finicky. Some of the most common mistakes are allowing the mixture to get too hot, not cooking it for long enough for water to evaporate, not tempering the eggs in well and not chilling it for long enough. Also use good quality ingredients will full fat, this is not the time to be on a diet.

old fashioned vanilla custard for pinterest
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overhead ramekin of vanilla custard with fresh berries

Vanilla Custard Recipe

4.16 from 438 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!
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and food lover behind Savory Experiments. She is obsessed with butter, salt and bacon and spends all her time in the kitchen and behind a camera. Jessica is a contributor to PopKitchen by Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal Food + Travel and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    I absolutely loved this vanilla custard. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe, I am definitely going to make this over and over from now on.

  2. 5 stars
    I love everything about this. It’s lightly sweet, smooth, creamy. I love eating it by itself, but it would work so well in a trifle!

  3. 5 stars
    So easy! In fact, I thought custard was a little more involved but you make it so simple and I love your helpful tips. Thanks for sharing!

  4. 5 stars
    This was such a quick and easy recipe that does not disappoint! Turned out smooth, creamy and delicious; definitely, a new favorite recipe!

  5. 5 stars
    This is one of my favorite desserts and this recipe was spot on. It was really easy to make and so delicious. I will be making it again very soon.

  6. 5 stars
    This was so good with crumbled cookies on top! Everyone loved it the flavor and velvety texture. Going to try this in a trifle for Christmas!

  7. 5 stars
    this sweet vanilla custard is just the thing when you want a simple sweet treat and is a great addition to a bunch of different desserts.

  8. 5 stars
    This made amazing banana pudding! It came out so silky smooth and perfect. I let it chill for a bit before I layered my bananas and cookies, then let it chill combined for another couple hours. Very delicious. I will cut back on the sugar a little in my next try which is going to be very soon.

  9. 5 stars
    First time making this. Thought it was gonna turn out so bad (because of my lack of skills) and omg it was the opposite of bad! I even impressed my mom. Thank you very much for the recipe ♥️

    Made this to make a crepe cake – hope it turns out great 🤞🏽

  10. 5 stars
    I just made this recipe. For a first time ever, i successfully made homemade vanilla custard by following your recipe to a T. Turned out amazing! I have tried other recipes and failed. Thank you for sharing this easy, yummy recipe!

  11. 3 stars
    Very good but too sweet. I’m wondering if this was a misprint, or if it can be made with less sugar.. I followed directions for 8. It only called for 2 cups milk, but 2/3 sugar. It only filled 4 ramekins 2/3 full.

    1. What size were your ramekins? You can try it with less sugar, but we didn’t feel it was too sweet.

  12. I also found it was a little too sweet for my taste. Sadly I could taste the cornstarch. Can custard thicken without the cornstarch?

    1. Nope- it won’t, it will be thin and liquidy. What brand of cornstarch did you use? You can try using arrowroot instead.