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Don’t lose your nerve | Perfect Chocolate Pudding

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

It took five tries to get this pudding right.  On the fifth try it was finally, exactly what I wanted it to be – voluptuously indulgent, chocolatey but not too intense, cool and silky smooth. I got it right on the fifth try because I didn’t lose my nerve, cooking it for precisely three times the specified length of time.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

I’ve made so many chocolate puddings over the years. My first experiments were with Chocolate Pots d’Creme (especially variations on this recipe); a simple idea that involves whisking hot cream through chocolate, egg yolks and vanilla before setting the mixture in the fridge. These dense, dark Pots were delicious, but so intensely rich that after a while I found them overwhelming. I switched to Chocolate Mousse (often this recipe) with its airy, whipped texture, and then to Molten Cakes (also called Chocolate Fondant) and their lusciously liquid centres. All undeniably wonderful but always just a bit too much, if you know what I mean; too cloying on the tongue or too heavy on the stomach. This divine Chocolate Pudding has finally won me over, and what makes different is that it’s based on milk, gives butter a miss, and is cooked like a custard. Overall it’s lighter and more subtle in flavour, fulfilling all of my deepest chocolate needs without making me break out in cold sweats.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

In the quest for perfect chocolate pudding I’ve really been trying to capture the feeling of one that I loved to eat as a child. Like many kids growing up in the ’70s and ’80s in New Zealand, you could always find little packets of Greggs Instant Pudding in our cupboard. We only had it as an occasional treat, but our bowls of cool, fluffy pudding were always joyfully devoured, even when paired with the (equally ubiquitous) canned fruit salad. Yes…I realise that the terms “packet” and “instant” aren’t usually associated with culinary greatness, but my childhood memories put this pudding beyond such judgements. I get nostalgia-overload when I think about it.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

So what exactly is Greggs Instant Pudding? It’s a good question. Early versions of the packaging don’t list any ingredientsnot a single one, which is…silencing and actually quite impressive. In fact, the closest thing to an ingredient list is the statement “Artificially Coloured & Flavoured” displayed prominently on the front. This had disappeared by the time I would have started eating it as a toddler in the late 1970s, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was probably still there in tiny print on the back. Who knew what was in it but what you did was beat it into a pint of milk and wait five minutes for it to become a thick, aerated, spoonable pudding – every hungry kid’s dream. It came in a range of flavours but I can only ever remember eating the chocolate. Then, as now, the thought of the lime, orange, and lemon flavours makes my stomach feel all curdly.

Greggs always had a slightly gritty texture, which didn’t bother me then and of course it was sweeter than it needed to be, which probably masked a range of sins. I wanted a silky, not-too-sweet pudding, but beyond that it was the lightness of Greggs and its lack of chocolate intensity that I was seeking. It feels almost ridiculous today to admit to a desire for less chocolate (surely what you mean is triple chocolate? 85% cocoa solids? death by chocolate?) but there it is. You can have too much of a good thing, and it turns out that of chocolate, I want less.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

This recipe was already so close to my ideal in terms of flavour and all I had to do was reduce the  cocoa powder and chocolate slightly. It’s still very chocolatey, but in a comforting way that won’t give you palpitations. The texture took longer to get right, and the first three times I undercooked it but didn’t realise until I went to eat it and found it as runny as a milkshake. On the fourth try I got closer, but on the fifth I cooked it for a heart-stopping 12 minutes, which is much more than the 3-5 minutes specified. It could just be my interpretation of “low temperature” that’s to blame, but it’s probably more to do with experience. You’ll know that your pudding is thick enough when it coats the back of a spoon very thickly, when drops that fall off the spoon leave a visible ring on the surface of the pudding, and when you take it off the heat it begins to get thicker almost immediately. Don’t lose your nerve for this pudding and you’ll be repaid in the most delicious way.

Indulgent Chocolate Pudding - a childhood favourite

Perfect Chocolate Pudding

Adapted from Pastry Affair

3 cups (750ml) milk (full cream or light; not skim), divided
1/3 cup (scant) sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
1 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
80 grams dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
To serve (optional): 1/4 cup flaked almond (toasted), fresh raspberries

In a medium bowl (preferably one with a spout for pouring), whisk together 1 cup of milk with the sugar, cornstarch or arrowroot, cocoa powder and salt. When well blended, whisk in the egg yolks and set  to one side.

