The Homemade Trials: Chocolate Pudding

Does making pudding from scratch beat the boxed versions? I compare them when it comes to time, taste, cost, and nutrition.


The Homemade Trials: Chocolate Pudding

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These homemade trials posts are quickly becoming my favorite series to do.  It’s so fun to try to beat out store-bought stuff!

And I’m always surprised by the results.

Running chocolate pudding through the trials was Betsy’s idea and I immediately jumped on it.  There are so many different kinds of chocolate pudding in the store.  I knew this would be a tough battle.

As always I compared a few different kinds of store-bought puddings (the snack pack and the standard instant mix) with a homemade version made with real milk and chocolate.  I compared the results with regards to TIME, COST, NUTRITION, and, of course, TASTE.  Let’s check out the results!


When it came to time, I knew my homemade version was a surefire loser.  The snack pack takes approximately 5 seconds to pop open.  So that’s clearly the time winner.  Even the instant mix takes about 5 minutes to mix up and then it has to chill in the fridge for an hour or so to really set up nicely.

Meanwhile, my homemade version took about 25 minutes to whip up from scratch.  Then it had to cool completely to set.

This was an easy one then.  The TIME category goes to the Snack Packs!

Whisking takes time!


I figured this one would be close, but that my version would probably lose.  I mean, real chocolate is pretty expensive.  I did splurge and buy the nice stuff because if I’m making chocolate pudding, I want it to be good.

So I lost on cost, but it was actually closer than I thought it would be.  If you could save some money on the chocolate and milk, you could easily match the instant costs I think.

costI’m going to call COST a TIE between the Snack Pack and the Instant Pudding. While the Snack Pack was a bit cheaper per ounce, I used organic milk for the instant pudding and the Snack Pack was on sale.  That one cent per ounce is easily accounted for I think.  Unfortunately, my homemade version loses again.


Here’s where I thought things might get interesting.  Of course, the thing to remember about these instant mixes and snack packs is that they have a lot non-food stuff in them.  I mean, heck, the snack packs don’t even have to be refrigerated! They claim to have “No Preservatives” in them, but anytime you see a product theoretically made with dairy that doesn’t have to be refrigerated, something weird is going on.

The instant mix doesn’t bother me as much since you add milk to it.  Ironically, it’s the product with preservatives in it.

Here’s the actual nutritional breakdown.

nutritionThis one was tough for me to look at because it’s pretty hard to say that the homemade variety won.  There’s more fat, more calories and more sugar per serving.  The only saving grace for the homemade version is the low sodium content and the protein increase.

But you know what?  My version is made with real food.  So take that. Here’s a list of a few of the ingredients in the snack packs and instant varieties that my version doesn’t have:

– Vegetable and palm oil
– Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate
– Disodium Phosphate
– Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate
– Mono- and Diglycerides
– Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1
– BHA (in the instant variety)

But facts are facts and so I guess I’ll give NUTRITION to the Instant variety mainly just because it seems to have less fat and more protein and it’s made with milk.

At the end of the day though, you’re eating PUDDING, so nutrition really shouldn’t be a big player in your decision.

In my opinion, what pudding I’m going to pick is almost always the one that tastes the best.  So let’s do the big category:


I actually knew this was going to be hard.  I mean, I grew up eating the instant variety of pudding almost every week.  Betsy did also.  Frankly, I love the stuff.

But the real stuff had real chocolate in it.  A lot of it.  I thought maybe it could stack up.

Action shot!

I set Betsy up with a blind taste test of the three different varieties.  I made sure to keep them all in the fridge so they were the same temperature.

This is what she saw…

taste test
The Blue one won…

I wish I had this test on video.  It was pretty hilarious.

She tasted them all.  Thought about it for about half a second and then said, “Well, the red one is definitely the worst.  It’s way to chocolatey.”

That was, of course, my homemade version.  We both picked the instant version for taste.

I didn’t mind the homemade version, but I agree that it was a bit too heavy.  Of course, this could be the recipe that I used which I’m not even going to bother reprinting since it can’t beat instant pudding mix.

