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Whether you're packing a school lunch or just wanting a yummy portable snack, pudding cups are a great treat. I have a weakness for pudding, personally. 🙂
But the store-bought versions – like I've said about so many other store-bought items – are chock full of preservatives to keep them shelf-stable, chemical stabilizers to make sure they act and taste the same no matter what end of the world they end up in, artificial flavors, inflammatory thickeners, and hydrogenated oils. Blech.
On the other hand, homemade pudding cups are chock-full of ingredients that are beneficial and desirable in a healthy diet.
Perfect for Quick Breakfasts, Lunches & Snacks
I sometimes make these for a quick, easy-to-grab breakfast on busy mornings. Paired with fruit, homemade pudding cups are perfect for families trying to fit breakfast in between finding lost shoes and making sure this week's library books are actually in everyone's backpacks.
And while my absolute favorite homemade puddings are with a classic custard base, both for the luxurious, creamy texture and for the benefits of eating more egg yolks, this homemade pudding is based off of panna cotta, the delightfully easy Italian custard that uses gelatin instead of eggs to set the pudding.
This not only has the benefit of making the pudding safer to cart around in a lunch box for hours on end, but it's quicker to make and provides an extra punch of protein. (And gelatin is fascinating not just because it makes things fun and jiggly, but because of its unique nutritional make-up, so don't miss our post where I gush on the latest research about the benefits of gelatin.)
These pudding cups come together in about five minutes, which is easy to do right before bed, and then sit overnight in the refrigerator to be ready to grab in the morning for whatever awaits you. You can let them sit for just 2-3 hours if you need, but doing it overnight just makes it easy.
And if you trust your child with a blender, it's a great recipe for kids to make with just a bit of supervision. Let's get our kids in the kitchen!
If you'd prefer a classic, egg-based version, that's not difficult either and it takes about 30 minutes – there's a recipe in my book, The DIY Pantry.
You can also change these from chocolate to any other flavor you'd like. Just remove the chocolate and reduce the sugar a bit (it's higher than usual to offset the bitterness of the chocolate). You can see my basic panna cotta recipe to use as a foundation.
A note about containers
The sky is the limit on your creativity here. Use anything that holds about a single-serving amount and has a firm, spill-proof lid (if you plan on packing them in lunches or for other activities). This can range from clean, leftover single-serve yogurt containers, small insulated travel containers, small jelly canning jars, or whatever else you have on hand.
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup evaporated cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, sucanat, or brown sugar (see how to make your own brown sugar)
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder (any variety will do, but of course, as with all things chocolate, grab fair trade if you can)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons gelatin (see where to buy grass-fed gelatin)
- Place 1/2 cup of the milk in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let sit while you gather your containers and the rest of the ingredients.
- When everything is gathered, heat the milk very gently over low heat just until the gelatin is dissolved. (Dip your thumb and forefinger in the warm-ish milk and rub them together. You won't feel any granules when they are fully dissolved.)
- Meanwhile, pour the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, and cocoa powder in a blender. Blend until very smooth, then with the motor running, pour in the gelatin-milk mixture.
- Pour immediately into your containers and place in the refrigerator. Let sit for at least two hours and enjoy within five days.