In a large saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups of milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir the milk frequently to ensure that it doesn’t burn. As soon as milk comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot milk, stirring steadily but gently to incorporate. Continue cooking and stirring until pudding is luscious and glossy and thickly coats the back of a spoon, up to 12 minutes.

Remove the pudding from the heat and add the chopped chocolate and vanilla extract. Whisk in the chocolate until completely melted and smooth (if you have trouble with lumps, you can strain through a sieve). Pour the pudding into individual serving bowls or cups and then chill in the fridge for at least one hour. The pudding will thicken even more as it cools and chills.

Serve the pudding with toasted flaked almonds for a pleasing textural contrast, and/or fresh raspberries.


  1. Oh yes! Chocolate pudding! Every once in a while I make some for the children. Next time I will have to try your version. But the thing that stopped me so were those vintage cups. Do you remember what brand they are, is it imprinted on the bottom? They look very familiar…like I should know them.

    • They’re great aren’t they? I found them at a local charity store for just a few dollars. They are from Wedgewood (UK); the Pennine range that was produced between 1965-early 1980s. I think it was quite a popular range, so maybe you’ve seen it before? It was also produced in a lovely soft grey-green colour, but that’s not as common.

  2. Pingback: Winter Market Salad | Citrus, Roasted Beetroot, Bitter Leaves | Chez Moi

  3. I think all the experimenting and stressing over this lush dessert paid off! I could eat these all the live log day. Perfection.

  4. Your patience paid off, Chez. I love the set up, photos, and the ‘relax and eat pudding’ vibe. Great share.

  5. Oh, I so loved instant pudding as a kid. I remember whipping that up many a time with a hand beater (rotary) no less. In the states we have MY-T-Fine — probably similar to your Greg’s. I’ll have to give this decidedly non-instant version a go sometime. – Kat

    • Yes the rotary beaters! We called them egg beaters, although we used them for much more than eggs of course. Funny how they’ve disappeared as they are actually quite handy. I guess everyone has electric tools now and/or whisks are more popular. Thanks for stopping by Kat and have a wonderful weekend!

  6. Yum! might have to have a go at this one. My childhood memory for instant puddings would be Angel Delight – a whip mousse which was artificial everything (apart from the milk you added it to).

    • Mum has since reminded me how Gregg’s Instant Pudding was always best when freshly made, but it soon collapsed and became “pale and sloppy”! A rose-tinted memory if ever I saw one. This pudding definitely doesn’t do that!

    • It does have a kind of universal appeal doesn’t it? I’m heading back to NZ for a visit in a few months and my family is already putting in their orders for pudding 🙂

  7. i grew up with jell-o pudding mix, loved loved loved it so much. i’ve only ever made pudding from scratch a few times, usually the smallest batch possible as dw is NOT a fan of the stuff. i don’t know how that’s even possible, but it basically means more for me.

    i appreciate that you kept at the recipe! your tea cups/mugs are adorable, did you buy them on your travels?

    • Hi Lan these cups are 1970s Wedgwood originals that I found at the local charity store for a few dollars. At least half of my kitchen crockery has come from charity stores – I find it hard to walk past one without having a look! These cups are especially prized.

  8. I remember instant milk pudding although it was the Aussie version, the brand escapes me. I was never a big fan of the flavour or texture, but recently I loved a cold Italian chocolate milk pudding similar to this. Thanks for the inspiration, I’ll definitely try this out

    • I bet it’s exactly the same – both the Australian and NZ versions probably have British origins, now that I think about it. They still make Greggs Instant Pudding in NZ, although now it’s all “fancy” with Vanilla Creme and Chocolate Smoothie flavours, not that I’ll ever buy it! The real thing is so much better. Let me know if this turns out to be similar to your Italian pudding – very interesting!

    • Thanks Clare, let me know how you find it! The blog I found the original recipe on (Pastry Affair) also has recipes for banana pudding and coconut pudding which I’m keen to try as well.

    • Thanks Rebecca 🙂 just saw from your blog that you need to avoid dairy and sugar. I have made a version of this using almond milk which was pretty good (although very almondy). Not sure how to replace the sugar except to see how it goes with a more natural type – coconut sugar maybe. Must give it a go.

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