Begrudgingly though, I have to give TASTE to the Instant Mix.


Well, it finally happened.  My homemade version took a loss in this one.  I think with everything put together, I’m going to give the win to the instant variety.  Honestly, I’m surprised that my homemade version doesn’t lose more often.  I mean, these products have teams of people engineering their flavors and millions of dollars in research going into them.  How am I supposed to compete with that?!

At the end of the day though, it could be that Betsy and I chose the instant variety because we’ve been eating it since we were kids.  It’s literally the flavor that I think of when I think of pudding which is great if you’re Jell-o.  It’s also very possible that the recipe I used was a bomb.

So.  Here’s a challenge.

Someone send me a pudding recipe that can beat instant pudding mix in a taste test.


I hate losing…

21 Responses to “The Homemade Trials: Chocolate Pudding” Leave a comment

  1. hey I did the same last week. I thought to myself, hey lets make homemade pudding. I did the same mistake you did: I used to much chocolate. It was way to heavy and made us sick. I think using just 2 tablespoons of organic cocoa powder will be enough. I used like 6 tablespoons on 500ml milk. I will tell you if I dare to try my recipe again. And if its a winner (not getting sick from eating it) i will send it to you.

  2. Nick, was the homemade version not good? I mean, if you were making a big bowl to take to a party, would you bring it? Or would you serve it to friends. Or was it just not good regardless of whether you compare it to nostalgia or not?

    1. It was okay. Definitely edible, but not worth posting. Hopefully after some tests I can post a recipe that I feel good about. I'm not giving up! :)

      I would've served it to friends, but I wouldn't remake it.

  3. I used to be really embarrassed when I would make things and they were inferior to their store-bought or fast-food versions. I would always feel like my version should win by default because it was homemade and homemade stuff is always better than that crap that they sell. Right?
    I got over that though when I made the realization that you did. Their food is loaded with things that are supposed to make you want to eat it again. If they didn't do that then they wouldn't make as much money.
    My orange chicken might never be as tasty as Panda's but every time I make it, it gets better and that's really what it's all about.

    1. That's exactly right. I expect that my pudding will get better and better and hopefully I can nail down something solid.

  4. I had an interesting chocolate pudding that they demo'd at Whole Foods this summer. It had avocado as the thickening agent, was totally healthy and tasted quite good. I never would have guessed it had the avocado in it.

    PS. I am Betsy's mom and she had my homemade pudding (unless it was a snack pack for school lunches) – here is the recipe:
    3/4 C sugar, 2 heaping T cocoa, 3 T flour. Add 2 cups milk (skim is fine) and cook till thickened. Then add 2 beaten egg yolks – cook a few minutes and add 1 T butter and some vanilla.

  5. " It’s way to chocolatey." ??? C'mon, Nick! There is NO WAY anything can be WAY TOO CHOCLATELY! I mean, I realize that I didn't taste your version, but, couldn't you have just pretended you were an Aztec Indian for few minutes? ;)

    P.S. mary: Thanks for the recipe! If Nick sends me his recipe, I'll make both and pass judgement. Maybe you can gain some bragging rights, LOL!

  6. I wanted to mention that Jello cook n serve pudding takes around 25 minutes, so if that one had been in the time test, homemade would have tied. We always use the cook and serve jello brand pudding, or the jello snack cups. I tried a homemade version with cocoa, and hubby hated it, and got heartburn. Gotta agree about all those chemicals making us want to eat more. strange as that is…

  7. Joy of Cooking chocolate pudding. Cocoa powder is the only chocolate, so it isn’t too overpowering. And I find versions with eggs are too rich. Let it chill about 10 minutes in the fridge. A yummy ‘skin’ will form, but the middle might still be kind of warm. Yum!

