This delightfully rich and thick from scratch Chocolate Pudding is always a treat and it’s easy to whip up using common pantry ingredients, and cooking it in the microwave.
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For most of my baking and cooking now I use (affiliate link) Special Dark Cocoa Powder. It has a nice mellow dark chocolate flavor and this pretty dark color.
If you don’t have Special Dark Cocoa Powder, regular cocoa powder works just great. That’s how I always made it as a kid.
Want to learn more about the differences in cocoa powders? I have some research into the ingredient that’s science-y and cool nerdy.
What kind of milk should I use?
I prefer whole milk for this pudding. It’s rich and thick without being too heavy.
I have made it with 2% milk, though it isn’t as rich and thick, it’s still good. But, I wouldn’t choose anything lighter than that, or the pudding may not thicken enough.
I don’t recommend using plant-based milks like soy, almond, or coconut milk in cornstarch puddings. These plant-based milks often don’t boil well; they can separate and may not thicken like cow’s milk.
No fresh milk in the house right now? Yes, you can use canned evaporated milk (don’t use sweetened condensed milk though – it would be way too sweet!). Just follow the directions as they are, using the evaporated milk.
Ok, I really like the pudding skin. It’s just super thick pudding. It’s yummy.
And, if you simply stir it back into the pudding, it disappears.
But, if you don’t like the skin, simply press plastic wrap or wax paper on the surface of the pudding as it cools.
If you ever try to make a cornstarch-thickened pudding, and it turns out soupy, here’s a bit of science nerd technical info for you.
Cornstarch must be cooked to 203° F before thickening starts. At that point, it usually thickens fairly quickly and the appearance of the pudding will change, turning from opaque to transparent.
When cornstarch thins after it’s thickened, it’s usually due to continued stirring. (If you’ve ever made a cornstarch-thickened gravy on the stove-top, you keep that huge lump from happening by stirring it frequently).
Once the thickening network forms, any agitation interferes with the setting process.
The sauce will thin when the starch network that sets and traps the liquid is broken. Liquid is released and thins the sauce.
This is one reason the pudding works really well when you cook it in the microwave. It stops you from stirring too much, breaking those networks. Resulting in a thick pudding.
I suggest cooking the pudding in a 4-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave, or something equivalent in size. The pudding does bubble up as it cooks and can overflow a smaller dish.
You can see in the photo above how much it bubbled up as it cooked.
Microwaves do vary in power. I made this as a kid in my old microwave and it always worked well. I have a much more powerful microwave now and it still works great.
If you’re worried that your microwave is too powerful, simply take 1 minute off the cooking time at the end, give it a stir and check on it. If you decide to cook it a bit longer, simply pop it back in for another 30-60 seconds on medium power again. It’s nice that you can check the progress and keep an eye on the dessert as it cooks.
To quickly chill the pudding
If you want to chill the pudding very quickly, pour it into a large shallow sheet pan.
Cover the whole surface with plastic or wax paper to keep the pudding skin from forming.
Toppings and add-ins
There are so many ways to serve this simple pudding. I love it best warm and without anything on top. But you can get creative and fun with your toppings and your mix-ins. Try the following:
A dollop of whipped cream on top
Whipped topping like Cool Whip
Top the pudding with M&M’s or crushed chocolate Easter eggs
Toss some chopped fresh strawberries or raspberries on top
Sprinkle on some chocolate shavings (I used a veggie peeler on the side of a chocolate bar to create the ones you see in the pictures)
Chopped toasted nuts on top add some crunch
Add a few sprinkles of cinnamon to the dry ingredients and add almond extract at the end to make it taste like a Mexican chocolate
This pudding is also great as a pie filling or in a trifle
Can I make this on the stove?
Yes, absolutely. I like the quick convenience of making it in the microwave. And, kids can make it in the microwave very easily. But, if you prefer to cook it on the stove, it works well there too.
Combine the dry ingredients (sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch) in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Slowly add the milk, stirring as you add. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir occasionally for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir the vanilla.
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Chocolate Pudding Recipe
- In a 4-cup glass Pyrex measuring cup, or a microwave safe equivalent sized dish, mix the dry ingredients, sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch. Slowly mix in the milk, stirring out any lumps that may form. Microwave for 3 minutes. Stir. Microwave on medium power for 3 minutes. Stir. Stir in the vanilla.
- Combine the dry ingredients, sugar, cocoa, and cornstarch, in a medium sized heavy saucepan. Slowly add the milk, stirring as you add. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat; boil and stir occasionally for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir the vanilla.
Divide pudding into 4 small ramekins. Serve warm, or refrigerate until ready to eat.
Press plastic wrap or wax paper on the surface of the pudding as it cools to keep the pudding skin for forming.
The pudding can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but really, you’ll eat it before that!
Makes about 2 cups of pudding, or 4 servings at about ½ cup each