Make Ahead

Buttermilk pudding

February 21, 2011
Author Notes

Buttermilk pudding is so wonderful, it's almost unbelievable. It has that fresh tang that floats lightly over the creamy custardy texture. But, most buttermilk pudding recipes call for gelatin, and ever since I had a traumatic experience trying to use gelatin in middle school (call me melodramatic, but a ruined chocolate mousse is traumatic in my world), I have been loathe to use it in anything. So, I set out to create a perfect buttermilk pudding recipe without gelatin.
At first I thought it would be best to try to make pots de creme, since I know you can make baked buttermilk pie. However, I didn't want to use the massive quantities of sugar called for in a pie, and maybe I just didn't use enough egg yolks, but the texture didn't come out how I wanted it (I saved it by turning it into a perfectly acceptable ice cream!). So, then I started working on a stovetop creation instead. It took a bit of fiddling, but finally I've created a pudding that has exactly the wonderful light flavor and unctuous texture I was looking for.
In the summer this pudding would be amazing with macerated berries or peaches or a fig sauce. In the winter it's great with passion fruit - if you can get your hands on some - or caramelized citrus fruits, or brown butter pears, or even just a drizzle of honey. Of course, it's also fabulous just on its own. It's up to you! —fiveandspice

  • Serves 4
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (if you have vanilla bean you could also use that, simmering it with the cream instead of adding it at the end)
In This Recipe
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks to lighten them, then set them to the side near your stove.
  2. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Bit by bit whisk in the cream, making sure there are no lumps. Then whisk in the buttermilk.
  3. Heat the buttermilk mixture to a simmer over medium or medium-low, stirring the whole while. As it heats it will suddenly reach a point where it seems noticeably thicker, at this point take it off the heat.
  4. Stir about 1/4 cup of the hot buttermilk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking really vigorously to prevent the yolk from cooking into scrambled egg. Whisk in another quarter cup of the buttermilk mixture, then another, each time whisking until smooth. Then, scrape the yolk mixture into the saucepan with the remaining buttermilk mixture.
  5. Return to medium low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heat proof spatula, until the pudding is thick and the spatula leaves thick trails behind it as you stir. Pour the pudding into a bowl - if it seems lumpy you can press it through a strainer, but mine was quite smooth - and place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pudding (unless you really like pudding skin, in which case, don't!). Chill for at least a few hours and up to several days. Serve chilled accompanied by a fruit sauce or cookies of your choice, or by itself.
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I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.