  8. I must say, the results of this don't surprise me! I'm usually adamant that homemade everything is better, but I LOVE instant pudding. My mom used to put it in wine glasses and top it with Reddi-Whip when I was a kid. There is definitely something nostalgic about it!
    My recent post Bacon Parmesan Chickpea Salad

  9. I love overly chocolatey things and pretty much always prefer homemade versions. That being said, I love Jello instant chocolate pudding. I have fond memories of licking the bowl as a little kid after my mom made it. For a long time I didn't know Jello made gelatin (bleck, I can never get over the texture!) and thought that Jello and chocolate pudding were synonymous!
    My recent post Salmon in Packets with Zucchini Succotash

  10. Late to the party here and will definitely see if I can find my mom's recipe to send for you to try. Perhaps part of what you prefer has to do with what you grew up eating. My mother always made homemade pudding with fresh real whipped cream (although when I as a kid, I just wanted the pudding!). I really rather not eat instant pudding but pudding in a cup makes me gag.

  11. I just bought some Instant Clear Jel and found your site while Googling recipes that used it for instant pudding. My go-to chocolate pudding is the chocolate one on Smitten Kitchen. You can omit the chocolate and use some instant coffee or espresso powder (with vanilla, and simmer it with a twist of lemon peel) for delicious coffee pudding.

    It’s weird, but I find that the tweak that usually makes me like homemade pudding better is to reduce the sugar. Not for health, but it just tastes more comforting and easier to eat if it doesn’t make your mouth feel “carpeted”. I think “pudding” and “comfort” should be synonymous. Also, reducing the chocolate is good, and you should definitely add some vanilla (just extract is fine) to give it more flavor dimension- just plain chocolate can taste a little bitter and flat. Using much less chocolate and adding vanilla gives it more sweetness and makes it easier to like. Using vanilla also makes your cocoa taste better and more expensive! I also like to whisk in an egg yolk after it’s done but not cooled.

  12. I found your post by accident, and find it necessary to chime in.

    I can’t stand the instant pudding, having grown up on the cook and serve variety (is there anything better than the skin that forms on top?).

    But the reason I’m moved to write is this: If your home-made is a bit too much, why not try mixing in some real whipped cream prior to serving? I think this might just do the trick! – ed

  13. Alrighty now. I was just adding up all the ingredients and thought, why not just type in the whole search deal and shazaam! your comparison!

    Taste, is everything. I do not like instant pudding, Sam I am, I will not eat it in a boat or even for fuel for chasing stoats…anywho, I like Jello cooked pudding. So the time factor is the same; and I used cocoa and cornstarch. I love my homemade pudding and if I put half the organic vanilla in, it tastes luscious.

    However, I started tonight by trying to save money. A cost of a box of jello cooked pudding mix is about 3.00. Yup. or more…I just can’t remember. Meantime, I dropped the entire bottle of organic vanilla and spilled half. So, among other things, my homemade experiment tonight cost a bundle.
    But heah, I have pudding , which me & hubbie love hot. So goodbye and good cooking.

  14. I just thought I’d chime in since I just made pudding. I grew up on Jello Cook n Serve. The pre-made cups are OK for lunches, etc., but I never make instant.

    If you really wand good chocolate pudding, try this:
    (This strays from the printed instructions!)

    One Large (5 oz) box of Jello Cook n Serve chocolate pudding
    2 3/4 cups of milk (1/4 cup less than called for)
    Mix well with a whip
    Stir in 2 TBS of chocolate syrup

    Heat on HIGH while constantly stirring with whip
    When it starts to boil, remove from burner
    Stir in 1/3 of a stick of real butter
    Add 1 cap-full of real vanilla extract

    Return to heat and bring back to boil – stirring constantly – especially on the bottom of the pan
    Turn off heat and stir vigorously for about one minute

    Remove from heat and stir until bubbling stops

    Put one pat of real butter into the bottom of the serving bowls
    Pour pudding into bowls and add another pat of real butter

    Serve hot. Spoon from the edges – it’s cooler there, and the melted butter accumulates there.

    For something different, stir in a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter when you add the vanilla.

    Enjoy! :-)

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