A few weeks ago, my husband and I were going to our friend’s house to have a fun lazy Sunday having dinner and playing with their two adorable boys. On the way over my friend Sarah asked me to pick a package of instant pudding for a recipe she needed for her son’s school project. While picking up the pudding I could not help but think that I could not remember the last time that I had pudding. It has never been my dessert of choice, something about the texture bugged me, but we will get to that later.
Looking at the ingredients list, as I always do searching for tricky ways companies sneak in dairy products, I was surprised to find it vegan. But the line underneath the ingredients was the spark that started this month-long pudding palooza.
Underneath the instructions, in bold read, “Pudding will not set if made with non-dairy milk.”
My initial reaction was a “pshhhhh…ok there’s another conspiracy by the dairy industry to push cow’s milk.” So naturally, I bought one for Sarah’s recipe and one for me to prove them wrong!
Sadly, although it hurt my conscience to admit, the food scientists behind the vegan hating bold type warning were right. Nondairy milk mixed with the pudding mixture did not thicken properly and set up as it should have. Don’t get me wrong it tasted delicious, like a bowl of nostalgic chocolate soup, but it was not pudding.
I had found my challenge. With two little boys, friends, and a husband who love chocolate pudding I was determined to make a healthier, not artificially colored dreamy chocolate pudding that set up perfectly WITH NON-DAIRY MILK, take that pudding scientists!
So the testing started, I didn’t want to make an ultra-healthy zero refined sugar avocado based raw vegan pudding, while delicious, I knew the picker eaters would out me immediately. At the same time, I didn’t want to use vegan butter, a cup of white sugar, or vegan milk chocolate. Somewhere right in the middle would be my playground. Using corn starch to thicken, raw cacao powder for a punch of nutrition, date paste for extra minerals and fiber, and good quality dark chocolate for melting into. I found my pudding zone, and for weeks, I tinkered with the recipe. Changing ratios of date paste and chocolate chips, testing vanilla seeds or extract, and the search for the best plant-based milk; hemp, cashew, soy, almond, rice, oat, the list goes on.
The result. A delicious, and no-nonsense stove-top chocolate pudding with a lot of goodness and a little bit of indulgence, without dairy. It is delicious warm, chilled, or frozen into pudding pops! When I started this process, I could confidently say that I was “not a pudding person” but after all the testing, scrutinizing, and finally finding the one that made my peanut gallery smile and ask for more, I have found a new appreciation for this nostalgic dessert. Whether you are trying to avoid highly processed foods, artificial coloring, or dairy for yourself or your children, I hope you make this recipe for your family and your lil’ puddin’s and enjoy the nostalgia with a smile on your face.
Lil' Puddin Pudding
A simple, rich, and nostalgic chocolate pudding, made from plants! Perfect for the little kids (and adults) in your life!
- 2 c. unsweetened hemp milk
- 2 Tbsp corn starch
- 3 Tbsp cacao powder
- 2/3 c. date paste
- 2/3 c. brick chocolate chopped (minimum 53% cacao)
- 1/8 tsp vanilla bean paste optional
- pinch salt
- chopped nuts
- nut butters
- chocolate chips
- cacao nibs
- toasted coconut
- fruit preserves
In a medium sauce-pot sift in the cornstarch and cacao. Add the hemp milk and date paste, using a flat whisk, thoroughly whisk the ingredients together, making sure to get every corner and solid piece of powder incorporated.
Bring the mixture over medium high heat and watch carefully. When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges (about 2 minutes) whisk to incorporate. Let sit for another minute or so until the it begins to bubble evenly, not just the edges. The pudding should appear to be thickening. Once slightly thickened, turn off the heat. Add in the chopped chocolate, pinch of salt, and vanilla and whisk to combine, making sure all the chocolate is melted.
The consistency should be like thickened pudding. Store in a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Remove from the fridge and mix with a spoon, this should thin out the initial set up of the fridge and look more like snack pack pudding. Enjoy plain or add your favorite toppings like bananas, berries, or mango.
* If you serve the pudding warm, it takes 15 minutes, if you want it chilled, it needs to chill for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.
*Plant Milks: you can use any plant milk of your choosing but in my many testing’s of this recipe I found that the higher fat milks such as hemp, cashew, and soy had a creamier mouthfeel. In my opinion hemp had the creamiest mouthfeel with the mildest flavor.
*Thickeners: In my multiple trials I tested cornstarch, arrowroot powder, and tapioca starch. All these thickeners worked almost identically. So, if you cannot ingest corn just switch out for the same amount of arrowroot or tapioca. I chose to showcase cornstarch because it is already in most people’s pantry and is the most affordable.
*Chocolate: I went through 14 different variations of pudding before realizing that the main factor between making an indulgent dark chocolate pudding and a copycat nostalgic snack pack pudding was the type of solid chocolate that I used. I originally began with the Trader Joe's 72% cacao dark chocolate bricks. The pudding tasted delicious, but it was not mimicking that "milk chocolate" taste which inherently has less cacao and more cacao butter and sugar. I noticed that they had another dark chocolate brick that had no cacao percentage on the label but the same ingredients. Under the ingredients it said (minimum of 52%cacao) so I assumed that the cacao percentage was significantly less than my original 72%. By taste alone you could immediately tell the difference. The new chocolate was sweeter, and less bitter, which resulted in more milk chocolate tasting pudding. So, you can use any dark chocolate you wish, but if you want a more "milk chocolate" tasting pudding find the dark chocolate with the least amount of cacao percentage.
* If you end up cooking your pudding for too long and it becomes very thick when it sets up in the fridge, just whisk in some more hemp milk to help thin it out.