From 0 to Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding (in 5 Minutes & 5 Ingredients)

January 30, 2018

One-pot stovetop cooking is a salvation for everything from macaroni and cheese to chicken and rice. But it’s also a boon for last-minute desserts. This stovetop chocolate pudding is a stand-in for my favorite festive dessert, chocolate pot de crème, but does not taste like any kind of shortcut.

It takes just five minutes to make this silken smooth dark chocolate pudding, so you can have it on a whim for a weeknight treat or serve it for guests without the time involved in stirring a custard and then baking it in a hot-water bath. All it takes is one pot and a whisk to bring this pudding together—or, for an ultra-smooth texture, use your immersion blender.

Plain is good, but it's so easy to spice it up. Photo by James Ransom

The trick is to replace the eggs with a thickener that can take the heat. Cornstarch, tapioca, and arrowroot all have thickening capabilities with varying qualities. I tested all three for this recipe to get the best texture and gloss. Cornstarch turned out too pasty while tapioca made the pudding too gelatinous. Only arrowroot powder combined thickening power with the smoothest texture that didn’t congeal once cooled. It also did not create a skin on top of the pudding.

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Skipping the eggs also made it a short stride to a dairy-free version. In several tests, I substituted the half and half (or milk) with coconut milk and various nut milks. The best results came from the richer milks, especially coconut and cashew. Rice milk, on the other hand, was too thin in body for chocolate pudding. For a full-fledged vegan pudding, look on the label for dark chocolate brands that contain no milk solids.

This simple chocolate pudding is terrific as is, with or without whipped cream or a sprinkling of flaky salt. To dress it up for dinner guests, I like to accent the bittersweet chocolate with ground spices and add a crunchy topping. Ginger adds a nice heat, for example, and chopped crystallized ginger on top highlights the spice. Judicious use of cinnamon and cayenne creates a Mexican chocolate pudding topped with cacao nibs to echo the bittersweet chocolate. (See the full recipe for notes on how to make these variations.)

This is one easy chocolate dessert where you’re rewarded whether or not you play around with the flavorings. It may not exactly be instant, but it's a stand-by to turn to often—even at a moment’s notice—and claim it as your own.

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I wake up thinking, What's for dinner? The answer comes from the stocking as much local food as I can store, buying dry goods in bulk and shopping for seasonal produce. Pickling and canning, sourdough bread baking and grilling are also key parts of the mix as I improvise meals for my family.